Garbine Muguruza continued her superb start to 2021 as the former world number one won a WTA Tour-leading 21st match of the season to progress at the Volvo Car Open.

Muguruza – the sixth seed in Charleston – dispatched qualifier Magdalena Frech 6-1 6-3 in her first match of the clay court season on Tuesday.

Two-time grand slam champion Muguruza has already reached three finals this year, winning once in Dubai, and took just 70 minutes to overcome Fech on her return to Charleston following an eight-year absence. 

"I'm happy that I got this win, that I fought hard, that I kept my fighting spirit through the whole match, also in the second set which was tighter than the first set," Muguruza told reporters, in quotes reported on the WTA's official website.

Joining Muguruza in the round of 16 is third seed and fellow former grand slam champion Petra Kvitova, who saw off Storm Sanders 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 in her first-ever match at the WTA Premier tournament. 

Meanwhile, two former Charleston champions will go head-to-head after Sloane Stephens – a winner in 2016 – beat lucky loser Xinyu Wang 6-2 6-4 to tee up a second-round tie with 2019 victor Madison Keys.

Shelby Rogers took advantage of being in familiar surroundings by seeing off Kristina Mladenovic, while Monterrey Open champion Leylah Fernandez also progressed at the expense of 16th seed Shuai Zhang.

As for American sensation Coco Gauff, the 14th seed beat Tsvetana Pironkova 6-3 6-0 en route to the last 32.

There was a first-round surprise at the Colsanitas Cup in Bogota, where second seed Sara Sorribes Tormo was upstaged by 2012 French Open runner-up Sara Errani 7-5 7-5.

Colombian youngster Maria Camila Osorio got the better of American Sachia Vickery 6-3 6-2, with a potential top-100 scalp of Tereza Martincova next in her sights.

World number two Naomi Osaka and defending champion Ash Barty advanced to the quarter-finals of the Miami Open.

Osaka reached the last eight at the WTA Premier event for the first time in her career thanks to Monday's straight-sets win over Elise Mertens.

World number one Barty overcame two-time grand slam champion Victoria Azarenka in a tough three-set battle in Miami.

 

THERE'S NO STOPPING OSAKA

Australian Open champion Osaka extended her winning streak to a remarkable 23 matches.

Osaka defeated 16th seed Mertens 6-3 6-3 to stay hot – Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Justine Henin and Azarenka are the only other players with winning streaks of 23 or more matches since 2000.

"It definitely feels very special," four-time major winner Osaka said. "This is one of my favourite tournaments to play, and of course I'm sad I hadn't been able to get to the second week the last times that I have played this tournament. But I'm here now, and hopefully it will go well this time."

Maria Sakkari is next for Osaka after the 23rd seed saved six match points in her 6-4 2-6 7-6 (8-6) win over Jessica Pegula.

 

BARTY WINS BATTLE OF PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER ONES

In a rollercoaster battle, top seed Barty prevailed 6-1 1-6 6-2 against 14th seed Azarenka.

Barty extended her winning streak in Miami to nine matches after coming out on top against the former world number one.

"Playing against Vika you have to be ready right from the first point," Barty said. "I felt like I did that well in the first set and she gave me a few cheap errors. Then through the second she lifted her intensity.

"I probably wasn't sharp enough in those first couple of games to be able to go with her, particularly with new balls. When Vika is ahead and she's a front runner, she's the very best in the world."

Aryna Sabalenka stands in the way of Barty and the semi-finals after the seventh seed trounced Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-2.

 

SVITOLINA WINS THRILLER, ANDREESCU RALLIES

Fifth seed Elina Svitolina rallied past two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova 2-6 7-5 7-5.

Svitolina made a slow start against the red-hot ninth seed, but the 2018 WTA Finals champion finished strongly to progress.

Anastasija Sevastova took down Ana Konjuh 6-1 7-5 to set up a clash with Svitolina.

Meanwhile, eighth seed and 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu came from behind to defeat two-time slam winner Garbine Muguruza 3-6 6-3 6-2.

World number one Ash Barty moved through to the last 16 of the Miami Open, where Simona Halep's campaign came to a premature end.

Defending champion and top seed Barty was too good for Jelena Ostapenko in Saturday's showdown between the former French Open winners.

Two-time grand slam winner Victoria Azarenka also moved through to the fourth round of the WTA Premier tournament.

Halep, however, succumbed to a shoulder injury in Miami.

 

CLASH OF PAST AND PRESENT NUMBER ONES

Barty and former world number one Azarenka will go head-to-head for a place in the quarter-finals.

Australian star Barty accounted for Ostapenko 6-3 6-2 as she extended her winning streak at the Miami Open to eight matches.

Barty, who tallied nine winners to 14 unforced errors, rallied from 2-0 down in the second set by reeling off six successive games to advance.

"Today felt like I was a lot sharper and switched on and ready to go from the very first point," Barty said afterwards.

Three-time Miami champion Azarenka trumped Angelique Kerber 7-5 6-2 in the third round.

Azarenka – the 14th seed – fought back from a 4-1 deficit in the opening set to get the better of the three-time major winner.

"She's a very talented player. I always have been a huge fan of her game and the way she plays, the way she handles herself. She has a lot of variety," Azarenka said on facing Barty. "She has pretty much every single shot there is. [It's] going to be a great match."

 

INJURED HALEP PULLS OUT

Two-time grand slam champion Halep withdrew due to a shoulder injury as Anastasija Sevastova benefited from a walkover.

"I'm very sorry to I have to pull out of the singles and doubles at the Miami Open, but my injury doesn't let me play here as expected," said Halep.

"I'm sad that I can't continue, I wanted to come here to give my best and play many matches but unfortunately I can't. 

"Hopefully next year I will come back healthy and better."

Next up for Sevastova is wildcard Ana Konjuh, who stunned 15th seed and reigning French Open champion Iga Swiatek 6-4 2-6 6-2.

 

SVITOLINA AND SABALENKA ROLL ON

Ukrainian fifth seed Elina Svitolina booked her spot in the round of 16 after overcoming fellow seed Ekaterina Alexandrova 7-6 (7-1) 6-4.

Two-time Wimbledon winner Petra Kvitova stands in the way of a quarter-final berth – the ninth seed was too good for 17th seed Johanna Konta 6-1 6-2.

Seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka, meanwhile, prevailed 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 against Veronika Kudermetova.

Belinda Bencic – the 11th seed – was sent packing 4-6 6-4 6-4 by Marketa Vondrousova, who will take on Sabalenka.

Ash Barty completed a great escape to stay alive at the Miami Open, where Simona Halep also progressed.

Barty faced a match point but the defending champion and world number one dug deep to prevail in three sets against Kristina Kucova on Thursday.

Romanian third seed Halep also needed three sets at the WTA Premier tournament in Miami.

 

BARTY PRODUCES COMEBACK

In her first match outside of Australia in more than 12 months, Barty survived to top qualifier Kucova in Miami.

Barty trailed 5-2 in the third set, with Kucova earning a match point at 5-3 but the Australian star saved it and won the final five games of the match to secure a spot in the round of 32.

Winner of the 2019 French Open, Barty sent down an equal career-high 15 aces in two-and-a-half hours.

"Today was really hard work, and I enjoyed every single minute of it," Barty said on court post-game. "There’s nothing like coming through a test like that, and now I get another opportunity in a couple days' time to play another tough match and test myself again."

Next up for Barty is 2017 Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko, who outlasted Kirsten Flipkens 6-2 5-7 6-3.

 

HALEP REACHES MILESTONE

Halep brought up her 400th WTA main-draw triumph with a 3-6 6-4 6-0 victory over France's Caroline Garcia.

After dropping the opening set, Halep won 11 of the final 12 games to move through to the next round.

Halep won in one hour, 48 minutes, drastically improving on her first serve after the opening set while coming to grips with Garcia's kick serve.

"I needed time to get used to it and to get the rhythm," Halep said about Garcia's serve having improved her head-to-head record to 7-1, with Anastasija Sevastova awaiting in the last 32 after eliminating American sensation Coco Gauff.

Halep received attention on her shoulder early in the second. "I struggled with my serve," Halep said. "I struggled with my shoulder a little bit, so the attention was a little bit on the pain. [After that] I started to relax myself."

 

KERBER'S DOUBLE BAGEL

Three-time grand slam winner Angelique Kerber has been up and down in recently, but she flexed her muscles with a 6-0 6-0 humiliation of Renata Zarazua.

Aryna Sabalenka – the seventh seed – was another one to fend off match points before rallying 0-6 6-3 7-6 (11-9) past Bulgarian qualifier Tsvetana Pironkova in a gutsy.

Last year's French Open champion Iga Swiatek knocked off Barbora Krejcikova 6-4 6-2, while ninth seed and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova got past Aliza Cornet 6-0 6-4.

Fifth seed Elina Svitolina survived to beat Shelby Rogers 3-6 7-5 6-3 and two-time major winner Victoria Azarenka benefited from a walkover.

World number 10 Petra Kvitova says Doha feels like home after taking out her second Qatar Open title in her third final in four years over Garbine Muguruza in Saturday's final.

Kvitova needed little over an hour to get past 16th-ranked Muguruza 6-2 6-1, securing her 28th victory on the WTA Tour and first since winning in Stuttgart in 2019.

The Czech was the Qatar Open runner-up last year to Aryna Sabalenka and champion over Muguruza in 2018, while she did not compete in 2019.

"It's been a great run in Doha," Kvitova said on court post-match.

"It's been a great whole week. I just feel like home a little bit. I love the court, I love everything and the people are really friendly as well."

Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova hit 11 winners and was dominant on her serve throughout.

After a strong opening set, Kvitova was broken by Muguruza early in the second but the Czech hit back by winning the next six games to secure the win, extending her head-to-head record over the Spaniard to 5-1.

Muguruza said: "Today I think Petra played very well from the baseline, and it was hard to try to make her move, or try to do much… It really wasn't my day."

Petra Kvitova ended the run of qualifier Jessica Pegula to set up a 2018 final rematch against Garbine Muguruza at the Qatar Open. 

Kvitova saw off Pegula in straight sets, triumphing 6-4 6-4, meaning she will be involved in the final of the tournament for a third time in four years. 

Having twice let slip breaks in the opener, the 2020 runner up edged ahead again at 5-4 before serving out for a 1-0 lead. 

Pegula appeared set to draw level when she raced 3-0 ahead in the next, only to be pegged back by Kvitova, who hit 26 winners and the same number of unforced errors. Victory was eventually sealed after one hour and 18 minutes on court. 

The two-time Wimbledon champion secured the trophy in Doha three years ago by beating Muguruza, who did not even have to hit a ball to progress on Friday after opponent Victoria Azarenka withdrew from their semi-final due to a back injury. 

That title showdown in 2018 went the distance, Kvitova rallying after losing the opening set to eventually prevail. 

"I think it's going to be a tough match," Muguruza said, according to the WTA Tour's official website.  

"We played here in another final three years ago, so just looking forward to playing that match and hopefully getting the trophy." 

The Spaniard has been in impressive form this week, ending Aryna Sabalenka's hopes of defending her crown in the last 16 before thrashing Maria Sakkari in a lopsided quarter-final.

Meanwhile, in Friday's action at the Lyon Open, second seed Fiona Ferro rallied from a set down to beat fellow Frenchwoman Clara Burel and reach the semi-finals. 

Ferro's 2-6 6-1 6-3 triumph means she is certain to break into the top 40 in the world for the first time in her career.  

The only other seed left in the draw is Paula Badosa, the Spaniard knocking out Kristina Mladenovic. Her reward is a last-four clash with qualifier Clara Tauson, conqueror of Camila Giorgi in straight sets. 

Petra Kvitova moved a step closer to a second successive appearance in the Qatar Open final after overcoming Anett Kontaveit on Thursday. 

Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova lost to Aryna Sabalenka in the 2020 final but has looked on top form throughout the week in Doha. 

Kontaveit proved a tough opponent for the fourth seed, however, and Kvitova – the 2018 champion – needed three sets to progress 6-3 3-6 6-2. 

"I'm really glad that after losing the second set, which I probably didn't play the best, I started very well in the third," said Kvitova. 

"I learned that the return was pretty good from my side. I was going for it – first point, first shot – and I think that made a big difference. In the rally, it was 50-50 and anybody could win it, but when I put the pressure from my return, it was really very nice."

Her reward is a semi-final tie with qualifier Jessica Pegula, who caused an upset by defeating second seed Karolina Pliskova 6-3 6-1. 

Pegula reached the Australian Open quarter-finals last month and played with supreme confidence to oust the 2017 champion and reach her maiden semi-final at a WTA 500 event. 

The other half of the draw will see Victoria Azarenka taking on Garbine Muguruza. 

Azarenka triumphed 6-2 6-4 over top seed Elina Svitolina, with the two-time Doha champion maintaining her unbeaten record against the Ukrainian to reach the 60th WTA semi-final of her career. 

Muguruza, meanwhile, battled past Maria Sakkari 6-3 6-1 to complete the last four. 

At the Lyon Open, French duo Kristina Mladenovic and Clara Burel booked their places in the last eight, beating Margarita Gasparyan and Aliaksandra Sasnovich respectively. 

Spaniard Paula Badosa awaits Mladenovic, while teenage wildcard Burel takes on compatriot and second seed Fiona Ferro in what is her first WTA quarter-final. 

There were also victories for Greet Minnen and Viktorija Golubic.

Garbine Muguruza made clear she is "fighting for trophies" on the WTA Tour after knocking out defending champion Aryna Sabalenka at the Qatar Open. 

Muguruza prevailed in a high-quality contest that required a third set to decide the outcome, the world number 16 and two-time grand slam champion eventually triumphing 6-2 6-7 (7-5) 6-3 after two hours, 18 minutes on court. 

Sabalenka had won their only previous meeting but the third seed saw her hopes of retaining the trophy dashed, not helped by only managing to convert four of the 13 break-point opportunities she created in the match. 

Muguruza – who matched 41 winners with the same number of unforced errors – finished in fine style, claiming the final four games in a row to set up a meeting with Maria Sakkari, who defeated Madison Keys in straight sets. 

"I'm very motivated to play top players," Muguruza said in her post-match press conference, according to the WTA Tour's website. "Like everybody, I worked hard. I'm fighting for trophies, to play well in big tournaments, in good tournaments. 

"Today I was facing a top player, and I knew I have to go out there with a big, fighting spirit, and be strong to be able to win against these tough opponents." 

While the 2020 winner is no longer involved, former champions Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova both made it beyond the second round with straight-sets wins in Wednesday's action. 

Azarenka, who claimed the title in 2012 and then returned to successfully retain it a year later, saw off qualifier Laura Siegemund 6-4 6-2. 

Kvitova, meanwhile, eased past Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The fourth seed went all the way in 2018 and is now into the last eight this year – a 6-1 6-3 result paving the way for a clash with Anett Kontaveit.

Top seed Elina Svitolina is also through – and will face Azarenka next – after needing little over an hour to defeat Misaki Doi 6-1 6-2.

Karolina Pliskova, the second seed, found life far tougher against Ons Jabeur however, eventually coming out on top 6-4 4-6 7-5 in a thriller.

Meanwhile, at the Lyon Open, second seed Fiona Ferro progressed to the last eight on home soil after opponent Tereza Martincova was forced to retire when 4-1 down in the second set, having already lost the opener too.

Alize Cornet is another French favourite hoping to make home advantage tell in the tournament; the fifth seed rallied from a set down to beat compatriot Clara Burel 1-6 6-1 6-3. 

Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka sizzled in the scorching Melbourne heat on day three of the Australian Open. 

Williams, aiming once more for a record-equalling 24th singles grand slam, made serene progress from round two on what was the hottest day of the tournament so far. 

It was a similar story for Osaka, who is aiming to become a two-time champion at Melbourne Park, but Simona Halep had to dig deep while Bianca Andreescu and Petra Kvitova were early casualties on Wednesday.


PLAIN SAILING FOR SERENA AND OSAKA

Williams' perfect start to the season extended to 5-0 as she swatted aside Nina Stojanovic 6-3 6-0 to set up a round-three meeting with Anastasia Potapova – the same opponent she overcame in Melbourne in the first round a year ago. 

The seven-time Australian Open champion is looking forward to renewing acquaintances with the Russian. 

"It's always a fun, interesting match [against Potapova]. I'm gonna go home, get ready and just do the best," she said.  

"We're all out here to have fun and I'm happy to be out here, and just to be playing in front of crowd again is really cool. So every day is just fun." 

Osaka, the current US Open champion and the winner in Melbourne two years ago, hammered former world number four Caroline Garcia 6-2 6-3 on Rod Laver Arena in the evening session. 

The Japanese star is set to face her friend Ons Jabeur for the first time in an official match in round three. 

"She's really funny," Osaka said of her next opponent. "I don't know if you guys watch any of her interviews. I think she is really funny and nice.  

"I think the match I am going to play against her will be really difficult, but I'm looking forward to it." 


HALEP SURVIVES TOMLJANOVIC TEST

In contrast to Williams and Osaka's comfortable wins, second seed Halep was taken to the brink by home favourite Ajla Tomljanovic, who won the first set and was serving for the match in the third. 

However, 2018 finalist Halep broke back when trailing 5-4 in the decider and battled through with a 4-6 6-4 7-5 victory in a match that saw a combined 94 unforced errors (57 for Tomljanovic, 37 for Halep). 

"I was expecting that she would play very hard and very strong. I expected it to be a difficult match, but it was more than I thought. But I'm really happy that I can smile now," Halep said.  

"I was not that positive when I was talking to myself. I didn't talk about the score, I was just blaming myself, that I'm not strong enough to win against her. But in the end mentally I was maybe a bit stronger than her, and I didn't want to give up." 

Last year's losing finalist Garbine Muguruza (14) was too good for Ludmilla Samsonova in a 6-3 6-1 win, while French Open champion Iga Swiatek (15) dispatched Camila Giorgi 6-2 6-4. 

Aryna Sabalenka (7), Marketa Vondrousova (19) and Veronika Kudermetova (32) all made it through, but fellow seed Elena Rybakina (17) was beaten in straight sets by Fiona Ferro.


EARLY EXITS FOR ANDREESCU AND KVITOVA

Andreescu became the latest scalp for veteran Hsieh Su-Wei, who earned a commanding 6-3 6-2 victory and is now 4-3 against top-10 players in the slams since 2017. 

Eighth seed Andreescu won the US Open in 2019 but missed the entirety of last year with a knee injury, while her preparation here was disrupted by spending 14 days in quarantine after her coach tested positive for coronavirus. 

"After my first round, I thought I would feel more exhausted, but I felt amazing. Also, today the weather was a bit tricky. Being in the heart of quarantine I could have had those extra two weeks of like being in the heat and getting used to sweating and all of that," she said. 

Next up for Hsieh is Sara Errani, who defeated Venus Williams 6-1 6-0. The veteran American rolled her ankle towards the end of the first set and, despite needing two medical timeouts, valiantly saw out the match. 

Kvitova was a runner-up to Osaka in 2019 and appeared on course to recovery after dominating the second set against Sorana Cirstea. 

But amid sweltering conditions, the Czech ninth seed went on to lose the decider. 

"It was quite a rollercoaster, for sure," she said. "Unfortunately I couldn't take the chances to win the first set.  

"I think that was really the key of the match. She really had a great day today; she played a good game. I didn't really bring the best tennis today. It's really hurting."

Petra Kvitova made a surprise second-round exit at the Australian Open on Wednesday.

The Czech ninth seed and two-time Wimbledon champion fell to Sorana Cirstea 6-4 1-6 6-1 on a warm day at Melbourne Park.

Runner-up in 2019 and a quarter-finalist last year, Kvitova bowed out after a costly 44 unforced errors in two hours, three minutes.

Cirstea, meanwhile, reached the third round of the Australian Open for just the fourth time.

It marked the Romanian's first win over a top-10 player since 2017, when she beat Karolina Pliskova in Beijing.

Cirstea will face another Czech, 19th seed Marketa Vondrousova, in the third round.

Kvitova is among 10 seeds to have departed in the women's draw, joining Victoria Azarenka, Angelique Kerber, Bianca Andreescu, Petra Martic, Johanna Konta, Maria Sakkari, Wang Qiang, Zhang Shuai and Alison Riske.

One in eight women in the Australian Open draw have already won a grand slam title.

One in eight. It is staggering that of the 128 players who set out in the hope of singles glory at Melbourne Park, there are 16 major champions among them, and perhaps never has it been so difficult to predict who will carry off the title.

Compare it to the men's draw, where there are just five grand slam singles winners, and where you would struggle to make a compelling case for any more than three of those this year, with apologies to Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic.

As long-running dynasties near their end on the men's and women's tours, the WTA is a lengthy step ahead of the ATP with a cast of appealing characters already assuming leading roles.

The leader of the pack

Three-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka is at the forefront of a school of rising stars, but she has impressive rivals for company.

The last four years have seen the 15 women's majors won by 12 different players, whereas in the men's game, Rafael Nadal (6), Novak Djokovic (5), Roger Federer (3) and Dominic Thiem (1) have creamed off all the top prizes in the same period.

Often criticised in the past for a perceived lack of depth, in the years when Serena Williams won seemingly at will, the women's tour has exploded with a rush of bright and young talent.

Osaka is a revelation and a leader, on and off the court. Twice a US Open champion now, and a winner in Australia two years ago, the 23-year-old Japanese star took a powerful stance for racial equality at Flushing Meadows back in September, at the height of Black Lives Matter protests. She wants to achieve even more off the court than on it, where she looks assured of one day leaving an impressive legacy.

If there is any area where Osaka's game falls down it is consistency. She has surprisingly not passed the fourth round in 14 of her 17 grand slam appearances, but on every occasion she has gone beyond that stage it has been en route to lifting a trophy.

In hot pursuit

Last year's three slam champions were, at the times of their triumphs, just 21 (Sofia Kenin - Australian Open), 19 (Iga Swiatek - French Open) and 22 (Osaka - US Open).

The women's game has not seen anything comparable in terms of youthful winners of its blue riband tournaments since 2004, when the 21-year-old Justine Henin won in Australia, Anastasia Myskina landed the Roland Garros title at 22, Maria Sharapova was a 17-year-old bolter to Wimbledon glory and 19-year-old Svetlana Kuznetsova scored a stunning Flushing Meadows victory.

Last year does not touch the 1997 season, when a 16-year-old Martina Hingis won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open, denied a grand slam clean sweep by 19-year-old Iva Majoli's shock French Open final win over the Swiss.

But women's tennis is still seeing a remarkable shift to relative youth.

The 2019 season saw a then 19-year-old Bianca Andreescu scoop a stunning US Open win, while Ash Barty took the French Open.

Andreescu has been sidelined with a knee injury since the 2019 WTA Finals, but she is back for Australia, where Queenslander Barty, now 24, is the home hero.

Brace for the prospect of Andreescu and Barty joining Kenin, Swiatek and Osaka in a group of five who can take the women's game boldly into the post-Williams era.

But the Williams era isn't over

This is true, and again Serena will make another attempt to land that elusive 24th grand slam, the one that would move her level with Margaret Court on the all-time list.

She remains, at the age of 39, a magnificent competitor and a beguiling player, as does sister Venus, who turns 41 in June.

Serena has lost her last four grand slam finals, however, and the most recent run to a title match came almost 18 months ago in New York, where Andreescu had her number.

As the new gang of five threaten to pull away from the old establishment, perhaps Williams is now in the next group, along with the likes of Simona Halep, Victoria Azarenka and Petra Kvitova: still perfectly capable of winning another slam or even multiple slams, but it feels important to strike now.

Serena has not won any of her last 10 slams, making it the longest span in her professional career without winning a major.

Barty party, or Sofia the second?

Osaka begins the Australian Open as favourite with bookmakers, but world number one Barty will have home support and could make that count. How she performs will be keenly watched, given she chose not to travel once the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, sitting out 11 months.

Should Barty get on a roll, hopes will be high she can become the first Australian woman to take the title since Chris O'Neil in 1978. Last year, Barty fell in the semi-finals to Kenin, and she will be eager to land a second slam title.

Kenin, whose intense concentration and steely resolve helped her pull off last year's shock Melbourne win, and follow up with a run to the French Open final, can be a match for anyone. She will be aiming to become the first woman to win back-to-back Australian Open titles since Azarenka in 2012 and 2013.

Success on this level has come perhaps ahead of schedule for the American, and the same can be said for Swiatek, whose demolition of the field at Roland Garros in October made a mockery of her being ranked number 53 in the world.

The teenage Polish player became her country's first grand slam singles champion, and with that status comes the expectation she will follow it up. How that turns out for her will be one of the most intriguing of sub-plots in the new season.

Changing priorities

Halep said in a recent WTA interview that winning an Olympic medal was her "main goal" for 2021, although Osaka will also have the Tokyo Games firmly circled in her diary.

For the likes of those other players among the 16 slam winners in the Melbourne draw, there will be differing targets this year, too.

Angelique Kerber, Sloane Stephens, Jelena Ostapenko and particularly Garbine Muguruza may yet come good again on the big stage at some point this season.

For Venus Williams, Kuznetsova and Samantha Stosur, it may be a case of one final hurrah.

As the likes of Coco Gauff emerge as potential future big-stage winners, and fledgling ambassadors, the women's game looks in safe hands.

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