Garbine Muguruza aims for 'pain-free' Australian Open

While Stephens speaks of hope heading into the new year, she didn't start 2018 on a high note. On the other side of the coin, it's probably more intriguing because you have 20 players that can win a grand slam.

This year's Australian Open field is wide open following the decision by 23-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams not to defend her title in Melbourne, saying she was not quite ready to compete after giving birth in September. "There's no straight sailing to the quarters or semis".

Seeded 13th, Stephens will begin her Australian Open campaign with a first round encounter against China's Zhang Shuai.

Top-ranked Simona Halep is looking to finally break through and win her first major after twice finishing runner-up. I feel okay. I feel fit. "I feel ready to start", Halep said. "I'm not going to dwell too much on that".

Ostapenko will take on veteran Francesca Schiavone, while U.S. Open victor Sloane Stephens begins against Zhang Shuai. Having won a grand slam once, though, why not again?

"We'll see on court what is going to happen". Sidelined with a foot injury for one month shy of a year, Stephens returned to the tour at Wimbledon, ranked as low as No. 957 the last week of July, and then went 15-2 in matches played through the U.S. Open.

The Dane was 20 when she first topped the rankings and it is six years since she last held the position.

SIMONA HALEP
World ranking 1
Current form WWWWW
2017 titles 1
Best AO result Quarter-finals in 2014 2015
SIMONA HALEP World ranking 1 Current form WWWWW 2017 titles 1 Best AO result Quarter-finals in 2014 2015

The Romanian is full of confidence after her dominant victory in Shenzhen, but will need to overcome her sorry record at Melbourne Park where she has lost in the first round in both of the past two years when seeded in the top four.

Caroline Wozniacki ended last season with the biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals and is back at number two.

Maria Sharpova, the 2008 victor, returns after missing last year's Australian Open because of a drug suspension.

Muguruza retired hurt in the second round of the Brisbane International after suffering debilitating leg cramps. She's liking being No. 1. If I don't, it's still great.

"I looked at the positive and said I put myself in contention nearly every week and eventually it will have to turn".

But she added that isn't enough in the constantly shifting, ultra-competitive women's game.

"Well, you always want to be ideal before a grand slam, but you're never flawless".

Vanessa Coleman

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