January 11, 2019 / 8:10 AM / 5 months ago

Penpix of the top women's contenders at the Australian Open

(Reuters) - Penpix of the top women’s contenders at the 2019 Australian Open (Prefix denotes seeding):

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 11, 2019 - Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki trains. REUTERS/Edgar Su

16-Serena Williams (U.S.)

World ranking: 16

Born: Sept. 26, 1981 (Age 37)

Grand Slam titles: 23 (Australian Open 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017; French Open 2002, 2013, 2015; Wimbledon 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016; U.S. Open 1999, 2002, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014)

WTA career titles: 72

Best Australian Open performance: Winner (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017)

Biggest weapon: An intimidating opponent at the best of times, Williams can win battles even before they begin. If that does not get the job done, her scorching serves and punishing groundstrokes will.

Biggest weakness: The red mist can descend quickly when things do not go to plan, as it did in the U.S. Open final against Naomi Osaka.

3-Caroline Wozniacki (Denmark)

World ranking: 3

Born: July 11, 1990 (Age 28)

Grand Slam titles: 1 (Australian Open 2018)

WTA career titles: 30

Best Australian Open performance: Winner (2018)

Biggest weapon: Perseverance and patience help Wozniacki grind down opponents but the Dane also packs a mean punch, while her serve has grown more potent over time.

Biggest weakness: Lacks a killer shot to close out the long baseline rallies she often gets dragged into, and sometimes struggles to finish off weaker opponents.

4-Naomi Osaka (Japan)

World ranking: 4

Born: Oct. 16, 1997 (Age 21)

Grand Slam titles: 1 (U.S. Open 2018)

WTA career titles: 2

Best Australian Open performance: Fourth round (2018)

Biggest weapon: A formidable blend of power and accuracy helps Osaka hit winners from any part of the court. The Japanese also has the endurance to go the distance against the big guns.

Biggest weakness: Despite her U.S. Open victory, she is still short of experience on the big stage and is uncomfortable at the net.

2-Angelique Kerber (Germany)

World ranking: 2

Born: Jan. 18, 1988 (Age 30)

Grand Slam titles: 3 (Australian Open 2016; Wimbledon 2018; U.S. Open 2016)

WTA career titles: 12

Best Australian Open performance: Winner (2016)

Biggest weapon: The German is a traditional baseliner and at her most comfortable overpowering opponents from the back of the court. She can dominate rallies with her forehand and her defensive game is one of the best on the circuit.

Biggest weakness: Opponents will hope to capitalise on her service game.

1-Simona Halep (Romania)

World ranking: 1

Born: Sept. 27, 1991 (Age 27)

Grand Slam titles: 1 (French Open 2018)

WTA career titles: 18

Best Australian Open performance: Runner-up (2018)

Biggest weapon: Despite her short stature, Halep’s speed and athleticism allow her to cover the court quickly and surprise opponents with winners even when she is on the back foot.

Biggest weakness: She lacks the physical strength of her biggest rivals and has a reputation for imploding under the spotlight, despite winning her first major last year. Her start to the season has been hampered by a back injury.

6-Elina Svitolina (Ukraine)

World ranking: 6

Born: Sep. 12, 1994 (Age 24)

Grand Slam titles: 0

WTA career titles: 13

Best Australian Open performance: Quarter-finals (2018)

Biggest weapon: Versatility. Svitolina is a superb counter-puncher with near-flawless technique, while her willingness to run and knack of pulling off winners from tight angles make her a tricky opponent.

Biggest weakness: Game management. Her all-out approach means she can run out of steam deep in the final set. She has never progressed beyond the quarter-finals in the second week of a slam.

30-Maria Sharapova (Russia)

World ranking: 30

Born: April 19, 1987 (Age 31)

Grand Slam titles: 5 (Australian Open 2008; French Open 2012, 2014; Wimbledon 2004; U.S. Open 2006)

WTA career titles: 36

Best Australian Open performance: Winner (2008)

Biggest weapon: The Russian baseliner dominates matches with her ferocious groundstrokes and sharp serves, while her ear-piercing screams can unsettle opponents.

Biggest weakness: Sluggish court coverage and a high unforced error rate are two of the reasons why she has claimed just one WTA title since returning from a doping ban in 2017.

15-Ashleigh Barty (Australia)

World ranking: 15

Born: April 24, 1996 (Age 22)

Grand Slam titles: 0

WTA career titles: 3

Tennis - Australian Open - Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia - January 10, 2019 - Serena Williams of the U.S. trains. REUTERS/Edgar Su

Best Australian Open performance: Third round (2017, 2018)

Biggest weapon: Fighting spirit. Barty’s grit, laser-like serve and penetrating forehand make her the host nation’s best bet of a deep run in the women’s draw.

Biggest weakness: Her low first serve percentage and weak backhand lengthen the odds of Barty becoming the first Australian to win the women’s singles title at Melbourne Park since Chris O’Neill in 1978.

Compiled by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru

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