Serena Williams, who lost the World No. 1 ranking several weeks ago, has not contested a match since suffering an upset in the semifinals of the 2016 US Open to Karolina Pliskova. However, the American’s absence from the tour in the final months of the 2016 season was not that surprising as she missed the late going of the 2015 season as well. Looking forward, she is on the players’ list for one of the events that builds up to the 2017 Australian Open. The American, at this point, looks to be a part of WTA Auckland 2017, an event that comes from New Zealand very early in the new year.
I stress that she is on the players’ list only “at this point” because when it comes to the events that lead up to the Aussie, it’s hard not to forget about what happened last season. At the start of 2016, several top-ranked players withdrew from early-season events on the WTA Tour after featuring in the lead-up marketing for weeks. It was a matter I commented on in early 2016 in an article titled “Rash of Top Ranked WTA Injuries Suspicious” (Jan. 6, 2016).
To summarize the main point of that MovieTVTechGeeks article, 60% of the top ten withdrew from events in the first week of 2016 including Serena Williams. That was a total that had to be a kick in the teeth for tennis fans that had bought tickets for the events hoping to see marquee players in action. Just because a name appears on the players’ list for a tournament certainly doesn’t mean that the player will actually play in the event. It seems that the low-tiered tournaments are the ones that players are more likely to withdraw from and Auckland certainly fits the bill.
With the players’ list subject to change it’s still too early for a proper tournament preview. But Serena ‘Withdrawal-Risk’ Williams is not the only big name on the current players’ list as she is joined by three other former World No. 1s. Besides Serena, the players’ list includes Venus Williams, Danish player Caroline Wozniacki, and 2008 French Open champion Ana Ivanovic. Wozniacki, if she plays, is the player to watch in my view as her form from the 2016 US Open onward to the end of her season seemed to hint at a resurgence. I think her motivation will be very high heading into the 2017 season and she’s certainly one to watch when it comes to betting futures.
Furthermore, she’s the high-ranked and talented player currently on the Auckland players’ list that is still in her prime. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her hit some special tennis in 2017 overall and give Angelique Kerber a run for her money on top of the rankings. In fact, if the Dane gets to her best tennis, a run to the final of the Aussie is not out of the question for her.
Auckland starts on January 2nd, a couple weeks before the start of the Australian Open. That Grand Slam tournament will run from January 16th to 29th with Angelique Kerber, who is on the list for WTA Brisbane, the defending champion. However, Serena Williams remains the favorite for the tournament (bet365), one that she has won numerous times in the past.