The first Grand Slam of 2018 is here, but which female players do you need to know about? From Johanna to Simona, we pick out the contenders
2018 Australian Open, from midnight, Sunday 14 January, Eurosport 1/HD (CH 523/521) + Eurosport 2/HD (CH 524/522)
Good news! If you’ve found watching a certain sport Down Under difficult viewing this winter, the first Grand Slam of the new tennis season – the Australian Open – is here to put a smile back on your face with two weeks of ace action.
It really is all up for grabs at this year's tournament after defending champion Serena Williams announced that she would not be taking to the court in Melbourne. Hear that massive collective sigh of relief? That'll be the rest of the field thinking they can get their hands on the trophy and etch their name into tennis folklore now that Queen Serena is temporarily out of the picture.
So who are the stars you should be keeping an eye on when the action gets under way live on Eurosport?
Here are the four aces you’ll LOVE this January...
1. Johanna Konta
Enjoying a breakout year in 2017, the Brit reached the quarter-finals here last season. But it was her semi-final appearance at Wimbledon that won the nation’s collective heart, despite losing to Venus Williams. She finished 2017 on a poor run, which led to coach Wim Fissette being replaced by Michael Joyce. If she’s to stand any chance in Melbourne, Joyce’s experience coaching five-time Grand Slam champion Maria Sharapova will be essential.
2. Simona Halep
The current world number one comes into this competition as the one to beat. But the bookies won’t be paying out just yet. These Melbourne courts have not been a fruitful hunting ground for the Romanian after losing in the first rounds in both the 2016 and 2017 tournaments. She also bowed out in the first round of last year’s US Open, leading some to speculate about a deficiency in her game on harder surfaces. She’s a woman with a point to prove.
3. Agnieszka Radwańska
“I don’t think 2018 can be worse than this year,” said Aga about 2017. Few people would bet on the former world number two changing her fortunes against such stiff competition in Oz. But there’s something special about her that could topple the top seeds – as befitting nicknames such as “The Magician” and “The Ninja”. Despite a weak serve, it has been her ability to pull off crowd-pleasing trick shots that has won her a huge fan base. The John Virgo of tennis? Perhaps…
4. Garbiñe Muguruza
Here’s a stat about Garbiñe: on her way to winning Wimbledon last year, she became the first ever player to defeat both Williams sisters in major singles finals. That’s like completing a video game on “ultra difficult mode.” She also narrowly missed out ending the season with the number one ranking, finishing in second place. So even though she’s never made it past the quarter-finals in this competition, largely due to unforced errors, she’s got a great chance here.
Watch the 2018 Australian Open, from midnight, Sunday 14 January, Eurosport 1/HD (CH 523/521) + Eurosport 2/HD (CH 524/522)
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