Australian Open 2024: Draw promises electric start

The first Grand Slam of the 2024 season starts at Melbourne Park on Sunday.

Iga Swiatek & Sofia Kenin / Finale Roland-Garros 2020©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

With a few matches under their belt, maybe an extended break, the build-up and preparation is done and dusted.

It's time for the return of Grand Slam tennis with the Australian Open draw taking place on Thursday ahead of main draw action this Sunday.

Legends, NextGen stars, comebacks, the names have been allocated into the 128 slots. Here are the key storylines from Down Under…

Swiatek's high-calibre start

Where else to start? The world No.1 Iga Swiatek will need to transfer her recent sublime form from United Cup to navigate over early hurdles.

The top four spots in the women's draw features three major champions and a major finalist. The only one not to reach the Australian Open final from this quartet is Swiatek!

The Pole opens her title tilt versus 2020 champion Sofia Kenin in what will be a re-match of their Roland-Garros final Swiatek won in October that same season.

The top seed is then drawn to take on the fiery Danielle Collins or 2016 champion Angelique Kerber.

Collins reached her maiden Grand Slam final by dismissing Swiatek 6-4, 6-1 at Melbourne Park in 2022, whilst three-time major winner Kerber will be playing with complete freedom, contesting just her second event back from an 18-month maternity leave. 

Talk about an early test for Team Swiatek.

Women's projected quarter-finals

Should Swiatek hit the ground running into the elite eight, the 22-year-old is expected to take on Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova in the quarter-finals.

Also in the top half, last week's Brisbane champion and 2023 Australian Open finalist Elena Rybakina could meet No.5 seed Jessica Pegula at the last eight stage.

Into the bottom half of the women's draw and No.8 seed Maria Sakkari might have the task of derailing US Open winner Coco Gauff.

Ons Jabeur and reigning champion Aryna Sabalenka would be a pulsating quarter-final clash. The Tunisian trailblazer is down 2-4 in their head-to-head, but Jabeur prevailed in a Wimbledon three-set thriller semi-final last July.

Djokovic leading the all-stars

World No.1 Novak Djokovic, expected to recover from a recent right wrist injury, will be gunning for a mind-boggling 11th Australian Open trophy lift later this month.

The all-conquering Serbian opens facing a qualifier, but the dangerous local Alexei Popyrin might await in round two. 

Familiar foe Andy Murray, who Djokovic defeated in four Australian Open finals, is a possible third round throwback, before a show-stopping Last 16 tussle with American youngster Ben Shelton can be pencilled in.

Djokovic's quest for a record-extending 25th Grand Slam will come under serious threat if a semi-final with No.4 seed Jannik Sinner eventuates.

The Italian was in imperious form at the back end of 2023, fending off three match points to reel in Djokovic en route to Davis Cup glory, as well as splitting meetings with the world No.1 at the ATP Finals in Turin.  

No.2 seed Carlos Alcaraz is the blockbuster final pencilled in for Djokovic or Sinner. The Spaniard was forced to miss Melbourne last January due to a hamstring injury. So the Wimbledon winner will be eager for a strong start against the French stalwart Richard Gasquet, with an unpredictable yet stern test awaiting from either Daniel Evans or Lorenzo Sonego in the second round.

Men's pencilled in quarter-finals roster

The second week could witness Djokovic and No.7 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in a final re-match from last January. 

Sinner's path to glory might include an elite eight encounter with recent Hong Kong champion and No.5 seed Andrey Rublev.

Into the bottom half and two-time finalist Daniil Medvedev has a potential meeting with Holger Rune at the quarter-final stage from a section of the draw brimming with French interest including the likes of Ugo Humbert, Arthur Fils and Arthur Cazaux.

Alcaraz and United Cup winner Alexander Zverev are the seeded duo set to complete the quarter-final eight.

First round firecrackers

There are almost too many to mention, the draw has collated a captivating collection of first round matches.

No.16 seed Caroline Garcia will take on four-time major winner Naomi Osaka. The 26-year-old, in the early stages of her comeback after becoming a mother six months ago, ruled Melbourne Park in 2019 and 2021. Can Caro keep those champion instincts at bay? 

2018 Australian Open winner Caroline Wozniacki hopes to re-start her own comeback in an intriguing opener with last year's semi-finalist Magda Linette.

No.3 seed Elena Rybakina will be seeking another spot in the silverware showdown, but must nullify the threat of former world No.1 Karolina Pliskova in the round of 128.

Back to the men's draw and Tsitsipas will need to be in the groove from the get go to absorb the power play from injury-maligned Matteo Berrettini.

French flair will be the name of the game as No.20 seed Adrian Mannarino looks to edge past 2014 winner Stan Wawrinka. 2020 finalist Dominic Thiem will hope his major memories can ignite a morale-boosting first round victory over No.27 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Grigor Dimitrov and Alex de Minaur are in sensational form and are outside shouts for a Grand Slam breakthrough this month.

Dimitrov won his first title since 2017 in Brisbane and the resurgent Bulgarian takes on the marathon man Marton Fucsovics in the first round.

Over to green and gold star de Minaur, who is the first Australian man since 2006 to feature in the Top 10. Expect an electric atmosphere for his opening challenge in the shape of 2016 semi-finalist Milos Raonic.