Leading Australian Open women’s contenders

HOW THE LEADING WOMEN SHAPE UP FOR THE 2016 AUSTRALIAN OPEN STARTING ON JANUARY 18

SERENA WILLIAMS (USA)

Age: 34

Ranking: 1

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US74,083,421 ($A108.15 million)

Career titles: 69

Grand slam titles: 21 (Australian Open 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2105; French Open 2002, 2013, 2015; Wimbledon 2002-03, 2009-10, 2012, 2015; US Open 1999, 2002, 2008, 2012-2014)

Australian Open win-loss record: 68-9

Best Australian Open results: champion 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015

Injuries and illness – not any opponent – remain the American’s biggest threat with a nagging knee problem preventing the six-times champion from completing a competitive match since the US Open.

SIMONA HALEP (ROM)

Age: 24

Ranking: 2

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US11,164,135 ($A16.30 million)

Career titles: 11

Grand slam titles: 0

Australian Open win-loss record: 10-5

Best Australian Open results: quarter-finalist 2014, 2015

The Romanian has proven herself to have an all-court game and it’s just a matter of time before she breaks through at grand slam level. Has had her best results in Melbourne the past two years.

GARBINE MUGURUZA (ESP)

Age: 22

Ranking: 3

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US6,191,854 ($A9.04 million)

Career titles: 2

Grand slam titles: 0

Australian Open win-loss record: 7-3

Best Australian Open results: fourth round 2014, 2015

The 2015 Wimbledon runner-up leads an exciting band of new-age up and comers including Belinda Bencic and Elina Svitolina, but looks the pick of the prospects threatening the established stars.

AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA (POL)

Age: 26

Ranking: 4

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US21,888,876 ($A31.95 million)

Career titles: 18

Grand slam titles: 0

Australian Open win-loss record: 27-9

Best Australian Open result: semi-finalist 2014

Regained her place among the elite with her season-ending WTA Championships win and capable of going all the way if the cards fall her way. A three-time quarter-finalist before making the final four last year.

MARIA SHARAPOVA (RUS)

Age: 28

Ranking: 5

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US36,484,486 ($A53.26 million)

Career titles: 35

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

Australian Open win-loss record: 48-11

Best Australian Open result: champion 2008

The five-times major winner can never be written off despite her dreadful decade-long losing run against Williams. Four Australian Open finals appearances are proof of her Melbourne Park credentials.

PETRA KVITOVA (CZE)

Age: 25

Ranking: 6

Plays: left-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US20,394,379 ($A29.77 million)

Career titles: 17

Grand slam titles: 2 (Wimbledon 2011, 2014)

Australian Open win-loss record: 13-7

Best Australian Open result: semi-finalist 2012

Has yet to catch fire in Melbourne but few players can match the Czech’s awesome power game when and if she ever does. Landing her second major has also given the free-swinging leftie renewed confidence.

BEST OUTSIDER

VICTORIA AZARENKA (BLR)

Age: 26

Ranking: 16

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US25,786,573 ($A37.64 million)

Career titles: 18

Grand slam titles: 2 (Australian Open 2012, 2013)

Australian Open win-loss record: 35-8

Best Australian Open results: champion 2012, 2013

It’s hard to label a two-time former champion an outsider but the rankings suggest the Ukraine is just that after battling back from injury. The top seeds will be eager to avoid her before the business end of the tournament.

BEST AUSTRALIAN HOPES

SAMANTHA STOSUR

Age: 31

Ranking: 27

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US15,080,252 ($A22.01 million)

Career titles: 8

Grand slam titles: 1 (US Open 2011)

Australian Open win-loss record: 18-13

Best Australian Open results: fourth round 2006, 2010

The veteran finished outside the top 25 for the first time in seven years but her 2015 campaign nevertheless featured two titles. Continues to believe another big run at the slams is not beyond her.

DARIA GAVRILOVA

Age: 21

Ranking: 36

Plays: right-handed (two-handed backhand)

Career prize money: $US793,369 ($A1.08 million)

Career titles: 0

Grand slam titles: 0

Australian Open win-loss record: 1-2

Best Australian Open result: second round 2013

Stosur’s heir apparent as the new queen of Australian tennis is knocking on the door of a grand slam seeding after enjoying a breakout 2015 with wins over former world No.1s Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic.

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