World No. 1 Iga Swiatek has learned her potential path to winning her first Australian Open title as the Pole is set to meet a fellow Grand Slam champion in her opener at Melbourne Park.
Swiatek, the top-seeded player, has been drawn to meet 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in the first round at Melbourne Park. After Kenin, Swiatek will meet either another Grand Slam champion or a Grand Slam finalist in the second round - the Pole is playing against the winner of the match between three-time Slam champion Angelique Kerber and 2022 Australian Open runner-up Danielle Collins.
In the third round, Swiatek is projected to meet a seeded player for the first time in the tournament - No. 31 seed Marie Bouzkova. After Bouzkova, Swiatek's next possible opponent would be 15th-seeded Veronika Kudermetova.
In the last three rounds, Swiatek is projected to meet three fellow Grand Slam champions. After a projected quarterfinal against 2023 Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova, a projected semifinal of the top half of the Australian Open draw sees Swiatek taking on No. 3 seed and 2022 Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina.
The projected Australian Open final sees Swiatek taking on defending Australian Open champion Aryna Sabalenka.
Swiatek, 22, is set for her sixth Australian Open appearance. Last year, Swiatek suffered a disappointing round-of-16 exit at the Australian Open. But Swiatek insists the situation is different this year.
"Honestly, I'm looking ahead for these tournaments that are going to happen here in Australia for me. I want to take it step by step. I feel more prepared for sure to deal with the pressure of being world No.1 this year than last year," Swiatek said after arriving in Australia.
Sabalenka's projected path to the Australian Open title
Sabalenka, seeded at No. 2 in the Australian Open draw, will launch her Australian Open title defense by playing against a qualifier in her opener. After taking on a qualifier in the first round, Sabalenka will likely meet former world No. 39 Ana Bogdan in her next match.
After two fairly easy matchups on paper, Sabalenka is expected to meet No. 28 seed Lesia Tsurenko in the third round and 13th-seeded Liudmila Samsonova in the last-16, respectively. In the Australian Open quarterfinal, Sabalenka is projected to meet No. 6 seed Ons Jabeur, who defeated her in the 2023 Wimbledon quarterfinal.
The projected semifinal in the bottom half of the draw gets us a rematch of the 2023 US Open final, in which Sabalenka took on Coco Gauff. As mentioned above, the projected Australian Open final sees Sabalenka clashing against Swiatek.
When Sabalenka arrived in Australia, she admitted she would feel certain pressure but insisted it would not be the end of the world if she didn't manage to defend her title.
"Worst case, what happens? I'm going to lose a Grand Slam, lose some points, drop a little bit in the ranking. There's so many tournaments ahead. I'm going to try to do my best to be in another Grand Slam or in other tournaments," Sabalenka said in her pre-tournament press conference in Brisbane.
Rybakina's possible path to the Australian Open glory
Rybakina, who made her first Australian Open final 12 months ago, received a pretty tough path to making back-to-back finals at the tournament. In her very first match at Melbourne Park this year, Rybakina is set to meet two-time Grand Slam finalist and former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova. After Pliskova, Rybakina meets the winner of the match between Anna Bogdan and Cristina Bucsa.
In the third and fourth rounds, Rybakina is scheduled to have her first seeded opponents - No. 26 seed Jasmine Paolini and 14th-seeded Daria Kasatkina. In the quarterfinal, Rybakina could very easily meet No. 5 seed Jessica Pegula.
As mentioned above, Rybakina is projected to meet Swiatek in the semifinal of the top half of the draw, while the Kazakh would likely play Sabalenka again in the Australian Open final if she reached the deciding match.
Gauff learns her possible path to the Australian Open title
Gauff, who lifted her first Grand Slam title four months ago at the US Open, has learned her possible path to winning it all at the Australian Open and landing back-to-back Slam titles. In the first round, Gauff is taking on world No. 67 Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, while her probable second-round rival is going to be fellow American Caroline Dolehide.
Then, Gauff is projected to meet 2021 US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez, while she is expected to take on 2022 WTA Finals champion Caroline Garcia in the round-of-16. No. 8 seed Maria Sakkari is Gauff's possible quarterfinal opponent, and then, as already mentioned, the projected semifinal in the bottom part has Gauff squaring off against Sabalenka.
Should Gauff make it out of the bottom half, she could very easily face off against Iga Swiatek in the Australian Open final.