Who will emerge victorious in the women's singles at the Australian Open? Take a look at our Grand Slam form guide, with words and stats supplied by Andy Swales...
“Once again we head into a big tournament with no obvious leader in the women’s ranks and, with little competitive action taking place in recent months, the potential for another brand new Grand Slam champion is reasonably high.”
Since Serena Williams took a year out to start a family, no one has truly taken over as a dominant world No 1 in women's tennis.
Although Serena still remains a huge threat, she's no longer the clear favourite every time a Grand Slam comes along.
Naomi Osaka and Simona Halep have probably staked the biggest claims to be considered the top female player of the past few years, but neither of these has really shown the Slam-to-Slam consistency of a true No 1.
Osaka may have won three titles during the past two and a bit years but she has failed to reach the quarter-finals in any other.
Halep, on the other hand, has won two majors since Serena began her one year sabbatical, while also reaching two finals, one semi-final and two quarter-finals. But she's also lost four times during the opening week of a Slam.
Serena's 23rd major title arrived in Melbourne four years ago, since when the 14 subsequent championships have produced 11 different winners.
Once again we head into a big tournament with no obvious leader in the women's ranks and, with little competitive action taking place in recent months, the potential for another brand new Grand Slam champion is reasonably high.
Just three months ago, Iga Swiatek stunned everyone - and probably herself too - by winning at Roland Garros, her first title of any sort at senior level.
The build-up to the Australian Open has not been helped by the on-going Covid-19 crisis, which has meant players having to isolate in hotel rooms after arriving Down Under.
All of this continues to add to the fascinating mix of uncertainty which has been part of women's tennis for the last four years.
Check out the latest betting for the women's singles event at the Australian Open
So who are the likely challengers when the delayed Australian Open finally starts on Monday, February 8th?
Ashleigh Barty: The world No 1 from Australia is probably better placed mentally than most of her fellow competitors going into the tournament, as she hasn't had to cope with being stuck in a hotel room for over a week. However, she chose not to play in New York or Paris, so this will be her first Slam since reaching the semi-finals in Melbourne 12 months ago. In all, she skipped the final 10 months of 2020 but is set to play a warm-up event next week.
Bianca Andreescu: This will be her first Slam since beating Serena Williams in the final of the US Open in 2019. Injuries and Covid prevented any appearances last year but will still be the No 8 seed in Melbourne. The 20-year-old Canadian enjoys hard courts most of all, having also won the prestigious title at Indian Wells.
Victoria Azarenka: Came from nowhere to reach the US Open final in September when she beat Serena Williams in the last four. However, the dream was ended by Ozaka as she lost a New York final for the third time. The former world No 1, now 31, won back-to-back Aussie Opens in 2012-13.
Simona Halep: The dependable Romanian has, at least, shown a little more consistency than most at the top end of the game. Now 29, was a Melbourne semi-finalist last year, and runner-up in 2018. Was one of the many withdrawals from last year's US Open, and arrived at Roland Garros as the top seed only to win just three games during her fourth round loss to Iga Swiatek.
Naomi Ozaka: Queen of the hard court. All three Slam victories have been on this surface but she opted not to play on the clay of Paris last autumn. Japan's biggest sports star is a real threat in Melbourne.
Sofia Kenin: The defending champion and the only player to reach two Slam finals during 2020. The fiercely determined Russian-born American is most definitely here to stay and should be a strong contender for major titles in the years to come.
Iga Swiatek: Only 19, the young Pole won last year's French Open when ranked No 54 in the world. She didn't even drop a set in Paris, and only conceded four games twice. Will be interesting to see how she copes with the added pressure but is certainly a great boost for the sport of tennis.
Serena Williams: Still chasing that elusive 24th Grand Slam singles title which would bring her level with Margaret Court. Since returning to the sport, following childbirth, Serena has contested 10 majors, reaching the final in four but losing the lot. She turns 40 in September. Doesn't play a lot of competitive tennis nowadays but, because of Covid which has led to the cancellation of many tournaments around the world over the past year, neither has anyone else. So shouldn't be at a massive disadvantage going into the Australian Open.
Twitter: Andy Swales@GolfStatsAlive
Last 10 Grand Slam Results (selected players)
|Patricia Maria Tig||Rd-3||Rd-2|
|Sara Sorribes Tormo||Rd-1||Rd-2||Rd-2||Rd-1||Rd-1||Rd-2||Rd-1||Rd-1||Rd-2|
|Alison Van Uytvanck||Rd-2||Rd-1||Rd-1||Rd-2||Rd-2||Rd-1||Rd-1||Rd-1||Rd-4||Rd-2|