Novak Djokovic to Jannik Sinner: Five men to watch at the Australian Open

In the absence of injured Rafael Nadal, several younger players are out to stop Novak Djokovic’s pursuit of an 11th Australian Open crown. Photo: Fazry Ismail/EPA

In the absence of injured Rafael Nadal, several younger players are out to stop Novak Djokovic’s pursuit of an 11th Australian Open crown. Photo: Fazry Ismail/EPA

Published Jan 13, 2024


Novak Djokovic is targeting an 11th Australian Open crown and a record 25th Grand Slam title. In the absence of injured Rafael Nadal, several younger players are out to stop him.

We highlight five men to watch when the first Grand Slam of the year begins on Sunday:

Novak Djokovic

He may be 36 but the 24-time Grand Slam winner is still the man to beat after another hugely successful 2023, which included overcoming Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Melbourne final.

The Serbian finished the year as world number one after winning three of the four majors, with only Carlos Alcaraz at Wimbledon denying him a clean sweep.

In total, Djokovic claimed seven titles to take his career haul to 98, including a record-equalling seventh ATP Tour Finals crown.

A right wrist injury troubled him during his defeat to Alex de Minaur at the United Cup in Perth, but he now says he is "pain-free".

Carlos Alcaraz

The 20-year-old Spaniard's triumph over Djokovic on the grass at Wimbledon reinforced his status as the hottest prospect in men's tennis.

His breakthrough for a maiden Slam title at the US Open in 2022 made him the youngest champion of a men's major since compatriot Nadal at the 2005 French Open.

He also became the youngest man to ascend to world number one.

Now ranked number two, Alcaraz heads into the Australian Open as a serious contender after a year in which he collected six titles.

The unanswered question is whether he can overcome Djokovic on the blue hard courts of Melbourne, where the Serbian has dominated for so long.

Since Wimbledon, the pair have played twice, both on hard courts. Djokovic won both times.

Daniil Medvedev

The 27-year-old Russian is a two-time finalist at the opening Grand Slam of the year. He was outplayed by Djokovic in 2021 before a heart-wrenching defeat by Nadal a year later.

That narrow defeat in 2022 had a profound impact on Medvedev, who struggled to recapture the same form for the rest of the year and slipped out of the world's top 10.

But a resurgent 2023 has again thrust him into the conversation as a title contender after winning 66 matches, more than any other player on tour last year.

The 2021 US Open champion is back up to world number three and will begin his bid for a second major title after a low-key build-up, skipping warm-up tournaments to focus on training.

Jannik Sinner

The 22-year-old Italian enjoyed a breakthrough 2023, winning his first Masters title, in Toronto, and making the championship match against Djokovic at the ATP Finals.

He was also instrumental in helping Italy win the Davis Cup, beating Djokovic in three sets along the way.

It led to plenty of praise and expectations that it is only a matter of time before the former champion skier wins a major.

At a career-high four in the world, Sinner also won titles in Montpellier, Vienna and Beijing last season, notching wins over Alcaraz and Medvedev in the Chinese capital.

Alex de Minaur

The Australian has emerged as a threat at his home Grand Slam after a sensational start to the year, beating three top-10 players in a row at the United Cup.

They included Djokovic in straight sets, with Alexander Zverev and Taylor Fritz also falling victim to a player who spent the off-season improving his serve and backhand.

It has propelled the 24-year-old into the top 10, the first Australian to hold a top-10 spot since former world number one Lleyton Hewitt in July 2006.

De Minaur's best result in a major is the quarter-finals at the US Open in 2020 and he has never gone beyond the fourth round at Melbourne Park.

But he will approach the tournament full of confidence, aiming to become the first Australian man to win his home Slam since Mark Edmondson in 1976.