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10 January 2019, 06:53 | Pamela Mathis
Australian Open women to watch
Bookmakers in Australia have installed Williams as a short-priced favourite for the title with her US Open conqueror Osaka - the first Japanese player to win a Grand Slam - next in the betting.
He retired in the quarter-finals against Marin Cilic past year in Melbourne and suffered yet another knee injury that forced him out of the US Open semi-finals before ankle surgery in November.
"I wake up and can't lift my hands over my head". Wozniacki, ranked three, started last season by winning her first Grand Slam in Melbourne and returning to world number one, but ended it in October with the bombshell announcement that she had been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.
The 37-year-old has been drawn in world number one Simona Halep's section of the draw and will play her opening match of the tournament against Tatijana Maria of Germany.
Top-seeded Halep is without a coach after long-time Australian mentor Darren Cahill stepped down for family reasons, and described 2018 as "very emotional" but insisted it had made her mentally stronger. You can see it in her eyes.
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Schuttler will add more "daring" to the 2016 Australian Open champion's game, said the German Tennis Association's Barbara Rittner, who helped develop Kerber as a teenager. The manner in which she claimed her maiden Slam was far from ideal - with Serena's furious tirade against the umpire overshadowing Osaka's breakthrough moment. "I'm sure they'll work on it".
"There's no doubt that was a negative but there's no doubt that also a year ago when you look at the bigger picture, the fact that she came back from having a child she was really nowhere near 100 percent and she still made the finals of Wimbledon and the US Open was incredible".
She arrives as second favourite with the bookies behind Williams, and seems unfazed both by her stratospheric rise and by the prospect of the huge support she could receive at the Australian Open, often dubbed the Asia-Pacific Grand Slam. "I never feel pressure to perform. I enjoy Grand Slams the most", she said.
While Evert thinks Serena is "raring to go" as she looks to equal Margaret Court's all-time Grand Slam title record of 24, she predicts strong challenges from the players who stopped the American reaching that tally previous year - Japan's Naomi Osaka, who beat Williams in the U.S. Open final, and Angelique Kerber who trounced her in the Wimbledon title match. He would also become the youngest Grand Slam champion since Del Potro won the title at the 2009 US Open aged 20 years 355 days.
"But also there's no doubt previous year, when you look at bigger picture, she came back from having a child, really nowhere near one hundred per cent fit, and she still managed to make the finals of Wimbledon and the US Open, which was incredible". Her experiences have been a learning experience for me.
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