Following a thrilling start to the 2023 season, which saw Team United States win the inaugural United Cup, the world’s best players will now descend on Melbourne for the Australian Open.
ATPTour.com looks at 10 things to watch ahead of the first Grand Slam of the year.
1) Reigning Champion Nadal: One year ago, Rafael Nadal captured his second Australian Open title when he rallied from two-sets-to-love down to defeat Daniil Medvedev in an epic final. The top-seeded Spaniard returns to Melbourne this week aiming to clinch a record-extending 23rd Grand Slam crown.
Having started the season with defeats against Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie and Australian Alex de Minaur at the United Cup, the World No. 2 will be aiming to earn his first victory of the season when he plays #NextGenATP Briton Jack Draper in a tough opening encounter.
2) Djokovic Imperious In Australia: Novak Djokovic has not lost on Australian soil since 2018, when he fell against Hyeon Chung in the fourth round at the first major of the year. The Serbian is chasing a record-extending 10th Australian Open title and record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam and arrives at the event in strong form, having lifted his 92nd tour-level title at an ATP 250 in Adelaide last week. The fourth seed, who is in the opposite half of the draw to Nadal, opens against Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena.
3) Battle For World No. 1: Djokovic, Casper Ruud and Stefanos Tsitsipas all start their campaigns knowing they will become the new No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings by lifting the trophy in Melbourne. World No. 3 Ruud can also claim top spot by reaching the final, as long as neither Djokovic nor Tsitsipas wins the title. If none of those scenarios play out, the reign of current World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, not playing in Melbourne due to injury, will remain.
Ruud, who reached Grand Slam finals at Roland Garros and the US Open last year, reached the fourth round in Melbourne in 2021. Tsitsipas is a three-time semi-finalist at the major, holding a 15-5 record.
4) Can Medvedev Go One Step Further? Daniil Medvedev will be hoping it is third time lucky when he takes to court in Melbourne. The 26-year-old has produced his best at the major in recent years, falling in the final against Djokovic in 2021 and Nadal in 2022. Having reached the semi-finals in Adelaide last week, Medvedev will be aiming to build on that run at the Australian Open and clinch his second Grand Slam crown. The 2021 US Open titlist plays American Marcos Giron in the first round.
5) Fritz & Norrie In Form: Taylor Fritz and Cameron Norrie arrive in Melbourne in red-hot form. The eighth seed Fritz holds a 4-1 record on the season, having guided Team United States to the United Cup title in Sydney. The 11th seed Norrie, who defeated Fritz at the United Cup, is 6-1 in 2023, having reached the final in Auckland.
Although neither has advanced past the fourth round in Melbourne, confidence will be high that they can enjoy deep runs over the next fortnight. Fritz plays Nikoloz Basilashvili in the first round and Norrie takes on #NextGenATP Frenchman Luca Van Assche.
6) Kyrgios Leads Home Hopes: The 19th seed Nick Kyrgios enjoyed an impressive 2022, reaching his first Grand Slam final at Wimbledon and winning a tour-level crown in Washington. The 27-year-old’s best result in nine previous main draw appearances at the Australian Open came in 2015, when he reached the quarter-finals. He will be aiming to better that run this year, starting against Roman Safiullin. There are 11 Australian men in the draw, with Alex de Minaur, the 22nd seed, in the same half as Kyrgios.
7) Top 10 Threats: Andrey Rublev, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz will all aim to win their maiden Grand Slam titles at the Australian Open this week. The fifth seed Rublev reached the quarter-finals in 2021 but has a tough opening assignment against 2020 finalist Dominic Thiem. The sixth seed Auger-Aliassime enjoyed a career-best season last year, winning four tour-level trophies. He will aim to make a fast start in 2023 when he plays countryman Vasek Pospisil.
The 10th seed Hurkacz, who earned two wins at the United Cup for Team Poland, has never been beyond the second round in four previous appearances in Melbourne. The 25-year-old starts against Pedro Martinez.
8) First-Round Popcorn Clashes: Fans will be treated to a host of blockbuster first-round matches at Melbourne Park, with Matteo Berrettini’s clash against former World No. 1 Andy Murray a highlight. The five-time finalist Murray will be aiming to earn Grand Slam revenge against the 13th-seeded Italian, having lost against Berrettini at the US Open in September.
Rublev will take a 4-2 ATP Heaed2Head series lead into his first-round clash against Thiem, while Nadal will need to be at his best if he is to overcome British lefty Draper on Rod Laver Arena. Home favourite Thanasi Kokkinakis will try to extend his perfect 2-0 record in his matchup against Fabio Fognini.
The 2022 Next Gen ATP Finals runner-up Jiri Lehecka will look to build on his victory against the returning Alexander Zverev at the United Cup when he takes on 21st seed Borna Coric.
9) #NextGenATP Stars In Action: Holger Rune is one of the brightest emerging talents in the game, evidenced by his title run at the Rolex Paris Masters in November. The 19-year-old is the ninth seed and plays Filip Krajinovic in his opening match.
The 17th-seeded Italian Lorenzo Musetti, who won two tour-level titles last season, plays Lloyd Harris, while 17-year-old Chinese qualifier Juncheng Shang will meet German Oscar Otte. American Ben Shelton burst onto Tour when he reached the third round in Cincinnati last season. The 20-year-old meets Zhizhen Zhang in his opening match.
10) Koolhof/Skupski Lead Doubles Field: Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski won seven tour-level titles as a team in 2022 and will look to add to their trophy haul when they lead the doubles field as the top seeds.
The Dutch-British tandem will face stiff competition from 2020 champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury, third seeds Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer and fourth seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic.
Thanasi Kokkinakis and Nick Kyrgios soared to the title in 2022, enjoying a fairytale run on home soil. The Australians will team again this year in Melbourne.