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Australian Open 2019 Women's Draw: Halep faces Kanepi in US Open R1 rematch; falls in stacked first quarter with Serena, Venus, Muguruza and Pliskova

Andrew Hendrie in WTA Tour 10 Jan 2019
  • The 2019 Australian Open women's draw has been released!
  • Halep has landed in a loaded top quarter alongside Serena, Venus, Muguruza, Pliskova and more
  • Defending champion Wozniacki could face Sharapova in third round
Simona Halep (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Grand Slam champions and former World No. 1s Simona Halep, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza have all landed in an absolutely stacked first quarter after the 2019 Australian Open women’s draw was released at Melbourne Park on Thursday night.

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In another wide open and hugely unpredictable women’s Grand Slam draw, the top quarter stands out like a wildfire, with World No. 1 Simona Halep to face Kaia Kanepi in a rematch of the U.S. Open first round - when the Estonian powerhouse blasted the Romanian off the court. Halep, still yet to win a match since August and on the comeback trail from a back injury, is defending runner-up points from last year and has been dealt a nightmare draw in her quarter to make it back to the title match.

If Halep survives Kanepi, she is on a collision course for a third round encounter with two-time former runner-up Venus Williams in the third round, while 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams is her seeded fourth round opponent. Serena begins her quest to equal Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 major singles titles against Germany’s Tatjana Maria and could possibly meet former World No. 5 Eugenie Bouchard in what would be a headline second round contest. The ever-present Carla Suarez Navarro could make life tricky in the third round, but Serena will be confident of reaching the Round of 16 and potentially setting up a box office showdown with either Halep or sister Venus.

Serena Williams (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
At the bottom of the quarter, Brisbane champion and seventh seed Karolina Pliskova starts her bid for a maiden Grand Slam title against a qualifier before potentially running into the explosive Camila Giorgi in the third round. Former World No. 1 and two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza opens against Saisai Zheng and is on course to meet former semi-finalist Johanna Konta in the second round, while 10th seed Daria Kasatkina also lurks in this section as the Russian tries to go on her first big run in Melbourne.

The second quarter is loaded with reigning U.S. Open champion Naomi Osaka and WTA Finals Singapore winner Elina Svitolina, both of whom will be determined to back up their late-season success of 2018 into the first big event of 2019. Osaka, a semi-finalist in Brisbane, meets Magda Linette in the first round and is seeded to face No. 28 Su-Wei Hsieh in the third round - although, two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka might come through as her opponent in that mini-section. A pair of former semi-finalists in Melbourne - Elise Mertens and Madison Keys - are also present in the second quarter, along with a former runner-up in Dominika Cibulkova, who is seeded to run into Svitolina in the third round. Svitolina opens her campaign against a qualifier.

Caroline Wozniacki at the Australian Open draw ceremony (Photo by ASANKA BRENDON RATNAYAKE/AFP/Getty Images)
Defending champion Caroline Wozniacki, who is coming into the tournament in questionable form, takes on Wimbledon quarter-finalist Alison Van Uytvanck in the first round and is in line to square off against former champion Maria Sharapova in what would be a popcorn third round clash. Wozniacki is seeded to meet No. 8 Petra Kvitova in the quarter-finals, but if the Dane makes it past Sharapova, she might have to face in-form home hope Ashleigh Barty in the Round of 16, while the likes of Jelena Ostapenko and Maria Sakkari also feature in her section of the draw.

Meanwhile, Kvitova begins against former Wimbledon semi-finalist Magdalena Rybarikova and is on course for a blockbuster seeded fourth round showdown with Aryna Sabalenka - the fast-rising young gun from Belarus who many are tipping could go all the way in Melbourne over the next fortnight.

And rounding out the draw in the bottom half, 2016 champion Angelique Kerber faces the big-serving Polana Hercog in the first round and might clash with the improving Donna Vekic in Round 3. The dangerous Julia Goerges could be waiting in the Round of 16, while 2017 U.S. Open champion and fifth seed Sloane Stephens comes up against compatriot Taylor Townsend and is seeded to meet No. 9 Kiki Bertens in the fourth round.

Projected quarter-finals

Simona Halep [1] vs Karolina Pliskova [7]
Naomi Osaka [4] vs Elina Svitolina [6]
Caroline Wozniacki [3] vs Petra Kvitova [8]
Angelique Kerber [2] vs Sloane Stephens [5]

R1 matches for top eight seeds

Simona Halep [1] vs Kaia Kanepi
Angelique Kerber [2] vs Polana Hercog
Caroline Wozniacki [3] vs Alison Van Uytvanck
Naomi Osaka [4] vs Magda Linette
Sloane Stephens [5] vs Taylor Townsend
Elina Svitolina [6] vs Qualifier
Karolina Pliskova [7] vs Qualifier
Petra Kvitova [8] vs Magdalena Rybarikova

The 2019 Australian Open is live from Melbourne Park from January 14.

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Australian Open 2019 Women's Draw: Halep faces Kanepi in US Open R1 rematch; falls in stacked first quarter with Serena, Venus, Muguruza and Pliskova

Grand Slam champions and former World No. 1s Simona Halep, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza have all landed in an absolutely stacked first quarter after the 2019 Australian Open women’s draw was released at Melbourne Park on Thursday night.

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