Aussie Open Preview: 17 IQ for the '17 ΛO
Hey, where's everybody going?
Well, here we are, ready (or not) for the first major of the 2017 season. As we learned a season ago, what happens in Melbourne can set the tone for an entire season.
So, who will be the early WTA bird who'll catch the worm and feast on the experience until (at least) November this time around? Well, the "usual suspects" are always in the mix, and are certainly the favorites to be the last woman standing two weeks from now. Unless, of course, it's finally time for the hungry flock of eager slam-less would-be contenders to stage a takeover that seeks to change things forever.
Time waits for no one, after all.
Years ago, I used to begin the year with a rundown of the season's "Most Intriguing Questions." I thought it was time to change the format (temporarily or not, we shall see) of these slam preview posts, and the old IQ format seemed to offer a slightly different way to dispense some of the same information.
So, here's a quick overview of the women's draw, quarter-by-quarter (and question-by-question):
Well, let's just say we might have to take on faith the prospect of the defending champion putting up a successful (or near it) run at her third slam title run. Her play in the first two weeks of the '17 season hasn't presented any uncorrectable issues, but her string of service-related problems and ill-timed errors en route to a pair of losses to Elina Svitolina and Daria Kasatkina showed that the German wasn't quite yet in form. And, remember, she was very nearly bundled out of Melbourne in the 1st Round a year ago, saving a MP in her opening match vs. Misaki Doi before going on a career-changing (and defining) run. Her opening '17 AO match vs. Lesia Tsurenko, under the lights on Laver, could be tricky. Then there's Kristyna Pliskova or Yaroslava Shvedova in the 3rd, possibly a rematch with #23 Kasatkina in the Round of 16, and #7 Garbine Muguruza in the QF. Buckle in, Angie.
2. IS IT POSSIBLE THE TOP TWO SEEDS IN THE QUARTER COULD BE OUT IN THE FIRST FEW DAYS OF THE TOURNAMENT?
Ummm, yeah. It's not likely, and probably won't happen. But Kerber's 1st Rounder vs. Tsurenko has upset potential, and Muguruza's match vs. Marina Erakovic could be even more dangerous. The Kiwi has posted 1st Round upsets of Petra Cetkovska and Sorana Cirstea in Melbourne in the past and, well, we never know whether Muguruza is going to be brilliant or frustratingly catatonic when she hits the court.
3. IS IT TIME TO FEAR THE KASATKINA?
Maybe. But for some reason the timing doesn't seem QUITE right. Still, the Russian nearly upset Muguruza in Brisbane (she had MP), then DID take out Kerber in Sydney. So she's in form, coming off an impressive offseason training regimen and is riding a confidence wave after finally getting over a major hurdle vs. the German. She reached the 3rd Round in her debuts at all four slams from the '15 U.S. Open to the '16 Wimbledon, but fell in the 1st Round in her return to NYC last summer. She'll open against Peng Shuai in Melbourne, and it wouldn't be a shock (not by a long shot) if the Chinese veteran pulled off the win at the Asia/Pacific slam where her countrywoman Li Na shined so often. Peng has reached the Round of 16 in Melbourne twice, including in her last AO appearance in 2015. If Kasatkina wins there, Genie Bouchard could be up next in the 2nd Round.
4. YOU SAY YOU WANT A DARK HORSE?
Hmmm, since I just mentioned her, how about Bouchard, fresh off her semifinal run in Sydney. If she's feeling good, we'll soon be reminded that she reached the Aussie semifinals in 2014. Or, if she rides the rollercoaster back down after a good '17 start, we could be reminded that the Canadian's AO results have gone from SF to QF to 2nd Round the last few years, and that Louisa Chirico would like to continue the trend in the 1st Round this year. Also, #20 Zhang Shuai returns to Melbourne one year after her delightfully unexpected QF run from a year ago. Alison Riske (2nd Rd.) and #10 Carla Suarez-Navarro (3rd) might stand in her way of pulling off a successful "year after."
5. WHICH 1st ROUND MATCH-UP HAS THE POTENTIAL FOR DRAMA?
Aside from the matches previously mentioned, #15 Roberta Vinci vs CoCo Vandeweghe will likely have the most overtly demonstrative celebrations this side of a Putintseva/Ostapenko clash (though that little potential dandy can't happen until the 2nd Round of the Radwanska quarter).
After back-to-back QF in Melbourne, #4 Halep was upset in the 1st Round by Zhang last year. The hope is that she won't be haunted by that memory if a potentially difficult stretch arrives vs. Shelby Rogers in the 1st Round. Match play isn't exactly on her side two weeks into the new season. The Romanian has only played two warm-up matches in '17, losing in Shenzhen in a 7-5 3rd set vs. Katerina Siniakova. Halep has made progress under coach Darren Cahill's instruction over the past year, at times seeming to break free of the shackles of the tight, self-doubting issues that combine with her perfectionism tendencies to sometimes cause the Swarmette to "freeze" at all the worst moments on a big stage, being unable to loosen up, move her feet and play with any sort of flow or plan of action. She should have a few rounds to get into some sort of groove in Melbourne, though, and then might get to see if she can survive an encounter with #13 Venus Williams in the 4th Round. Williams leads their head-to-head 3-1, but they've only faced off once on hard courts (a Williams win in Tokyo in '13).
2. IS VENUS STILL A LEGITIMATE THREAT?
If she's healthy, and the heat/weather doesn't become an issue that she has more trouble dealing with than her opponent (because of her Sjogren's, of course, but also because she's yet again the oldest player in the singles draw). We've only seen her in one match this year (vs. Jade Lewis), after which she pulled out of play in Auckland to avoid a second match on the same day. She fell in the AO 1st Round a year ago, but was a quarterfinalist in 2015.
3. WHO HAS A BETTER CHANCE AT A SLAM BREAKOUT, ELINA SVITOLINA OR KATERINA SINIAKOVA?
Oh, don't we want to know. And we just might, too, since they COULD meet in the Round of 16. That said, Shenzehn champ Siniakova has a tough road to get to that match: Julia Goerges, Jelena Jankovic and #8 Svetlana Kuznetsova are in her path. #11 Svitolina, fresh off her third #1 win since last summer, by comparison, gets Galina Voskoboeva, (possibly) Francesca Schiavone and #24 Anastasia Palvyuchenkova. Not easy, but she'd be the favorite in each match. After flashing her potential, and seeming to "get it" when it comes to improving herself while putting into operation a plan to become a champion (having the ear of Justine Henin for a year helps on that front, apparently), this slam is the Ukrainian's first BIG test of the season. She's only posted a pair of Round of 16 or better results in majors, and both of those came on the clay in Paris. Again, as was the case when she was searching for a momentun-gathering win in Week 1 (which she got with her second victory over a #1-ranked Kerber), a deep run in Melbourne would open the door for EVERYTHING to be possible for Svitolina in 2017.
4. ARE TISSUES A MUST WHEN FRANCESCA SCHIAVONE PLAYS?
Well, if you're prone to such displays of nostalgia and emotional attachment when it comes to the inevitable passing of a tennis era, then, yes, it'd be appropriate. This will be the former Roland Garros champ's final Australian Open, as she's set to retire at the end of the '17 season, making her the second of the famed Italian Quartet to hang up her racket (Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, after the latter decided against calling it a career after '16, play on). Schiavone opens vs. qualifier Julia Boserup, and a win there would likely put #11 Svitolina on the other side of the net. Oh, if only the draw had lined up so that Schiavone and her usual co-star in drama could play another slam marathon (was their 16-14 3rd set really SIX years ago in Melbourne?) before she exits the stage. Well, it COULD happen at this AO, but it's unlikely. They'd both have to reach the 4th Round to set the date.
Well, the Czech surely has the temperament for it, doesn't she? Pliskova's run to the U.S. Open final, which included wins over BOTH Williams Sister, ended her oh-for-career string of slam failures. Since then, she's led the Czech Republic to yet another Fed Cup title and opened 2017 in sterling out-of-the-box form while winning the Brisbane title. Now she enters her first slam as one of the hunted, rather than as the oh-she'll-lose-early-like-she-always-does non-hunter. And her place in the Radwanska quarter means that, even as the #5 seed, she's actually the favorite to reach the semifinals. But will she? Umm, I'm going to say yes.
2. WHO'S THE BIGGEST THREAT TO PLISKOVA?
No, I'm not going to say #3 Aga Radwanska, though the Pole DID reach the semifinals in Melbourne last year, and has (so far) never lost to Pliskova. Aga has looked like a work in progress in the opening weeks of '17. She should be able to put up her usual 4th Round/QF-type result, but might need someone else to upset the Maiden if she's going to put up another slam final four result. Oddly enough, the one player in Pliskova's section that might have the best shot of knocking her off might be the LAST (well, one of them) player Radwanska might want to see in her path at a third straight slam. Croatian teen Ana Konjuh should have beaten Aga at Wimbledon, but a bad step on a tennis ball ended her SW19 dreams and essentially handed Radwanska a win. A few months later, though, Konjuh got another shot at the Pole in a slam, and blew her off the court at the U.S. Open to reach her first slam QF. Konjuh has a tough road in front of her -- Kristina Mladenovic in a crazy-good 1st Round match-up, then a possible clash with Aussie fave #22 Dasha Gavrilova, who won the "Dasha & Kiki Show" match on Laver vs. Mladenovic a year ago en route to the Round of 16 -- but is just the sort of player who could hit with Pliskova in what could be a classic AO battle.
3. REALLY, THOUGH, WHAT ABOUT AGA?
After a somewhat rough Week 1, Radwanska's run to the Sydney final in Week 2, even with her being handled quite easily there by Johanna Konta, at least gives some hope that the Pole will find her game in time for an Aussie run. She'll open with a sequel to the old "Monster Movie Matinee" -- Radwanska vs. Pironkova, as Aga leads the head-to-head 11-3, but lost the last meeting on that rainy day match in Paris after which Aga blamed the heavy conditions for her losing the final ten games and blowing a 6-3/3-0 lead -- with the likes of contests with #28 Alize Cornet and #14 Elena Vesnina/#18 Samantha Stosur down the line. As is usually the case with Radwanska, if things fall the right way...
4. IS THIS SECTION BLESSED WITH POTENTIALLY THE WACKIEST, WILDEST, MOST ENTERTAINING EARLY-ROUND MATCHES?
Oh, this is an easy one. Yes, yes and most definitely, yes! Radwanska/Pironkova may not live up to its potential, but Konjuh/Mladenovic probably will. The winner of that one vs. Gavrilova could be a doozy, too, as no '16 AO match begs for a "II" added to its description than Gavrilova vs. Mladenovic. #31 Yulia Putintseva could face Jelena Ostapenko in the 2nd Round (remember the Ostapenko glare after Putintseva vociferously celebrated a win over her last season?), qualifier Anna Blinkova gets Monica Niculescu in the 1st and drama-prone Cornet could face excitable Greek player Maria Sakkari in the 2nd. And that's not even counting #12 Timea Bacsinszky vs. Camila Giorgi in the opening round, which could end up being the best of them all if both play their "A" game.
Well, it'll surely tell us SOMETHING. Pretty quickly, too. The Tennis Gods have presented Williams with the sort of challenge that she should relish, if she's up to putting her two '16 slam final losses and fall to #2 behind her, keep the WTA wolves outside the door at bay and prove that she still has some history to make. She'll open with Belinda Bencic in probably the toughest 1st Round match on the board, and could see Lucie Safarova a round later, then #25 Timea Babos, #16 Barbora Strycova/#21 Caroline Garcia and #6 Dominika Cibulkova/#9 Johanna Konta just to escape from this section and reach her eighth career AO semifinal. Her Auckland loss to Madison Brengle was just her second to a U.S. player younger than herself, joining the '13 AO defeat at the hands of Sloane Stephens. The only other times that Williams has lost a match before the start of the Aussie Open came in 2007, '09 and '10. She won the AO title in all three years. So, history SAYS she's about to put her seventh AO (and 23rd major) title on her career ledger, as she'll likely know that her draw will require her focus to be sharp from Day 1. But, make no mistake, the future IS whispering in Serena's ear. Williams' "aura" took a slight hit in '16 with her slam defeats, she'll turn 36 later this year (Martina Navratilova reached her last slam final at age 37), and she recently announced her engagement to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian. Even Serena can't go on forever, so the question for her '17 season is how much longer she can stay in Top 2 or 3 form? And if she can't QUITE maintain that level, how much longer will her heart be in trying to do so? We should have some real answers to those questions by the end of this summer... or maybe even by the end of this month.
2. IS DOMINIKA CIBULKOVA PLAYING (O)POSSUM?
Her late '16 surge brought her a Top 5 ranking and a WTA Finals title, but is the Slovak already showing signs of a step back in '17? #6-seeded Cibulkova has already lost in straight sets this season to Alize Cornet and Genie Bouchard, and didn't appear quite as driven to prove herself as she did in the latter stages of '16 as she completed her comeback from Achilles surgery. But was she just getting in some match play, knowing that the proverbial "real bullets" start flying in Melbourne? A former AO finalist (2014), Cibulkova will likely get her first test in a possible 3rd Rounder vs. #30 Ekaterina Makarova, who's reached at least the Round of 16 at six straight Australian Opens, including a semifinal in '15. After that could come #9 Johanna Konta and Serena. So, we'll soon see just what Domi has brought with her Down Under, or whether she left it back in Singapore.
3. IS JOHANNA KONTA READY TO FOLLOW IN ANDY MURRAY'S FOOTSTEPS?
Suddenly, British tennis is blessed with quite a few riches. And while Andy Murray is the #1-ranked player on the ATP tour, he wasn't the only player from the U.K. to reach the final four in Melbourne a year ago. #9 Konta broke the ice on what became a string of first-time slam 2016 semifinalists with her surprise AO semifinal result last January. She's 8-1 so far in '17, with a no-sets-lost title run in Sydney this weekend providing her with the momentum to make her even more dangerous on her favored hard courts. While this section of the draw is loaded, a good case can be made that Konta is the #2 favorite behind Serena to reach the semis. Much like Williams, she'll face something of a gauntlet -- Naomi Osaka in the 2nd, #17 Caroline Wozniacki in the 3rd, Cibulkova in the 4th -- to make another deep run, but she's got the game to match her '16 result... and maybe even do it one round better.
4. WHAT MATCH SHOULD WE WISH FOR?
Aside from the expected (Konta/Osaka) early-rounders, or holding-their-seeds later round matches (anything involving #16 Barbora Strycova), I'll throw my lasso around a 2nd Round all-Pastry match that would pit #21 Caroline Garcia against countrywoman Oceane Dodin. They collected a combined three tour singles titles in '16, but they've never played each other. It's hard to imagine their first match-up under the bright lights of a major wouldn't be extremely entertaining, or at least newsworthy. You know, depending on which parts of their "French tennis psychology" decide to show up that day. I know I'd like to see what the spinning wheel of French fate reveals.
**RECENT WOMEN'S SLAM WINNERS**
2014 RG: Maria Sharapova, RUS
2014 WI: Petra Kvitova, CZE
2014 US: Serena Williams, USA
2015 AO: Serena Williams, USA
2015 RG: Serena Williams, USA
2015 WI: Serena Williams, USA
2015 US: Flavia Pennetta, ITA (ret.)
2016 AO: Angelique Kerber, GER
2016 RG: Garbine Muguruza, ESP
2016 WI: Serena Williams, USA
2016 US: Angelique Kerber, GER
*AUSTRALIAN OPEN TOP SEEDS - since 2003*
2003 Serena Williams (W)
2004 Justine Henin-Hardenne (W)
2005 Lindsay Davenport (RU)
2006 Lindsay Davenport (QF)
2007 Maria Sharapova (RU)
2008 Justine Henin (QF)
2009 Jelena Jankovic (4th)
2010 Serena Williams (W)
2011 Caroline Wozniacki (SF)
2012 Caroline Wozniacki (QF)
2013 Victoria Azarenka (W)
2014 Serena Williams (4th)
2015 Serena Williams (W)
2016 Serena Williams (RU)
2017 Angelique Kerber
**ALL-TIME AO MATCH WINS - WOMEN**
60...Margaret Court (w/ pre-Open era wins)
* - active singles
**FIRST-TIME SLAM CHAMPS AT AUSTRALIAN OPEN - OPEN ERA**
1977 Kerry Melville-Reid, AUS
1978 Chris O'Neil, AUS
1979 Barbara Jordan, USA
1980 Hana Mandlikova, CZE
1995 Mary Pierce, FRA
1997 Martina Hingis, SUI
2001 Jennifer Capriati, USA
2006 Amelie Mauresmo, FRA
2012 Victoria Azarenka, BLR
2016 Angelique Kerber, GER
*AUSTRALIAN OPEN FINALS - ACTIVE*
7...Serena Williams (6-1)
4...Maria Sharapova (1-3)
2...Victoria Azarenka (2-0)
1...Angelique Kerber (1-0)
1...Dominika Cibulkova (0-1)
1...Venus Williams (0-1)
NOTE: Hingis (3-3 in singles)
*RECENT AUSTRALIAN OPEN SEMIFINALISTS*
2005 S.Williams (W), Davenport (RU), Dechy/Sharapova
2006 Mauresmo (W), Henin-Hardenne (RU), Sharapova/Clijsters
2007 S.Williams (W), Sharapova (RU), Clijsters/Vaidisova
2008 Sharapova (W), Ivanovic (RU), Jankovic/Hantuchova
2009 S.Williams (W), Safina (RU), Zvonareva/Dementieva
2010 S.Williams (W), Henin (RU), Li/Zheng
2011 Clijsters (W), Li (RU), Zvonareva/Wozniacki
2012 Azarenka (W), Sharapova (RU), Clijsters/Kvitova
2013 Azarenka (W), Li (RU), Stephens/Sharapova
2014 Li (W), Cibulkova (RU), Bouchard/A.Radwanska
2015 S.Williams (W), Sharapova (RU), Keys/Makarova
2016 Kerber (W), S.Williams (RU), A.Radwanska/Konta
**LOW-SEEDED AO CHAMPIONS - OPEN ERA**
Unseeded - 1978 Chris O'Neil, AUS
Unseeded - 2007 Serena Williams, USA
#12 - 2001 Jennifer Capriati, USA
#7 - 2005 Serena Williams, USA
#7 - 2016 Angelique Kerber, GER
#5 - 1979 Barbara Jordan, USA
#5 - 2008 Maria Sharapova, RUS
#4 - 1995 Mary Pierce. FRA
#4 - 1997 Martina Hingis, SUI
#4 - 2014 Li Na, CHN
*LOWEST-SEEDED WOMEN IN AO SF, since 2000*
Unseeded - 2000 Jennifer Capriati, USA
Unseeded - 2007 Serena Williams, USA (W)
Unseeded - 2010 Zheng Jie, CHN
Unseeded - 2015 Madison Keys, USA
Unseeded - 2016 Johanna Konta, GBR
Wild Card - 2010 Justine Henin, BEL (RU)
#32 - 2004 Fabiola Zuluaga, COL
#30 - 2014 Genie Bouchard, CAN
#29 - 2013 Sloane Stephens, USA
#22 - 2004 Patty Schnyder, SUI
#20 - 2014 Dominika Cibulkova, SVK (RU)
#19 - 2005 Nathalie Dechy, FRA
#16 - 2010 Li Na, CHN
#12 - 2001 Jennifer Capriati, USA (W)
#11 - 2012 Kim Clijsters, BEL
#10 - 2000 Conchita Martinez, ESP
#10 - 2007 Nicole Vaidisova, CZE
#10 - 2015 Ekaterina Makarova, RUS
*AUSTRALIAN OPEN GIRLS FINALS - since 2005*
2005 Victoria Azarenka/BLR d. Agnes Szavay/HUN
2006 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS d. Caroline Wozniacki/DEN
2007 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova/RUS d. Madison Brengle/USA
2008 Arantxa Rus/NED d. Jessica Moore/AUS
2009 Ksenia Pervak/RUS d. Laura Robson/GBR
2010 Karolina Pliskova/CZE d. Laura Robson/GBR
2011 An-Sophie Mestach/BEL d. Monica Puig/PUR
2012 Taylor Townsend/USA d. Yulia Putintseva/RUS
2013 Ana Konjuh/CRO d. Katerina Siniakova/CZE
2014 Elizaveta Kulichkova/RUS d. Jana Fett/CRO
2015 Tereza Mihalikova/SVK d. Katie Swan/GBR
2016 Vera Lapko/BLR d. Tereza Mihalikova/SVK
**BEST AO GIRLS/WOMEN'S RESULTS**
[won Girls & Ladies titles]
Evonne Goolagong (1970 Jr. Champion; 1974-77 Women's Champion)
Chris O'Neil (1973 Jr. Champion; 1978 Women's Champion)
Victoria Azarenka (2005 Jr. Champion; 2012-13 Women's Champion)
Lindsay Davenport (1992 Jr. Runner-up; 2000 Women's Champion)
Maria Sharapova (2002 Jr. Runner-up; 2008 Women's Champion)
*AO WHEELCHAIR CHAMPIONS*
2002 Esther Vergeer, NED
2003 Esther Vergeer, NED
2004 Esther Vergeer, NED
2005 Sharon Walraven, NED
2006 Esther Vergeer, NED
2007 Esther Vergeer, NED
2008 Esther Vergeer, NED
2009 Esther Vergeer, NED
2010 Korie Homan, NED
2011 Esther Vergeer, NED
2012 Esther Vergeer, NED
2013 Aniek van Koot, NED
2014 Sabine Ellerbrock, GER
2015 Jiske Griffioen, NED
2016 Jiske Griffioen, NED
2004 Maaike Smit/Esther Vergeer, NED/NED
2005 Florence Gravellier/Maaike Smit, FRA/NED
2006 Jiske Griffioen/Esther Vergeer, NED/NED
2007 Jiske Griffioen/Esther Vergeer, NED/NED
2008 Jiske Griffioen/Esther Vergeer, NED/NED
2009 Korie Homan/Esther Vergeer, NED/NED
2010 Florence Gravellier/Aniek van Koot, FRA/NED
2011 Esther Vergeer/Sharon Walraven, NED/NED
2012 Esther Vergeer/Sharon Walraven, NED/NED
2013 Jiske Griffioen/Aniek van Koot, NED/NED
2014 Yui Kamiji/Jordanne Whiley, JPN/GBR
2015 Yui Kamiji/Jordanne Whiley, JPN/GBR
2016 Marjolein Buis/Yui Kamiji, NED/JPN
*RECENT WC SLAM SINGLES FINALS*
2013 AO - #1 Aniek Van Koot/NED d. #2 Sabine Ellerbrock/GER
2013 RG - Sabine Ellerbrock/GER d. #2 Jiske Griffioen/NED
2013 US - #2 Aniek Van Koot/NED d. #1 Sabine Ellerbrock/GER
2014 AO - #1 Sabine Ellerbrock/GER d. #2 Yui Kamiji/JPN
2014 RG - #1 Yui Kamiji/JPN d. Aniek Van Koot/NED
2014 US - #1 Yui Kamiji/JPN d. #2 Aniek Van Koot/NED
2015 AO - Jiske Griffioen/NED d. #1 Yui Kamiji/JPN
2015 RG - #2 Jiske Griffioen/NED d. Aniek Van Koot/NED
2015 US - Jordanne Whiley/GBR d. Yui Kamiji/JPN
2016 AO - #1 Jiske Griffioen/NED d. Aniek Van Koot/NED
2016 RG - Marjolein Buis/NED d. Sabine Ellerbrock/GER
2016 WI - #1 Jiske Griffioen/NED d. Aniek Van Koot/NED
2016 PARA - #1 Jiske Griffioen/NED d. #4 Aniek Van Koot/NED
*BACK-TO-BACK US/AO TITLES - since 1988*
1988-89 Steffi Graf
1989-90 Steffi Graf
1991-92 Monica Seles
1992-93 Monica Seles
1993-94 Steffi Graf
1997-98 Martina Hingis
2002-03 Serena Williams
2003-04 Justine Henin-Hardenne
2008-09 Serena Williams
2010-11 Kim Clijsters
*ACTIVE SINGLES PLAYERS - FIRST SLAM FINAL*
1997 U.S. Open - Venus Williams
1999 U.S. Open - Serena Williams (W)
2004 Wimbledon - Maria Sharapova (W)
2004 U.S. Open - Svetlana Kuznetsova (W)
2008 U.S. Open - Jelena Jankovic
2009 U.S. Open - Caroline Wozniacki
2010 Roland Garros - Francesca Schiavone (W)
2010 Roland Garros - Samantha Stosur
2011 Wimbledon - Petra Kvitova (W)
2012 Australian Open - Victoria Azarenka (W)
2012 Roland Garros - Sara Errani
2012 Wimbledon - Aga Radwanska
2013 Wimbledon - Sabine Lisicki
2014 Australian Open - Dominika Cibulkova
2014 Roland Garros - Simona Halep
2014 Wimbledon - Genie Bouchard
2015 Roland Garros - Lucie Safarova
2015 Wimbledon - Garbine Muguruza
2015 U.S. Open - Roberta Vinci
2016 Australian Open - Angelique Kerber (W)
2016 U.S. Open - Karolina Pliskova
NOTE: Hingis (1997 AO - W)
*SLAM TITLES AFTER AGE 30*
9...Serena Williams, USA (age 30-34)*
3...Martina Navratilova, USA (age 30-33)
3...Margaret Court, AUS (age 30-31)
2...Billie Jean King, USA (age 30 & 31)
2...Chris Evert, USA (age 30 & 31)
1...Flavia Pennetta, ITA (age 33)
1...Virginia Wade. GBR (age 31)
1...Ann Haydon Jones, GBR (age 30)
*CAREER SLAM #1 SEEDS - active*
**WON TITLE AT FIRST SLAM SEEDED #1**
[since end of Evert/Navratilova era]
1991 Monica Seles (Roland Garros)
2002 Jennifer Capriati (Australian Open)
2002 Serena Williams (U.S. Open)
2004 Justine Henin-Hardenne (Australian Open)
=ROUND OF 16 PREDICTIONS=
#1 Kerber d. #23 Kasatkina
#7 Muguruza d. #20 Sh.Zhang
#13 V.Williams d. #4 Halep
#11 Svitolina d. Siniakova
#5 Ka.Pliskova d. Konjuh
#3 A.Radwanska d. #14 Vesnina
#9 Konta d. #6 Cibulkova
#2 S.Williams d. #16 Strycova
...whew! There would be a lot of desirable match-ups here.
#7 Muguruza d. #1 Kerber
#11 Svitolina d. #13 V.Williams
#5 Ka.Pliskova d. #3 A.Radwanska
#2 S.Williams d. #9 Konta
...I couldn't quite place the bet on Konta here, but at least I thought about it.
#11 Svitolina d. #7 Muguruza
#2 S.Williams d. #5 Ka.Pliskova
...the greatest Ukrainian player ever. Officially.
#2 S.Williams d. #11 Svitolina
...step aside Steffi (err, I mean "Stefanie"... but more on that on the Daily Backspin on Day 1). Margaret, you're next.