Who are the favourites for glory at the Australian Open in Serena’s absence?

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Reports filtered through that Serena Williams would not defend her title at this year’s Australian Open.

The all-conquering American gave birth just four months ago and decided she wasn’t in the required shape to take part.

That will have given the rest of the WTA circuit a boost with a number of players now in contention for a Grand Slam win.

But who are the current favourites and how do they shape up approaching the first major of the season?

Karolina Pliskova is the current joint-favourite at 8/1. The 25-year-old had a pretty good 2017, winning three tournaments, including the Brisbane International.

However, the Czech Republic star is yet to win a Grand Slam. In fact, she has yet to even make a final. Her record at the Aussie Open has been progressive, though.

From 2010 to the 2017 tournament, she has steadily made it through the various rounds up until the quarter-finals last year.

A decent draw in 2018 and Serena’s absence could see her finally make that breakthrough final.

World number one Simona Halep is the other joint-favourite at 8/1. The Romanian is another yet to win a Grand Slam, suffering a heartbreaking defeat in the French Open final to Jelena Ostapenko.

Despite her huge talent, the 26-year-old doesn’t have the best record in this tournament. Halep has never made it past the quarter-final stage in seven attempts.

She also fell at the first hurdle on the last two occasions. It might prove fruitful to swerve her for this one.

Elina Svitolina looks really interesting at a slightly larger 9/1. The Ukrainian is another non-Grand Slam winner but she’s had a marvellous last 12 months.

The 23-year-old moved up to three in the world rankings by the end of the year, winning five WTA tournaments.

She’s also carried on that form into 2018, winning the Brisbane International and defeating Pliskova on the way.

Okay, she doesn’t have the best Grand Slam record, making just the one quarter-final. But Svitolina is in-form and firing.

Of the others, Garbine Muguruza at 9/1 is a Grand Slam winner and despite patchy form throughout 2017 should be in contention.

Britain’s number one Johanna Konta will look to capitalise on Aussie support once again. The Sydney-born star made the semi-finals here last year and could go well again at 20/1.

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All Odds and Markets correct as of date of publication

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