Gauff leads band of Iga's Open challengers

Armed with a new dimension, stronger body and unshakeable belief, Coco Gauff leads the crop of dreamers plotting to prevent Iga Swiatek adding an Australian Open crown to her growing grand slam collection.

Top-seeded Swiatek is the hot favourite in the post-Ash Barty era to claim the third leg of a career slam with title glory at Melbourne Park to go with her two French Open and 2022 US Open trophies.

Gauff, though, is among a raft of in-form challengers with title ambitions of their own.

Burdened with the tag of tennis's next Serena Williams ever since toppling five-times champion Venus Williams at Wimbledon as a precocious 15-year-old, Gauff makes no secret of the fact she's a young woman in a hurry.

"I'm pretty impatient, to be honest. I wouldn't say I'm impatient with people and things but when it comes to getting things done, I'd rather do it sooner than later. I guess that relates to my career. You do want success to happen now," the 18-year-old said ahead of her fourth Open tilt.

Gauff has already showcased her grand slam pedigree, reaching last year's final at Roland Garros, where Swiatek had the American prodigy's measure on the slow Parisian clay.

But Gauff believes she's a superior player seven months on after growing physically and honing her already impressive net game in a concerted bid to be more aggressive on the faster, harder courts of Melbourne Park.

She snared her third career title in Auckland to open her season and underline her Open credentials in style.

"I know a lot of people mention how many times I went to the net in Auckland. That was a lot we were working on, especially for me who likes to play doubles," said the world No.7 and former world No.1 doubles star.

"I was trying to transfer that volleying more into singles, especially with the way I move and hit.

"Then serving, working on serve placement. Also the forehand, working on that, and returns.

"It was a lot of hard work, a lot of long days. But I feel like I've improved a lot.

"I really think that I had probably one of the best off-seasons I had in a while. Now we don't know if the results will show right away for the work. It has so far. I hope it continues."

Fellow Americans Jessica Pegula and Madison Keys, who combined to help Team USA to the inaugural United Cup title, world No.5 Aryna Sabalenka and the 10th-ranked Belinda Bencic also enter the year's first grand slam after triumphant starts to the season.

Third-seeded Pegula upset Swiatek in straight sets in Sydney, Keys, a semi-final loser to Barty at Melbourne Park last year, went unbeaten for the US, while Sabalenka and Bencic won the two editions of the Adelaide International.

World No.2 Ons Jabeur also fancies her chances after reaching the Wimbledon and US Open finals last year.

"I like this hard court here in Australia," Jabeur said.

"I feel like there is not a lot of pressure on me on this tournament. I'm just going to try to play my game, just be there match by match, see what's going to happen."