Australian Open preview: All eyes on Novak Djokovic and Emma Raducanu

Novak Djokovic is attempting to win a record-extending 11th title (Picture: Getty/Metro)

Novak Djokovic was a winning machine last year and you’d be forgiven for mistaking him for a genuine robot.

But Wimbledon taught us that the 36-year-old is indeed human.

Djokovic looked unstoppable before the Championships having secured the first two Grand Slam titles of the year at the Australian Open and Roland-Garros.

The Serbian has dominated SW19 for the last decade and went into the most recent final as the favourite against young talent Carlos Alcaraz – but his superpowers wared off – and his cloak of invincibility was shattered in defeat.

Many saw it as a changing of the guard. Djokovic, though, put that myth to bed as he came roaring back in Cincinnati, beating Alcaraz in the final to secure revenge and he went on to clinch the US Open as he retook the world No.1 spot.

His New York triumph marked a 24th Grand Slam title for Djokovic – who now has won the most major singles trophies of any male or female player in the Open Era – and he stands alongside Margaret Court for the most in the history of the sport.

The last task for Djokovic is to make it 25 to move past Court and cement his status as the greatest tennis player of all time. But is there anyone who can stop him? Metro.co.uk takes a look at both the men’s and women’s singles as the 2024 Australian Open gets underway at Melbourne Park on Sunday.

Who can stop Djokovic?

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Novak Djokovic lifted three of the four Grand Slam trophies in 2023 (Picture: Getty)

Novak Djokovic has lifted the Australian Open trophy a record 10 times but there are a pool of elite players as well as a few dark horses who will fancy themselves as contenders for the men’s singles title this year.

The most obvious candidate is of course world No.2 Carlos Alcaraz. The 20-year-old is tipped to dominate tennis for the next decade, has already beaten Djokovic in a major final and has registered two Grand Slam titles to date.

Melbourne Park could be set to host the latest instalment of the Djokovic-Alcaraz rivalry if the two stars meet late into the tournament, with the Spaniard out for revenge after two losses to his Serbian foe since their epic Wimbledon final.

2024 Australian Open: Previews

Carlos Alcaraz is most obvious candidate to stop Novak Djokovic (Picture: Getty)

There is added incentive for Alcaraz, too, with the young star able to regain the world No.1 spot if he walks away with the trophy. He was unable to play the Grand Slam event last year through injury and will look to put things right in 2024.

World No.3 Daniil Medvedev cannot be discounted, either. The Russian has been in two of the last three Australian Open finals and is keen to add a second Grand Slam trophy to his collection after beating Djokovic in the 2021 US Open final.

The 27-year-old excels on the hard courts. All five of his major final appearances have come on the surface and last year he won titles in Miami, Dubai, Qatar and Rotterdam.

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Daniil Medvedev has been in two of the last three Australian Open finals (Picture: Getty)

Medvedev also reached the finals of the China Open, Vienna Open and Indian Wells – showcasing just how hard he is to beat on hard courts – and Djokovic will have to be at his very best to overcome the Moscow-born star.

Another player to keep an eye on is Jannik Sinner. The Italian, who will once again be followed by his beloved Carota Boys, was superb in the second half of 2023, winning three titles at hard-court events, including at the Canadian Open.

Sinner beat Djokovic twice in November – once in the group stage at the ATP Finals and again at the Davis Cup – and the 22-year-old is desperate to land his maiden Grand Slam title which has so far eluded him.

2024 Kooyong Classic - Day 1

Jannik Sinner produced two wins over Novak Djokovic in November (Picture: Getty)

The world No.4 produced his greatest run at a major tournament last year, reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals, and he has already inspired a number of younger players on the ATP Tour including British star Jack Draper.

‘Out of anyone, I have been most impressed with Sinner,’ Draper told Metro.co.uk last month. ‘He seems like a really good guy. He’s achieved so much at the back end of last year and his hard work is paying off.’

Other dark horses to watch out for include German world No.6 Alexander Zverev as well as Australian world No.10 Alex de Minaur, who will be cheered on by a passionate home crowd as he seeks to continue his stellar form.

What can we expect from Raducanu?

Emma Raducanu of Great Britain plays a forehand return to Elina Svitolina of Ukraine at the ASB Tennis Classic in Auckland, New Zealand, Thursday, Jan. 4, 2024. (David Rowland/Photosport via AP)

Emma Raducanu will make her first Grand Slam appearance in 12 months (Picture: AP)

To put it bluntly, do not set your expectations for Emma Raducanu too high.

The British star is once again trying to shrug off niggling injury issues which forced her withdrawal from two exhibition matches ahead of the Australian Open, although it is thought she is merely being cautious after such a long time away.

Injury problems decimated Raducanu’s season in 2023 and the Australian Open will be just her second tournament back from wrist and ankle surgery. She is currently world No.299 and only narrowly avoided qualifying thanks to her protected ranking after a number of other stars withdrew from the tournament.

Of course, it would be foolish to write off a player who broke into the world top 10 in 2022 and sensationally won the US Open as a qualifier the year before, but her chances of going far depend on her knocking out some big names and producing some of her very best performances, which will be a huge ask.

The ‘Big Three’ of world No.1 Iga Swiatek, defending champion Aryna Sabalenka and last year’s runner-up Elena Rybakina are among the favourites for the women’s singles title but world No.4 Coco Gauff will also fancy her chances after registering her maiden Grand Slam trophy at Flushing Meadows last year.

While Swiatek has only ever reached the semi-finals at Melbourne Park, her triumph in New York two years ago showed her ability to win a Grand Slam title on the hard courts, and she ended 2023 on a high with titles in Beijing and Cancun before winning all five of her matches at the WTA Finals in straight sets.

2024 United Cup - Sydney: Day 9

World No.1 Iga Swiatek heads into the women’s singles as the favourite (Picture: Getty)

Sabalenka, though, is the only player to have reached the semi-finals in each of the last five Grand Slams and 11 of her 13 WTA Tour titles have come on the hard courts. Meanwhile, Rybakina and Gauff have already made strong starts to year with titles in Auckland and Brisbane respectively.

Another interesting player to watch out for is four-time major champion Naomi Osaka. The Japanese star returned to WTA action earlier this month following the birth of her daughter in July and she is set for a fascinating battle against 16th-seed Caroline Garcia in the first round.

Elsewhere, British No.1 Katie Boulter is bidding to reach the fourth round of a Grand Slam for the first time ever having reached the third round at Wimbledon and the US Open last year, marking her best major performances to date.


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