The first Grand Slam of the year, Australian Open, is set to start in a few weeks. Unlike its traditional January schedule, this 109th edition will take place from 8 to 21 February at Melbourne Park.
We won’t see Roger Federer and the 2008 finalist Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the men’s tournament, but WTA has many more players which are not on the list for this edition.
One-time winners Maria Sharapova and Caroline Wozniacki retired last year, Carla Suarez Navarro is still recovering and may be back on the field later this year, and Kiki Bertens and Madison Keys are also out.
But there are some big names in the WTA’s recent history that are coming back at Melbourne after long time away from tennis.
Two of them – Ashleigh Barty and Bianca Andreescu – are big favorites at winning the Australian Open. According to the Unibet Indiana offers, Naomi Osaka is the main favorite, with +600 odds. Then there is Aryna Sabalenka, with +900, and Ashleigh Barty, Bianca Andreescu and Simona Halep, with +1100. Last year’s champion, Sofia Kenin, has +1500, while Serena Williams has +1400.
The third comeback is that of Samantha Stosur.
The current number 1 hasn’t played a competitive match since last February, when she lost in the Qatar semifinals to Petra Kvitova, before all sports being halted in March.
Although the WTA tournaments resumed in August, Barty decided to skip the rest of the year for sanitary precautions. So, she missed the French Open and the chance to defend her title at Roland Garros, yet finished the year 2020 on the first place.
She reached her best Australian Open performance one year ago, being surprisingly defeated by the eventual winner, Sofia Kenin, in the semifinals. Although Barty finished the second consecutive year as WTA No.1, that was only the second time she reached a Grand Slam semifinal.
Last year, Barty played one final, in Adelaide in January, defeating Dayana Yastremska.
The wait has been even longer for the Canadian. Much longer. She last played an official match at the WTA Finals, in 2019, on October 30th, when she retired injured from the match against Karolina Pliskova. Also, the last win was on October 3rd, against Jennifer Brady. That’s more than 15 months ago.
Andreescu had an incredible 2019 season, winning the US Open in the final against Serena Williams, the Indian Wells, and the Canadian Open also against Serena. That took her on the 4th place in the WTA rankings.
Currently WTA’s 8th, she will have her long-awaited comeback at the Australian Open, after a 2020 season filled with injuries. At the last AO edition, she withdrew from the tournament due to a knee injury, and the only edition in which Bianca took part is the 2019 one, when she reached the Second Round.
Aged almost 37, Sam Stosur played her last official match at the beginning of March 2020, when she lost in the Round of 32 at Indian Wells Challenger, against Vera Zvonareva.
The last win for Sam Stosur (and her only in 2020) was in the Round of 32 at Brisbane, against Angelique Kerber, in last January. The Australian took the rest of 2020 off in July, when her partner Liz Astling gave birth to their daughter.
The former 2011 US Open winner has only one match won at a Grand Slam tournament in the past two and a half years – in the First Round at the 2019 Roland Garros.
For this year’s Australian Open tournament, Stosur received a wild card, being currently on 112 WTA. Last year, she lost in the First Round to then 18 years old Caty McNally.