Australian Open 2024 – Ranking the tournament’s top players


The 2024 Australian Open is upon us. It will not feature Rafael Nadal, as we hoped it might, but there’s more than enough to track over the coming fortnight.

It gives us the first episode of the new season of “Novak Djokovic Is Here Until Someone Knocks Him Off His Perch,” after the 36-year-old won the 22nd, 23rd and 24th Grand Slam titles of his career in 2023.

It offers Coco Gauff an encore attempt after she rolled to her first Slam title at the 2023 US Open. It brings us new mother Naomi Osaka’s first Slam match in 16 months. (Another Slam-winning mom, Angelique Kerber, returns after a similar break.)

It also resumes the burgeoning rivalry between Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka, who traded the WTA No. 1 ranking back and forth in 2023. It offers a new chapter for Carlos Alcaraz, who’s looking for his third Slam title before his 21st birthday, and a new breakthrough opportunity for Jannik Sinner, who’s looking for his first at 22.

It resumes the story of American Ben Shelton, the 21-year-old former Florida Gator, who enjoyed an up-and-down first full year on the tour but ended it with a US Open semifinal appearance and his first career ATP title in October.

There’s a lot to follow. Here are 20 players that could make particularly large splashes over two lovely weeks in Melbourne.

Tier 1: Favorites

Novak Djokovic
ESPN BET initial title odds: -110
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 34%

He has won 29 straight Australian Open matches and 35 of his past 36 in Slams. If you want to reach further back, he has gone 66-3 in Slams since the start of 2021. He maintains nearly impossible fitness, and as he has reached his mid-30s, his mental game has lapped the field to a point that he’s almost become better at this age than he was in his physical prime. Among top-50 players, only Stefanos Tsitsipas (69.9%) has won a higher percentage of service points than he has (69.6%) over the past 52 weeks, and only Carlos Alcaraz (42.0%) has won a higher percentage of return points (41.2%).

If we wanted to nitpick, we could point out that Djokovic has gone just 6-3 in his past nine matches, losing to Jannik Sinner in both the ATP Finals and the Davis Cup and to newly minted top-10er Alex de Minaur at the United Cup. But he also thumped Sinner to win the tour finals, and none of these losses were in best-of-fives — not including disqualifications, only Alcaraz, Nadal and Daniil Medvedev have beaten him in one of those going back to the 2019 US Open.

Djokovic dropped a set against dynamic 18-year-old Dino Prizmic in an incredible first-round match, lifting his level in response as he always does (but requiring six match points to finish things off). We’ve seen Djokovic play his way into form in Slams, and until he doesn’t do so, we’ll assume he will again in Melbourne. He remains the favorite, the gold standard, the GOAT, et cetera. This list always starts with him.

Iga Swiatek
ESPN BET initial title odds: +250
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 35%

The indispensable website Tennis Abstract now shares what it calls the Bakery Report, a look at which men men and women have recorded the most 6-0 (bagel) or 6-1 (breadsticks) sets over the last year. Nine players — five women and four men — have recorded between 20-27 of them. That’s a lot. But Iga Swiatek leads the way with 57, more than double anyone else on either tour. When she finds an advantage against you, you’re toast. Or some other baked good.

Swiatek lost her No. 1 ranking to Aryna Sabalenka for much of the fall before winning in Beijing and Cancun, reclaiming the top spot and finishing 2023 on an 11-match winning streak (which she has since extended to 16). She’s the betting favorite on the women’s side, but her odds did shrink after she received an absolutely ridiculous draw. She faces 2020 Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin in the first round and could face 2022 finalist Danielle Collins in the second, Elina Svitolina in the fourth and either Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova, two-time Aussie champ Victoria Azarenka or Iga-conqueror Jelena Ostapenko (against whom she’s 0-4 all time) in the quarters. No. 3 seed Elena Rybakina landed on her half of the draw, too.

Carlos Alcaraz
ESPN BET initial title odds: +320
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 13%

He missed the Australian Open while working his way back from injury, but he still spent much of the season trading the No. 1 ranking with Djokovic. He ran out of gas in the fall, losing five of his last nine matches of 2023 (including two at the tour finals), but he still went 65-12 overall — 2-5 against Djokovic and Jannik Sinner and 63-7 against everyone else. He elected to forego any tuneup tournaments in the hopes of playing his way into form, Djokovic-style, in Melbourne. His game remains a joyous combination of violent and optimistic, and as long as his body holds up, he’s going to have many chances at a first Aussie Open crown. Will that come in 2024?

Aryna Sabalenka
ESPN BET initial title odds: +450
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 12%

While Swiatek’s odds got worse after the draw, Sabalenka’s improved — the only Slam champion she might play before the semifinals is No. 9 seed Barbora Krejcikova in the quarters.

Sabalenka’s game officially came together in 2023 — after evolving all of the other parts of her game as her serve randomly betrayed her in 2022, she rediscovered consistency in her big serve last year and spent a couple of months at No. 1 because of it. She won the Australian Open, reached the final of the US Open and reached the semis of the other two Slams. Even if the US Open was her only appearance in a final over the last eight months of the year, her consistency in an era of deeper and deeper women’s tournament fields was staggering. She’s always there, and hard courts are her best surface. She further proved her own baking credentials with a 6-0, 6-1 blowout of qualifier Ella Seidel in the first round.

Jannik Sinner
ESPN BET initial title odds: +600
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 31%

Considering he has only reached one Slam semifinal in his career, considering he only made it past the fourth round in one of four last year, and considering his lengthy list of nagging injuries and fitness issues through the years, it might be too aggressive to put Sinner in this Favorites tier. His résumé pretty much screams “Tier 2” at this moment. But let’s get aggressive. If anyone is capable of making the Tier 1 leap this year, it’s the 22-year-old who indeed beat Djokovic twice late in 2023 and has taken four of his past six against Alcaraz. Mastering best-of-fives is basically the last hurdle he has to clear, and he’s still young enough to clear it.

Coco Gauff
ESPN BET initial title odds: +700
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 19%

The betting odds certainly paint Gauff as a Tier 2 contender as well, but there’s nothing second-tier about what Gauff has done over the past six months. She won 24 of 26 matches at one point in the summer and fall, she beat Sabalenka to take the US Open in September, she has lost only to Swiatek (whom she also beat for the first time in Cincinnati) and Jessica Pegula since Wimbledon, and she won her tuneup tournament in Auckland as well. She could be a Tier 1 contender, or very close to it, in every Slam she enters for the next decade.

Tier 2: Primary hopefuls

Elena Rybakina
ESPN BET initial title odds: +550
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 8%

Rybakina has evolved into one of the most upset-proof players in the sport. Over the last year she’s gone 20-11 against top-25 players (good in its own right) and 32-3 against everyone else, and one of those losses came via injury retirement. She lost in three sets to Sabalenka in the Australian Open final last year, and she blew out Sabalenka 6-0, 6-3 in Brisbane in early January.

Daniil Medvedev
ESPN BET initial title odds: +800
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 10%

The 27-year-old from Russia is one of the only active players to have beaten Djokovic in a best-of-five, and as his US Open final run — which featured a pretty straightforward win over Alcaraz in the semis — reminds us, he’s a major threat in any hard-court Slam he enters. Three fall losses to Sinner felt like a bit of a hierarchy shift, but his “human backboard with a huge serve” combo remains impenetrable for most.

Jessica Pegula
ESPN BET initial title odds: +2000
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 8%

She has reached the quarterfinals of five of her past eight Slams, and she has been in the WTA top five for the past 15 months. We’re still waiting for prime Pegula to show up in 2024 — she has played four matches, three went to three sets, and she was upset by Katie Boulter in the United Cup — but her three appearances in finals in the fall (Tokyo, Seoul, Cancun) aren’t that far in the rearview. Landing in the same quarter as Rybakina and the fast-rising Zheng Qinwen did not do her any favors here.

Others: Holger Rune (No. 8 seed, three-time Slam quarterfinalist), Casper Ruud (No. 11 seed, three-time Slam finalist)

Tier 3: Good start to 2024

Alexander Zverev
ESPN BET initial title odds: +2800
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 3%

The 2020 US Open finalist slowly rounded into form last year, following his gruesome 2022 ankle injury, and he enters the Australian Open having won four of his past five matches against top-10 opponents.

Grigor Dimitrov
ESPN BET initial title odds:+3300
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 2%

Now 32, Dimitrov hasn’t reached a Slam semifinal since the 2019 US Open, but he’s in his best form in ages. He’s 15-3 since October, and he won 10 straight sets (including two against Holger Rune) to win the Brisbane tuneup.

Andrey Rublev
ESPN BET initial title odds: +4000
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 2%

The 26-year-old Rublev has basically been the Pegula of the men’s tour of late, having reached the quarterfinals in five of his past six Slams and eight of 13. A further breakthrough remains elusive — and his first-round performance against Thiago Seyboth Wild, which required a win in a fifth-set tiebreaker after Rublev blew a two-set lead, was uninspiring — but he’s only now working through his prime athletic years.

Mirra Andreeva
ESPN BET initial title odds: +2500
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 0.2%

The sportsbooks are probably being a bit aggressive here — she’s tied for the seventh-best odds — but the 16-year-old went 39-10 in 2023, entered the top 50 in October and has gone 5-5 all-time against top-20 opponents. She’s going to make a Slam run at some point soon.

Alex de Minaur
ESPN BET initial title odds: +3300
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 0.6%

The 24-year-old Aussie has gone 8-9 against top-10 opponents over the past year and beat Djokovic in the United Cup; his upside is clear, and a run of more consistent results allowed him to enter the ATP top 10 for the first time this month.

Others: Jelena Ostapenko (6-1 in 2024, Adelaide finalist), Maria Sakkari (3-0 in 2024 after a solid fall), Jack Draper and Jiri Lehecka (Adelaide finalists), Elise Mertens and Emma Navarro (Hobart finalists), Linda Noskova (Brisbane semifinalist)

Tier 4: Only need a few breaks

Zheng Qinwen
ESPN BET initial title odds: +2500
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 3%

After reaching her first Slam quarterfinal at the US Open, the 21-year-old from China reached two tour finals last fall, beating Ostapenko and Sakkari among others. She entered this year in the top 15, and she has the game to stay there a while.

Ons Jabeur
ESPN BET initial title odds: +2500
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 2%

Due in part to injuries, Jabeur’s form was all over the map in 2023. But she has still made the final of three of her past six Slams, and she has mastered the art of building momentum over the course of a fortnight. If she can get past Andreeva in the second round, she could go a long way.

Ben Shelton
ESPN BET initial title odds: +5000
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 0.1%

Over the past year, the 21-year-old has gone 18-22 in best-of-three matches … and 10-4 in best-of-fives, including 9-2 in the two hard-court Slams. Building consistency is the goal for 2024, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Melbourne again brought out his best.

Others: Stefanos Tsitsipas (No. 7 seed, 2023 Australian Open finalist, battling back injury), Marketa Vondrousova (No. 7 seed, 2023 Wimbledon champ), Barbora Krejcikova (No. 9 seed, two finals in the fall), Hubert Hurkacz (No. 9 seed, two finals in the fall), Beatriz Haddad Maia (No. 10 seed, 2023 French Open semifinalist), Taylor Fritz (No. 12 seed, 36-13 on hard courts in the last year), Daria Kasatkina (No. 14 seed), Karen Khachanov (No. 15 seed, 2023 Aussie Open semifinalist), Veronika Kudermetova (No. 15 seed, 2021 Wimbledon finalist), Caroline Garcia (No. 16 seed, 2022 US Open semifinalist), Frances Tiafoe (No. 17 seed, 2022 US Open semifinalist), Nicolas Jarry (No. 18 seed, three top-10 wins since May), Elina Svitolina (No. 19 seed, three-time Slam semifinalist), Ugo Humbert (No. 21 seed, 16-5 since the US Open), Leylah Fernandez (No. 32 seed, 16-4 since September)

Tier 5: Melbourne’s been good to them

Naomi Osaka
ESPN BET initial title odds: +2500
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 0.0%

The four-time Slam champion returned to the tour earlier in January, winning one match and going three sets with Karolina Pliskova in Brisbane. It’s probably a bit much to ask her to make a huge run in her first Slam back — especially after drawing Caroline Garcia in the first round — but … damn, can she still strike a tennis ball.

Victoria Azarenka
ESPN BET initial title odds: +5000
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 0.3%

The two-time Aussie champion is 3-1 in 2024, having beaten Ostapenko and lost to Sabalenka in Brisbane. Her game is growing more one-dimensional (her hold percentages are going up, her break percentages down), but at 34, she still trades blows with just about anyone.

Andy Murray
ESPN BET initial title odds: x
Tennis Abstract initial odds: 0.0%

The 36-year-old made the Australian Open final five times between 2010 and 2016 but never took home the title. He probably won’t in 2024 either — even if he gets rolling, Djokovic likely awaits in the third round — but it has been fun watching him continue to grind at a top-50 level with a resurfaced hip.

Others: Sofia Kenin (2020 champion), Caroline Wozniacki (2018 champion), Angelique Kerber (2016 champion), Stan Wawrinka (2014 champion), Danielle Collins (2022 finalist), Dominic Thiem (2020 finalist), Tommy Paul (2023 semifinalist), Donna Vekic (2023 quarterfinalist), Sebastian Korda (2023 quarterfinalist), Aslan Karatsev (2021 semifinalist), Karolina Pliskova (2019 semifinalist), Marin ili (2018 finalist), Elise Mertens (2018 semifinalist)

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