The Apia Sydney International has once again attracted a stellar lineup as final preparations are made for next week's Australian Open. Six of the world's top 10 players will compete in Sydney this week (Simona Halep, Petra Kvitova, Agnieszka Radwanska, Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber and Ekaterina Makarova). Whilst some of week ones most in form players: Lucie Safarova, Alize Cornet and Elina Svitolina will be looking to continue their strong start to the season in Sydney.
Interestingly, and somewhat surprisingly, defending champion Tsvetana Pironkova has not been granted a MD WC and will instead need to navigate her way through qualifiers. Hopefully the Bulgarian will qualify for the main draw, it would be a shame if the shock 2014 champion doesn't get an opportunity to defend her title.
The draw has thrown up some extremely exciting first round matches including: CSN vs Sabine, Svitolina vs Makarova, Aga vs Cornet, Muguruza vs Errani, Safarova vs Stosur and Wozniacki vs Strycova.. wow. An incredible first round lineup.
At the top of the draw lies top seed Simona Halep who will receive a bye into the second round. After an impressive week in Shenzhen, the Romanian will open her Sydney campaign against either Karolina Pliskova or a qualifier.
The other seed in the first quarter is sixth seed Ekaterina Makarova who will open her 2015 season against Brisbane International semi-finalist Elina Svitolina. An extremely tough opening match for Makarova, Svitolina played incredibly well in Brisbane where she defeated Angelique Kerber on route to the Semi-Finals before falling to a red-hot Sharapova . The winner of that match will face either Sabine Lisicki or Carla Suarez Navarro. An extremely tough section of the draw..
1st Round Match Predictions: Sabine Lisicki to defeat CSN in 3 sets, Elina Svitolina to defeat Ekaterina Makarova in 3 sets
The second quarter is headlined by third seed and 2013 champion Agnieszka Radwanska. The Pole will face Alize Cornet in the biggest of the first round matches. The two met at the Hopman Cup this week and played out an epic three set match which Cornet eventually won 7-5. Aga will be looking to avenge that loss in Sydney, where she will be joined by Martina Navratilova for the first time in her coaching box.
The winner of the Aga-Cornet match will face either Garbine Muguruza or Sara Errani in the second round. Fifth seed Angelique Kerber faces a qualifier in the opening round before a potential match up with Belinda Bencic. Another extremely difficult section of the draw which is sure to produce some stunning matches.
1st Round Match Predictions: Agnieszka Radwanska to defeat Alize Cornet in 2 sets, Garbine Muguruza to defeat Sara Errani in 2 sets, Belinda Bencic to defeat Daria Gavrilova in 2 sets
The third quarter of the draw is headlined by fourth seed Caroline Wozniacki, after a great week in Auckland the Dane arrives in Sydney full of confidence, with her eyes fixed on a first GS title in Melbourne. Wozniacki will face Strycova in the first round, a repeat of their Auckland semi-final. The winner will face either Lucie Safarova or Sam Stosur in the second round. Safarova showed great signs in Perth, coming agonisingly close to her first career victory over Serena Williams. I expect Lucie to have a good week in Sydney.
Also in this section is eighth seed Flavia Pennetta, the Italian will face a qualifier in the opening round before a potential second round match with either Madison Keys or Svetlana Kuznetsova. Keys suffered a disappointing loss to Varvara Lepchenko in Brisbane and will need a couple of wins here if she is to be prepared for Melbourne.
1st Round Match Predictions: Madison Keys to defeat Svetlana Kuznetsova in 2 sets, Lucie Safarova to defeat Sam Stosur in 3 sets, Caroline Wozniacki to defeat Barbora Strycova in 2 sets
The final section of the draw is headlined by second seed Petra Kvitova. Kvitova suffered a disappointing semi-final loss to Timea Bacsinszky in Shenzhen and will look to rebound in Sydney. The Czech will receive a bye into the second round where she will meet either Peng Shuai or Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
Former finalist and Seventh seed Dominika Cibulkova will desperately be seeking a couple of victories in Sydney after a tough first up loss to Madison Keys In Brisbane. Domi will face a qualifier in the opening round before a potential second round match Against Andrea Petkovic or Jarmila Gajdosova.
1st Round Match Predictions: Andrea Petkovic to defeat Jarmila Gajdosova in 3 sets, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova to defeat Peng Shuai in 3 sets
Champion Prediction: Petra Kvitova
It's extremely hard to predict an eventual champion in this stacked field however Petra does stand out as the favourite. Despite a disappointing loss to Timea Bacsinszky in Shenzhen, Petra showed good signs in previous matches and will have extra time to prepare for Sydney. The extra time she will have compared to Halep, Wozniacki and Radwanska could be vital. Plus she obviously has the ability to dominate any one of her main rivals in Sydney
Who do you think will reign supreme in Sydney? Favourite first round match? Leave a comment a below 🙂