The Australian Open is the first tennis major championship of the year and the 2024 edition began on the 7th of January, but some fan favourites were missing.
Two-time winner Rafael Nadal unfortunately had to pull out of the competition, having torn a muscle in his hip whilst competing in Brisbane in an attempt to become match fit for the major. Nadal hinted last year that this may be his last year on tour, and it seems very likely that he will do whatever it takes to compete one final time in the French Open in May, which he has won a record 14 times.
Another big name absent from the tournament was Nick Kyrgios, who was forced out with a wrist ligament injury. The fiery Aussie has however been commentating on some matches, providing some interesting insight into tennis stars such as Novak Djokovic and Aussie compatriot Alex de Minaur.
Hopes of British success in the singles draw was sadly ended on the 22nd of January in the fourth round, as 19th seed Cameron Norrie was knocked out by Alexander Zverev in five sets, losing a deciding ten-point tiebreak having been on court for over four hours. Other hopefuls Jack Draper and Katie Boulter were both knocked out in the second round.
There were mixed emotions surrounding the results of the two biggest British stars in the shape of Andy Murray and Emma Raducanu.
The former was convincingly beaten in the first round by the Argentinian 30th seed Etcheverry 6-4 6-2 6-2, displaying an uncharacteristic performance that could suggest retirement is coming closer and closer. The former world number one admitted that “it’s a definite possibility” that was the last time he plays at the Rod Laver Arena and commented on his inability to use the crowd to boost his energy, something he has excelled at throughout his career.
There are signs that if Emma Raducanu can stay fit for a prolonged period then her form could return to the heights that saw her claim the 2021 US Open title.
Emma Raducanu, the only British player to win a major since Murray, said it felt “extra sweet” to come through her first-round match on her Grand Slam return after injury. However, she lost in a third set decider in the second round, saying she felt unwell on court. This was only her fourth match back after having surgery on both her wrist and ankle, but there are signs that if she can stay fit for a prolonged period then her form could return to the heights that saw her claim the 2021 US Open title.
With British hopes vanquished, attention turns to the big names looking to add to their major collection.
Novak Djokovic looked somewhat uncomfortable in his opening two rounds, dropping sets in each and complaining about the behaviour of the crowd. However, he is improving from game to game and thrashed Frenchman Mannarino 6-0 6-0 6-3 in the fourth round. A Djokovic-Alcaraz final seems to be on the cards once again, as the young Spaniard continues to march through the early stages of the competition.
In the women’s draw, there was a big shock as top seed Iga Swiatek lost 3-6 6-3 6-4. With the four-time major winner eliminated, a big chance opens up to those who would have had to face her.
It is all to play for going into the quarter-final stages of the Australian Open, where the players at the top of the game will look to set the tone for 2024 to be a great season.