Can anyone stop Novak Djokovic? Who is going to take Ash Barty’s crown? What will be the biggest story at Melbourne Park? Check out our crystal ball.
Two of the biggest weeks on the Australian sporting calendar have arrived.
Who will walk away from Melbourne Park a champion in 2023?
Ahead of this year’s Australian Open, check out our expert predictions for tournament winner, shock loser, biggest storyline, breakout star and more.
Plus, let us know your own predictions in the comments.
Novak Djokovic. His record speaks for itself but the added incentive of joining Rafael Nadal on 22 grand slam singles titles while sticking it to the authorities who deported him last year will fire him up to the point of being almost unbeatable. – Julian Linden
Stefanos Tsitsipas. A three-time semi-finalist in Melbourne, this is his year. The Greek God has a massive local following, so much so it’s like playing in front of a home crowd. So long as he doesn’t come up against Nick Kyrgios, there’s no reason he can’t make his maiden slam final. – Emily Benammar
Novak Djokovic. It’s crazy to think that $2 is seen as a good price in a grand slam but Djokovic will be a man on a mission for a host of reasons. Only a dodgy hammy looms as a problem. – Scott Gullan
Novak Djokovic. It’s difficult to go past the Serbian superstar who – if his comments this week are anything to go by – still has a point to prove after last year’s saga. Is a class above and all could hang on that hamstring and just how bad it really is or gets. Not unstoppable. – Lauren Wood
Novak Djokovic. Behind closed doors organisers will be clapping their hands red for the favourites because without Roger, Serena or Ash Barty this tournament will fizzle unless the big names go deep. Djokovic’s AO record will swell to 89-8 with his 10th title. – Sam Landsberger
Daniil Medvedev to make amends for bottling last year’s final, when he won the first two sets before falling to Nadal. Was beaten comprehensively by Djokovic in 2021 but showed he can beat the Serbian star with his sole grand slam title at the US Open that same year. – Owen Leonard
Novak Djokovic. As long as his hamstring holds up, it’s hard to see anyone coming close to Djokovic. His Melbourne Park record is a staggering 82-8 and he hasn’t lost at the venue since 2018. If he can handle the crowd, he should be able to handle his 127 rivals. – Liam Twomey
Coco Gauff. With so many big names absent, this is one of the weakest women’s fields in years for any grand slam – not just the Australian Open. Still just a teenager, Gauff reached last year’s French Open final and is primed to go one step further this year. – Julian Linden
Aryna Sabalenka. It’s the toughest women’s draw to call. In the absence of Osaka, Barty and Williams this title really could be anyone inside the top 50s. Sabalenka struggles under pressure but with so many big names out, this is her best shot at a slam title. – Emily Benammar
Caroline Garcia. Had a great finish to the season including her first major semi-final appearance at the US Open. In a wide open field, the Frenchwoman is great value. – Scott Gullan
Aryna Sabalenka. Primed her game in Adelaide last week and didn’t drop a set. Looks calm and composed and says she feels like her game is “a little bit smarter”. Fell just short of a top-four spot which means a tougher draw run but will take some stopping. – Lauren Wood
Jessica Pegula. A wide open draw with so many big names missing, Pegula is familiar with the late stages of a slam. – Sam Landsberger
Aryna Sabalenka to break through for her first grand slam gong. After a semi-final exit at the US Open, the 24-year-old looks poised to elevate her status in a women’s field lacking established names. Will need to overcome Swiatek, who she lost to four times last season. – Owen Leonard
Coco Gauff. The US prodigy is going to win a grand slam at some stage, why not this fortnight? She blitzed through the ASB Classic, dropping just 22 games on her way to the title. – Liam Twomey
Frances Tiafoe. One of the rising stars of American tennis, who keeps everyone entertained on and off the court. Already knocking on the door, it’s only a matter of time before he starts competing for grand slams and he has the game and mindset to do well in Melbourne. – Julian Linden
Holger Rune. The Danish teen you might never have heard of but he’s cracked the men’s top 10 in 2022 having only gone pro two years earlier. A graduate from the Patrick Mouratoglou academy, Rune won three ATP titles in 2022, produced his best slam performance (French QF) and became the first player on record to beat five top-10 opponents in the same event. – Emily Benammar
Linda Fruhvirtova. The oldest of two teenage sisters who are being labelled the Czech Republic’s answer to the Williams sisters. Linda is 17 – little sister Brenda is 15 – and already has a title to her name in Chennai in September. – Scott Gullan
Lorenzo Musetti. Just 20 years of age and already ranked in the top 20 players in the world, the Italian has been a swift mover early in the season after an impressive showing at the United Cup before retiring as a precaution amid a shoulder complaint he insists is OK. Claimed his first ATP title in July and only continues to rise. – Lauren Wood
Teenager Holger Rune. The highest ranked men’s star you’ve never heard of. Had a breakout 2022 and is a real threat to go deep in Australia. – Sam Landsberger
Lorenzo Musetti, 20, was outside the top-70 ranked players in June last year. Now, just six months on, the Italian has cracked the top 20. Faster courts in Melbourne could be the query, but has hardcourt form having reached round three at US Open. – Owen Leonard
Alex de Minaur. This is the year the young Aussie goes from promising future to arriving on the big stage. His world ranking has jumped to 24 which gives him some good protection from the big names in the draw. He will be the last Aussie standing at Melbourne Park. – Liam Twomey
STAR WHO WON’T MAKE THE SECOND WEEK
Andy Murray. At 35, Sir Andy’s legacy to the game is already assured. A triple grand slam winner and double Olympic gold medallist, Murray made five Aussie Open finals when he was at his peak – and lost the lot – and it looks like that ship has now sailed. – Julian Linden
Emma Raducanu. I don’t believe the hype. Even in a women’s field that is so open, I’m not convinced the 2021 US Open finalist will make it out of the early rounds. – Emily Benammar
Rafael Nadal. At some point the great Spaniard is going to fall off the cliff. While it is dangerous to read too much into lead-up form, the defending champion has had an indifferent preparation. Maybe, it’s finally time. – Scott Gullan
Alexander Zverev. Looked uncomfortable in recent weeks in his return from a long injury lay-off and could battle. – Lauren Wood
Defending champ Rafael Nadal. – Sam Landsberger
Alexander Zverev hasn’t looked comfortable in his return from a serious ankle injury last year, and with another step up in fitness required for the Australian Open (best of five sets), he looks up against it. – Owen Leonard
Rafael Nadal. He might be the number two in the world but it will be a short stay in Melbourne for Rafa. Since his Wimbledon withdrawal he has one win over a top 10 rival and has losses to Borna Coric (152 world ranking), Frances Tiafoe (26) and Tommy Paul (31). – Liam Twomey
STORYLINE TO FOLLOW
Whether you love him or loathe him, this year’s Australian Open is the Nick Kyrgios show. With so many bona fide stars missing, Kyrgios will be the centre of attention as long as he’s involved and the deeper he goes, the bigger the story gets. – Julian Linden
Stars forging their paperwork. Camila Griorgi, who is under investigation for allegedly using false COVID-19 vaccination certification in 2022, will not be the only star exposed for the same offence. – Emily Benammar
Serena Williams to post a cryptic tweet hinting she’s coming out of retirement after watching the women’s draw fall away dramatically with the Daphne Akhurst trophy going to someone she used to previously beat without raising a sweat. – Scott Gullan
We thought it was over but expect the Novak Djokovic saga to continue to bubble away. He’s made some interesting remarks about maintaining his innocence and a “game” where “things are hidden” which have raised eyebrows. – Lauren Wood
How many fake Covid passports were used by unvaccinated players last year as the government brashly booted Djokovic out of the country? – Sam Landsberger
The prospect of a Russian (Medvedev) and Belarusian (Sabalenka) claiming either – or both – of the men’s and women’s titles, under blank flags, while their compatriot athletes are largely shunned across the globe. Expect more discussion on the merits of such measures. – Owen Leonard
How will the crowd treat Djokovic? What reception will he receive at Melbourne Park? He hasn’t always had the fans on his side on Rod Laver Arena despite his incredible record. Craig Tiley says those who treat him unfairly will be kicked out. Will he have to follow through on the threat? – Liam Twomey
Security will have to be on their toes because of the potential for protests and unruly crowd behaviour. There are a number of issues already brewing that could trigger problems among spectators so authorities should be ready for anything. – Julian Linden
This will be the last time we see Rafa Nadal at the Australian Open. – Emily Benammar
An unseeded player will win the women’s title and with our bias hat on, it would be great if that was Aussie Ajla Tomljanovic. – Scott Gullan
Several players to reveal their Covid positive status after they exit the tournament which has an honesty system in place. We’re moving with the times, yes, but potentially putting more people at risk along the way? Not sure about it. – Lauren Wood
Alex de Minaur flies the flag as the only Aussie to reach the second week. – Sam Landsberger
Crowds warm to Djokovic, and even support him in a final against Medvedev. – Owen Leonard
Kokkinakis and Kyrgios go back-to-back. Just how tough is winning doubles matches? Nick Kyrgios summed up his feelings perfectly last year. “I mean, it’s been pretty easy.” Look for Melbourne Park to rock out to the Special Ks again. – Liam Twomey
OPEN WON’T BE THE SAME WITHOUT
Carlos Alcaraz. There are plenty of older legends missing but the absence of the youngest world No. 1 in history is by far the biggest blow to the tournament. Grand slams need the best players involved so the withdrawal of Alcaraz means this one won’t seem the same. – Julian Linden
The Williams sisters For the first time since 1997 neither Serena nor Venus will be at Melbourne Park. The incredible 26-year stretch has ended with the former’s retirement and the later sustaining an injury in Auckland. – Emily Benammar
John McEnroe not being in the commentary box at Melbourne Park is a massive loss. This tournament is going to need plenty of assistance in the colour stakes and he always brought plenty of that. – Scott Gullan
The women’s reigning champion, Ash Barty. Her power game and always jovial post-match chats were always so wholesome and while she’ll be at Melbourne Park, it just won’t have the same feeling. So happy for her. – Lauren Wood
Australian of the Year Dylan Alcott, one of the planet’s most inspirational humans, on the court. – Sam Landsberger
Ash Barty. – Owen Leonard
Ash Barty. There is nothing better than having an Aussie go deep at the Open. It looked like we would get that for the next decade with Ash Barty before her shock retirement. While she won’t get to defend her title, her last match on Rod Laver will never be topped. – Liam Twomey
What are their chances? Aus Open formguide
The release of the draw after the withdrawal of so many star players has tipped this year’s Australian Open formguide upside down.
Here’s how the main contenders look after the draw was made.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC (Serbia)
Age: 35. Seeding 4
First round opponent: Roberto Carballes Baena (Spain)
Chances of winning the tournament: Djokovic is at Winx-like odds because he’s already won the title nine times. He’s in the easier bottom half of the draw so should sail through the first week with his first serious challenge not coming until the quarter-finals when his superior fitness begins to take over.
RAFAEL NADAL (Spain)
Age: 36. Seeding 1
First round opponent: Jack Draper (Britain)
Chances of winning the tournament: As great a player as Nadal is, he hasn’t exactly had the best of times at the Australian Open in the past. In his 17 previous appearances, he’s won the tournament just twice and comes into this year’s event as one of the oldest players – struggling with form and now facing some difficult opponents just to get into the second week.
DANIEL MEDVEDEV (Russia, competing as an independent)
Age: 26. Seeding 7
First round opponent: Marcos Giron (US)
Chances of winning the tournament: Should have won the title last year but choked and blew a two-set lead in the final against Nadal. Is the only player to beat Djokovic in a grand slam final on hardcourt in the last six years and has a pretty good draw so should go deep.
NICK KYRGIOS (Australia)
Age: 27. Seeding 19
First round opponent: Roman Safiullin (Russia, competing as an independent)
Chances of winning the tournament: Despite all his bravado, he hasn’t made it past the fourth round at the Australian Open since 2015 but is talking up his chances this time after reaching the Wimbledon final last year when all the cards fell his way. Given his high seeding, he has a reasonable draw this time if he’s good enough but the big test will come in the quarters against Djokovic.
STEFANOS TSITSIPAS (Greece)
Age: 24. Seeding 3
First round opponent: Quentin Halys
Chances of winning the tournament: A semi-finalist at Melbourne in three of the past four years, Tsitipas has all the tools to make a run at the title also long as he doesn’t implode like he did against Kyrgios at Wimbledon. Tough draw with Sinner lurking in the round of 16.
JANNIK SINNER (Italy)
Age: 21. Seeding 15
First round opponent: Kyle Edmund (Britain)
Chances of winning the tournament: One of the sport’s young guns who made the quarterfinals last year. In the same section as Tsitipas so has a tough path to the second week but he’s tough and should handle the heat OK.
CASPER RUUD (Norway)
Age: 24. Seeding 2
First round opponent:
Chances of winning the tournament: Highly underrated player who made the finals at the French Open and US Open last year. Has the best draw of the top seeds so has a good chance of at least making the semis.
IGA SWIATEK (Poland)
Age: 21. Seeding 1
First round opponent: Jule Niemeier (Germany)
Chances of winning the tournament: Replaced Ash Barty as world No. 1 when the Aussie legend retired last year. Hasn’t been in great form and under an injury could and has a tricky draw with last year’s runner-up Danielle Collins lurking in the quarters.
ARNYA SABALENKA (Belarus, competing as an independent)
Age: 24. Seeding 5
First round opponent: Tereza Martincova (Czech Republic)
Chances of winning the tournament: Consistent performer last two seasons. Won the Aussie Open doubles two years ago and the Adelaide International last week. In a women’s field lacking a super star, she has as good a chance as anyone.
JESSICA PEGULA (USA)
Age: 28. Seeding 3
First round opponent: Jaqueline Cristian (Romania)
Chances of winning the tournament: A late bloomer who has made the quarters at Melbourne last two years. Helped the Americans win the United Cup and as third seed, she has a decent draw with Peta Kvitova lurking as her first big test in the fourth round.
COCO GAUFF (USA)
Age: 18. Seeding 7
First round opponent: Katerina Siniakova (Czech Republic)
Chances of winning the tournament: Barring a deep run by an Aussie or a return to form of Britain’s Emma Raducani, Coco Gauff may be left to save the women’s draw from becoming a yawnfest because she is a star in the making – the question is how soon will it happen?
ONS JABEUR (Tunisia)
Age: 28. Seeding 2
First round opponent: Tamara Zidansek (Slovenia)
Chances of winning the tournament: The highest-ranked African and Arab female tennis player, Jabeur made her first grand slam finals last year after a decade on the tour. In the easier bottom half of the draw.
CAROLINE GARCIA (France)
Age: 29. Seeding 4
First round opponent: Katherine Sebov (Canada)
Chances of winning the tournament: Would need a big form reversal to contend if her past form is a guide. In 11 previous appearances at the Australian Open, has only made it beyond the third round once and has been bundled out in the first round four separate times.
AJLA TOMLJANOVIC (Australia)
Age: 29. Unseeded
First round opponent: Nadia Podoroska (Argentina)
Chances of winning the tournament: Has copped a horror draw after she slipped out of the seedings because she didn’t get any points for making the quarters at Wimbledon last year. Is a lot better than a lot of players ranked above her so don’t discount.
Originally published as Australian Open 2023 Crystal Ball: See what the experts are predicting for Melbourne Park
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