In contrast to the men's game, the women's field remains wide open, with about 10 players legitimately contending for each Grand Slam title. It's an exciting time for the game with a mix of rising youngsters and veterans regularly in contention. In 2020 these contenders will look to separate themselves from the rest as they seek to establish a firm grip at the top. Here are the players to watch as a new year of tennis gets underway.
Ashleigh Barty – Barty capped of a career year in 2019 with a title at the year-end WTA Finals, cementing her spot at No. 1 in the world. The 23-year-old Australian will be entering the 2020 season with high hopes of more slam possibilities after she captured her first Grand Slam title at the French Open in 2019. Barty will feel the home support at the Australian Open, where she reached the quarterfinals in 2019 for her best-ever showing at the event. The Australian has a playing style that should translate to consistency, so expect her to be in the mix for the title at the year's debut major.
Naomi Osaka – After playing sloppy through much of the middle of the year, Osaka came on strong late in 2019 by winning back-to-back titles over stiff competition, showcasing the form that saw her win the Australian Open in 2019. An injury forced her to withdraw from the WTA Finals, but she'll be one of the main favorites at this year's opening major as she seeks to defend her title. The 22-year-old from Japan has shown the tendency to be inconsistent early in her career, but she is still ranked No. 3 in the world and usually plays well at majors.
Bianca Andreescu – The 19-year-old Canadian skyrocketed onto the scene in 2019, as she vaulted from No. 107 in the world all the way to No. 5 thanks to winning the US Open and two Premier-level hard-court titles. Andreescu is arguably the best player in the world on hard courts, so she'll be expected to do big things at the Australian Open this year, despite the fact that she only reached the second round in 2019 in her only showing so far at the event. Given her historic rise last season, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Andreescu end the 2020 season with the No. 1 ranking.
Serena Williams – Williams will enter the Australian Open in 2020 on a three-year drought since her last Grand Slam title, which has left her stuck at No. 23 overall – the last of which came in Australia in 2017. The 38-year-old American has lost four major finals in a row, which marks the worst streak of her career but also shows that she still has the ability to go deep at these events. Williams has seven titles in her career at the Australian Open, so she should have plenty of confidence to start the season as she continues her quest for her 24th Grand Slam title.
Simona Halep – After Halep picked up her second Grand Slam title at Wimbledon in dominant fashion, she slowed down to close the year, going without a title in what was a bit of a surprise after her strong form on grass courts. The 28-year-old Romanian still closed the year at No. 4 in the world, and she'll be entering the 2020 Australian Open with good memories after she finished as the runner-up in 2018.
Karolina Pliskova – Though Pliskova sits at No. 2 in the world, it's tough to make the case that she is the second-best player in the world, at least when it comes to Grand Slam events. The 27-year-old Czech is without a Grand Slam title and hasn't been able to reach the final of a slam since 2016 despite her thorough success at other events. She reached the semifinals at the Australian Open in 2019, which was her best-ever result at the year's debut major. Pliskova is certainly a contender for the Aussie Open title but she will need to prove she can win the big matches.
Elina Svitolina – The 25-year-old Ukrainian ended 2019 with her first-ever semifinal appearances at majors at both Wimbledon and the US Open, and also finished as the runner-up at the WTA Finals, giving her a bit of a confidence boost to close the season. Svitolina remains without a final appearance at a Grand Slam event, which is a bit disappointing given that she has been ranked as high as No. 3 in the world. She has two consecutive quarterfinal showings at the Australian Open.
Petra Kvitova – Kvitova will be entering the Australian Open this season as the defending runner-up after she lost in a thrilling three-set final against Naomi Osaka in 2019. The 29-year-old Czech, a winner of two Grand Slam titles (2011, 2014), starts the year ranked No. 7 and remains an extremely dangerous player in the draw based on her past major success.
Belinda Bencic – Bencic had the best season of her career in 2019, as she rose to No. 8 in the world after opening the year at No. 55. The 22-year-old from Switzerland's best showing at the Australian Open came back in 2016, when she reached Round 4, but coming off a semifinal effort at the US Open, she'll be expected to eclipse that fourth-round stage in 2020.
Kiki Bertens – The 28-year-old Dutchwoman, currently ranked No. 9, rose to as high as No. 4 in 2019 in what was the best year of her career. Despite her recent singles success, she hasn't advanced to the semifinals of a major since 2016 at the French Open. Bertens has surprisingly never advanced past the third round at the Australian Open, so she shouldn't be expected to do significant damage at the year's debut major, though she is due for a better performance.
Aryna Sabalenka – The 21-year-old from Belarus, ranked just outside the top 10, showed some inconsistency in 2019 after a rapid rise up the rankings to start her career. Sabalenka closed the year strong, however, winning the WTA Elite Trophy for the second consecutive season. Her best tennis has not come at major events, as she has yet to reach a quarterfinal at the Grand Slam stage.
Sofia Kenin – Kenin is another player who vaulted into the forefront of the women's game in 2019, as she went from No. 56 to No. 14 in the world through consistent and feisty play. The 21-year-old American reached the second round at the Australian Open in 2019, which was her best effort so far at the event, but she'll be expected to advance several rounds further in 2020.
Coco Gauff – Gauff starts the season with a career-high ranking of No. 68 after she stunningly picked up the first title of her career at just 15 years old. The young American is off to an extremely promising start to her career, so it will be interesting to see how she develops going forward. The 2020 showing will be her debut at the Australian Open. She's been to at least the third round of the last two majors, but it would still be surprising if she continued that streak based on her age.