Kaia Kanepi kept up her strong record against grand slam seeds as she overcame Garbine Muguruza at the French Open.

Muguruza won at Roland Garros in 2016 and also triumphed at last year's WTA Finals.

However, the world number 10 fell to the unseeded Kanepi in her first-round match on Sunday.

Muguruza, seeded 10th, lost 2-6 6-3 6-4 to the Estonian world number 46, who recorded her 10th career win at a major over a player ranked inside the top 10.

Kanepi, who is the oldest player in the women's main draw, also extended her brilliant record against seeds in grand slam tournaments, having now won 19 such matches.

Among active players, only Serena Williams (29), her sister Venus (22) and French Open 10th seed Victoria Azarenka (21) have more such wins.

She will now play Brazilian Beatriz Haddad Maia in the second round.

 

Karolina Pliskova reached her maiden quarter-final of the season after battling past Bernarda Para in Strasbourg 6-3 1-6 6-1.

Runner-up to Ash Barty at Wimbledon last July, Pliskova has endured a stop-start 2022 campaign.

The Czech missed the first two months with a hand injury, while suffering first-round exits in Indian Wells, Miami and Madrid.

But despite being taken to a decider by her French opponent, the top seed hit 16 aces on the way to reaching the last eight.

Second seed Angelique Kerber also required a deciding set to progress to her first quarter-final of the campaign; the three-time Grand Slam winner overcoming Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2 3-6 6-4.

Fourth and ninth seeds Elise Mertens and Viktorija Golubic also advanced to the last eight following straight-set wins over Anna-Lena Friedsam and Fiona Ferro respectively.

However, there was no joy for top seed Garbine Muguruza over in Rabat; the two-time Grand Slam champion was beaten 2-6 6-4 6-1 by world number 85 Martina Trevisan.

The Italian's reward is a quarter-final showdown with seventh seed Arantxa Rus, who saw off Dalma Galfi 6-4 6-2.

Mayar Sherif was another seed to tumble; the Karlsruhe champion lost 4-6 7-6(5) 6-1 to Claire Liu, who triumphed in the Trophee Lagardere last week.

Third seed Nuria Parrizas Diaz recovered from losing the opening set to defeat Kristina Mladenovic 4-6 6-3 6-0, while Anna Bondar hit seven aces as she overcame Kristina Kucova 6-3 6-3. 

Top seeds Karolina Pliskova and Angelique Kerber strolled to straight-sets wins in the first round of the Internationaux de Strasbourg, keeping the two former world number ones on course for a final meeting.

Having endured an injury-hit season to date, world number eight Pliskova made the perfect start to her campaign in France with a routine 6-4 6-2 win over Ukrainian 19-year-old Marta Kostyuk. 

Kerber, who is only missing a victory at the French Open – which begins later this month – to complete a Career Grand Slam, overcame teenager Diane Parry 6-3 6-4 in her opener, setting up a round-of-16 clash with world number 45 Aliaksandra Sasnovich.

Some of the other big names participating in Strasbourg, however, were not so lucky, with 5th and 6th seeds Shuai Zhang and Sloane Stephens crashing to first-round exits.

Shuai went down 6-2 6-3 to Belgium's Maryna Zanevska and Stephens capitulated to a 2-6 6-4 6-1 loss to Nefisa Berberovic, while Heather Watson set up a last-16 meeting with eighth seed Magda Linette by beating Katharina Hobgarski 6-4 6-1.

Meanwhile, Garbine Muguruza made a winning start to her campaign at the Grand Prix Sar La Princesse Lalla Meryem in Morocco, as the world number 10 builds towards a tilt at French Open glory having triumphed at Roland Garros back in 2016.

Muguruza had few difficulties in beating Anna Danilina 6-3 6-2, and will face Martina Trevisan in the round-of-16 after the Italian beat China's You Xiadoi 6-0 6-4.

Third seed Nuria Parrizas-Diaz had to come through a more difficult challenge in Rabat, overcoming Carol Zhao 7-6 (7-4) 1-6 6-2, while eighth seed Anna Kalinskaya was the highest-ranked player to fall at the first hurdle, going down 6-3 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 to Lucia Bronzetti.

Iga Swiatek and Paula Badosa progressed to the third round of the Internazionali d'Italia with ease as the former continued her impressive winning run on Wednesday.

Top seed Switaek, seeking a fifth consecutive title, breezed past Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-3 6-0 as she became the first female player to win 24 consecutive matches since Serena Williams in 2015.

Badosa followed suit by dispatching Aliaksandra Sasnovich 6-2 6-1 in just an hour and 17 minutes, teeing up a third-round clash with Daria Kasatkina, who beat Leylah Fernandez 4-6 6-3 7-6 (7-2).

Aryna Sabalenka, the third favourite in Italy, also made light work of Zhang Shuai to triumph 6-2 6-0, while fourth seed Maria Sakkari cruised past Madrid Open semi-finalist Ekaterina Alexandrova 6-3 6-2.

Sakkari will next face a Rome rematch with Coco Gauff, who defeated compatriot Madison Brengle 6-2 6-4. Teenager Gauff's sole win against Sakkari came at this tournament in the second round last year.

Yulia Putintseva came from behind to beat Garbine Muguruza 3-7 7-6 (7-4) 6-1, and will next meet Ons Jabeur, who made it eight successive main-draw wins by defeating Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5 6-2.

Seventh seed Danielle Collins also battled past former world number one Simona Halep 7-6 (7-1) 6-3.

There was no such joy for fifth seed Anett Kontaveit as she crashed out to Petra Martic in straight sets, while Jil Teichmann upset former Rome champion Karolina Pliskova in a three-set thriller.

Belinda Bencic, who was ranked as 12th seed, was another early casualty as she fell to a 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 defeat against American Amanda Anisimova.

Meanwhile, Jessica Pegula secured her third-round spot after Anhelina Kalinina withdrew due to injury, with Victoria Azarenka earning a straightforward 6-2 6-4 victory over Camila Osorio to get a shot at favourite Swiatek in the next round.

Naomi Osaka joined several other big names in falling to a second-round exit at the Madrid Open, although Emma Raducanu cruised to a routine straight-sets win over Marta Kostyuk.

Four-time grand slam winner Osaka crashed to a resounding 6-3 6-1 loss to Spain's Sara Sorribes Tormo, exiting her first tournament on clay since the 2021 French Open, where she withdrew citing mental health issues.

Osaka, who had posted an underwhelming 20-15 record on the surface prior to this week, looked uncomfortable throughout and appeared to struggle with a leg injury during a disappointing second set display.

The 24-year-old was not the only high profile player to be on the receiving end of a shock during a day of drama in the Spanish capital, as several of the competition's seeds failed to secure places in the last 16.

Another home favourite, Garbine Muguruza, fell to a resounding loss of her own as Anhelina Kalinina raced to a 6-3 6-0 victory over the seventh seed, while sixth seed Danielle Collins was thrashed 6-1 6-1 by Canadian Bianca Andreescu.

Fourth seed Maria Sakkari was the highest-ranked player in action, and although the world number five won the first set of her clash with Daria Kasatkina, the Greek eventually fell to a 3-6 6-3 6-1 loss, while 2021 US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez went down 6-4 6-4 to Jil Teichmann.

One big name who did make comfortable progress, however, was Fernandez's US Open conqueror Raducanu, who eased to a 6-2 6-1 win over Kostyuk to set up a last-16 encounter with another Ukrainian in Kalinina. 

The 19-year-old, who has been quoted as saying she believes clay could prove to be her best surface in the future, was delighted with her victory and enjoying the tournament after dropping just one game in the second set.

"I'm definitely happy with my performance," Raducanu said on court. "Marta's a great opponent - I knew it was going to be a really tough battle. I went out there trying to be really aggressive and it paid off.

"It's my first clay court season and I'm really enjoying it. Madrid is such a cool city and it's got such a great vibe about it. I definitely want to try and stay here for as long as possible."

Alison Riske produced a breathtaking comeback to beat Garbine Muguruza at the Indian Wells Open, turning around an apparent lost cause after losing the first nine games of the match.

Muguruza, who won the WTA Finals title at the end of last season, was cruising at 6-0 3-0, but 31-year-old American Riske, despite tossing her racket in frustration, refused to give up. Incredibly, she won 12 of the next 13 games to reach the third round at the expense of the world number nine.

"After the first set, it literally could not get any worse," Riske said in her on-court interview following a 0-6 6-3 6-1 success.

"So if I could try to get two balls in the court we might get somewhere. I was just trying to hang in there. I've played Garbine many times before and it's always been a battle."

This was Riske's fifth match against Spanish star Muguruza, and despite losing the first two of those, she had since beaten the two-time grand slam winner twice, albeit most recently at the 2019 US Open.

"I felt if I could get in there a little bit, I was going to have my chances," Riske said. "I know I've beaten her before, and if I could just bring out some of my game, good things were going to happen."

It was world number 53 Riske's 10th career victory against a player ranked in the top 10.

British player Harriet Dart pulled off a shock win over Ukrainian Elina Svitolina, as the world number 122 snatched a 2-6 6-3 6-3 victory over the 12th seed.

Three of the biggest names in the draw took the long route through to the last-32 stage, with Emma Raducanu, Simona Halep and Iga Swiatek taken to a deciding set in their opening matches, having benefited from first-round byes 

Raducanu fended off Caroline Garcia 6-1 3-6 6-1, while Halep was a 6-2 4-6 6-2 winner against Ekaterina Alexandrova, the Russian who is playing under a neutral flag.

Polish third seed Swiatek put a slow start behind her to beat Ukrainian Anhelina Kalinina 5-7 6-0 6-1 and is looking to build on her recent Qatar Open triumph. She said: "I'm pretty happy I could turn my head on to fight mode and stay focused, because that was the key I guess."

Last year's Wimbledon runner-up Karolina Pliskova bowed out, the Czech seventh seed losing 2-6 7-5 6-4 to Danka Kovinic of Montenegro.

Two of the top three seeds crashed out of the WTA Qatar Open in the round of 16 as Barbora Krejcikova and Paula Badosa both lost, though top seed Aryna Sabalenka is through to the quarter-finals, along with Coco Gauff.

Sabalenka eased past Jil Teichmann 6-2 6-1 in Doha, winning an impressive 70 per cent of her second serves as she rarely gave her Swiss opponent any hope in a match that lasted just over an hour.

The Belarusian will now play Iga Swiatek in the last eight after the seventh seed beat Daria Kasatkina 6-3 6-0.

Number two seed Krejcikova was eliminated by the winner in Dubai last week, Jelena Ostapenko, 6-3 6-2. The Czech struggled to get going and ended the match with seven double faults to her name.

World number four Badosa fared no better as she also lost in straight sets to Gauff 6-2 6-3, with the 17-year-old winning a dominant 77.1 per cent of points on her first serve.

Badosa is the joint-highest ranked player that Gauff has defeated, along with Naomi Osaka, who was also ranked fourth in the world when she lost to the teenager at the 2020 Australian Open.

Gauff will now face Maria Sakkari after the Greek defeated another American, Jessica Pegula.

Ostapenko will go up against reigning WTA Finals champion Garbine Muguruza who convincingly defeated Madison Brengle 6-0 6-2.

Number four seed and St Petersburg champion Anett Kontaveit is through after a topsy-turvy clash with Elise Mertens 6-3 0-6 6-2 and will come up against Tunisia's Ons Jabeur.

Elina Svitolina and Simona Halep both fell in the first round of the Qatar Ladies Open, while Garbine Muguruza and Anett Kontaveit eased through on Monday.

Former world number one Halep, champion in Qatar back in 2014, was off the pace as Caroline Garcia claimed just her second win in nine meetings against the Romanian with a 6-4 6-3 triumph.

Number 10 seed Svitolina also suffered an early exit after ending up on the wrong side of an almost three-hour slog, with Tereza Martincova eventually succeeding 6-7 (2-7) 7-5 7-6 (7-5).

But fifth favourite Muguruza – a two-time finalist, including in 2021 – did not have much as trouble as she outfought Sorana Cirstea 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 in a second-round contest, with Kontaveit coasting through to round three in similar fashion with a 6-2 6-3 win over Ana Konjuh. 

Jelena Ostapenko, who is a former finalist in Doha and champion in Dubai last week, managed a sixth consecutive victory in the Middle East as she downed Oceane Dodin 6-4 6-2 to reach the second round, while 11th seed Elena Rybakina fell at the first hurdle to Jacques Cristian in a 6-4 6-3 loss.

Angelique Kerber, the 13th ranked player at the tournament, was another surprise first-round loser as she fell 4-6 6-3 6-2 to Jil Teichmann.

Cori Gauff secured her spot in the second round with a straightforward 6-2 6-3 victory over American compatriot Shelby Rogers, while 16th seed Elise Mertens battled to a 6-3 2-6 7-5 win over Jasmine Paolini.

Meanwhile, defending champion Petra Kvitova had no trouble easing past Irina-Camelia Begu 6-3 6-1, and Daria Kasatkina edged out Ajla Tomljanovic 6-4 6-7 (4-7) 6-2.

Defending champion Garbine Muguruza, 2021 finalist Barbora Krejcikova and top seed Aryna Sabalenka were all eliminated from the Dubai Tennis Championships on Wednesday.

A day of upsets left Ons Jabeur, the eighth seed, as the top remaining player in the draw.

Some big names helped deliver the shocks, though, with world number two Sabalenka usurped by two-time Wimbledon champion and 2013 Dubai winner Petra Kvitova in straight sets.

Muguruza did not look like being one of the scalps as her title defence continued against Veronika Kudermetova.

But after taking the first set, the reigning WTA Tour Finals champion went down 3-6 6-4 6-4.

French Open champion Krejcikova, beaten by Muguruza in the final last year, also exited the tournament at the hands of Dayana Yastremska 6-3 7-6 (7-3).

Iga Swiatek let a set lead slip to Jelena Ostapenko, while two-time Dubai champion Elina Svitolina collapsed to lucky loser Jil Teichmann 7-6 (7-0) 6-2.

Jabeur, a winner against Jessica Pegula, was the only seed to win in a ruthless round of 16.

However, her reward in a still stacked quarter-final draw is a meeting with Simona Halep, another who has twice won in Dubai.

Top seed Aryna Sabalenka and defending champion Garbine Muguruza came through their first-round matches unscathed at the Dubai Tennis Championships on Tuesday.

Belarusian Sabalenka made light work of 19-year-old Marta Kostyuk, sealing a 6-4 6-1 win in one hour and 15 minutes.

Standing in her way of a third consecutive quarter-final in Dubai is Petra Kvitova, who beat Camila Giorgi on Monday.

Last year's champion and fourth seed Muguruza began her title defence with a 7-6 (7-5) 2-6 6-2 win over Czech qualifier Katerina Siniakova in two hours and 24 minutes.

Spaniard Muguruza will face Veronika Kudermetova in the second round after the Russian beat former world number one Victoria Azarenka in straight sets earlier on Tuesday.

There were also wins for eighth seed Ons Jabeur and 10th seed Elina Svitolina against Vera Zvonareva and Mayar Sherif respectively.

Elsewhere, there was a shock as qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse dumped out third seed Paula Badosa 6-3 5-7 6-4.

Ninth seed Danielle Collins is also out after the American retired due to dizziness in the second set against Marketa Vondrousova.

Sofia Kenin failed to put up a fight as she went down 6-1 6-2 to Jelena Ostapenko.

 

Alize Cornet is simply living in the moment at the Australian Open, after she suggested 2022 will be her final year on the court.

Cornet defeated reigning WTA Finals champion Garbine Muguruza 6-3 6-3 on Thursday to reach the third round of the Australian Open for the sixth time in her career.

The 31-year-old did not offer up a single break point across the 87-minute encounter with 2020 Australian Open finalist Muguruza, who entered the tournament ranked third in the world.

It marked Cornet's third straight win over Spain's Muguruza, who is a two-time grand slam champion.

Cornet is playing in her 63rd grand slam and 17th Australian Open, yet the Frenchwoman has never progressed deeper than the fourth round at a major.

This is Cornet's 60th successive appearance in the main draw at a grand slam, meaning she is just two shy of the record held by Ai Sugiyama (62).

Should Cornet, who will play Tamara Zidansek in round three, feature in the main draw of each of this year's majors, she will set the outright record.

However, should she achieve that feat, it may well mark the end of her career.

"I'm telling myself that I'm playing probably my last year. I'm not sure yet," she told reporters.

"When I stepped on the court, I was like, You know what, just enjoy the moment because you don't know if you're going to come back. I think that's what made the difference.

"Playing a whole year, playing 100 per cent, trying to beat this record of consecutive play in a grand slam. After that, I think it will be a good time for me to retire. 

"I gave so much to this game and to this tennis life. I feel I'm pretty much ready for the next chapter.

"It's been a while [since I] beat a Top 5 player in a slam, so it's a really good feeling. 

"I really enjoyed it today, which doesn't mean I will enjoy it tomorrow! That's why when the fun is here, you have to take it. You never know how you're going to feel in the next match."

 

Muguruza was not the only big name to drop out on Thursday, with sixth seed Anett Kontaveit falling foul of teenager Clara Tauson.

The 19-year-old Dane needed just 79 minutes to seal a 6-2 6-4 victory that brings up her first win over a Top 10 opponent in only her second such match.

Kontaveit won 28 of her last 32 matches in 2021 to break into the Top 10.

"It's the first time I'm in the third round of a slam," said Tauson. 

"Playing a player like her to reach it, it's a really big achievement for me. Obviously, it was one of the things I really wanted to do, to beat the good players in the bigger tournaments.

"Doing it in a slam is a really great feeling. It's just a lot of hard work that I've put into it."

The tennis season has begun with Rafael Nadal, Ash Barty, Paula Badosa and Thanasi Kokkinakis among the champions at small-scale events in Australia.

Yet there has been one dominant story in the sport and little else has had a look-in in the lead-up to the Australian Open.

Now that Novak Djokovic knows his fate, there is the welcome prospect of eyes turning to matters on the tennis court, rather than the Federal Court.

With the action getting under way in Melbourne on Monday, Stats Perform looks at the main protagonists and what the numbers tell us about another high-stakes grand slam.

Djokovic absence blows open men's draw

As defending champion Djokovic heads for home, it is worth a reminder of how he has dominated this tournament.

Nine of his grand slam titles have come in Melbourne, and he has taken the trophy in each of the last three years, helping him cosy up alongside Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 majors, an all-time record they share. Of the 'Big Three', only Nadal is in the draw this year, with Federer currently on the injured list.

Djokovic has the highest win percentage in the Open Era (since 1969) at the Australian Open, among players with 20 or more wins (91.1 per cent – W82 L8). He was hoping to join Nadal (13 French Opens) and Margaret Court (11 Australian Opens) in the exclusive club of players to reach double figures for singles titles at one slam.

The Serb was also aspiring to become the first man in the Open Era to win four consecutive Australian Opens. It happened once before the tour turned professional, with Roy Emerson winning five in a row from 1963 to 1967. Djokovic has left Melbourne with the title every time that he has made it through to the semi-finals.

 

So who takes the title now?

Only Bjorn Borg (89.2 per cent) has a higher winning percentage in grand slam matches than Nadal (87.7 per cent) and Djokovic (87.5 per cent) in the Open Era, among players with 100 or more wins. So why not Nadal?

The 35-year-old and Djokovic have carved up 12 of the last 14 grand slam titles, Nadal winning four of those (three French Opens, one US Open). He is battling back from a foot injury lay-off and coronavirus, and might need to get the early rounds out of the way without undue stress to stand a chance at the business end.

The two exceptions in the Nadal-Djokovic sequence of slam dominance have come at the US Open, with Dominic Thiem winning in New York in 2020 and Daniil Medvedev triumphing at Djokovic's expense in last year's Flushing Meadows final. Thiem is not in Australia, but world number two Medvedev is, looking to become the third Russian man to win two slams, after Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin.

The last man other than Federer, Nadal and Djokovic to secure back-to-back slam singles title was Andre Agassi (US Open 1999 and Australian Open 2000), but that is Medvedev's objective now, and he has the game to pull it off.

Nadal has reached at least the quarter-final stage in 15 of his last 16 grand slam appearances, winning six of those majors (four French Opens and two US Opens), so he may well be a factor.

Who else is in the frame? Alexander Zverev probably, having reached the quarter-finals in Australia in the last two seasons (SF in 2020 and QF in 2021). He won the Olympic Games and ATP Finals titles last year, so a grand slam is an obvious next step. He might want to keep double faults in check though, having served a tour-high 113 in slams last season.

Stefanos Tsitsipas reached the Australian semi-finals in 2019 and 2021, so throw him into the mix too, and Matteo Berrettini might be a threat. The Italian, a runner-up to Djokovic at Wimbledon in July, served more aces than any other player in grand slams last year (311 aces, 16.4 on average per match).

 

Others have more modest ambitions

Andy Murray is back at the Australian Open for the first time since 2019, when he lost in the first round against Roberto Bautista Agut in five sets and was more or less given his last rites as a tennis pro after the match, having indicated he was close to retirement.

The five-time Australian Open runner-up last won a match in this tournament in 2017, when he reached round four. A tough opener against Nikoloz Basilashvili awaits.

Spanish 40-year-old Feliciano Lopez will make his 80th appearance in a grand slam and become the second man in the Open Era with 80 or more appearances at the four majors, after Federer (81).

Do not expect an Australian to be men's champion, by the way. The last time an Australian reached the men's singles final was 2005, when Lleyton Hewitt lost against Safin, and the last home champion was Mark Edmondson in 1976.

Barty backed in stacked women's draw

For the first time since 1997, neither Serena nor Venus Williams will take part in the Australian Open. Yet the women's tour is in rude health, even without those great bastions.

Ash Barty is world number one and a standout pick for many, only enhancing her claims after winning an Adelaide International title in the run-up to this fortnight.

But there is staggering depth on the women's side at present, and Barty will face stiff competition.

Incredibly, the last five grand slam finals have featured 10 different women, and teenager Emma Raducanu's against-all-odds US Open triumph in September shows best of all that new stars are emerging.

Yet since 2000, only three non-seeded players have reached the women's singles final at the Australian Open: Serena Williams in 2007, Justine Henin in 2010 and Garbine Muguruza in 2020. 

Barty could become the first Australian to be women's champion since Chris O'Neil in 1978, and the first to reach the final since Wendy Turnbull lost to Hana Mandlikova in 1980.

The Queenslander is the top seed, and the last time the number one failed to reach at least the fourth round at Melbourne Park was in 1979, when Virginia Ruzici lost her opening match. Barty ended a long wait for an Australian winner of the women's title at Wimbledon last year, so why not closer to home as well?

 

Naomi Osaka is back, so what should we expect?

Truth be told, that's hard to know. Osaka took time out from tennis after the US Open to focus on her mental health and enjoyed hanging out with friends, before deciding she missed tennis enough to go back on tour.

She had three wins at the Melbourne Summer Set tournament recently before withdrawing from a fourth match, saying her body had "got a shock" from the intensity. As defending champion in the season's first major, she has a target on her back and will need to find a way to handle that.

Over the past six seasons, only Osaka has managed to win back-to-back grand slam singles titles among the women, and she has done so twice (US Open 2018 and Australian Open 2019, plus US Open 2020 and Australian Open 2021).

The last player to win back-to-back women's Australian Open singles titles was Victoria Azarenka (2012 and 2013), so it does not happen regularly.

Osaka has an 85 per cent win rate at this tournament: since 2000, only Jennifer Capriati (90 per cent) and Serena Williams (89 per cent) have had a higher win percentage in the main draw.

 

You want challengers to the big two? Try sticking a pin in the draw

The Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, which goes to the champion, is a trophy that upwards of a dozen women will seriously believe they can win.

Aryna Sabalenka has reached the semi-finals of the last two slams but is mired in some kind of hellish serving groove, having made 74 double faults in her last four matches and lost the last three in a row.

Anett Kontaveit won a tour-high 39 matches on hard courts last year but has only been to one grand slam quarter-final – last year in Australia, losing to Simona Halep.

What about Ons Jabeur, who matched Kontaveit for a tour-high 48 wins across all surfaces last year? The Tunisian is queen of the drop shot, making 147 successful such plays on tour last year, more than any other player, and recently reached the top 10 in the WTA rankings for the first time.

Maria Sakkari reached two slam semi-finals last year, the first of her career, and the form of Barbora Krejcikova and Badosa in the past week in Melbourne marks them out as contenders. Both are recent fast-risers, Krejcikova already with a French Open title to show.

WTA Finals champion Muguruza could be the second Spaniard to twice reach the Melbourne title match, after Arantxa Sanchez Vicario (1994 v Steffi Graf and 1995 v Mary Pierce). Spain has never had an Australian Open women's singles winner: former French Open and Wimbledon champ Muguruza is an authentic contender.

Halep was runner-up to Caroline Wozniacki in 2018, a semi-finalist in 2020 and quarter-finalist last year, and a Melbourne Summer Set title was a handy warm-up for the Romanian. Consider her, too.

Monica Seles, in 1991, was the last player to triumph on her debut in the main draw, but she was already a grand slam winner (1990 French Open). Given the strength of the line-up, the prospect of a bolter coming through this field is unlikely, even if the example of Raducanu tells us anything is possible.

Daria Kasatkina reached her second semi-final in as many weeks with a straight-sets victory over Garbine Muguruza at the Sydney Tennis Classic on Wednesday.

The world number 26, who was defeated by Amanda Anisimova in the Melbourne Summer Set 2 semi-finals last week, beat second seed Muguruza 6-4 6-4.

Kasatkina held throughout the opening set, landing 67 per cent of her first serves, and saw the job through in the second despite a couple of early breaks for Muguruza.

It is the Russian's first win over a top-five opponent since beating Caroline Wozniacki at the 2018 French Open.

She will now face fifth seed Paula Badosa, who saw off Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic 7-6 (8-6) 3-6 6-3 in an entertaining match lasting two hours and 35 minutes.

The other semi-final in Sydney will be contested between Anett Kontaveit and Barbora Krejcikova, who advanced past Ons Jabeur and Caroline Garcia respectively.

Krejcikova proved far too strong for Garcia, prevailing 6-0 6-2 in 70 minutes, while Kontaveit was in action for just 43 minutes before being handed a walkover win in her match.

Jabeur had targeted "payback" against Kontaveit after her quarter-final opponent pipped her to the final WTA Finals spot in November, but injury cost her the chance to do so.

Having lost the first set 6-4, Jabeur – who eliminated Petra Kvitova in the previous round – felt unable to continue due to a lower back injury.

At the Adelaide International 2, three of the five Americans in action made it through to the semi-finals.

Alison Riske's clash with compatriot Madison Brengle ended early due to the latter retiring with the first set level at 3-3. Tamara Zidansek awaits Riske after beating Lauren Davis 7-6 (7-4) 7-6 (9-7).

Coco Gauff and Madison Keys will meet in the other semi-final, meanwhile, following victories over Ana Konjuh and Ludmilla Samsonova in two and three sets respectively.

Ons Jabeur eliminated Petra Kvitova from the Sydney Tennis Classic and immediately set her sights on "payback" against next opponent Anett Kontaveit.

World number 10 Jabeur had lost her previous four meetings with Kvitova, but she emerged victorious on Wednesday with a 6-4 6-4 win to reach the quarter-finals.

Jabeur recovered from 3-1 down in both sets at Ken Rosewall Arena and converted half of her six break points on her way to setting up a meeting with Kontaveit.

The two will resume their friendly rivalry after Kontaveit overcame Romanian qualifier Elena-Gabriela Ruse 6-3 6-1.

Jabeur lost out to Kontaveit for the last WTA Finals spot in November and is now seeking revenge in the final warm-up event ahead of the Australian Open.

"Anett is a great player. We had our moments last year," Jabeur said. "I told her, 'You're obsessed with me, you always follow me, so stop [smiling]'.

"I know the pressure is on me, not really on her. But maybe I can get some payback for last year."

Garbine Muguruza is also through to the last eight in Sydney thanks to a 6-1 7-6 (7-4) win against Ekaterina Alexandrova.

The two-time major champion will face Daria Kasatkina, who beat Elise Mertens 6-3 6-4, for a place in the semi-finals.

Third seed Barbora Krejcikova survived a brief fightback from Jaqueline Cristian to advance 6-1 7-5, meanwhile, and Paula Badosa beat home hope Ajla Tomljanovic 6-3 6-4.

There was disappointment for in-form Elena Rybakina, who thrashed Emma Raducanu on Tuesday but had to withdraw from her clash with Caroline Garcia with a thigh injury.

At the Adelaide International 2, Coco Gauff prevailed 6-3 5-7 6-3 in her battle of the teenagers showdown with Marta Kostyuk.

Gauff is one of five Americans in the quarter-finals along with Madison Brengle, Alison Riske, Lauren Davis and Madison Keys, who beat Tereza Martincova 6-1 6-3 to advance.

World number one Ash Barty will start her 2022 season at the Adelaide International along with eight of the other current 10 top players in the world.

Barty has held top spot in the women's rankings since September 2019 and collected five titles – including Wimbledon – in the 2021 season but missed the French Open with a hip injury.

She also opted to not play in the season-ending WTA Finals in Mexico due to coronavirus-enforced quarantine concerns that could disrupt her preparation for the following campaign.

The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) confirmed on Friday that Barty would begin her 2022 season in Adelaide on January 2, along with defending champion Iga Swiatek, WTA Finals victor Garbine Muguruza and Roland Garros winner Barbora Krejcikova, as the world's elite players prepare for the Australian Open.

The entry list for the WTA 500 tournaments also includes Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Barbara Bencic, who finished runner-up to Swiatek in 2021, former world number one Karolina Pliskova and US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez.

The field boasts 12 major trophies between them, but three grand slam winners will kick-start their seasons in Melbourne the day after.

Naomi Osaka, who is aiming to defend her title at the Australian Open, gets her preparations underway in the Melbourne Summer Set.

Two-time major winner Simona Halep and reigning US Open champion Emma Raducanu will play in the Melbourne Summer Set.

The trio are among 20 of the top 50 ranked players in the world for the two WTA 250 tournaments starting on January 3, with the entry list split between the competitions the week before matches start.

Raducanu will feature in just her eighth Tour-level event, and her fourth tournament since winning her first major, while Osaka will be appearing for the first time since an early defeat in the third round of the US Open to Fernandez.

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