SYDNEY/HOBART - With one week between the WTA stars and the first major of the season, the Apia International Syndey and the Hobart International represent the final chances to prepare for the upcoming Australian Open. How will top Sydney seeds Angelique Kerber and Agnieszka Radwanska shake off early losses at the Brisbane International and Shenzhen Open, respectively? Can defending champion Svetlana Kuznetsova pull off another title run? Meanwhile, who will take advantage of the wide open field in Hobart?
1. Kerber searches for Aussie momentum.
World No.1 Angelique Kerber acquitted herself well enough in her first tournament of the season, but still showed signs of rust in her quarterfinal defeat to nemesis Elina Svitolina. With another first-round bye, Kerber opens against Daria Kasatkina, who was a point from defeating Garbiñe Muguruza in Brisbane, only to fall in a final set tie-break. No.6 seed Johanna Konta anchors her quarter, with Dominika Cibulkova and Kuznetsova looming as potential semifinal opponents.
2. Radwanska aims for Sydney restart.
Agnieszka Radwanska started last season in imperious form, defeating Alison Riske to win the Shenzhen Open. This year, Riske turned the tables on the former World No.2, taking her out in three sets en route to the final. Seeded second in Sydney, Radwanska will play one of two qualifiers in her opening round match: Kateryna Bondarenko, or Christina McHale. A softer section could provide the court time Radwanska needs to get ready for Melbourne.
3. A Cibulkova/Bouchard rematch in sight?
The reigning BNP Paribas WTA Finals Singapore presented by SC Global champion has played Eugenie Bouchard four times in the last 18 months, with the young Canadian winning three of those four encounters. Bouchard looked in solid form to start the tournament against Zhang Shuai, while Cibulkova still needs to get past Laura Siegemund for them to meet in the second round.
4. Kuznetsova puts things in perspective.
The defending champion kicked off her title defense in impressive style on Sunday, dispatching Irina-Camelia Begu in straight sets, but isn't thinking too much about a second straight win in Sydney. "I'm not thinking about defending my title," she said after the match. "The trophy is at home and nobody can take it away from me. This is another year and another opportunity to play. I always feel like I need a lot of matches at the start of the year."
5. Mirza reunites with Strycova.
A week after handing off her No.1 ranking to partner and best friend Bethanie Mattek-Sands in Brisbane, Sania Mirza heads to Sydney with new partner Barbora Strycova, with whom she played in the second half of 2016. The duo face the newly formed Andrea Hlavackova and Peng Shuai to start the week. Mirza's former partner Martina Hingis is back with CoCo Vandeweghe; seeded No.2, they could face Mirza and Strycova in another final.
6. More reunions in Sydney.
The 2010 doubles season was all about Yaroslava Shvedova and Vania King, who won back-to-back majors at Wimbledon and the US Open. King and Shvedova are back together after a long break and open against Darija Jurak and Anastasia Rodionova, who were a team to watch most of last summer.
7. Bertens headlines Hobart.
Kiki Bertens is top seed at a tournament that has been hit by a rash of injury withdrawals. Still, the 2016 French Open won't have things all her own way as she opens against the always dangerous Annika Beck, with comeback kid Galina Voskoboeva looming in the second round. Voskoboeva won her first WTA main draw match in nearly three years after sitting out nearly two full seasons due to a foot injury.
8. Shelby's season?
Shelby Rogers kicked off 2017 in style by knocking out Eugenie Bouchard and pushing Elina Svitolina to the brink in Brisbane. The American earned another impressive win on Sunday in Hobart, upsetting No.2 seed Anastasija Sevastova.
9. Safarova under the radar.
Unseeded and looming in Hobart is former World No.5 Lucie Safarova, who is trying to rebuild her ranking after a season of fits and starts in 2016. Safarova opens against Viktorija Golubic and could play No.10 seed Sara Errani in the second round.
10. Spears & Niculescu seek doubles glory in Hobart.
Monica Niculescu is one of the best doubles players not to have a permanent partner, but may be trying out a new partnership with fellow top seed Abigail Spears, who has been playing apart from longtime partner Raquel Atawo to start the season. The pair open against Nao Hibino and Alicja Rosolska, with No.2 seeds Kiki Bertens and Johanna Larsson anchoring the bottom half of the draw as No.2 seeds.