(Melbourne) In search of writing his name, alone, at the top of Grand Slam history, Novak Djokovic could find in the semi-finals of the Australian Open, which opens on Sunday, the young Italian Jannik Sinner, the only one to have been able to beat him at the end of 2023.
With 24 major crowns to his name, the world No.1 is already the most successful man in Grand Slams, ahead of Rafael Nadal (22) and Roger Federer (20), but he currently shares the absolute record with ‘Australian Margaret Court.
He who is aiming for an eleventh coronation in Melbourne, which has become almost his preserve, risks finding Sinner (N.4) on his way in the last four, the only player to have beaten him after Wimbledon and until the end of 2023. Even twice, at the ATP Masters (in the group stage) and in the Davis Cup.
Between the two, however, Djokovic had imposed his law against the 22-year-old Italian in the Masters final.
In the men’s draw, the other theoretical semi-final pits world No.2 Carlos Alcaraz against world No.3 Daniil Medvedev, according to the draw made on Thursday.
The big absentee from this 2024 edition is Rafael Nadal: returned to competition last week in Brisbane after almost a year of absence, the Spanish champion had to give up, victim of a “micro muscle tear” in his third match back .
Long before thinking about the final four, Djokovic will launch his Australian fortnight smoothly, against a player from qualifying, like Medvedev in the other half of the table.
Later, why not Gaël Monfils in the third round (after Murray for the French?), the young American Ben Shelton (16th) in the round of 16, and his victim in the final a year ago, Stefanos Tsitsipas, in the quarters .
First of all, the world No.7 must not fall into the trap embodied by the powerful Italian Matteo Berrettini.
Sinner will start against the Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp (59th), and Alcaraz against the thirty-year-old Frenchman Richard Gasquet.
Six months after giving birth to her first child, Naomi Osaka, ex-N. 1 in the world with four major trophies, will make her return to the Grand Slam against Caroline Garcia, French No. 1 and 20th in the world.
The 26-year-old Japanese, crowned in New York in 2018 and 2020 and in Melbourne in 2019 and 2021, has not played in a Grand Slam since the 2022 United States Open.
The fate was particularly harsh with world No.1 Iga Swiatek. The 22-year-old Pole will have a lot to do from the start, opposed to the American Sofia Kenin, titled in Melbourne in 2020 and today 38th in the world. Afterwards ? At least one ex-finalist of the Australian Open awaits her: the German Angelique Kerber, returning from maternity like her, ex-N. 1 in the world and three-time Grand Slam winner, including once in Melbourne in 2016, the American Danielle Collins (54th), beaten in the final in 2022.
And after ? Perhaps the Ukrainian Elina Svitolina (23rd) in the round of 16, and Victoria Azarenka (22nd) in the quarter-finals.
Aryna Sabalenka, world No.2 and defending champion, was much spared until the quarter-finals. The 25-year-old Belarusian will start against a player from qualifying, then a second or the Romanian Ana Bogdan, 66th in the world.
If the logic of the ranking is respected, the semi-finals of the women’s table will pit in two weeks Swiatek against the Kazakh Elena Rybakina, world No.3 and outgoing finalist, and Sabalenka against the young American Coco Gauff, world No.4 and crowned for the first time in a Grand Slam at the United States Open last September.
However, beware of a tricky first round for Rybakina, with the Czech Karolina Pliskova, ex-N. 1 ephemeral world today 37th.