Halep hopes 'lucky' dress brings first Slam

Romania's Simona Halep hits a shot during a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament. — Reuters

Germany's Angelique Kerber is back in form and arrives in Melbourne full of confidence following victories over Lucie Safarova, Venus Williams, 2014 Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova and Camila Giorgi before beating Ashleigh Barty to claim her 11th career title.

Of the top five seeds - Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki, Garbine Muguruza, Elina Svitolina, and Venus Williams - only one (Garbine Muguruza) has won a Grand Slam since 2016; and only two others have made it to the finals (Venus Williams and Simona Halep).

Her current best result is a quarterfinal, reached two times in her career, at 2015 and 2017 French Open, but she has only once gone past the third round on hard courts, when she reached the fourth round a year ago at the US Open.

A known hard worker on the Tour, her role among the top women is still a waiting game, but I believe it will happen. "But I'm not doing everything for this reason".

"I don't put more, I don't put less pressure".

"You're not focused on your game plan, you're not ready to compete".

"I'm healthy. I have the opportunity to play here". The 24-year-old has lost all six of her matches following her win at Flushing Meadows, struggling to cope with the expectations and extra demands on her time.

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Stephens has experienced an alarming decline since her finest hour in NY, losing all seven of her matches after ruthlessly demolishing Keys. "It's really, really nice".

Asked how her life had changed since winning the US Open, Stephens initially claimed "it hadn't changed that much because I don't like to do much". I feel okay. I feel fit.

"I'm hoping that it can be 100 per cent at the start of the tournament". Interesting starts for the struggling (7) Ostapenko vs. the former Slam victor Schiavone, (24) Cibulkova vs. the veteran Kanepi (winner to meet the Stosur-Puig winner), (10) Vandeweghe vs. Babos (winner to meet Suarez Navarro), (30) Bertens vs. the American upstart Bellis, and (2) Woz in an interesting match-up vs. the streaking unknown Buzarnescu who is in the Hobart final this weekend...(7) Ostapenko is 1-3 in last 4 matches and 0-1 in 2018.

Djokovic had a contrasting 2017, starting at number two but losing in a second-round upset at the Australian Open and not playing again after Wimbledon. "I'm enjoying more the time on court". I am more relaxed. "It's a little different, I suppose, this time around". But there are so many other players you can throw into the mix.

Stephens playing her way from the side courts of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to center court at Arthur Ashe Stadium over the course of two weeks (in a year in which she fell so low in the rankings that she was concerned about whether she'd have exemptions for future tournaments) was a great story.

Halep is keen to not get involved with the discussion, though, and will play wherever she is told by tournament organisers.

But she said she was not looking past her first-round opponent - Australian wildcard Destanee Aiava. "I support whatever it is they want to do and how they want to live".

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