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'20 To Watch' Australian Open Preview

No fewer than 14 of our twenty WTA players to watch will be in Melbourne over the next couple of weeks, taking part in both the senior and junior versions of the Australian Open.

Starting with the main Australian Open. Three of our players had rankings high enough to guarantee them automatic entry into the tournament - Annika Beck, Donna Vekic and Elina Svitolina. These three will take their place in Friday's first round draw.

They will be joined by Ashleigh Barty and Madison Keys. After her recent performances at the Hopman Cup and in Hobart, it is no surprise that the young Australian has been rewarded with the Australian wildcard. Madison Keys won a spot in the main draw by winning the US wildcard tournament for the second year running, dispatching Mallory Burdette in the final.

Now to the five players that will attempt to progress through the three qualifying rounds and reach the main draw.

Monica Puig is seeded second in qualifying and will be confident of progressing after her stunning performance against Angelique Kerber last week. She will begin against the #193 ranked Chinese player, Qiang Wang. Wang won four ITF titles last year, but all at a low level, and should not prove too much of a challenge for the Puerto Rican.

Her likely second round opponent is Valeria Solovieva. The #185 Russian is a promising talent, but again is unlikely to trouble her should she play to her potential. The final round will be the toughest test, where her opponent should be the #19 seed and home favourite, Anastasia Rodionova. The Australian is a former top-70 player and has appeared in the main draw at the Australian Open no fewer than six times.

Eugenie Bouchard is the #24 seed for qualifying and will play Brazil's Teliana Pereira in the first round. Although Bouchard has had a poor start to the season, the clay-court specialist should not trouble her. She could potentially face another of our youngsters in the second round, Daria Gavrilova, should the Russian overcome Stephanie Vogt in the first round.

The winner of this second round match will likely face a tough third round match against one of Anastasija Sevastova, who reached the 4th round at Melbourne in 2011, or #11 seed, Eva Birnerova.

The young Slovak, Anna-Karolina Schmiedlova, faces a tough first round match against #6 seed, Vesna Dolonc. The Serbian is a former top-100 player, who reached the quarter-final of the WTA tournament in Moscow last year, and it will be a big surprise if Schmiedlova comes through this. Were she to pull off the upset, she would likely face Erika Sema in the second round before a match against either Alla Kudryavtseva or Stephanie Dubois in the final round.

The final entrant into qualifying is Irina Khromacheva. The former junior Australian Open doubles finalist faces the Croatian, Tereza Mrdeza, in the first round, before a tough contest against Mariana Duque-Marino or Julia Glushko. However, it does not get any easier as she will likely face the hugely experienced Hungarian, Greta Arn, should she reach the final round.

Four further players will compete in the junior edition. Katerina Siniakova will be the top seed for the tournament, and she will be joined in the draw by Sachia Vickery, Anett Kontaveit and, surprisingly, Yulia Putintseva, who has opted to play in the juniors despite being ranked high enough to gain direct entry into the seniors.

We will look more closely at the junior tournament when it begins in the second week.

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