Halep, Wozniacki eye maiden Slam chance in Serena's absence

 

Halep, Wozniacki eye maiden Slam chance in Serenas absence
Simona Halep during a practice session on Rod Laver Arena ahead of the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Melbourne - The world's two top-ranked players will spearhead the charge to succeed Serena Williams

By AFP

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Published: Sun 14 Jan 2018, 9:29 PM

Last updated: Sun 14 Jan 2018, 11:33 PM

Simona Halep will sport her "lucky" red dress and Caroline Wozniacki says she is playing better than ever as both aim for a first Grand Slam victory when the Australian Open starts on Monday.
The world's two top-ranked players will spearhead the charge to succeed Serena Williams at year's first major left wide open by the withdrawal of the defending champion and new mum.
With the 36-year-old Williams not ready yet to return, the tournament could be there for the taking by a host of players yet to win a Grand Slam led by top seed Halep, Wozniacki and fourth-ranked Elina Svitolina. Last year there were two first-time major-winners while Serena was on maternity leave - Jelena Ostapenko at the French Open and Sloane Stephens at the US Open.
But their chances in Melbourne look slim: Stephens hasn't won a match since her Flushing Meadows triumph, and Ostapenko was far from her attacking best in first-round defeats in Shenzhen and Sydney recently.
Wimbledon champion and world number three Garbine Muguruza is battling injury problems which could further aid Halep's hopes.
And the 26-year-old Romanian, who currently has no clothing sponsor, confirmed she would wear the same "lucky" red dress in Australia that she used while registering a dominant victory at the Shenzhen Open a fortnight ago.
She found the outfit on the internet and hoped it would bring the same results in Australia.
"Was a (web)site, in China actually, and one of my managers helped me, and in 24 hours I had the outfit, and it was perfect. I was lucky," she said. But lucky dress or not, she will need to overcome her poor record at Melbourne Park where she has lost in the first round in both of the past two years when she opens on Tuesday against Australian wildcard Destinee Aiava.
Former number one Wozniacki is riding high in the rankings again after reaching eight finals in 2017, with victories in Tokyo in September and at the season-ending Tour Championship.
"I think I've improved everything," said Wozniacki ahead of a first-round clash Monday with Romania's Mihaela Buzarnescu.
She lost in the Auckland Classic final last week to Germany's Julia Goerges, but said the rain-disrupted tournament had been tough, ideal preparation.


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