Novak Djokovic dominated the slams last season, winning three out of the four. The Serbian has already won 10 Australian Opens. This suggests he is a red-hot favorite going into this year’s first Slam but a couple of recent losses and a scratchy first round performance could reveal a new player raising the Mens trophy in two weeks’ time.
The number one women’s player, 22-year-old Iga Swiatek won the French Open last season but by her standards underperformed at the other slams, not making a semi final. She finished the year hot though, winning in China and not dropping a set at the WTA Finals.
Swiatek has a tricky 1st round against former Aus Open Champion Sofia Kenin today. That will be a good test as Kenin will not go away. Kerber and Svitolina lurk in her section as does the big hitting Jelena Ostapenko. The Brisbane winner, Rybakina is also a potential semi final match up.
The bottom half is less clear cut although US Open Champion Coco Gauff could make a deep run. The Americans’ draw is user friendly although a potential 4th round may happen against 16th seed Caroline Garcia who defeated Naomi Osaka in two tight sets in the 1st round. Sabalenka, Jabeur or even the recently unretired Wozniacki could all make the final through the bottom half.
Storm Hunter had a big first round 1 victory after battling through Qualifying and faces the German Siegemund in a winnable 2nd round.
So, who wins the whole thing? Rybakina routed Sabalenka in the Brisbane final last week. The 24 year old won Wimbledon in 2022 so she knows how to win a Slam and made the final here last season so can play well in these conditions.
I’m picking Elena Rybakina to win her second slam.
Lets go to the men. Novak is human after all in losing a heartbreaker late last season at the Davis Cup to the Italian Sinner and recently to a white-hot Alex de Minaur at the United Cup. These losses will mean something in the locker room in terms of belief for the other players but beating Novak at a slam is a different beast.
After a real tussle against an 18 year old qualifier in the first round Novak plays big serving Aussie Popyrin. Get through that and potential matchups the rest of the way are :
3rd R – Etcheverry/Monfils. 4th R – Shelton/Mannarino. Qtr – Tsitsipas.
Semi – Sinner/Rublev. Final – Alcaraz/Zverev/Medvedev.
The rest of the draw is filled with a few landmines but a firing on all afterburners Djokovic should at least make the semis without expending too much energy from here. That 1st round tussle should be a wake up call.
There are two other very interesting storylines in this draw. After a round 1 win over an injured Milos Raonic last night the recent form of Alex de Minaur suggests he could be a real force deep into the second week. In the last few weeks, he’s defeated Novak, Zverev and Alcaraz at various events and has cracked the top ten for the first time.
His draw has opened up a bit. In the second round he’ll play Arnaldi the Italian. 3rd round Kotov/Cabolli then a potential 4th round against Korda/Rublev/Eubanks. All winnable matches.
If he gets beyond here anything is possible because seemingly the whole country will get behind him.
Carlos Alcaraz is the other fascinating story. Since his Wimbledon triumph he’s been underwhelming and hasn’t won a tournament since. In two appearances at the Australian Open the 20-year-old hasn’t been beyond the 3rd round.
His week one draw is also tricky. Gasquet 1st Round, Evans/Sonego 2nd round, the hot/cold Russian Bublik 3rd Round and Tommy Paul or big serving German Struff in the 4th round.
An in form Alcaraz would get through here without much drama but a couple of 5 setters could come back to haunt him in the second week given his cramping history.
So, who wins the tournament? Djokovic is the obvious choice. Consider this, the 36-year-old has won 12 Slams in just the last six seasons. That’s the same number of slams that greats Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker won combined in their whole careers.
But I’m not picking him to win this Australian Open. This will be the tournament of Jannik Sinner, the Italian. He’s defeated Novak twice in their last three matches and is ready to step up and win a slam. With coach Darren Cahill, who will be whispering sweet nothings in his ear the whole two weeks he will win this Australian Open.