Sports

Australian Open Women's Capsules

Germany's Angelique Kerber hits a forehand return during a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Germany's Angelique Kerber hits a forehand return during a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Women to watch at the Australian Open, which begins Monday at Melbourne Park:

ANGELIQUE KERBER

Seeded: 1

Age: 28 (29 on Jan. 18)

Country: Germany

2016 Match Record: 63-18

2016 Singles Titles: 3

Career Singles Titles: 10

Major Titles: 2 — Australian Open ('16), U.S. Open ('16)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '16-Won Championship; '15-Lost in 1st Round, '14-Lost in 4th Round, '13-4th, '12-Lost in 3rd round.

Topspin: A breakout year in 2016: won her first Grand Slam singles title at Melbourne, beating Serena Williams in the final, lost to Serena in the Wimbledon final, won a silver medal at the Rio Olympics and then captured her second major after beating Karolina Pliskova in the U.S. Open final. ... Made seven finals and officially overtook Williams for the No. 1 ranking on the Monday after the U.S. Open ended, but was assured of the top ranking when Pliskova beat Serena in the semifinals in New York. ... Was a unanimous selection for WTA Player of the Year. Began 2017 by losing to Elina Svitolina in the quarterfinals at the Brisbane International, then was beaten 7-6 (5), 6-2 in her first match at the Sydney International by 26th-ranked Daria Kasatkina.

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SERENA WILLIAMS

Seeded: 2

Age: 35

Country: United States

2016 Match Record: 38-6

2016 Singles Titles: 2

Career Singles Titles: 71

Major Titles: 22 — Australian Open ('03, '05, '07, '09, '10, '15), French Open ('02, '13, '15) , Wimbledon ('02, '03, '09, '10, '12, '15, '16), U.S. Open ('99, '02, '08, '12, '13, '14)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '16-Lost in Final. '15-Won, '14-4th, '13-Lost in Quarterfinals, '12-4th.

Topspin: It was always going to be difficult for Williams to match her stellar 2015, when she was named AP's female athlete of 2015, won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon before losing in the U.S. Open semifinals, falling just two matches short of the calendar Grand Slam. ... Had an off-year by her standards in 2016, winning only two titles, but one of them was her 22nd Grand Slam singles title, which she got at Wimbledon, equaling Steffi Graf's Open-era record. ... Ended the year without the No. 1 spot for the first time since 2012... The newly-engaged (to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian) Williams opened the year at the ASB Classic in wind-swept Auckland with a surprise second-round loss in three sets to fellow American Madison Brengle.

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AGNIESZKA RADWANSKA

Seeded: 3

Age: 27

Country: Poland

2016 Match Record: 53-18

2016 Singles Titles: 3

Career Singles Titles: 20

Major Titles: None. Best — Wimbledon finalist ('12)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '16-Lost in Semifinals, '15-4th, '14-SF, '13-QF, '12-QF.

Topspin: Melbourne Park marked Radwanska's best Grand Slam performance last year, losing in the semifinals to Serena Williams in straight sets; she lost in the fourth round at the other majors. ... Won two of her three tournaments in 2016 in China — at Shenzhen the week before the Australian Open and at Beijing in October ... One of her nicknames is "The Magician" because of her shot-making ability, and she won the WTA Shot of the Year for the fourth year in a row in 2016. The shot came against Monica Niculescu at Indian Wells in March, when Radwanska ran all over the court during a rally before looping an around-the-post winner past her startled opponent. ... Radwanska lost in the quarterfinals of the Shenzhen Open last week to Alison Riske, a year after beating the American in the final, but advanced to the Sydney International final.

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SIMONA HALEP

Seeded: 4

Age: 25

Country: Romania

2016 Match Record: 45-18

2016 Singles Titles: 3

Career Singles Titles: 14

Major titles: None. Best: — French Open finalist ('14)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '16-1st, '15-QF, '14-QF, '13-1st, '12-1st.

Topspin: Her three wins in 2016 came on clay at Madrid and Bucharest and on hard courts at Montreal, beating Madison Keys in the final. ... Her year began with injury issues when she was forced to withdraw from the Brisbane International with a left Achilles tendon problem. ... She finished a third straight season as a top-5 player, and credits some of her biggest improvements to work done with coach and former Australian player Darren Cahill. "I am more aggressive, but not crazy aggressive," she said during the Wuhan Open in September.

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GARBINE MUGURUZA

Seeded: 7

Age: 23

Country: Spain

2016 Match Record: 35-20

2016 Singles Titles: 1

Career Singles Titles: 3

Major Titles: 1 — French Open ('16)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '16-3rd, '15-4th, '14-4th, '13-2nd, '12-Did not play.

Topspin: The Venezuelan-born Muguruza captured her first Grand Slam singles title in 2016, beating Serena Williams in the French Open final ... Failed to capitalize on her success at Roland Garros, losing in the second round at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open and not reaching another final. "Winning Roland Garros has been the best and worst part of the year," Muguruza said in October. "It might sound strange, but it was like a double-edged sword. I won Roland Garros, but at other tournaments I felt more responsibility, more pressure, more eyes on me, more of a feeling that you have to win because it's what is expected of you." ... Pulled out of her semifinal match at the Brisbane International last week against Alize Cornet with a right thigh injury. It was the third year in a row that she has either retired or withdrawn from the tournament.

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JOHANNA KONTA

Seeded: 9

Age: 25

Country: Britain

2016 Match Record: 46-22

2016 Singles Titles: 1

Career Singles Titles: 1

Major Titles: None. Best: Australian Open semifinalist ('16)

Last 5 Australian Opens: '16-SF (first appearance).

Topspin: The Australian-born Konta became one of the stories of last year's tournament, a crowd favourite who beat Venus Williams in the first round and advanced to the semifinals — the first British woman to make a Grand Slam semi since 1983 — before losing to Kerber ... Won her only title of the year at Stanford, beating top-seeded Venus Williams in the final ... Had a consistent year and moved from 47th to 10th in the year-end rankings ... Seeded ninth here because of the absence of No. 8 Madison Keys due to left wrist surgery. ... To open 2017, Konta lost to Katerina Siniakova in three sets in the Shenzhen Open semifinals. Played Agnieszka Radwanska in the Sydney International final.

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