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The 2023 Australian Open begins on Monday. Andy Schooler assesses the main contenders for the women’s singles title and picks out his best bets.

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Iga Swiatek

World ranking: 1

7/4

Tournament history (most recent 1st): SF-4R-4R-2R

Best Grand Slam performance: Winner, 2020 & 2022 French Open & 2022 US Open

2023 record (upto & inc Jan 8): 3-1

After the dominant 2022 campaign she enjoyed, it’s easy to see why the layers want to keep Swiatek onside, but it’s hard to think there’s much value in her current price. She’s yet to make the final at Melbourne Park where conditions are faster than ideal for the Pole. Jessica Pegula provided evidence about how Swiatek can be hit out of her stride on a slick surface at the recent United Cup, dominating her in a 6-2 6-2 win. There’s also more than a suggestion that Swiatek isn’t at 100% in terms of her fitness. Following that loss, she spoke about how “physically and mentally I wasn’t able to kind of show up” and she duly withdrew from her other scheduled warm-up event in Adelaide citing a shoulder injury. All in all, not great signs for those looking to back here at 7/4.

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Aryna Sabalenka

World ranking: 5

7/1

Tournament history: 4R-4R-1R-3R-1R

Best Grand Slam performance: Semi-finals, 2021 & 2022 US Open & 2021 Wimbledon

2023 record: 4-0

Started the season in ideal fashion, winning the Adelaide International title, although she didn’t face any of the Australian Open title contenders. One of the fastest servers on the WTA Tour, her big-hitting game should suit the expected slick conditions. As a result of what are often go-for-broke tactics, consistency is the key for the Belarusian – she is capable of blasting anyone off the court (she beat Swiatek at last season’s WTA Finals) but can also beat herself by producing a string on unforced errors. Certainly capable of winning the title if the error count is kept low.

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Caroline Garcia

World ranking: 4

Tournament history: 1R-2R-2R-3R-4R-3R-1R-3R-1R-1R-2R

Best Grand Slam performance: Semi-finals, 2022 US Open

2023 record: 2-0

Perseverance with more aggressive tactics saw Garcia enjoy a superb second half of 2022, one which ended with her being crowned WTA Finals champion. That should give her great confidence arriving in Australia, albeit she’s yet to go beyond the last 16 at the opening Grand Slam tournament of the season. Similar things would have been said prior to last year’s US Open though (she reached the semis) and Garcia, who played well enough at last week’s United Cup, certainly holds decent claims here.

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Jessica Pegula

World ranking: 3

Tournament history: QF-QF-1R

Best Grand Slam performance: Quarter-finals, 4 times

2023 record: 4-1

Yet to reach a Grand Slam semi-final but looks in good shape to give it a good go over the coming fortnight. Started her campaign by winning four of five matches at the United Cup, including one against world no 1 Iga Swiatek, to help USA lift the trophy. Also, clearly enjoys playing in Melbourne where she’s made back-to-back quarter-finals in the last two years. It took eventual champ Ash Barty to stop her 12 months ago. After a very consistent season in 2022, now could be the time for her big breakthrough.

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Ons Jabeur

World ranking: 2

Tournament history: 3R-QF-1R-1R-1R

Best Grand Slam performance: Runner-up, 2022 Wimbledon & 2022 US Open

2023 record: 2-1

Undoubtedly one of the most exciting players to watch with her mix of power and touch, Jabeur will be hoping it’s third time lucky in Melbourne having finished runner-up at the last two Grand Slams. She shouldn’t be ruled out but last week’s semi-final defeat to teenager Linda Noskova in Adelaide was disappointing, as is a record of making the second week here only once in five previous visits. There look more likely winners.

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Coco Gauff

World ranking: 7

Tournament history: 1R-2R-4R

Best Grand Slam performance: Runner-up, 2022 French Open

2023 record: 5-0

Started 2023 by winning the title in Auckland without dropping a set but I’d be wary of reading too much into that. Most matches took place indoors due to persistent the New Zealand rain, while the American didn’t face a top-50 player in the tournament. As a punter, I’d be more worried about her record against the elite – she went 3-11 against top-10 opponents last season and while at just 18 she is still improving, that would be a worry in the here and now.

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Best of the Rest

A player I was keen on throughout the off-season remains a possibility as we head towards the first Grand Slam ball.

Barbora Krejcikova had an injury-disrupted 2022 and duly slipped from world no 2 to outside the top 20.

But having returned to fitness she won two WTA titles in autumn, beating Iga Swiatek in the final of Ostrava.

I’m expecting her to shine again in 2023 and wouldn’t be that surprised were she to produce a deep run here, after all she made the last eight 12 months ago.

A strong defender capable of quickly getting on the front foot, Krejcikova may well go off shorter than 22/1 given she’s playing in this week’s WTA event in Adelaide.

I also like another Czech at a chunky price and that’s Petra Kvitova.

It’s now 11 years since she lost an Australian Open semi-final, a match which would have seen her become world no 1 had she won it.

Kvitova never ascended to top spot but she did progress past the semis in Melbourne, finishing runner-up to Naomi Osaka in 2019.

She’s since been back to the quarter-finals and a good start to the new campaign makes quotes of 40/1 of interest.

Kvitova won both of her matches at last week’s United Cup, notably beating Pegula in one of them.

With her big lefty serve and crunching groundstrokes, she’s always played her best tennis in slick conditions and the 31-year-old looks worth an each-way punt.

Jessica Pegula
11/1
Barbora Krejcikova e/w
22/1
Petra Kvitova e/w
40/1
Odds are correct at the time of posting

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