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The top women's contenders at Australian Open

January 13, 2018 10:15 IST

As Serena Williams sits out a fourth straight Grand Slam, Simona Halep and Maria Sharapova will join Caroline Wozniacki in a quest for a major breakthrough in Australia.

Halep is probably the best placed to claim the first Grand Slam of the season, the Romanian cementing her number one status with a Shenzhen Open triumph.

The most significant indicator of who could shine brightest in 2018 came in October when Wozniacki battled to a maiden WTA Finals title, displaying a new brand of ruthless tennis that suggests a first Grand Slam is imminent.

Maria Sharapova, however, is the one player who can match Williams' intensity and single-minded desire for success, not to mention her status as a drawcard.

Ukrainian Elina Svitolina will attract backing after solid early form, while 37-year-old Venus Williams is also among the top contenders to win her eighth Grand Slam.

Penpix of the top women's contenders at the 2018 Australian Open, which begins on Monday:

Simona Halep (Romania)

Simona Halep

World ranking: 1

Born: September 27, 1991 (Age 26)

Height: 1.68 metres

Plays: Right-handed

Grand slam titles: 0

WTA match record in 2018 (won-lost): 5-0

After rising to the top of the rankings at the end of last year, top seed Halep has continued her ruthless form to win the season-opening Shenzhen Open trophy.

The Romanian, who reached the quarter-finals at Melbourne Park in 2014 and 2015, now has the chance to win her maiden Grand Slam title and assert her dominance after first-round exits in the last two editions.

Elina Svitolina (Ukraine)

Elina Svitolina

World ranking: 4

Born: September 12, 1994 (Age 23)

Height: 1.74 metres

Plays: Right-handed

Grand slam titles: 0

WTA match record in 2018 (won-lost): 5-0

Svitolina won five singles titles last season and has started the current campaign in fine form by winning her 10th career title at the Brisbane International, dropping just one set in the process.

The Ukrainian has not fared well at Grand Slams and will be eager to get past the third round at Melbourne Park for the first time.

Venus Williams (US)

Venus Williams

World ranking: 5

Born: June 17, 1980 (Age 37)

Height: 1.85 metres

Plays: Right-handed

Grand slam titles: 7 (Wimbledon 2000, 2001, 2005, 2007, 2008, U.S. Open 2000, 2001)

Veteran Williams is among the top contenders to win her eighth Grand Slam and first Australian Open title following a successful campaign last year, where she finished runner-up at Melbourne Park, Wimbledon and the WTA Finals, in the absence of her sister Serena.

The 37-year-old has lost to her sister in two previous Australian Open finals.

Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)

Caroline Wozniacki

World ranking: 2

Born: July 11, 1990 (Age 27)

Height: 1.77 metres

Plays: Right-handed

Grand slam titles: 0

WTA match record in 2018 (won-lost): 4-1

Wozniacki is showing no signs of slowing down since winning her 27th singles title at the ATP Finals last October as the Dane charged to the Auckland Classic final, where she lost to Julia Goerges after a tough match.

The 27-year-old is yet to win a major and will be keen to better her record at Melbourne Park, where she reached the semi-finals in 2011.

Maria Sharapova (Russia)

Maria Sharapova

World ranking: 47

Born: April 19, 1987 (Age 30)

Height: 1.88 metres

Plays: Right-handed

Grand slam titles: 5 (Wimbledon 2004, French Open 2012, 2014, Australian Open 2008, US Open 2006)

WTA match record in 2018 (won-lost): 3-1

The resurgent Russian is among the few contenders at Melbourne Park this year to have a major title to her name. The 30-year-old returned from a doping ban last season and went on to win the Tianjin Open.

Sharapova kicked off the current season with a run to the semi-finals of the Shenzhen Open last week and is in prime position to get back to her ruthless best and win her first Grand Slam since 2014.

Jelena Ostapenko (Latvia)

Jelena Ostapenko

Born: June 8, 1997 (Age 20)

Height: 1.77 metres

Plays: Right-handed

World ranking: 7

Grand slam titles: 1 (French Open 2017)

WTA match record in 2018 (won-lost): 0-2

French Open champion Ostapenko continued her momentum after her shock win at Roland Garros, reaching the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the third round of the US Open for the first time.

The 20-year-old ended last season with two semi-final appearances in Wuhan and Beijing and also qualified for the WTA finals. Despite her early exit in Shenzhen and Sydney, Ostapenko will be targeting another first as she aims to reach the fourth round at Melbourne Park.

Photographs: Getty Images

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