Australian Open: Who can challenge red-hot favourite Iga Swiatek in Melbourne? | Tennis News

World No 1 Iga Swiatek arrives at the Australian Open as the overwhelming favourite, coming off the back of a successful and dominant 2022.

The 21-year-old from Poland ended the year with two Grand Slam titles – the French Open and US Open – and tightened her grip at the top of the world rankings.

Last year at Melbourne she reached the semi-finals where she was beaten by American Danielle Collins in straight sets.

With Ashleigh Barty retiring from tennis almost a month after lifting the Australian Open title, Swiatek seized the opportunity at the top of the game and emerged as the leading force on the WTA Tour.

She went on an 37-match unbeaten winning streak, which was ended at Wimbledon, and enters the year as unquestionably the one to beat in the women’s game.

Iga Swiatek, of Poland, prepares to hit a ball into the stands after winning her match against Caroline Garcia, of France, during round-robin play on day four of the WTA Finals tennis tournament in Fort Worth, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Swiatek tightened her grip on the world number one position last year, culminating in a win at the US Open

With Serena Williams having hung up her racket and Naomi Osaka pregnant with her first child, Melbourne Park will almost certainly usher in a new era by crowning a first-time champion.

Swiatek is less of a sure thing on hard courts but showed her competitive mettle in New York and is a clear favourite

Ahead of the Australian Open, Barry Cowan told Sky Sports that Swiatek is “head and shoulders the best player”.

“If Swiatek plays near her best for me, she win the Australian Open and then I look at the other players who aren’t just maybe players that can play two or three good matches, can they play seven great matches?” He asked.

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Highlights from the women’s singles final at the US Open

Who are the other contenders?

In sport there are no certainties and the challengers to Swiatek will look to seize on the pressure placed on a pre-tournament favourite.

The likes of Caroline Garcia, Coco Gauff and Ons Jabeur should all be waiting if Swiatek slips up.

Ons Jabeur of Tunisia reacts after winning a point in the third set of her match against Jessica Pegula during round robin-play on day three of the WTA Finals tennis tournament in Fort Worth, Texas, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Jabeur won 1-6, 6-3, 6-3. (AP Photo/Tim Heitman)
Ons Jabeur has been flying the flag for African and Arab women

Asked about the other contenders for the Australian Open, Cowan said: “I think Garcia is someone who had a phenomenal second half of 2022. I actually thought she was going to go on to win the US Open but just didn’t quite have that belief it seemed then, but it didn’t derail her because she ended the year brilliantly.

“I think Coco Gauff is the one who I think is getting very close to winning a major and she is going to win a major. It’s just a question of whether under real pressure how that service and how that forehand is. But if both those shots hold up because the backhand is amazing, physically, she’s amazing.”

Caroline Garcia of France reacts after winning a game in the second set against Coco Gauff during round robin play on day two of the WTA Finals tennis tournament in Fort Worth, Texas, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. Garcia won 6-4, 6-3. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Caroline Garcia has been enjoying a renaissancein her career

Jabeur proved Swiatek’s closest challenger in 2022 – albeit not very close.

Blazing a trail for Arab and African women, Jabeur is peaking in her late 20s and will look to reach a third consecutive Grand Slam final.

She is seeded second and while her reliance on dazzling racket skills rather than power might work against her on the famous blue courts, there would surely be few more popular winners.

Along with Swiatek, Garcia enjoyed a phenomenal 2022 and is enjoying a late-career renaissance.

Coco Gauff reacts during her match against Caroline Garcia of France during round robin play on day two of the WTA Finals tennis tournament in Fort Worth, Texas, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. Garcia won 6-4, 6-3. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
Coco Gauff has been one of the most impressive prospect on the tour, without winning a major

She was ranked 74 in the world this time last year but pulled herself up to fourth, with a semi-final appearance in the US Open and lifting the title at the WTA Finals.

Gauff is another youngster who has impressed since making her breakthrough on the tour. While she is without a Grand Slam title, many have suggested that triumph is just around the corner, and she will be a threat as one of the top seeded players.

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