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By Chris Oddo | Thursday January 11, 2018

The draw is out in Melbourne and it’s a rather top-heavy one. No.1 seed Simona Halep is in a section with Karolina Pliskova, Ashleigh Barty, Petra Kvitova and Johanna Konta, which means that hearts will be broken in the top quarter, while a few surprising names might make it through in the other three.


Without any further ado let’s look at the draw winners and losers on the women’s side.

Loser: Simona Halep

Let’s preface this section by saying that the World No.1 is in fantastic form and looking like a potential winner of her first major title. That said, Halep will have to navigate the tricky terrain of a jam-packed section, particularly at the end of the first week and the beginning of week two.


Halep starts with Destanee Aiava of Australia, a talented teen but one that Halep should usher out of the tournament without much fanfare. Next she’ll face either Eugenie Bouchard or Oceane Dodin—again, advantage Halep. But the fun starts in round three, where Halep could begin a run that will see her face Petra Kvitova, Ashleigh Barty and either Johanna Konta or Karolina Pliskova just to reach the semis. That’s the kind of draw that can complicate matters for a player looking to finally cash in and win a maiden major.

It’s all very much manageable for a player as talented as Halep, but this is no cupcake draw.

Winner: Madison Keys

Keys could make hay in a section that is bookended by two ailing Frenchwomen—Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia. Mladenovic is on a well-documented losing streak and does not portend to be a factor in this draw, while Garcia has struggled with a back injury and may not be in top form. That leaves Keys with a good shot to reach the second week if she’s in good form, and from there she could be in position to capitalize in the quarters against whomever emerges from what is sure to be a war between Angelique Kerber, Garbiñe Muguruza, Maria Sharapova and maybe even Agnieszka Radwanska.

Loser: Venus Williams

Venus Williams is a strong contender for this title, but things get complicated quickly for last year’s runner-up. She’ll face surging Belinda Bencic, a player who is so thrilled to be back on tour and back in a Grand Slam stage that she just might pull off the shocker of week one. The former World No.7 most certainly has the game to do so.


Winner: Elina Svitolina

If Williams should fall it could benefit No.4-seeded Elina Svitolina, who is tucked into a quarter with slumping Sloane Stephens. Svitolina could have a tricky encounter with Katerina Siniakova or Maria Sakkari in round two, but the Ukranian won’t see anybody who can hit her off the court until at least the quarterfinals. The matchups in week one favor Svitolina and with her maturity and ability, she should capitalize.

Loser: Maria Sharapova

After a first-round tilt with Tatjana Maria of Germany, Sharapova could face Anastasija Sevastova, the player that knocked her out of the U.S. Open last year, in the second round, and if she gets through that challenge, Angelique Kerber awaits. Not an ideal matchup for Sharapova, who has lost her last two to the German.


Winner: Caroline Wozniacki

It’s a sneaky friendly draw for No.2-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, away from the maddening fray of the top quarter. There are a few hard hitters sprinkled into her section, like No.15-seeded Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Kiki Bertens, but Wozniacki is 2-0 against Bertens and 7-1 against Pavlyuchenkova lifetime. This is a good chance for Wozniacki to make a run at a major, and unless Jelena Ostapenko or CoCo Vandeweghe takes flight, Wozniacki should have a good shot at reaching at least to the semis.

Loser: Agnieszka Radwanska

The Pole will face hard-serving Kristyna Pliskova in the first round and she has a projected third-rounder with No.3-seeded Garbiñe Muguruza. Radwanska’s low ranking has left her in a tough situation. The good news is she has won her last two against Muguruza and is 4-4 lifetime against the two-time Wimbledon champion.

Winner: Daria Kasatkina

Facing a qualifier first and then the winner of Jennifer Brady and Magda Linette next, the Russian could capitalize on a weaker section (potential third-round opponent, Sloane Stephens) and make her second consecutive trip to the second week of a major.

Predictions:

Quarterfinals, Top Half:

Halep vs. Pliskova
Kerber vs. Keys

Quarterfinals, Lower Half:

Svitolina vs. Goerges
Wozniacki vs. Vandeweghe

Semifinals:

Halep vs Kerber
Svitolina vs. Wozniacki

Final: Halep vs. Svitolina
Winner: Halep

 

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