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Australian Open: Five players to watch in the women's singles

There have been different winners of the women's Australian Open in each of the last four seasons and another competitive heat is on the cards in Melbourne this month.

Iga Swiatek heads Down Under as favourite for the season's first Grand Slam but could only make the fourth round of the major last season.

And the Pole's aversion to hard courts suggests this could be an open tournament with a number of top players in contention for the title.

Here is a look at five players in particular to keep an eye on in the women's singles at the 2024 Australian Open.

Aryna Sabalenka

To Win Australian Open - 4/1

Where better to start than with defending champion Aryna Sabalenka?

This time last year, Sabalenka had not won a Grand Slam singles title in her career but that changed at the 2023 Australian Open, which she won after a 4-6 6-3 6-4 defeat of Elena Rybakina in the final.

That was a serious breakthrough moment in Sabalenka's career and, although she failed to add another major to her tally last season, she reached the semi-finals of both the French Open and Wimbledon, as well as finishing runner-up at the US Open.

Unlike Swiatek, Sabalenka loves the harder surface, having won 35 of her 44 matches on it in 2023.

She picked up titles in Adelaide and Madrid to go with her Australian Open triumph and she will be eager to be the first woman to defend the women's singles title since Victoria Azarenka in 2013.

Elena Rybakina

To Win Australian Open - 5/1

Rybakina fell at the final hurdle in last season's Australian Open but her final with Sabalenka could have swung either way and she even had a one-set lead in Melbourne.

She took down some big names en route to the final such as Victoria Azarenka, Jelena Ostapenko and top seed Swiatek and she has every chance of going the distance.

In terms of her preparation, Rybakina defeated Sabalenka in straight sets in the Brisbane International final earlier this month although her subsequent performance at the Adelaide International was underwhelming as she crashed out in the quarter-finals.

Her fiercest potential opponent in her quarter of the draw is Jessica Pegula, who has never gone beyond the last eight of a Grand Slam, while Swiatek, who she beat last year, is also stationed in her half.

Coco Gauff

To Win Australian Open - 11/2

Expectations have always felt unfairly high for Coco Gauff and the pressure could ramp up for the 19-year-old this season after she secured her maiden Grand Slam title in 2023.

Gauff did exceptionally well to handle the weight of expectation in New York last autumn, recovering from a set down to beat Sabalenka in the final at Flushing Meadows.

She became the first American woman to win the US Open since Sloane Stephens in 2017 and will be targeting a hard-court double in Melbourne.

Gauff matched her best previous run at the Australian Open last year, making the fourth round, but has a decent chance of improving on that this month.

The toughest opponent Gauff could face in the fourth round is 16th seed Caroline Garcia, while her most likely quarter-final opponent is eighth seed Maria Sakkari, who has also not reached the last eight before.

Jessica Pegula

To Win Australian Open - 16/1

Jessica Pegula has regularly flirted with the latter stages of Grand Slams in recent seasons, having reached - but never progressed beyond - the quarter-finals of each of the four majors.

A first semi-final berth still awaits her and the Australian Open is arguably the Grand Slam in which she is most likely to make a breakthrough.

Pegula loves the harder surface and has reached the quarter-finals in each of the last three seasons in Melbourne, while she also made the last four of the doubles last year.

She will take the fifth seed in Melbourne and will hope to build on her run to the semi-finals of the Adelaide International, from which she had to withdraw due to illness.

Naomi Osaka

To Win Australian Open - 33/1

It was around this time last year when Naomi Osaka announced she would not compete at the 2023 Australian Open as she was expecting her first child.

She was naturally absent for the rest of the 2023 campaign but earlier this month, Osaka made her return to the courts, beating Tamara Korpatsch in the round of 64 at the Brisbane International.

The Japanese talent subsequently lost in the round of 32 to 16th seed Karolina Pliskova but is now in line to feature at the Australian Open again.

After such a lengthy absence, it would be asking a lot of Osaka, who is unseeded in Melbourne, to make an immediate impact this hard-court season.

But she is a four-time Grand Slam winner with all four of those titles coming on the hard surface and two coming at the Australian Open, which she last won in 2021.

For that reason she cannot be discounted and is one to be monitored.

This article was written by a partner sports writer via Spotlight Sports Group. All odds displayed on this page were correct at the time of writing and are subject to withdrawal or change at any time.

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