Tennis

Down Under: 2024 Australian Open Preview and Best Bets

The first Grand Slam of tennis season gets going this weekend. Check out the favorites, intriguing dark horses, and our picks to win.

January 10, 2024

Main draw play at the Australian Open begins January 14 in Melbourne, but it will still be Saturday, January 13 here in the U.S. when the tennis tournament gets underway. The first Grand Slam of 2024 will offer an opportunity for established stars to add to their legacies or up-and-comers to announce their arrival as contenders on the biggest stage.

The top men’s and women’s singles title hopefuls at the Australian Open are listed below, along with their odds from Tipico Sportsbook:

Men

Novak Djokovic (+105) remains the man to beat at age 36, especially at the Australian Open. He won his 10th Australian Open title last year as part of a 2023 campaign in which he captured three of the four Grand Slams to enter 2024 firmly entrenched as the world No. 1. Djokovic lost to Alex de Minaur in the lead-up to the Australian Open and complained about a wrist injury, but while that turn of events gives the rest of the field a bit more hope, remember we’re talking about someone who won this tournament while playing through a hamstring tear last year.

Carlos Alcaraz (+310) is the biggest threat to Djokovic’s title hopes down under, and the 20-year-old Spaniard is healthy heading into the 2024 Australian Open after missing last year’s edition due to a hamstring injury. He handed Djokovic his first loss at Wimbledon since 2017 at last year’s final, and if they meet up in the final here, Alcaraz would be looking to become the first man to beat Djokovic at the Australian Open since 2018. With a 2022 US Open title under his belt to go with his 2023 Wimbledon crown, Alcaraz has proven himself at the biggest stage on multiple surfaces, and it’s possible 2024 will be the year he nudges ahead of Djokovic for good.

Jannik Sinner (+620) and Alcaraz have already played some classics against each other in their young careers, but it took the 22-year-old Italian a while to finally claim a win over Djokovic. He beat Djokovic twice in the indoor hard-court season to close out 2023, getting that monkey off his back ahead of a 2024 campaign in which Sinner will look to break through to his first Grand Slam final. Sinner will be the No. 4 seed in this tournament.

Daniil Medvedev (+850) is seeded third after Djokovic and Alcaraz. The lanky Russian will likely be a factor deep into the second week here as usual. Prior to losing in the third round last year, Medvedev made back-to-back finals down under. He has also played in three of the last five US Open finals at the other hard-court Grand Slam, including a triumph over Djokovic in the 2021 US Open championship match for Medvedev’s only Grand Slam title to date.

There’s a big drop-off after the top four to the tier of secondary contenders, which consists of Alexander Zverev (+2500), Holger Rune (+2500) and Stefanos Tsitsipas (+3000). Zverev and Rune have both notched big wins over Djokovic in their careers, though not at Grand Slams. The 26-year-old German has two wins over Djokovic at the ATP Finals, one at a Masters 1000, and one at the Olympics in 2021, where Zverev went on to take gold. He peaked at No. 2 in the rankings in 2022 and is seeded sixth here.

Rune’s 2-3 against Djokovic, and the 20-year-old Norwegian is the No. 8 seed after an up-and-down 2023 season that showed he has massive potential but some maturing to do both physically and mentally. Tsitsipas reached the final here last year and has made three additional Australian Open semifinals, making this the most successful Grand Slam for the 25-year-old Athens native, who is seeded No. 7. All three of these guys come in well ahead of No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev (+6000), who has a 0-9 career record in Grand Slam quarterfinals.

Sebastian Korda (+8000) is a sleeper to watch. The 23-year-old American upset Medvedev here last year and seemed to be tracking toward a breakout season before a wrist injury derailed his campaign. Korda finally rounded back into form late in 2023, reaching his first Masters semifinal in Shanghai in October. Korda’s well-rounded game and shotmaking ability make the No. 29 seed someone top players don’t want to see in their section of the draw. He also has fond memories here, having won the 2018 junior Australian Open title. His family has championship pedigree to boot, as Korda’s father Petr won the 1998 Australian Open and his sister Nelly is in the top five in the LPGA golf rankings.

Men’s title pick

Novak Djokovic – It will likely come down to Djokovic vs. Alcaraz again, and this is the only one of the four Grand Slams in which that matchup should still tilt slightly in Djokovic’s favor.

Women

Iga Swiatek (+225) saw her reign as the world No. 1 end after 75 weeks at the US Open. That may have been a blessing in disguise, as it seemed to take pressure off the 22-year-old Pole, who reclaimed the top spot with a dominant performance in the WTA Finals. Swiatek plays her best tennis on slower surfaces, having won the French Open three times and one title at the US Open, where the hard courts play slower than those at the Australian Open. She made the semifinals here in 2022, and while Swiatek is the clear favorite compared to any other individual, she’s also a clear underdog relative to the rest of the field.

Aryna Sabalenka (+520) won her only Grand Slam title to date at the 2023 Australian Open, so it remains to be seen how she handles defending a major title for the first time. The 25-year-old Belarusian’s powerful game fits this surface perfectly, and Sabalenka was the most consistent Grand slam performer last year, reaching two semifinals and the US Open final to go with her title down under. That strong play in the biggest tournaments allowed her to briefly unseat Swiatek atop the WTA rankings, and Sabalenka heads into this tournament as the No. 2 seed.

Elena Rybakina (+520) has arguably the best serve on the WTA Tour and power off both wings to back it up. The 2022 Wimbledon champion reached the Australian Open final last year, beating Swiatek along the way as part of a 2023 campaign in which Rybakina went 3-0 against the world No. 1. Rybakina had some back problems in the second half of 2023, but the No. 3 seed looks fully healthy to begin 2024, as she won the Brisbane International tune-up tournament in dominant fashion, beating Sabalenka in the final while losing no more than five games in any match.

Coco Gauff (+720) captured her first Grand Slam title at the 2023 US Open, announcing her arrival among the WTA’s elite. The American doesn’t turn 20 until March, so she still has plenty of time to improve her game, but Gauff’s unconventional forehand has broken down at times against players who can hit big to that side. The forehand isn’t as much of an issue on clay or slower hard courts, but that and a vulnerable second serve have kept Gauff from making deep runs at the Australian Open or Wimbledon, as she has yet to reach the quarterfinals of either tournament. Even so, Gauff’s defensive abilities and momentum have the No. 4 seed closer to the top three than to the rest of the field.

Jessica Pegula (+1500) is like the women’s counterpart to Rublev, and not just because they are both seeded No. 5. She’s also winless in Grand Slam quarterfinals, with an 0-6 record that includes three consecutive quarterfinal losses at the Australian Open. Interestingly enough, the Buffalo Bills — who are owned by Pegula’s parents — have gone 0-4 in the Super Bowl, though those losses occurred before the Pegulas took over ownership of the team.

Naomi Osaka (+1700) is back on tour after giving birth to her first child in the summer. The lengthy layoff has dropped her ranking outside the top 800, so Osaka could face anybody in the early rounds. She won the Australian Open in 2019 and 2021 but had a 2-3 record in Grand Slams in 2022 prior to sitting out all four majors in 2023. The four-time Grand Slam champion has elite offensive skills and her poor movement is best masked on hard courts. Overcoming any additional decline in mobility post-pregnancy will be tough for the 26-year-old, given that it was already a substantial weakness. Given her lack of match play, Osaka’s chances seem overstated at her current odds unless she gets a surprisingly comfortable draw.

Ons Jabeur (+2000) and Mirra Andreeva (+2000) round out the list of top contenders. They have the same odds but vastly different resumes. Jabeur’s a three-time Grand Slam finalist, though her slice-heavy game works best on grass. The No. 6 seed is just 7-6 at the Australian Open in her career, with four of those wins coming during Jabeur’s 2020 run to the quarterfinals. Andreeva’s unseeded, and her chances of a title seem overstated in her first Australian Open main draw appearance. The sky’s the limit long-term for the 16-year-old Russian, who has a 6-3 career record in Grand Slams — but stringing together seven strong matches is a lot to ask at this point.

Linda Noskova (+8000) is another teenager capable of putting together a deep run. She’s ranked four spots below Andreeva at No. 51, but the Czech 19-year-old just beat the Russian 16-year-old head-to-head in Brisbane before losing to Rybakina. Noskova will be making her first Australian Open appearance and has yet to get past the second round at a Grand Slam, but she demonstrated her potential by beating two top-12 players on the hard courts of Cincinnati in August, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if Noskova made a move into the top 20 in 2024. The buy-low window could slam shut rapidly.

Women’s title pick

Elena Rybakina – Rybakina is a strong head-to-head play against Swiatek, and her recent win over Sabalenka should give her confidence if they match up later in the tournament. She’s one of the few WTA players with the luxury of having a serve that can bail her out of trouble if the going gets tough in earlier rounds.

Sasha Yodashkin
Sasha Yodashkin has been contributing NFL, NHL, NBA, MLB and Tennis content to RotoWire since 2015, with an emphasis on DFS. He is a huge New York sports fan who has been playing fantasy sports since middle school.
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