Sports

Karolina Pliskova bigger fave than Serena Williams at Australian Open

Karolina Pliskova bigger fave than Serena Williams at Australian Open

Karolina Pliskova bigger fave than Serena Williams at Australian Open 2017 images

The 2017 Australian Open starts on Monday with the draw coming up in a matter of days. One player that I think is looking exceptionally dangerous is the Czech Republic’s Karolina Pliskova. In fact, I’m prepared to make her my favorite to win the Grand Slam despite the fact that she has yet to win a major.

For my reasoning, firstly let’s look at the other favorites to win the tournament starting with the obvious ones: Angelique Kerber and Serena Williams. Kerber is the defending champion and World No. 1, two compelling credentials with clear implications for a deep run. However, Kerber is also 0-6 for titles in tournaments since gaining top spot. She hasn’t responded well to the pressure of having a target on her back, and her season-to-date record is a case in point. In two tournaments this season, Kerber has a record of 1-2, not the kind of record you expect from the world’s best player. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kerber’s honeymoon with the top spot is over and maybe she’s not even liking the role.

Williams, the World No. 2, is 1-1 on the season thus far, a record that you can’t read into that much. However, she was really huffing and puffing in her loss to Madison Brengle last week at WTA Auckland. At one point Williams actually used her tennis racket as a sort-of makeshift crutch as she got her breath. If you watch challenger events, that’s the kind of thing you see in long points in matches involving players ranked outside of the top 200. I wonder if Williams’ conditioning slipped due to all the time off she took in late 2016 and, if it did, I wonder if she’s going to be ready for an arduous two-week tournament against younger and tough competition. I’ve already tipped my prediction I think, and I’m definitely leaning (or tilting) to the “no” side of that question.

Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep are the other favorites, but what has the former done since winning the French? Halep is actually really quiet of late too, and neither feels too threatening right now. I like WTA Finals winner Dominika Cibulkova a lot better than either of those two players, the one-time finalist from Melbourne Park.

Agnieszka Radwanska’s been a lesser factor on tour of late, and she didn’t have a great 2016 Grand Slam season. Johanna Konta may be one to watch, but she’s nowhere near as talented as Pliskova. Belinda Bencic did something gross to her foot in Sydney this week, and she wasn’t razor sharp in Perth last week. Meanwhile, Caroline Wozniacki, who I loved heading into the season, has gone just 4-2 to start 2017 without a semifinal appearance in either Auckland or Sydney. The Dane isn’t playing horrible, but she appeared to bugger up one of her feet on Wednesday in a straight-sets loss to Barbora Strycova.

Peripheral players may play a bigger role at the Aussie this season than most may realize right now. Elina Svitolina is one to watch as the Ukrainian did well last week in Brisbane. However, at this point, I don’t think Svitolina can close out a Grand Slam. Carla Suarez Navarro has yet to open her season, and it’s possible that she enters Melbourne Park with more energy than the field of contenders. Furthermore, Eugenie Bouchard has shown some life in Sydney this week, and she’s definitely capable of a deep round run in a major. However, if she keeps winning matches this week, then she may not be properly rested for play next week at the Aussie.

Pliskova won the title at Brisbane last week and so she’s clearly in strong form. She also did the smart thing afterward in tapping out of the Sydney draw to rest up, meaning she won’t be tweaking a foot problem like Wozniacki and Bencic may have in recent days.

Pliskova won Cincinnati last season and then burst into the US Open final, losing to Kerber there. However, Kerber was playing better at the US Open than she has played since. I could see the Czech player rattling off seven wins in Melbourne Park to claim a title and perhaps taking over the top spot on tour before March. She has a lot of ranking points already banked, and she’s very much the woman of the moment on tour.

Sports
@GrandSlambert77

Shane is a sports writer with a big interest in tennis, but he's also a noted writer about travel and fiction. Plus he can handle long walks in the cold Canadian tundra!

More in Sports

donald trump weighs in on colin kaepernicks nfl future

Donald Trump weighs in on Colin Kaepernick’s NFL future

Chris MauriceMarch 22, 2017
edmonton oilers looking to bite into san jose sharks slump 2017 images

Edmonton Oilers looking to bite into San Jose Sharks slump

Shane LambertMarch 22, 2017
Novak Djokovic Should Miss Entire Clay Court Season on top of Miami Open 2017 images

Novak Djokovic Should Miss Entire Clay-Court Season on top of Miami Open

Shane LambertMarch 21, 2017
how bad is lonzo balls father lavar hurting his nba future 2017 images

How bad is Lonzo Ball’s father LaVar hurting his NBA future?

Chris MauriceMarch 21, 2017
marshawn lynch could make nfl return with oakland raiders 2017 images

Marshawn Lynch could make NFL return with Oakland Raiders

Chris MauriceMarch 20, 2017
Roger Federer, Elena Vesnina claim titles at Indian Wells 2017 images

Roger Federer, Elena Vesnina claim titles at Indian Wells 2017

Shane LambertMarch 20, 2017
colin kaepernick future with nfl in limbo 2017 images

Colin Kaepernick future with NFL in limbo

Chris MauriceMarch 19, 2017
doc rivers hating nba back to back scheduling 2017 images

Doc Rivers hating NBA back to back scheduling

Chris MauriceMarch 19, 2017
Maria Sharapova on cover of Spain's 'Vanity Fair' for April 2017 images

Maria Sharapova on cover of Spain’s ‘Vanity Fair’ for April

Shane LambertMarch 19, 2017

Subscribe to our Daily Newsletter

You will only receive one per day. You'll also get a free THE WALKING DEAD graphic novel with your subscription