Tenth-seeded Serena Williams, who is seeking her 24th Grand Slam title, could await whoever advances from Osaka’s quarter of the draw. Williams opens against the combative Laura Siegemund, but her toughest test might come from the enigmatic player who looms in the fourth round: seventh-seeded Aryna Sabalenka. Despite the pandemic-decimated schedule, Sabalenka has won four WTA titles in the last 12 months, including the final two tournaments of last season and the first of this year. But Sabalenka has not played well at Grand Slam events, only once advancing to even the fourth round in 12 main draw appearances.
Whoever advances from Williams’s and Sabalenka’s section very likely has a tough battle on her hands in the quarterfinals as well, with both second-seeded Simona Halep and 15th-seeded Iga Swiatek looming. Swiatek won the French Open in October.
On the men’s side of the tournament, the already dim hopes among American players got even dimmer after the draw.
With the highest-ranked American man, John Isner, choosing to stay home, 27th-seeded Taylor Fritz is the lone seed from the United States in men’s singles. He could face the next-highest ranked American man, his friend Reilly Opelka, in the second round. But whoever comes out of that part of the draw would most likely run into the buzz saw of Novak Djokovic in the third round.
The top-seeded Djokovic, who has won eight Australian Open titles including the last two, opens his tournament against the Frenchman Jeremy Chardy, and could face another young American, 2019 quarterfinalist Frances Tiafoe, in the second round.
One of Djokovic’s toughest potential tests looms in the fourth round, where he could face the 17th-seeded Stan Wawrinka. Wawrinka is one of only three players to have beaten Djokovic in Melbourne in the last 10 years. He did so in the 2014 quarterfinals en route to winning his first Grand Slam title.
Djokovic could face third-seeded Dominic Thiem in the semifinals in what would be a rematch of last year’s final. Second-seeded Rafael Nadal, in his first try at breaking the Grand Slam men’s singles titles record after tying the absent Roger Federer at last year’s French Open, opens his tournament against the 56th-ranked Serbian player, Laslo Djere.