12 January 2024 Tweet
Eurosport tennis expert and Olympic silver medallist Laura Robson previews the 2024 Australian Open.
Who do you think are the men’s singles favourites this year?
In Australia, Novak is at the very top. He’s just a different class of tennis player. He’s won this tournament so many times. It's ridiculous when you look back at clips of him, winning it as almost a teenager. And you're thinking, wow, he's really improved in the many, many years that he spent on tour. It just feels like he's always looking for more, trying to be 2% better with every match and I think everyone's just trying to catch up to his level. So always for me in Melbourne, Novak, as the front runner. I think he loves this environment. And then, there's definitely 4 or 5 players that you would put in the mix but, it's hard to see anyone beating him here. Obviously, he’s struggling with a bit of a forearm issue at the moment, but he's had it before, so he knows how to manage it, and I think he'll be ready in time for day one.
Who is in that chasing pack?
Obviously, you’ve got Sinner and Alcaraz. I would say both are going have a great year. Then you've got Alex de Minaur. He's just cracked the top 10 for the first time, so he's going to have the fans support most definitely. Then this week I've been really impressed by Alexander Zverev. Grigor Dimitrov, I really want to do well. To not win a title for 5 years and then start 2024 and play as well as he did in Brisbane beating Rune in the final in straight sets, it feels like he can really do anything on the court. The way that he was playing was so gorgeous to watch with the variety and the aggression. I think it's nice when you see someone have that resurgence later in their career. They have all the experience of playing for the last 12,15 years, and for whatever reason that hasn't quite clicked for them, and then it comes together.
Who are the women’s singles favourites this year?
I will always go with Iga Świątek. She's undefeated so far in 2024. I think it's now a 16-match win streak from the end of last year so she's coming into the season with a load of confidence. Sabalenka was in the final of Brisbane yesterday. She won the tournament last year. She plays a really big game. Then, you throw in Rybakina who she played in the final last year, who really enjoys these conditions. There's a bunch of people that are thrown there, but if I had to pick one, I would always go with Iga.
Who are the women’s dark horses?
There's a few dark horses, obviously Coco Gauff. Not so much of a dark horse now that she's won a slam. But, in Australia she's kind of struggled a little bit in the later stages compared to some of the other tournaments that she's played. There's maybe five or six people that I would throw in there, but I would love to see the resurgence of Angie [Kerber].
Comments on Rafael Nadal missing the tournament due to injuries?
Unfortunately, he had to withdraw. I was watching his match just a few nights ago with Jordan Thompson in Brisbane, and he was about to win. He had match points, and you thought everything was going fine. But the level of tennis, having not played a few matches like that in so many months, just a different level of intensity which everyone finds when they return from a big injury.
I'm sure so many people would have bought tickets to see him play, thinking that it might be their last time. Whether it stays that way, I hope not because he was playing such good tennis for someone who spent so long out of the game in 2023. Unfortunately, he lost the third match but it felt like he was right in the mix, and it’s so rarely that people can do that after coming back from injury, especially such a long injury. So, I hope we see him again. But who knows how this year is going to be for him. The most important thing is that he's healthy, which I'm sure is his priority.
I'm not worried about when he's going to come back. I would assume, considering he said it’s a minor injury that he's going to have to have a couple of weeks off so in an ideal world he could play 3 or 4 tournaments before the big play events. Whether that's on hard or on clay, I'm not sure. But honestly, I’m not concerned at all. I was so impressed with how he played this week.
Are you excited that Nick Kyrgios will be joining Eurosport’s team this tournament?
I'm really looking forward to it. He's got such a great knowledge of the game. He's played all of these top players before. He has a winning record against so many of the top 10 so it’s going to be really interesting to pick his brain to see tactically what he would do differently than some of the other players with his different game style and with his huge serve. He’ll be able to pick things out, that maybe we wouldn't, purely because some of us have never played these people. He's getting so many young fans involved in the game, week in and week out. Obviously, he's quite outspoken, but at the same time he can back it up with his results so, I'm always keen to hear what he has to say. I hope that over the next couple of months he's back on the match court, because we know that he's so far from done in terms of talent that's still left untapped and results that he could potentially have.
Laura Robson 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.