The first round of singles action at the Australian Open draws to a close on Tuesday, and with the defending champions in both the men’s and women’s draws safely through, the pretenders to their thrones take centre-stage.
Novak Djokovic won three of the four major titles on offer in 2023 and is the clear favourite to claim his 11th Australian Open title this month. However, Carlos Alcaraz denied him a calendar Grand Slam last year and is surely his most likely challenger at this event.
Second seed Alcaraz begins his campaign as part of Tuesday’s night session, taking on veteran Richard Gasquet on Rod Laver Arena.
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Alcaraz edged out Djokovic in a classic Wimbledon final in 2023 and claimed his first grand slam title on the hard courts at the US Open one year earlier. However, he has yet to go beyond the third round at Melbourne Park.
The 20-year-old missed last year’s tournament with a leg injury after succumbing to Matteo Berrettini in an epic five-set, third-round contest in 2022.
It’s showtime! 🍿 We’re ready! 💪🏻
— Carlos Alcaraz (@carlosalcaraz) January 15, 2024
Coming up against an opponent who has only progressed beyond the tournament’s first round once since 2018, Alcaraz will hope to ease his way into the competition and avoid the kind of scare Djokovic suffered against Dino Prizmic on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the WTA’s top-ranked player Iga Swiatek headlines the day session, kickstarting her bid for a first Australian Open title against the United States’ Sofia Kenin.
Having seen contenders Aryna Sabalenka and Coco Gauff race to straight-sets victories in the past two days, Swiatek will be hopeful of making similarly smooth progress.
There are plenty of other intriguing contests taking place on Tuesday, with the likes of Casper Ruud, Alexander Zverev, Holger Rune and Elena Rybakina opening their campaigns.
However, it promises to be a big day for British tennis fans, with Emma Raducanu and Cameron Norrie flying the flag at Melbourne Park.
Raducanu’s first grand slam match in almost a year will surely be the highlight, with the 2021 US Open champion taking on Shelby Rogers.
Raducanu eliminated Rogers at the last-16 stage on her way to that career-defining triumph at Flushing Meadows, and she has shown promising signs on the practice courts after missing most of 2023 with ankle and wrist injuries.
She has described 2024 as a “fresh start”, and the 21-year-old will back herself to avoid falling at the first hurdle after taking eventual runner-up Elina Svitolina to three sets at the Auckland Classic in her last match.
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On the men’s side, British number one Norrie is also in action against Juan Pablo Varillas, who might be looking to take advantage of the 19th seed complaining about a wrist injury in the build-up to the tournament.
Order of play – selected matches
Day session (from 00:00 UK time)
Cameron Norrie v Juan Pablo Varillas
Emma Raducanu v Shelby Rogers
Dan Evans v Lorenzo Sonego
Iga Swiatek v Sofia Kenin
Night session (from 08:00 UK time)
Elena Rybakina v Karolina Pliskova
Richard Gasquet v Carlos Alcaraz
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 15, 2024
When and how to watch
The Australian Open is available to watch live on Discovery+ and Eurosport in the United Kingdom, with the next day session getting under way from 00:00 UK time on Tuesday morning. The night session is scheduled to take place from 8am.
The highest-ranked players in action on day three, Alcaraz and Swiatek, will both be confident of progressing in quick time, while Rybakina – the third seed in the women’s draw – should win a watchable affair against former world number one Pliskova.
Despite question marks over their match fitness, Raducanu and Norrie should avoid any major missteps, but Evans may not be so fortunate against Sonego, in what promises to be one of the most competitive contests of the first round.