Australian Open: The Draw Is Set. Ready, Play!

Australian Open draw ceremony (photo: Andreas Thies)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 11, 2024 (by Michael Dickens)

The official draw for the 2024 Australian Open took place Thursday afternoon. Playing true to their rankings, defending champion and 10-time AO winner Novak Djokovic and four-time major champion Iga Swiatek were placed in their respective No. 1 seed positions in the top half of the men’s and women’s singles brackets for the first Grand Slam event of the year. The No. 2 seeds, last year’s Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz and defending AO champion Aryna Sabalenka, were slotted in the bottom half of the men’s and women’s brackets.

What remained a mystery that soon was solved was this: Which halves of the draw would the No. 3 seeds, Daniil Medvedev and Elena Rybakina, and No. 4 seeds, Jannik Sinner and Coco Gauff, respectively, be placed? As it turned out, Sinner and Rybakina were put in the upper half with Djokovic and Swiatek, while Medvedev and Gauff found themselves in the bottom half with Alcaraz and Sabalenka.

While the men’s seeds mirror the current ATP Tour rankings from No. 1-32, the women’s seeds are missing a pair of Czech stars, No. 9 Karolina Muchova (injured wrist) and No. 17 Petra Kvitova (pregnant). Plus, No. 18 Madison Keys of the United States recently pulled out with an injured shoulder.

When the draws were finally revealed by co-masters of ceremonies Todd Woodbridge and Casey Dellacqua, tournament director Craig Tiley and tournament referee Wayne McKewen, there were plenty of blockbuster surprises for both the men and the women.

On the men’s side, Djokovic will begin his title defense against a qualifier on Sunday and could see No. 16 seed Ben Shelton in the fourth round. Meanwhile, Alcaraz will face 37-year-old Richard Gasquet, playing in possibly his last Australian Open, and could meet No. 6 seed Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals.

Also, Medvedev opens with a qualifier, while Sinner opposes Botic van de Zandschulp. In-form No. 10 seed Alex de Minaur, who became the first Australian man to hold a Top-10 ranking in 17 years will play former World No. 3 Milos Raonic; No. 27 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime takes on 2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem, and Andy Murray will face Tomas Martin Etcheverry with a possible third-round tussle against Djokovic looming by the end of the first week.

Arguably the biggest marquee first-round matchup pairs No. 7 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas going up against Matteo Berrettini, who is returning from injury. The winner could oppose Djokovic in the quarterfinals.

Possible men’s quarterfinals: No. 1 Djokovic versus No. 7 Tsitsipas, No. 4 Sinner versus No. 5 Andrey Rublev, No. 2 Alcaraz versus No. 6 Zverev and No. 3 Medvedev versus No. 8 Holger Rune.

On the women’s side, there’s Swiatek drawing 2020 AO champ Sofia Kenin with the winner to face either 2022 finalist Danielle Collins or 2016 winner Angelique Kerber, in her first major since giving birth to her daughter last year. Meanwhile, last year’s finalist Rybakina takes on former No. 1 Karolina Pliskova and Gauff will play Anna Karolina Schmiedlova.

Also, there’s two-time Australian Open titlist Naomi Osaka, a winner of four majors overall and the subject of a new biography, making her return from maternity leave after being off the WTA Tour for 15 months — and in the same quarter of the draw as reigning US Open winner Gauff — facing 2022 WTA Finals champion and No. 16 seed Caroline Garcia. Plus, 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu, who missed much of last season and is now ranked No. 299, will face Shelby Rogers.

Swiatek’s half of the draw includes 2023 Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova, who is seeded No. 7, No. 11 seed Jelena Ostapenko and No. 19 seed Elina Svitolina.

Possible women’s quarterfinal: No. 1 Swiatek versus No. 7 Vondrousova, No. 3 Rybakina versus No. 5 Pegula, No. 2 Sabalenka versus No. 6 Ons Jabeur and No. 4 Gauff versus No. 8 Maria Sakkari.

With a 15th day added to this year’s tournament at Melbourne Park, main draw play begins Sunday for the first time and will include Djokovic, Sinner, Rublev and Taylor Fritz as well as Sakkari, 2018 AO champion Caroline Wozniacki, Barbora Krejcikova and Sabalenka in action on opening day. While a lot can happen over the course of a fortnight, a potential 2023 Wimbledon men’s final rematch between top seeds Djokovic and Alcaraz just could materialize — and that’s something that would delight tennis fans around the world.