She reached six finals previous year before finally getting over the winning line in Tokyo in September, and has hardly missed a beat since. I feel ready to start. "I think personally I had a lot of things going on". It's a new tournament, a new year.
But their chances in Melbourne look slim: Stephens hasn't won a match on tour since her Flushing Meadows triumph, and Ostapenko was far from her attacking best in her first-round defeats in Shenzhen and Sydney in the past week.
Svitolina enjoyed her best year on tour in 2017, winning five WTA titles - more than any other woman - at Taiwan, Dubai, Istanbul, Rome and Toronto, and rising to a career-high No 3 in the world by September.
The highlight of the 13th-seeded Stephen's autumn came off the court when she graduated with a degree in communications from Indiana University East through a discounted online program arranged with the school by the WTA.
The American says she was "super-close" to returning from maternity leave at Melbourne Park, and is once again likely to be a formidable foe in Paris, Wimbledon and NY. I have to graduate before him because I'm better than him.
While Stephens speaks of hope heading into the new year, she didn't start 2018 on a high note.
― Reuters picMELBOURNE, Jan 11 ― Romania's world No.1 Simona Halep will face Australian wild card Destanee Aiava as her first round opponent at the Australian Open, while today's draw could also see her go up against Karolina Pliskova in the quarter-finals.
"Every time is tough every match of a grand slam. Yeah, it's an interesting period, to be honest", said Halep, who confirmed she would wear the same red dress in Australia that she used to win the Shenzhen Open in China a fortnight ago.
"I'm healthy. I have the opportunity to play here. You're never flawless. There's always things you can work on". In terms of that, it's a little bit overwhelming. She won her first WTA title at Seoul when she won the Korea Open and ended her year with a round robin exit at the WTA finals. I wouldn't say that.
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Stephens agrees the Australian Open field is still extremely tough, even without Williams, the 23-time major victor.
Stephens made a stellar run to the U.S. Open title after missing several months with an injured left foot.
Serena Williams's absence for most part had already opened up women's tennis like never before in 2017. The only past champion in the women's draw is Kerber, so there are good odds that the Australian Open will welcome a new champion in two week's time. The no-nonsense Romanian, however, dismissed a suggestion that she might start her own clothing line like Serena's older sister Venus Williams.
Just don't describe the first Grand Slam of the year as "more open" than usual.
The women's game is starting the 2018 season in similar fashion to the open-door policy to the world No. 1 ranking that peppered all of a year ago.
Halep finished the 2017 season as the WTA's 13th year-end No.1, just edging Wimbledon champion Muguruza by 40 points.
Halep, the current No. 1, can be challenged for the top position by five players at this year's Australian Open. Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Sports Sloane Stephens, left, and Madison Keys, right, meet at midcourt after the women's U.S. Open final in Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in NY.
Stephens' victory in NY came completely out of the blue, having only returned from a long-term foot injury which required surgery. Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Sports Madison Keys returns a shot during the women's U.S. Open final in Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in NY.