Australian Open, it’s time X: Sinner among the favourites. Thirteen Italians at the start between the two scoreboards

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By John

The international tennis season restarts from where last year ended, that is, from the success of Novak Djokovicin the final up Jannik Sinnerin the ATP Finals in Turin and by the triumph of the Azzurri, dragged by the South Tyrolean, in the Davis Cup. The first round of the 2024 Grand Slam will begin on the Italian night between Saturday and Sunday. The 112th edition of the Australian Open is being staged on the hard courts of Melbourne Park. In the men’s singles, the man to beat is once again Djokovic. The Serbian, world number one, is the reigning Australian Grand Slam champion, having won ten times in his career. Contending him for the scepter, first and foremost, will be number two in the ATP ranking, the Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz, the only one who in 2023 managed to beat Nole in the Major trials, i.e. in the Wimbledon final, effectively stopping the race towards the Djokovic’s Slam dream, then winner in the other three major events last year.

Behind them, as always in the latest outings, the Russian Daniil Medvedev and the Italian Sinner, who at the end of 2023 managed to beat Djokovic twice, in Turin and in Davis. Both Alcaraz and Medvedev, in the event of victory, could oust Djokovic from the top of the ATP rankings. However, the 2022 champion will be missing: Rafael Nadal has just returned to the circuit but has decided to give up the Australian Open because he does not yet feel ready to play best-of-five sets matches. The Spaniard began his ordeal in Melbourne, exactly one year ago, and, according to many fans, he will bet everything, in what could be his last year as a professional, on the clay court season. In the women’s field, however, the Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, current number two in the world and first rival of the world championship leader, the Polish Iga Swiatek, will defend the title won in 2023. Then, two great protagonists of pink tennis return. There is a lot of anticipation both for the Japanese Naomi Osaka, winner of the Australian Major in 2019 and 2021, who is back on the circuit after becoming a mother, and for the Danish Caroline Wozniacki, former world number 1, back on the pitch in Melbourne, thanks to a wild card, four years after his last appearance (in 2020) and six since his 2018 triumph.

The blue patrol is strong at the start. Thirteen Italian tennis players in total at the starting line: 7 in the men’s field and 6 in the women’s field. Among the men, all eyes are mainly on Sinner, number 4 in the seeding, opposite the Dutch Botic Van De Zandschulp. This first round will also be the first match of this edition staged on the hard courts of Rod Laver Arena, the “legendary” central court of Melbourne Park. Like the South Tyrolean, Lorenzo Musetti is also seeded, number 25, and on his debut he meets the Frenchman Benjamin Bonzi. Very complicated debut, then, for the returning Matteo Berrettini, opposed to the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, number 7 in the world and finalist in Melbourne last year. Close behind for Matteo Arnaldi is the Australian wild card Adam Walton and for Lorenzo Sonego the British Daniel Evans. Also with them are the qualifiers Flavio Cobolli, who will challenge the Chilean Nicols Jarry, and Giulio Zepperi, against the Serbian Dusan Lajovic.

In the women’s field, the worst draw “fell” to Camila Giorgi, who will immediately have to deal with the Belarusian Viktoria Azarenka, 18th seeding favourite. Debut against a top seed also for Lucia Bronzetti, who challenges the Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko, 28th place in the tournament. She will make her debut, however, against the Swiss Lulu Sun, coming from the qualifiers, Elisabetta Cocciaretto. Opponents also promoted from the cadet draw for Martina Trevisan, opposite the Mexican Renata Zarazua, and for the “veteran” Sara Errani, who entered the main draw at the last minute, thanks to the forfeit of Madison Keys, who will face the “landlady” Storm Hunter. Finally, the Italian number one, Jasmine Paolini, 26th seeding favourite, will make her debut against the Russian Diana Shnaider.