05/03/2024

The Australian Open is upon us and Melbourne is buzzing as 256 tennis hopefuls converge at Melbourne Park to compete for the first Grand Slam title of the year.

The sun will be shining, and the masses of fans will be flocking in to get a piece of the action and cheer on our Australian contingent as well as some of the world’s best.

Here’s how the draw looks for all the Australian players in this year’s tournament.

Men’s Draw

Alex de Minaur

First-Round match-up: v Milos Raonic (CAN)

Australia’s number-one ranked player will be looking to have a big home Grand Slam when he takes to the court on night two at Rod Laver Arena.

De Minaur, who recently reached the top 10 for the first time, comes into the Australian Open in great form, having defeated world number one Novak Djokovic as well as Carlos Alcaraz, Alexander Zverev and Taylor Fritz to start the 2024 season.

However, the Demon faces a tricky first-round matchup against big-serving Canadian and former world number three Milos Raonic. As long as De Minaur can counteract Raonic’s mountainous serve and move the big man around the court, he will be confident of coming away with a victory.

De Minaur shapes as Australia’s great hope this Australian Open.

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Alexei Popyrin

First-Round match-up: v Marc Polmans (AUS)

The big-hitting Aussie faces compatriot and good friend Marc Polmans in the opening round of the Australian Open.

Approaching his career-high ranking of 39, Popyrin currently sits at number 43 and will be eager to push that higher in the year ahead.

He will look to better his third-round appearances at the Australian Open which he has achieved on three occasions and shapes as a smoky to potentially push into the second week of the tournament.

Possessing a strong, reliable serve and deadly forehand, the 24-year-old will fancy his chances against fellow Australian Polmans. They have met each other on just one occasion with Popyrin proving too strong.

Jason Kubler

First-Round match-up: v Daniel Elahi Galan (COL)

After being touted as a rising star of the future as a junior coming through the ranks, Kubler has since endured a horrible run of injuries, culminating in a total of six knee surgeries due to a hereditary knee condition.

The injuries have plagued a large part of Kubler’s career after the 30-year-old reached the world number one junior ranking and drew comparisons to the great Rafael Nadal as a teenager.

In the last few years, Kubler has been able to shrug off his injury struggles, resulting in reaching a career-high ranking of number 63 in early 2023. His success saw him make a breakout fourth-round appearance at Wimbledon in 2022. His best result at Melbourne Park was a second-round showing last year, but he will be looking to improve on that result.

A talented player, the Queenslander faces a very winnable first-round match against the 89th-ranked Daniel Elahi Galan of Colombia. He is a far better player than his second-round showing suggests, and tennis fans from all over the country will be hoping he can go one better this year.

Jason Kubler will be hoping to us beyond his best Australian open appearance, a second-round effort in 2023. Credit Keith Allison, Creative Commons License, Wikimedia Commons

 Jordan Thompson

First-round match-up: v Alexander Vukic (AUS)

Jordan Thompson bleeds yellow and black and will be looking for a breakout Australian Open campaign when it all kicks off on Sunday.

He will be faced with the mentally challenging task of facing fellow Australian Alexander Vukic, a player he has had hitting practice with on many occasions before.

Both players should know each other’s game well, with the two being relatively evenly matched on paper. Like many of his fellow counterparts, ‘Thomo’ has struggled at his home slam, only making it to the second round since joining the tour in 2013.

Thompson comes into the match in good form, having made a run in previous weeks at the Brisbane International. He made the semi-finals to kick off the 2024 season and defeated champion Spaniard Rafael Nadal in the process.

He will be looking to push further than his previous best showing at this year’s tournament.

Thanasi Kokkinakis

First-Round match-up: v Sebastian Ofner (AUST)

After showing his talents on the doubles court with best mate Nick Kyrgios, Kokkinakis is keen to make his mark at the Australian Open on the singles court.

The 27-year-old has faced injury battles, limiting the extremely talented big man from being at his best. He hasn’t had the best start to 2024 but will be keen to rectify that at his home slam.

His ranking currently sits in the 80s, but he will almost certainly push that higher if he stays injury-free. The second round has also proved a roadblock for Kokkinakis, making it there on four occasions.

He will face a tough test against the 37th-ranked Sebastian Ofner, who possesses similar weapons to Kokkinakis in a clash that looks set to produce some massive hitting.

If he can get through the first encounter it will hold the Australian in good stead to be able to push deeper at Melbourne Park.

Rinky Hijikata

First-Round match-up: v Jan Lennard Stuff (24th seed) – GER

The young Australian has experienced a whirlwind few years, having been ranked outside the top 300 in 2022. At just 22 years old and currently sitting 70th in the world, Hijikata took his game to new heights in 2023 with an impressive fourth-round showing at the US Open while qualifying for some of the biggest tournaments on the ATP circuit.

The Australian Open has proved to be a happy hunting ground for Hijikata, taking home the doubles title with partner Jason Kubler last year. He faces a tough first-round match-up against the powerful Lennard-Struff, but it is a challenge that the young Australian won’t shy away from.

Don’t be surprised if he takes a few scalps this Australian Open as Hijikata strives for his best in front of his home crowd.

Rinky Hijikata has enjoyed a rapid rise in the rankings over the past year and looks set to challenge strongly as part of the Australian contingent at this year’s Australian Open. Credit: Hameltion, Creative Commons License, Wikimedia Commons

Aleksandar Vukic

First-round match-up: v Jordan Thompson (AUS)

Vukic will meet with compatriot Thompson in what should be a tightly contested first round. Vukic has had an amazing rise into the top 100 after a long journey battling away on the Challenger and Futures tennis circuit. 

Despite being somewhat inexperienced at ATP tour level, the 27-year-old pushed to a ranking as high as 48 in early 2023 and currently sits at 63.

He will battle good friend Thompson with the pair having practiced on occasions both being from Sydney. It will be an intriguing contest as Vukic attempts to reach the second round for just the second time.

Chris O’Connell

First-Round match-up: v Cristian Garin (CHIL)

O’Connell has had a breakout past few years after long struggling to crack the world’s top 100 players. He currently sits at number 71 and comes into the Australian Open in good form with a quarter-final appearance at the Adelaide International last week.

He faces Cristian Garin in a match that is very much a winning possibility for a player of O’Connell’s skill. The pair have met on two occasions with Garin winning both times.

The 29-year-old made the third round of the Australian Open back in 2022 in an equal-best career Grand Slam result. He long suffered injury troubles but has look to put those tough times behind him in a quest to push into the world’s top 50 players.

Marc Polmans

First-Round match-up: v Alexei Popyrin (AUS)

Polmans is a wildcard entrant in this year’s Australian Open and will take on fellow countryman Alexei Popyrin to try and secure a place in the second round.

The 26-year-old currently sits just outside the top 150 but will push strongly for a top 100 debut this season.

Polmans has had good preparation for the tournament and got exposure facing some of the world’s best in Jannick Sinner, recently playing at the Kooyong Classic.

He will look to push beyond the first round for the second time at Melbourne Park.

Adam Walton

First-Round match-up: v Matteo Arnaldi (ITLY)

Walton received a wildcard into this year’s Australian Open and will make his Grand Slam debut on Sunday.

After spending the previous five years at college in America, the 24-year-old went professional in 2022 winning his first ATP Challenger Tour title and propelling his ranking into the top 200.

He currently sits at number 176 in the world and comes into the Open in great form, having qualified for the Adelaide International last week.

Before last week he had never beaten a player ranked in the top 100, but went on to defeat two players in that bracket in as many days.

James McCabe

First-Round match-up: v Alex Michelsen (USA)

The 20-year-old big-serving Aussie was one of six Australian players to receive a wildcard into this year’s Australian Open.

He currently sits at number 278 in the world while in the early stages of his professional tennis career. The Philippian-born McCabe will take on American youngster Alex Michelsen in what serves as a good opportunity to potentially grab his first Grand Slam victory.

The match will also mark McCabe’s debut Grand Slam singles match, having had a taste for the Australian summer in doubles and mixed doubles in previous years. He’s made two ITF finals and will certainly be one to watch in the future.

Dane Sweeny

First-Round match-up: v Francisco Cerundolo (22nd seed) – ARG

Dane Sweeny took out some solid scalps on his way to qualifying for the main draw. He defeated 13th seed Italian Luca Nardi and 22nd seed Zizou Bergs in impressive fashion.

This will be the 22-year-old’s Grand Slam main-draw debut where he will face an imposing task in Cerundolo.

He plays in a very similar way to Alex de Minaur, with his speed and grit able to keep him in points even when he looks dead and buried.

Many people in the tennis world have compared him to De Minaur and think he can have somewhat of a similar impact on the circuit in the future.

Whether Sweeny wins or loses, his debut slam will be one to remember and a learning experience as he tries to further his achievements. He currently sits outside the world’s top 250 but will be much higher in no time if recent form is anything to go off.

James Duckworth

First-Round matchup v Luca Van Assche (FRA)

Duckworth could be considered somewhat of a veteran now, but that hasn’t slowed him down with the 31-year-old playing some of the best tennis of his career.

After peaking at number 46 in the world in 2022, the Sydney sider dipped outside the top 100 before recently clawing his way back inside to sit at number 96.

Duckworth takes on 19-year-old Van Assche in a match-up where the Aussies experience could prove telling on the big stage. On paper this game looks a genuine 50/50, but the 31-year-old will be hoping he can advance to the second round for the fifth time at the Australian Open and potentially beyond.

Omar Jasika

First-Round match-up v Hubert Hurkacz (9th seed) – POL

Jasika is one of the great success stories coming into the Australian Open, even before he’s taken to the court for his first match.

The left-hander won his first match on debut at the Australian Open in 2016 and was making progress towards a long and successful career before being banned from the sport in 2017. The ban saw him miss the next two years and until this point, he had struggled to get back to his previous form.

He is currently ranked 341st and reached the main draw the hard way through qualifying. He has previously won the US Open singles and doubles junior titles in 2014, which gives you a little glimpse of his enormous talent.

He faces a herculean effort to defeat Hurkacz but will not back down in his quest to pull off one of the greatest upsets in Australian Open history.

Women’s Draw

Ajla Tomljanovic

First-Round match-up: v Petra Martic (CRO)

Arguably Australia’s greatest hope on the women’s side of the draw, Tomljanovic has worked hard to come back from multiple long-term injuries to be ready for her home Grand Slam.

The 30-year-old was in career-best form before injury struck, sitting just outside the world’s top 30 players. Lingering knee injuries ever since have seen her ranking balloon outside the top 200, but she is capable of going deep at a major tournament as she’s done on multiple occasions.

The strong hitter has made two Grand Slam quarter-finals but is yet to show her best at the Australian Open. Could this be the year? Aussies fans will certainly hope so but she will have to play well to defeat Martic who is a top 40 player currently and top 20 at her very best.

If she can get through the first round it could set up a mouth-watering battle with Jelena Ostapenko, with the two being involved in several heated contests in the past.

After injury-plagued her 2022 season, Ajla Tomljanovic has made her way back to the tour and will look to produce her best at the Australian Open. Credit: Peter Menzel, Creative Commons Attribution.

Daria Saville

First-Round matchup v Magdelina Frech (POL)

The former top 20 ranked Saville will look to get continuity in her body after long injury layoffs in the last few years resulting from Achilles issues and a ruptured ACL that she suffered in late 2022.

She received a wildcard for her home slam, a tournament where she has produced very good results in the past. The 29-year-old made back-to-back fourth-round appearances in 2016 and 2017 when she was at the peak of her powers.

She has just found her way back inside the world’s top 200 after being outside the top 300 just after returning to the court from injury.

If she can find some of her best form, Saville is capable of once again returning to the round of 16 and will be sure to take the Aussie fans on a wild ride during this year’s tournament.

Storm Hunter

First-Round matchup: v Sara Errani (ITLY)

Hunter has had to do it the hard way going through qualifying in the lead-up to the Australian Open to secure her place in the main draw.

Well-known as a distinguished doubles and mixed doubles player, Hunter will look to make the most of this opportunity. She is the number one women’s doubles player in the world and will use her volleying and all-round court skills to try and overcome her opponents.

In her five attempts, Hunter has never been able to crack past the first round and will be a good chance to do so against veteran and former world number five Sara Errani.

Both women sit outside the top 100 and with good match practice under Hunter’s belt, it could prove a decisive factor in this intriguing match-up.

Kimberley Birrell

First-Round matchup v Jelena Ostapenko (11th seed) – LAT

Young Kimberley Birrell will make her fifth main draw appearance at the Australian Open in 2024 after being awarded a wildcard entry by Tennis Australia.

The 25-year-old is set for a very difficult task against the 11th-seed Latvian Grand Slam winner Jelena Ostapenko.

After competing in her first professional event at just 14, Birrell has made a meteoric rise until now to be on the verge of breaking inside the world’s top 100 ranked players. The youngster has fond memories of Melbourne Park after making a run to the third round in 2019 and will need to be at her best to stop the aggressive game style that Ostapenko possesses.

It appears to be a difficult ask for the Aussie, but if she can get her teeth into the contest and move Ostapenko around, the home crowd might just will her home.

Taylah Preston

First-Round matchup: v Elina Svitolina (19th seed) – UKR

The 18-year-old will make her Grand Slam main-draw debut after also receiving a wildcard when the Australian Open kicks off on Sunday.

Preston, who hails from Perth is currently ranked 202nd in the world after moving up a whopping 600 ranking positions in just the last eight months. She also won four ITF singles titles in 2023 and her Grand Slam debut presents as a wonderful learning opportunity and experience regardless of the outcome.

In saying that, Preston will be determined to win and show the Australian public what she’s all about on the tennis court. She faces a tricky task against 23rd-ranked Ukrainian Elina Svitolina.

If she is to pull off an upset, it would undoubtedly be the best win of her young career.

Olivia Gadecki

First-Round matchup v Sloane Stephens

The 21-year-old rising star will take on former Grand Slam champion Sloane Stephens in her first-round matchup. Gadecki is currently enjoying a career-high ranking of 121 and looks set to continue to soar in the coming year.

This will be Gadecki’s second main draw appearance after winning her first round in 2023. She contested six ITF finals in 2023 and will be tested against someone of the calibre and experience of Stephens.

It all kicks off on Sunday, January 14 at Melbourne Park in which 21 Australians will be in action across the women’s and men’s singles as part of 128 players on each side of the draw vying for the Australian Open title.

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