Tennis 2021: Who is going to win the Australian Open women's title? Serena Williams? Naomi Osaka?
The draw for the 2021 Australian Open has thrown up a number of intriguing storylines, but who is going to go all the way on the women's side? Can Serena Williams win a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam singles title? Will Sofia Kenin defend her title? Or will Naomi Osaka secure a second triumph in Melbourne?
Naomi Osaka of Japan poses with the women's singles championship trophy during the draw announcement of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne
Osaka disappointed last year in defence of her title as she was beaten in the third round by Coco Gauff. She called the loss a “wake-up call”, and she has looked a much-improved player over the last eight months. After winning her third Grand Slam title at the US Open, Osaka has started this year with a strong showing at the Gippsland Trophy and she seems fully focused on having a very successful 2021. James Walker-Roberts
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It’s hard to see past someone who’s had a year off during the pandemic and hasn’t been put through gruelling quarantine conditions to compete at her home Grand Slam. Her semi-final at Melbourne Park in 2020 was her best result at the Australian Open, but she has all the weapons to go one better this year and should be in excellent shape to deliver. Tom Adams
All three of Osaka’s Grand Slam titles have come on hard courts and she can recapture the form that propelled her to victory in Melbourne in 2019. The 28-year-old played sublime tennis to take her second title at Flushing Meadows last year, and she can find similar form again at the Australian Open to double up at both hard-court Slams. While her form was patchy either side of her 2019 triumph in Melbourne, she arrives this year full of confidence and she may well have too much class for her rivals when it really matters and win her fourth Grand Slam. Dan Quarrell
Naomi Osaka celebrates at the Australian Open
Image credit: Getty Images
I'm going with Garbine Muguruza for the women's title - she's looked incredibly strong in the little match practice she's had so far, and she'll want to erase the memories of that painful loss in the final to Sofia Kenin in 2020. Carrie Dunn
The women’s draw is as wide open as ever, even with Ash Barty looking surprisingly ominous after a year away from the game. Yes Halep just lost to Ekaterina Alexandrova but far better to suffer a performance like that in a warm-up event than in the tournament proper. A Grand Slam is about putting together two weeks of solid tennis, it doesn’t always have to be spectacular. As our excellent tennis correspondent James Walker-Roberts points out, there’s an argument to be had that Halep is a little bit underrated despite being the world number two. Let’s just ignore the fact that he’s gone for Naomi Osaka. Pete Sharland
Sure, she hasn’t been seen in a competitive match since 2019 but Bianca Andreescu remains one of the most outstanding players on the WTA Tour. If she can stay fit for a fortnight – admittedly a very big if – then her fierce groundstrokes can carry her far. To the title? When she returned from a long injury break at the end of 2019, Andreescu went on a 16-match winning streak, a run which carried her to the US Open title. Since then, she’s again been bogged down with injuries but given no one will have momentum in Australia, why can’t she stage a shock comeback? Ben Snowball
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It’s her time. While Barty’s title rivals have been contending with Covid, quarantine and fatigue in an exhausting 2020, the number one ranked player in the world has had a year off - following her semi-final exit in Melbourne last year - to train and practice in her home country. The searing heat that comes with playing a gruelling Grand Slam in early February should play into the Queensland native’s hands and the 24-year-old will have the added benefit of having a notoriously vocal Aussie fanbase cheering her every stroke. With a few warm-up matches under her belt to kick off 2021, Barty is fit and ready to win her first Australian Open title. James Kilpatrick