The build-up to the 2020 Australian Open has been overshadowed by the bushfires that have been ripping through the country in recent weeks, but attention will soon turn to the on-court action.
Many players during qualifying for the tournament have complained about air quality and this is likely to be an issue that continues to make headlines during the next two weeks.
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Tennis fans will be hoping matches can draw attention away from the bushfires and a highly competitive field has been assembled, led by the great Serena Williams, home hope Ashleigh Barty and the Japanese star Naomi Osaka.
Williams has triumphed here seven times before – a record for the tournament – and she is the favourite in the betting odds in 2020 despite her last title at Melbourne Park coming in 2017. She is still seeking her first Grand Slam victory since becoming a mother.
Barty is the main competition for Williams according to the Australian Open betting and if she was to win it would certainly be a healing moment for the country amid the bushfire concern.
The defending champion is Osaka, though, and a competitive two weeks of action seems certain. So, who are the best picks among the 2020 Australian Open women? As always, we will consider where the top prospects currently stand and look at the latest odds from our favourite tennis betting sites to form our picks.
Osaka and Serena on Collision Course
A stacked second quarter is headlined by Williams and Osaka with a potential last-eight clash between the pair promising to be an unmissable occasion.
Williams last tasted Grand Slam success at this event three years ago and she has been to the final in four of the past seven major tournaments she has entered since maternity leave.
Even at the age of 38, she is arguably the player to beat in the field and this is reflected in the betting odds, where Williams is available at a price of around the 4/1 mark.
Serena heads to Melbourne after collecting a title in Auckland and early opponents are scheduled to include Anastasia Potapova and Wang Qiang, who should be beaten with ease.
As for Osaka, she takes on Marie Bouzkova first up with San Jose champion Zheng Saisai potentially awaiting in the second round. Osaka, who beat Petra Kvitova in a tight final a year ago, is available at odds of 8/1 to win the title again.
The second quarter also features a delicious first-round encounter between Venus Williams and Coco Gauff which promises to get the tournament off to a cracking start. Gauff, who should continue to break through during 2020, is a 100/1 outsider to win the title aged just 15.
Can Barty End Australia’s Long Wait?
Chris O’Neil was the last Australian woman to win this tournament but world number one Barty has a great chance to make history having already broken her Grand Slam drought.
Barty showed some solid form in Adelaide in the build-up to the tournament and the backing of the home fans will be huge, but she has some tricky matches on her way through the draw.
The Australian opens up her campaign against Lesia Tsurenko and is likely to then face Polona Hercog followed by Elena Rybakina, a talented 20-year-old who has started 2020 very well.
Barty could come up against Alison Riske in the fourth round and this would be a very intriguing clash considering the American won this match at Wimbledon last summer amid a stellar 2019 that propelled her into the top 20 of the world rankings.
Kvitova has also landed in the top quarter and last season’s beaten finalist here could be a solid option at 22/1, but the two-time Wimbledon winner has struggled with respiratory problems in the past and these could come to the fore if bushfire smoke continues to be an issue in Melbourne.
Madison Keys has been to the semi-finals of the Australian Open again and seems in good shape for another good run this year. She can also be backed at odds of 22/1.
Hurdles Await Halep in Third Quarter
Simona Halep is the top seed in the third quarter but the draw could hardly have been less kind to her, with in-form Jennifer Brady – who has recent wins against Barty and Maria Sharapova under her belt – up first before a potential meeting with Su-Wei Hsieh in the third round.
The Taiwanese player beat Halep at Wimbledon in 2018 while last year’s semi-finalist Danielle Collins is another dangerous player lurking in this section of the draw. At 11/1 and the fourth favourite in the Australian Open betting odds, Halep has too many obstacles to overcome.
Sharapova, the 2008 Australian Open champion, is also in the third quarter along with sixth seed Belinda Bencic (33/1), who opens with a banana skin against Anna Karolina Schmiedlova. Sharapova certainly has the quality to come through this stacked section but a price of 150/1 reflects the fact she is not expected to be among the leading contenders for the title this year. She could fall to Donna Vekic, the 19th seed who is also at 150/1, in the first round.
Aryna Sabalenka (16/1) beat Halep in Adelaide recently but after losing her father recently it is unclear if the Belarussian, who opens against veteran Carla Suarez Navarro, will be able to retain her focus on the court. Another name of note in this section of the women’s draw this year is Jelena Ostapenko, the shock 2017 French Open champion, who is unseeded.
Bottom Section Includes Svitolina and Pliskova
Talent is studded through the draw and the fourth quarter is no different with a potential quarter-final clash between Elina Svitolina and Karolina Pliskova, who are offered at 28/1 and 12/1 respectively. Pliskova is the second seed and she got to the semis here a year ago.
Svitolina has reached the quarter-finals two years in a row at Melbourne Park so the fifth seed will be hoping to build on that success in 2020. Her route to the quarters could include matches against Katie Boulter, Lauren Davis and two-time Grand Slam champion Garbine Muguruza.
Kiki Bertens, Amanda Anisimova, 2017 winner Angelique Kerber, Marketa Vondrousova and Svetlana Kuznetsova are all in the bottom quarter, so whoever comes through to reach the semi-finals will have certainly earned their place in the last four.
2020 Australian Open Women’s Draw Best Bets
The last four Australian Open titles have been won by four different women, so this is a notoriously difficult tournament for which to pick a winner. Naturally, Williams starts as the favourite and her aura will be enough to see off some players, but at 4/1 she is not great value.
Williams is aiming to equal Margaret Court’s longstanding record of 24 grand slam singles titles but it is worth keeping in mind she has lost her last four major finals, most recently to the rising Canadian star Bianca Andreescu in September’s US Open – Serena’s home event.
With around 10 players available at odds of 20/1 or shorter it is clear the bookmakers do not have a clear idea of who will come out on top, but Osaka’s chances look good. The Japanese won here in 2019 and can become the first woman to defend the title since Victoria Azarenka. She is at 8/1 and Barty would be a very popular home winner at the same price too.
Keys could come through her quarter at 22/1 and at 50/1, Collins looks to offer fine value. The American lost out to Barty in the Adelaide semi-finals but the American is in fine shape to make a Grand Slam breakthrough. The 26-year-old had her best major performance in reaching the semi-finals a year ago at Melbourne Park and though Halep is in her section of the draw, it might well open up in her favour.
Those looking for an outsider to consider on each-way terms could do worse than Riske. At 150/1 her chances are limited according to the bookmakers, but on her day she can beat anyone. Never having gone beyond the third round of the Australian Open counts against Riske.