2024 Australian Open preview: What you need to know

After one of the best years of his career, Novak Djokovic is the man to beat again in Australia, where he has won the title a record 10 times

Novak Djokovic, Australian Open 2023 Imago / Panoramic

Novak Djokovic’s recent victory in the ATP Finals saw him end the year on top of the world rankings yet again after another stellar 12 months, bringing the curtain down on the 2023 ATP Tour campaign. Now, all eyes are on the sweltering Australian summer and specifically, the Australian Open. The first Grand Slam of 2024 is the next stop on the thrill ride that is the world of tennis, and it will kick off a 2024 campaign that is sure to thrill once more. 

Expect the unexpected 

In the previous edition of the tournament, the incomparable Rafael Nadal sat at the top of the tennis throne as the reigning champion. He won the famous trophy for only the second time in his illustrious career in 2022, but for some, there will always be an asterisk next to his name due to the absence of a certain Serbian virtuoso by the name of Novak Djokovic

Djokovic was unable to compete after his visa was denied, snapping his streak of three straight wins Down Under. As a result, the King of Clay had something to prove in his title defence. Unfortunately, he succumbed to a hip injury when playing American Mackenzie McDonald in the second round and ended up missing the rest of the year as a result. 

As Nadal nursed his injury, Djokovic battled to victory, recovering from an abdominal tear midway through it as he dispatched Stefanos Tsitsipas with ease in the final, securing an historic 10th title on the revered hard courts. That triumph gave him a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam, and since then, he has added both the French and US Opens to his collection, as well as a record-breaking seventh ATP Finals crown to boot. 

Djokovic knows a thing or two about unexpected defeats himself, mind you. Just a few years back, he faced a shocker against Denis Istomin, losing to the Uzbeki underdog after an exhausting five-hour, five-set match. And let’s not forget when Andy Murray, the world No 1 at the time, was ousted early by Germany’s Mischa Zverev. Who knows what upsets await us this year?

Denis Istomin and Novak Djokovic, Australian Open 2017
Denis Istomin and Novak Djokovic, Australian Open 2017 – © Antoine Couvercelle / Panoramic

The front-runners

With a track record of 10 victories in the Land Down Under, it’s no shocker that the reigning champ Djokovic is leading the pack and has been installed by Bovada Sportsbook as the +110 favorite for glory. But what might catch you off guard is the slim margin he has over Carlos Alcaraz. His new Spanish rival is a close second favourite, and he will be looking to usurp Djokovic once more, just as he did back at Wimbledon in July. 

Daniil Medvedev is Russia’s perennial contender and he too can never be counted out. He dispatched the aforementioned Alcaraz during this year’s US Open, defeating him in the semi-finals. Unfortunately for the talented 27-year-old, Djokovic proved too good at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Also, don’t forget the 23-year-old Italian sensation, Jannik Sinner, who is eagerly vying for his first-ever Slam triumph. Despite reaching the semi-finals of a Grand Slam only once, he made the title showdown at the ATP Finals and is determined to make a name for himself on the grand stage. That may very well happen in Melbourne. 

If you’re a die-hard Nadal fan in the GOAT race, brace yourself for disappointment as he currently sits way down in fifth place on the odds list. The iconic Spaniard is hoping to come back after injury and it remains to be seen how much he has left in the tank. But one thing the history books have told us is that Nadal excels when his back is against the wall. Write him off at your peril. 

What of Nick Kyrgios and the other Aussies?  

The Australian Open never fails to deliver the occasional tantrum or two. Yes, Nick Kyrgios, you. But let’s be honest, the eclectic Aussie has managed to change quite a few minds in recent years. Once considered the villain of tennis, he surprised everyone with an impressive run to the Wimbledon final last year. With a burning desire to entertain, Nick has managed to win over even his most dedicated critics, transforming them into die-hard fans.

The home fans will undoubtedly be rallying behind their beloved local hero. Back in 2022, he joined forces with his colleague and buddy Thanasi Kokkinakis in the men’s doubles. The dynamic duo gained wild support from the lively Melbourne crowd, earning themselves the catchy nickname “Double Ks.” With the overwhelming backing of the fans, they went on a remarkable journey to claim the championship title, marking the first time in 25 years that an all-Australian pair accomplished such a feat.

Regrettably, the home stars had a rough landing in 2023. Kyrgios had to withdraw before the tournament due to an injury and played just one match in 2023. Kokkinakis fell victim to a resurgent Andy Murray, who definitively proved his superhuman abilities. Can the duo make a stylish comeback this year and potentially snatch the trophy?

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