AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2022: ’21 champ Osaka, No. 1 Barty top field

Women to watch at the Australian Open, which begins Monday at Melbourne Park (Sunday in the U.S.):

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ASH BARTY

Seeded: 1

Country: Australia

Age: 25

2021 Record: 42-8

Career Record: 198-73

2021 Titles: 5

Career Titles: 14

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 2 — French Open (2019), Wimbledon (2021)

Last 5 Australian Opens: 2021-Lost in Quarterfinals, 2020-SF, 2019-QF, 2018-3rd, 2017-3rd

Aces: Trying to give Australia its first women’s champion at its home Grand Slam tournament since Chris O’Neil in 1978. … Won a tune-up title in January at the Adelaide International, with three victories over Top 10 opponents plus another over Coco Gauff. … Since the start of last season, Barty is 17-1 against members of the Top 10.

Matchup: Could face defending champion Naomi Osaka in the fourth round.

Words: “It has absolutely no effect on the way that I prepare or the way I’m thinking leading forward just because it’s a Grand Slam. Doesn’t change for us. We look forward, we do what we can, then we see how we go.” — Barty.

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GARBIÑE MUGURUZA

Seeded: 3

Country: Spain

Age: 28

2021 Record: 42-17

Career Record: 299-161

2021 Titles: 3

Career Titles: 10

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 2 — French Open (2016), Wimbledon (2017)

Last 5 Australian Opens: 2021-4th, 2020-Runner-Up, 2019-4th, 2018-2nd, 2017-QF

Aces: Won last year’s season-ending WTA Finals and led tour in hard-court victories in 2021. … Held two match points at 5-3 in the third set before losing to eventual champion Naomi Osaka in the fourth round of the 2021 Australian Open. … Works with Conchita Martinez, the 1994 Wimbledon champion and 2021 WTA Coach of the Year.

Matchup: Could face No. 6 seed Anett Kontaveit in the quarterfinals, which would be a rematch of November’s title match at the WTA Finals.

Words: “Well, I mean, obviously, a win is a win, and winning a big tournament gives you certainty, confidence, motivation.” — Muguruza, on her WTA Finals triumph.

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IGA SWIATEK

Seeded: 7

Country: Poland

Age: 20

2021 Record: 27-14

Career Record: 67-34

2021 Titles: 2

Career Titles: 3

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 — French Open (2020)

Last 5 Australian Opens: 2021-4th, 2020-4th, 2019-2nd, 2018-Did Not Play, 2017-DNP

Aces: Pulled out of a tune-up event in Sydney this week because of pain in her lower rib area. … Only player from Poland to win a Grand Slam singles championship. … Her title at 2020 French Open while ranked 54th made her the lowest-ranked champion in Paris in the professional era. … Split from coach Piotr Sierzputowski in the offseason and hired Tomasz Wiktorowski, who used to work with Agnieszka Radwanska.

Matchup: Could face No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka in the quarterfinals.

Words: “I’m not good with making decisions, so it was a hard time for me. For a week, I really had my doubts. … I felt it’s a good time for a next step and a change to maybe reset a little bit.” — Swiatek, on her coaching switch.

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NAOMI OSAKA

Seeded: 13

Country: Japan

Age: 24

2021 Record: 18-6

Career Record: 156-79

2021 Titles: 1

Career Titles: 7

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 4 — Australian Open (2: 2019, 2021), U.S. Open (2: 2018, 2020)

Last 5 Australian Opens: 2021-Won Championship, 2020-3rd, 2019-W, 2018-4th, 2017-2nd

Aces: All seven of her tour-level titles have come on hard courts, including all four of her Grand Slam championships. … Back in action after taking the rest of 2021 off following a loss in the third round of the U.S. Open to eventual finalist Leylah Fernandez. … Also took time off after pulling out of the French Open before the second round for a mental health break.

Matchup: Could face Olympic gold medalist Belinda Bencic or Amanda Anisimova of the U.S. in the third round, before possible showdown with Barty.

Words: “I’ve always wanted to be more confident at the net, and I always felt like there are several balls that I could move forward on, but I just wasn’t that comfortable being on that section of the court.” — Osaka on one aspect of her game she’s been working on with coach Wim Fissette.

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SIMONA HALEP

Seeded: 14

Country: Romania

Age: 30

2021 Record: 24-10

Career Record: 422-181

2021 Titles: 0

Career Titles: 23

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 2 — French Open (2018), Wimbledon (2019)

Last 5 Australian Opens: 2021-QF, 2020-SF, 2019-4th, 2018-Runner-Up, 2017-1st, 2016-1st

Aces: Prepared for the Australian Open by winning a hard-court event in Melbourne. … Briefly fell out of the Top 20 last season for the first time since 2013. … Missed the French Open and Wimbledon with a torn calf in 2021, then after returning to action, season concluded with a knee injury. … Split from coach Darren Cahill.

Matchup: Could face Muguruza in the fourth round.

Words: “I embrace it. I like the challenge. I like the pressure. … I feel like it’s possible to get back to Top 10. I have that confidence.” — Halep, a former No. 1, on trying to lift her ranking.

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EMMA RADUCANU

Seeded: 17

Country: Britain

Age: 19

2021 Record: 16-7

Career Record: 16-8

2021 Titles: 1

Career Titles: 1

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 1 — U.S. Open (2021)

Last 5 Australian Opens: 2021-DNP, 2020-DNP, 2019-DNP, 2018-DNP, 2017-DNP

Aces: Getting set to make her debut at the Australian Open in what will be just her third appearance at any Grand Slam tournament. In her second, of course, she went from qualifying all the way to the championship at last year’s U.S. Open. … She began 2021 ranked 345th, rose to 179th in July by reaching Wimbledon’s fourth round in her Grand Slam debut and arrived at the U.S. Open at 150th. Raducanu left New York ranked No. 23 after winning all 20 sets she played across 10 victories — three in qualifying and seven in the main draw. … She was the youngest woman to win a major title since Maria Sharapova was 17 at Wimbledon in 2004.

Matchup: Faces 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens in the first round.

Words: “At the end of the day, I just want to keep putting myself out there. Even if I keep getting knocked down. And it’s just about getting back up and basically just falling in front. You’re one step better. You learn more.” — Raducanu.

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COCO GAUFF

Seeded: 18

Country: United States

Age: 17

2021 Record: 36-16

Career Record: 59-31

2021 Titles: 1

Career Titles: 2

Grand Slam Singles Titles: 0 — Best: QF, French Open (2021)

Last 5 Australian Opens: 2021-2nd, 2020-4th, 2019-DNP, 2018-DNP, 2017-DNP

Aces: Youngest woman ranked in the WTA Top 200. … Been making steady progress since bursting onto the scene at Wimbledon in 2019 as that tournament’s youngest qualifier in history, then getting all the way to the fourth round. … Beat Osaka at the Australian Open in 2020.

Matchup: Could face 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin or 2017 U.S. Open runner-up Madison Keys in the third round.

Words: “Most champions are pretty hard on themselves, but not to the point where you’re almost beating yourself up. I think that’s where I was making my mistakes and sometimes I even still do. I think it’s important to celebrate your wins. I’m trying to do a better job of celebrating my wins.” — Gauff.

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