12 January 2024

Eurosport tennis expert and 2001 Australian Open Mixed Doubles champion previews the 2024 Australian Open. 

Novak Djokovic is the clear men's favourite:

He got so close [to a Calendar Slam] last year against Alcaraz and this year we have the Olympics as well. He wants to go down in history as the greatest of all time in terms of Grand Slams and that’s his big goal. It’s so hard to do but I’m still amazed about the shape he’s in at the age he is. He will be hard to beat and he is the favourite, it doesn’t matter what Grand Slam or surface it is. He has won the Australian Open ten times. At Wimbledon I think he is the best grass court player., Clay might be the hardest for him but he’s done it last year and at the US Open a few times as well. This year will be epic no matter what happens.

Who else can make the singles finals?

I think Djokovic will definitely be there but I also think Zverev could do well as could Sinner and Alcaraz. Zverev looks really motivated and is ready to take the next step in his career. He has nothing to defend as lost in the second round last year against De Minaur which was a tight one. I’ll keep a close eye on him as he looks fit and aggressive and he’s ready to go deep.

On the women’s side, Iga looks strong and I think she’ll make it to the final against probably Rybakina. Iga looks physically strong and her mindset is much more convincing than recent years where she said she struggled a bit with the pressure of world no.1. Sabalenka also has to be up there and won last year, she was in the Brisbane finals but lost to Rybakina. I don’t want to rule out Coco Gauff but on this surface with the speed, those players will do well and one of them will probably capture the title. These four players will lead women’s tennis. They’ve all improved. But there are others, Emma Raducanu, Caroline Wozniacki, Elina Svitolina who I’m all looking forward to seeing this season.

Naomi Osaka can do big things in tennis again. Having a baby takes a bit of pressure off and it doesn’t matter what happens on the court. There is this unconditional love off the court. I think she will do well.

The prospects of Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner:

Sinner has taken a step forward in his career and tennis and the way he finished his year was phenomenal. Especially the way he played at the ATP Finals. He hasn’t burst on the scene like Alcaraz but has improved gradually and he will do more. The Australian Open is a little bit of a home Slam for him as it’s where his camp is. This could be the year for Jannik Sinner but the question is two weeks of five set matches but I think he can bring it.

Alcaraz is so young and hasn’t played much but I don’t think it’ll be a problem for him. It’s all about scheduling for Carlos this year and he doesn’t play too much but he can beat anyone. The way he ended the season was outstanding. 

Angelique Kerber’s return:

I was excited and watched her at the United Cup. She played five matches and won one which was really important. She said she loves tennis more than she previously did and it’s a privilege to see her back competing. Compared to Osaka though, she can’t create as much power. Her serve is a lot slower than the other girls and she likes to take the pace from her opponents. I am not sure she has enough firepower to compete for titles but let’s see how far she can get. She is a tremendous fighter, won the United Cup with Germany and hopefully she’s not too tired as I think physically that was very tough for her.

Discussing Rafael Nadal’s injury:

It’s very disappointing that Rafa won’t be there and everyone was looking forward to watching him. It was horrible news. Everyone is talking about it. We won’t see him again as he said this would be his last year on Tour so it will be sad if we don’t see him again at Rod Laver arena. He wants to look after his body for the clay court season but the most important thing on your farewell tour is to be able to play; not having to retire.

Barbara Schett is an expert for Warner Bros. Discovery Sports' coverage of the Australian Open in Europe. Coverage starts on discovery+, Eurosport and Eurosport App from Sunday 14 January.


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