After a season in which she reached two Grand Slam finals, including the Australian Open, Venus Williams is seeded No. 5 at this year’s tournament.
With Serena Williams, the defending champion, missing from the field, Venus is considered one of the favorites for the title—provided she survives her first-round match.
The American is drawn to play Belinda Bencic perhaps the most dangerous floater in either the men’s or women’s draw. Bencic, a former member of the Top 10, ended 2017 on a tear after returning from wrist surgery, winning four tournaments in a row. That good form continued into the new year as she teamed with Roger Federer to win the Hopman Cup.
Williams has faced some dangerous opponents and up-and-comers over the years. Here’s a look at five of them:
2009: Angelique Kerber
In only her second Australian Open, Kerber fell to the Venus, 6-3, 6-3. After steadily climbing the rankings, Kerber reached the top spot in the rankings in 2016, a year in which she defeated Serena Williams in the Australian Open final.
2016: Johanna Konta
Making her main-draw debut at the Australian Open, the Brit faced the eighth-seeded Williams and shocked her, 6-4, 6-2. Konta would go on from there to reach the semifinals (where she lost to Kerber). After the tournament, she made her debut in the Top 30 and by the end of the year finished at No. 10.
2014: Ekaterina Makarova
Though she was unseeded at the 2014 edition of the tournament, Williams was still going to be a tough out for anyone at the tournament. She was drawn to play against the No. 22-seeded Ekaterina Makarova in the first round. After winning the first set, 6-2, Williams dropped the next two, 6-4, 6-4.
2010: Lucie Safarova
In her opening match, the sixth-seeded Williams faced the dangerous Safarova. The Czech—who reached her first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the Australian in 2007 and had already won four singles titles in her burgeoning career—fell rather meekly to the American, 6-2, 6-2.
2006: Tsvetana Pironkova
In 2005, Pironkova reached the semifinals of her first tour event in Istanbul on clay, where she lost to Williams in straight sets. Pironkova must have taken something from that encounter as she outlasted the Venus in the first round, 2-6, 6-0, 9-7.
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