2024 Australian Open preview

January 14, 2024
The Australian Open — tennis’ first Grand Slam of the year — began in Melbourne last night, so today, we’re serving up all you need to know as the tourney continues.
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2024 Australian Open preview
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📗 The history

Aerial view of crowded stands at Kooyong Stadium in 1953.
Source: Fairfax Media via Getty Images/Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images

The first iteration of the Australian Open dates back more than a century — the first tournament for men was held in 1905 and the first for women in 1922, both run by the Lawn Tennis Association of Australasia.

  • In 1927, the tournament was renamed the Australian Championships, before becoming the Australian Open in 1969. Initially played across multiple major Aussie cities, Melbourne was eventually named the lone annual host in 1972.

The Open struggled to find its footing in the early years. Because Australia is just so dang far away, many international players resisted competing Down Under. While the other three major tourneys — Wimbledon, the French Open, and the U.S. Open — had distinct, long-standing identities, the Aussie Open’s renaissance really began in the 1990s.

  • Then-director Paul McNamee made it his mission to put the event on equal footing with its Northern Hemisphere counterparts, saying, “We needed to be ourselves, which was a sun-drenched nation that needs to have a big casual outdoor party.”
  • And party they did. The Aussie Open now draws in the biggest names in tennis and the largest attendance of all the Grand Slams. Swiss legend Roger Federer even nicknamed the tournament the “Happy Slam.” You can’t help but smile.

✔️ The details

Aerial view of Rod Laver Arena during the 2022 Australian Open.
Source: James D. Morgan/Getty Images

Now for the nitty gritty. On Thursday, 256 combined men’s and women’s singles players (along with 128 combined doubles pairs) were drawn. Those athletes will play four single-elimination opening rounds leading up to the quarter-finals which begin on January 23rd.

  • It all comes down to the finals which are set for January 27th for women’s singles and 28th for men’s singles, local time.

As for the playing surface, while the Open was originally played on grass, it’s been held on hardcourts since 1988 and on Melbourne Park’s signature Australian Open True Blue since 2008.

Let’s talk money. The Aussie Open’s total prize pot comes in at a record $86.5 million Australian dollars (about $58 million USD), with each singles champion banking $3.15 million Australian dollars (about $2.1 million USD). Not too shabby.

💪 Women to watch

Coco Gauff plays a backhand.
Source: Phil Walter/Getty Images

🇵🇱 No. 1 Iga Świątek: After crashing out of the 2023 U.S. Open, Świątek took time to rest and recover before smashing back with a WTA Finals win to close out 2023 and regain the top spot. Now, the four-time major champ is seeking her first Australian Open, having made her best-ever run to the semis in 2022.

🏅 No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka: After reaching at least the semis in all four 2023 slams, the Belarusian briefly held the world’s No. 1 spot — until the aforementioned Świątek’s grand comeback. Now she returns to Melbourne as the defending champ, armed with a new and improved serve. Watch out.

🇺🇲 No. 4 Coco Gauff: Fresh off claiming her first Grand Slam at the 2023 U.S. Open, Gauff defended her ASB Classic title in New Zealand earlier this month with a come-from-behind victory that has seriously boosted the 19-year-old’s self-confidence. With a world of support behind her, the teen has never looked more prepared.

🇨🇦 No. 36 Leylah Annie Fernandez: Canada’s lone ranked woman competitor, Fernandez looks to capitalize off her home country’s 2023 Billie Jean King Cup win in December, the cherry on top of a late-season comeback for the 2021 U.S. Open runner-up.

🇯🇵 Naomi Osaka: The four-time Grand Slam champ is making her first major appearance since the 2022 U.S. Open, just six months after giving birth to her daughter, Shai. Osaka, who holds two Australian Open titles, won her opening match at the Brisbane International earlier this month. Moms really can do it all.

🇩🇰 Caroline Wozniacki: Another former champion Down Under, Wozniacki returned to the game from an early retirement before the 2023 U.S. Open and is on a seriously impressive run following a three-year hiatus from competitive tennis. Don’t call it a comeback.

👊 Men to watch

Novak Djokovic plays a charity match ahead of the 2024 Australian Open.
Source: Chris Putnam/Future Publishing via Getty Images

🇷🇸 No. 1 Novak Djokovic: With 24 major wins, Djokovic is currently tied with Margaret Court for most Grand Slam singles titles ever — but that’s a record The Joker wants all to himself. Expect him to viciously defend his 2023 Aussie championship on the blue courts, even with a wrist injury.

🇪🇸 No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz: A rising star with two major titles to his name, Alcaraz was the only player to defeat Djokovic in a Grand Slam final last year, triumphing as the 2023 Wimbledon champ. If anyone has a chance of spoiling The Joker’s Golden Slam plans, it’s this young Spainard.

🇮🇹 No. 4 Jannik Sinner: The 22-year-old is heading into 2024 on a serious run of form, leading Italy to their first Davis Cup win since 1976. Firing on all cylinders, this could be the year the up-and-comer makes his deepest major run yet.

🇺🇲 No. 17 Frances Tiafoe: Armed with a new coach and dressed to the nines, next-gen star Tiafoe is one of the U.S.’s best hopes to break the 20-year men’s Grand Slam drought. Come for the serves, stay for the serves.

🇨🇦 No. 27 Félix Auger-Aliassime: The only seeded Canadian man, the pressure’s on Auger-Aliassime to perform, especially following an inconsistent and injury-plagued 2023 campaign. Can he start off 2024 on the right foot?

🇬🇧 Andy Murray: Women’s sports enthusiast Murray is unseeded and unswayed, hoping that, beyond defying expectations, he won’t have to pull any all-nighters in Melbourne this time around. And with his first win of the season in his pocket, the veteran Brit is feeling good.

🎥 How to watch

AO logo at the 2020 Australian Open.
Source: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

The Open first round resumes tonight at 7 p.m. ET. If you’re following the action from North America, tune in to ESPN in the U.S. and TSN in Canada.

  • And if your 2024 resolution was to read more, you can browse all the live updates here. Game, set, match.