THE WOMEN WHO COULD BREAK THROUGH AT THE AO


Walking into work on Monday morning ahead of a big two weeks of Australian Open tennis, the discussion around the water cooler surrounding the men's and women's potential winners could not be more contrasting.


We've had the same conversation about the men's side of the draw for years now.


If the title isn't being claimed by one of 'the big three', one of the 'next gen' will be swooping in for a much-anticipated changing of the guard.


However, the women's section has been far more unpredictable in recent years, with a raft of names, many of which are not yet household names, pushing deep into majors.


Let's take a look at a few names that might not be as familiar right now, but could be in two weeks.


All Aussie hopes rest on Ash Barty, who enters the tournament as favourite fresh off claiming the Adelaide International. While the constant threat of Naomi Osaka, Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep loom large, here are a few different names that could press their claim.


Maria Sakkari made the semi-finals at the French and US Open last year but has yet to advance past the fourth round at the Australian Open. The world number 8 will be eager to continue her 2021 form at majors but lands herself in a strong quarter of the draw, sharing company with Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka.


However, the Greek star holds no fears against big-name opponents, claiming nine wins over top 10 players last year, one of the best records on the WTA tour.


American Coco Gauff has already caught our eye with a dashing fourth-round run at Wimbledon in 2019 as a 15-year-old. While she is still only 17, if the world number 16 isn't already part of your WTA grand slam contenders conversation, she should be. Impressive form in the lead-up to this year's Australian Open promises to have her rapid rise in the game continue.


World number 6 Paula Badosa, that's right, world number 6. The Spaniard might not be a name the casual tennis onlooker is all too familiar with and it may come as a surprise to see her sitting in the top 10 despite just one appearance beyond the fourth round at a grand slam. It was only nine months ago that Badosa sat outside the top 50, but two WTA titles and strong performances at the WTA finals catapulted her up the ranks.


The 24-year-old claimed the Sydney International last week and is ready to make her biggest imprint at Melbourne Park yet, having previously only won one match from three outings.


However, she will face a tough first round opponent in Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic, whom she beat at the Sydney International.


While we've taken a look at three seeded players, Amanda Anisimova could be one of the best chances to cause an unseeded run through a grand slam like we've seen many times on the women's circuit of late.


The world number 60, who is working with Australian highly renowned coach Darren Cahill won the Gippsland Trophy last week at Rod Laver Arena during the Melbourne Summer Set.


The 20-year-old American has made a grand slam semi-final, the 2019 French Open, and is a highly-touted youngster on the tour. She faces Dutch qualifier Arianne Hartono in the first round but could face Naomi Osaka and Ash Barty in the third and fourth rounds if she were to advance that far. Nonetheless, she is one to watch over the next two weeks and into the future.


The Australian Open begins across the courts of Melbourne Park on Monday, January 17.