The Australian Open draws are out and World No.2 Serena Williams has a tough opponent in the very first round as she will face-off with former world No.7 Belinda Bencic. The 19-year-old Swiss who claimed their last clash en route to the Canadian Masters title in 2015.
Lucie Safarova, runner-up at the French Open in 2015, could be next for Serena, and former No.1 Caroline Wozniacki sits in the same quarter.
Williams though has plenty of incentive coming into the Australian Open. There’s the redemption factor, after losing in the final last year to current World No.1 Angelique Kerber. If that doesn’t do it (and that’s a big IF), then Willaims can draw motivation from knowing that there a chance for her to overtake Kerber in the rankings if she can reach at least the finals; Kerber can secure No.1 by reaching the final.
Here are the scenarios:
– Serena needs to at least reach the final to overtake Kerber.
– If Kerber advances to the Round of 16, Serena would need to win the title AND Kerber would need to lose before the final for Serena to retake No.1.
– Kerber can also secure the No.1 by reaching the final, regardless of any other results.
Williams leads a field of 16 American Women – the most of any nation in the Australian Open draw. Sister Venus, who at 36 years young is the oldest player in the field, will make her 73rd Grand Slam appearance at the 2017 Australian Open, the most of anyone in the Open Era. Venus made her Grand Slam debut at 1997 Roland Garros – three years before the youngest player in this Australian Open draw (16-year-old Destanee Aiava) was born.
Other Americans in the Australian Open field include: Christina McHale, Shelby Rogers, Louisa Chirico, Vania King, Nicole Gibbs, Varvara Lepchenko, Irina Falconi, Anna Tatishvili, Samantha Crawford and Kayla Day.
And the one’s who have had successful starts to 2017:
- Lauren Davis won her first WTA title at the ASB Classic in Auckland against a field that included both Williams sisters
- Alison Riske was runner-up at Shenzhen, defeating World No.3 Agnieszka Radwanska in the process
- CoCo Vandeweghe reached the final of the Hopman Cup exhibition tournament in Perth
- Madison Brengle got her first win over a Top 3 player by beating Serena in Auckland