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Other SportsAustralian Open 2024, Day One: Preview, how to watch, order of play...

Australian Open 2024, Day One: Preview, how to watch, order of play and predictions

The headliners

The first grand slam of 2024 is here, with the Australian Open’s main draw beginning on a Sunday for the first time ever after late finishes at Melbourne Park prompted criticism last year.

While there are plenty of major players in action on day one, there is only one place to start – with the biggest name in the men’s game. Novak Djokovic captured his 24th grand slam title at the US Open last September, and he has a chance to make history in the next 15 days.

Having matched Margaret Court’s record of 24 major triumphs, Djokovic will become the player – male or female – with the most grand slam titles in tennis history if he wins the hard-court event for an 11th time.

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Djokovic headlines the first night session of the event, beginning his campaign against 18-year-old qualifier Dino Prizmic. The Croatian teenager faces a mammoth task, with Djokovic’s last Australian Open defeat coming against Chung Hyeon in the fourth round way back in 2018.

The Serbian has won four of the last five editions of the event, with Rafael Nadal triumphing in his absence in 2022 when his visa was cancelled due to his failure to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Having won three of four grand slam titles on offer in 2023, Djokovic will feel he has a realistic shot at the ‘Golden Slam’ in this Olympic Year, and he starts off as the overwhelming favourite in the men’s draw.

Also in action on Rod Laver Arena on the opening night is women’s world number two Aryna Sabalenka, and like Djokovic, she opens her title defence against an 18-year-old qualifier in Germany’s Ella Seidel.

Sabalenka captured her first grand slam title with a breathtaking display of power against Elena Rybakina in last year’s final, and she will be desperate for another deep run as she battles top seed Iga Swiatek for the number one spot in the WTA rankings.

The subplots

While Nadal’s withdrawal has robbed the tournament of one of its more heart-warming storylines, the Spaniard’s absence could open up avenues for other players to emerge as challengers to Djokovic.

Jannik Sinner will certainly fancy his chances of doing so, having overcame Djokovic in both singles and doubles as Italy won the Davis Cup in November, avenging the straight-sets defeat he suffered against the Serbian in the ATP Finals title match earlier that month.

The world number four starts his campaign against Botic van de Zandschulp, looking to improve on his career-best run to the quarter-finals of this tournament in 2022.

Meanwhile, 2018 Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki is also in action, having marked her comeback from retirement with a run to the last 16 at the US Open last year.

Having been awarded a wildcard for the first major of the year, the 33-year-old takes on Poland’s Magda Linette – herself a semi-finalist at Melbourne Park last year – in one of the most intriguing first-round clashes in the women’s draw.

Order of play – selected matches

Day session (from 01:00 UK time)

Jannik Sinner vs Botic van de Zandschulp

Maria Sakkari vs Nao Hibino

Thiago Seyboth Wild vs Andrey Rublev

Night session (from 08:00)

Novak Djokovic vs Dino Prizmic

Aryna Sabalenka vs Ella Seidel

Magda Linette vs Caroline Wozniacki

When and how to watch

The Australian Open is available to watch live on Discovery+ and Eurosport in the United Kingdom, with the day session getting under way from 1am UK time on Sunday morning. The night session – featuring Djokovic and Sabalenka on Rod Laver Arena – is scheduled to take place from 8am.

Predictions

We don’t expect many surprises to be in store for the headliners on Sunday, with Djokovic, Sinner and Sabalenka all expected to breeze through their first-round matchups.

Elsewhere, Wozniacki has won both of her previous tour-level meetings with Linette and might be worth backing for a notable win. Those looking for other vulnerable big names might cast a glance at former US Open champion Marin Cilic against Hungary’s Fabian Marozsan or Francis Tiafoe, who faces Borna Coric in a potentially awkward tie.

Harry Carr
Harry Carr
Harry is a freelance sports journalist with experience of working for the Racing Post, Stats Perform, Opta Analyst and more, covering major events across all sports but holding a particular love for the beautiful game.
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