Last year, Timea Babos and Kristina Mladenovic decided to reunite up after experiencing success the past few seasons with different partners. The 2014 Wimbledon finalists had a perfect start to the year by taking the title at the Australian Open for their first Slam victory together.
Win the first major of the year and you become the only players capable of capturing the calendar-year Slam. Though they didn’t come out on top at any of the other majors, the Hungarian-French duo finished the year on a high by emerging triumphant at the WTA Finals and enters Melbourne this year as the number-two seeds. Babos and Mladenovic have a somewhat-favorable draw and should be able to advance to the semifinals. In the final four, they’re drawn to face the winner of a battle between two teams that have gotten off to a strong start in 2019.
Brisbane champions Nicole Melichar and Kveta Peschke are seeded fourth and slated to face the team they beat in that final, Latisha and Hao-Ching Chan, in the quarters. The seventh-seeded sisters, who’ve played together sporadically the past couple of seasons, have reunited and already shown in 2019 that they’re a formidable team when they’re together: Aside from that Brisbane final, they’re coming off a title in Hobart right before the Australian Open.
On the top half of the draw, Katerina Siniakova and Barbora Krejcikova are leading the way as the Czech duo took the French Open and Wimbledon last year to finish atop the team standings. Siniakova enters Melbourne with her confidence at a high after winning Sydney with Aleksandra Krunic. Siniakova and Krejcikova have a potentially difficult third-rounder ahead of them against a team that represents a mix of the recent past and present of the sport.
Last year, the doubles player of the year was arguably Demi Schuurs, who won the most titles on tour; cracked the Top 10; and reached the WTA Finals with Elise Mertens, the player she experienced most of her success with. Mertens, though, decided to focus on singles this year and Schuurs will be playing here with two-time Aussie champ Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Schuurs didn’t have much luck at the majors last year, which is something Mattek-Sands should be able to help out with.
They’re seeded No. 15 and have a tricky opener first up against the hard-hitting Aryna Sabalenka and her partner for the tournament, who happens to be none other than Mertens.
Gabriela Dabrowski and Yifan Xu, the third seeds who are at their best on hard courts, are also a threat in the draw’s top half, provided they get past their opener against Barbora Strycova—one of the game’s top doubles players—and her young countrywoman, Marketa Vondrousova.
Toss-up openers abound for many of the seeds in Melbourne, and it could come down to former Grand Slam champions facing off at the end.
Follow Van on Twitter: @Van_Sias
Kickoff each day of the 2019 Australian Open with Tennis Channel Live, reviewing the day's most important news and previewing the day's biggest matches. Watch LIVE at 6 p.m. ET.
Follow the Australian Open even closer with Tennis Channel PLUS. Go to BuyTCPlus.com and subscribe now!