Serena Williams’ path to a record-equaling 24th major trophy at AO2021 is set, with the 39-year-old on course to face Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty in succession.

Seven Grand Slam singles champions – four of them former No.1s – lurk in Williams’ half of the draw, while top seed Barty could meet defending champion Sofia Kenin in a semifinal rematch from last year.

Serena’s road to No.24

In her 11th campaign to tie the all-time majors haul, 10th seed Williams will open against dangerous German Laura Siegemund.

In her 20th Australian Open, the seven-time champion was drawn to meet seventh seed Aryna Sabalenka in the fourth round, the only top 16 seed in the bottom half without a major singles trophy to their name.

Should Williams reach the quarterfinals, one of the past two French Open champions looms – No.2 seed Halep or No.15 seed Iga Swiatek – with third seed Osaka and top seed Barty her projected semifinal and final roadblocks to Grand Slam No.24.

Barty, Kenin lead top half

For the second straight year, Barty enters her home Grand Slam as the top seed – and for the second year running she is drawn to face spirited American Kenin in the semifinals.

Barty opens against Montenegrin Danka Kovinic and could meet could friend and compatriot Daria Gavrilova in the second round.

Should seedings hold, the 24-year-old could meet 16th seed Petra Martic in the last 16, then Czech sixth seed Karolina Pliskova or Swiss 11th seed Belinda Bencic in the quarterfinals before a possible semifinal rematch against defending champion and No.4 seed Kenin.

Two-time Australian Open champion and No. 12 seed Victoria Azarenka or No.5 seed Elina Svitolina will be Kenin’s likely quarterfinal hurdle.

The strongest quarter

With eight Grand Slam champions in the bottom half, five of them fell in third seed Osaka’s quarter.

The AO2019 champion could face AO2016 champion or two-time major winner and last year’s runner-up Garbine Muguruza in the fourth round before a slated quarterfinal against either eighth seed Bianca Andreescu of Canada or the ever-dangerous No.9 seed Petra Kvitova.

Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, will contest her first tournament in 15 months, while two-time Wimbledon winner Kvitova is aiming to go one better than her runner-up finish at Melbourne Park two years ago.

First-round fireworks

Czech 25th seed Karolina Muchova knows the havoc a free-swinging Jelena Ostapenko can cause, and will need to be on her game from the off against the 2017 French Open champion for their first-time meeting in the opening round.

Despite her second-week draw being a minefield of major champions, third seed Osaka won’t be looking beyond a dangerous first round when she meets former world No.13 and two-time Australian Open quarterfinalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. The duo have split two prior meetings.

After a racquet-mangling departure in a match-point squandering defeat to Azarenka in the Grampians Trophy on Friday, No.26 seed Yulia Putintseva was drawn to face Sloane Stephens in the opening round.

The 2017 US Open champion, Stephens, and the Kazakh have split four prior clashes, including twice on hard court in 2019.

Dangerous floaters

After a high-quality shootout with Kvitova in the second round of the Yarra Valley Classic at Melbourne Park on Tuesday, Venus Williams – four months shy of her 40th birthday – sounded a warning to the Australian Open field.

The seven-time major champion will face Belgian Kirsten Flipkens in the first round and could meet eight seed Andreescu in the third round.

Following her surprise run to the Roland Garros semifinals last September, Nadia Podoroska brought form to Melbourne, winning an epic against Kvitova en route to the Yarra Valley Classic quarterfinals. The Argentine could take on No.28 seed Donna Vekic in the second round and Kenin in the third round.

Source: Dan Imhoff