Even without Williams, Aussie Open women's field still tough


With no Serena Williams in the draw at the Australian Open, there’s certainly an opportunity for another women’s player to go on a surprising run and emerge as a first-time Grand Slam champion, as Sloane Stephens and Jelena Ostapenko did last year.

Just don’t describe the first Grand Slam of the year as “more open” than usual.

“Whenever I get asked that question, it always comes across in really kind of an almost negative way instead of acknowledging how many great players we have,” Johanna Konta, who reached the semifinals of Wimbledon last year, said in her pre-tournament news conference Saturday.

“The depth in women’s tennis I really do believe in the last few years has gotten so strong,” she added. “There’s no straight sailing to the quarters or semis. It doesn’t exist.”

Stephens agrees the Australian Open field is still extremely tough, even with Serena Williams, the defending champion and 23-time major winner, skipping the tournament as she continues her recovery from a complicated childbirth in September.

“There’s a lot of great players,” she said. “It’s up for grabs.”

Indeed, any number of women could be holding the trophy at Melbourne Park in two weeks. The…



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