Naomi Osaka. Source: Australian Open www.ausopen.com

With the two tournament favourites drawn in the same quarter, the Australian Open women's title is a wide open race.

The women’s draw at the Australian Open is wide open, with Grand Slam winners across the bracket and two favourites drawn in the same quarter.

Ash Barty and Naomi Osaka could potentially meet in the fourth round – the two favourites for the tournament have had very different preparations leading in but possess the quality to make a deep run into the second week.

These are the top contenders for the women’s title at the 2022 Australian Open.

Ash Barty [1]

It’s been glorious preparation for the Australian world number one, with Barty cruising through the Adelaide International on her way to the title. She defeated quality opponents in Coco Gauff, Sofia Kenin, Iga Swiatek, and Elena Rybakina.

She took the week off leading into the Open, which gives her a platform to start strong in the first round.

Barty will face Ukrainian Lesya Tsurenko, with whom she holds a 2-1 record over. Tsurenko will struggle to deal with the backhand slice of Barty, and may make unforced errors as she attempts to generate her own pace on the ball.

Barty’s run hits a road block at the fourth round if Naomi Osaka progresses to that stage, while Maria Sakkari could await in the quarter-final.

Best Australian Open result: Semi-final (2020)

Naomi Osaka [14]

It’s been a tumultuous 11 months for Osaka after winning the Australian Open, making the tough decision to drop out of Roland Garros and not compete at Wimbledon or the US Open.

Her time out of the game has not diminished her ability, though.

Her Melbourne Park Summer Set results were positive leading into the Open, with three wins on the trot before a loss in the semi-final.

It was a good result for Osaka as she takes to the court again, and it will give her confidence heading into her first round encounter with Osorio Serrano.

The two have not faced off before, but Osaka will be a heavy favourite to progress. A huge challenge could await in the fourth round with world number one Ash Barty.

Best Australian Open result: Champion (2019, 2021)

Maria Sakkari [5]

Sakkari has had a sensational 12 months which includes semi-final appearances at Grand Slams and a world ranking of eight leading into the Australian Open.

The lead up to the Slam hasn’t been ideal, falling in the second round of her warm-up tournament and serving well below her usual standards.

In the first round she got the job done against Tatiana Maria in straight sets, but the German made life difficult on the big stage. Sakkari eventually won over through her power hitting and brilliant court coverage.

Her quarter includes Barty and Osaka, so it will be a tough slog to make it to a semi-final but Sakkari enjoys the conditions at Melbourne Park and will be favoured to make a run into the second week.

Best Australian Open result: Round of 16 (2020)

Anett Kontaveit [6]

The Estonian has had a sparkling finish to the 2021 season and put on a show in Sydney with her clean hitting. It’s helped land her at a career-high world ranking of seven, and she enters as the six seed at the Australian Open.

Kontaveit breezed through to the semi-final and took the first set 6-0 off Barbora Krejcikova. Unfortunately she wasn’t able to finish the job and fell in three sets, but it has given her some more time to prepare for the Open and she enters in the best form of her career.

Photo: @AustralianOpen Twitter

Kontaveit has a first round matchup with Katerina Siniakova, but will need to navigate Garbine Muguruza and Simona Halep in her quarter.

Best Australian Open result: Quarter-final (2020)

Garbine Muguruza [3]

Muguruza is an Australian Open finalist and enjoys the fast courts at Melbourne Park. She’s a fan favourite here with her entertaining style of play, and has been unlucky in the past to not progress further at the first Grand Slam on the calendar.

In her prime at the age of 28, she hasn’t had a brilliant lead-in to the tournament with an early loss in her warm-up event, but none of that seems to matter when she plays in Melbourne. Her aggressive play and strong serve is suited perfectly to the hard courts at Melbourne Park which has seen her repeatedly have some of her best Slam results in Australia.

A first round matchup with Clara Burel shouldn’t pose an issue for Murguruza, who will be keeping an eye on Halep and Kontaveit in her quarter.

Best Australian Open result: Final (2020)

Iga Swiatek [7]

The superstar Pole is capable against anyone, and continues to grow her game on the hard courts after turning heads with her clay court prowess over the past two years.

Swiatek defeated the likes of Victoria Azarenka on her way to the semi-final in Adelaide, but lost out to Ash Barty in the semi-final after the Australian played some unbelievable tennis. It was a tough draw for the Pole but she comes into the Open refreshed and prepared to make a deep run.

In her quarter she will need to navigate Aryna Sabalenka, who hasn’t been in superb form but can tear a match apart with her power hitting and aggression.

Swiatek will be favoured to take out her quarter, and will have an opportunity to start her campaign on the right foot against qualifier Harriet Dart.

Best Australian Open result: Round of 16 (2020, 2021)

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