Aus Open draw REVEALED: Demon’s tough start, twin ‘Aussie-offs’ in first round, world No.1 in group of death
Alex de Minaur will need to do it tough to continue his career-best form at the Australian Open, with the world No.10 dealt a tricky hand to begin his home grand slam.
De Minaur’s first opponent will be big-serving Canadian Milos Raonic, a five-time quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park who made it to the semi-finals in 2016, but has struggled with injury in recent seasons and heads into the Open ranked outside the top 300.
Should de Minaur prevail, his list of seeds looms as equally tricky: he could face world No.5 Andrey Rublev in the fourth round, and then world No.4 Jannik Sinner in the quarter-finals, against whom the Aussie star has an ugly 0-6 record – with a walkover in the 2023 Paris Masters the Demon’s best effort against the Italian.
Indeed, de Minaur has only won one set over Sinner in those matches – a tie-breaker in their second encounter back in 2020 – while he was trounced in straight sets in the fourth round of the 2022 Australian Open.
Beat Sinner, and he could have to get through Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-final and final respectively; both of whom he has beaten in a strong start to 2024, but with the challenge amplified by the stakes of grand slam tennis.
Fellow Aussie Rinky Hijikata also has a challenging start, up against German Jan-Lennard Struff, the 24th seed.
Challenging for a different reason is the fate of Aussies Alexei Popyrin and Marc Polmans, who face one another in the first round; as well as Aleksandar Vukic and Jordan Thompson.
Making things tougher for Thompson and Vukic is a likely second-round date with reigning Australian Open finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas; while it’s even trickier for Popyrin and Polmans, with a certain N. Djokovic waiting in the wings.
Tsitsipas, meanwhile, has his own challenge in the first round, up against big-hitting Italian and 2022 Australian Open semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini.
The five women already through to the main singles draw have a mix of fates, with Daria Saville and Ajla Tomljanovic granted unseeded opponents in the first round while wildcards Taylah Preston, Kimberly Birrell and Olivia Gadecki have it tougher.
Preston, ranked 200th in the world, will have her work cut out against 19th seed Elina Svitolina, while Birrell faces 11th seed – and 2017 French Open champion – Jelena Ostapenko.
Gadecki, meanwhile, will take on 2017 US Open champion and 2013 Australian Open semi-finalist Sloane Stephens, who while unseeded and ranked 43rd in the world is nevertheless a tough opponent for the Aussie 21-year old who made her Grand Slam debut at Melbourne Park last year.
Tomljanovic has it theoretically easier against world No.40 Petra Martic, who reached the top 15 in early 2020, while Saville’s opponent is world No.72 Magdalena Frech, who has never previously won a main draw Australian Open match.
Up next for Saville, though, is either world No.16 Caroline Garcia or two-time Aus Open champion Naomi Osaka in her grand slam tennis return.
World No.1 and tournament favourite Iga Swiatek faces a tough start to her own campaign, with 2020 champion Sofia Kenin her first-round opponent.
Win that clash, and 2016 champion Angelique Kerber or 2022 runner-up Danielle Collins – who lost to Ashleigh Barty in the Australian legend’s final appearance before retirement – will be waiting in the second round.
EVERY AUSTRALIAN’S FIRST ROUND AUSTRALIAN OPEN OPPONENT
Alexei Popyrin vs Marc Polmans (WC)
Chris O’Connell vs Cristian Garin (CHI)
James Duckworth (WC) vs Luca Van Assche (FRA)
Aleksandar Vukic vs Jordan Thompson
Jason Kubler (WC) vs Daniel Elahi Galan (COL)
Alex de Minaur (10) vs Milos Raonic
Adam Walton (WC) vs Matteo Arnaldi (ITA)
Thanasi Kokkinakis vs Sebastian Ofner (AUT)
James McCabe (WC) vs Qualifier
Max Purcell vs Qualifier
Rinky Hijikata vs Jan-Lennard Struff (24) (GER)
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Taylah Preston (WC) vs Elina Svitolina (19)
Ajla Tomljanovic vs Petra Martic (CRO)
Olivia Gadecki (WC) vs Sloane Stephens
Kimberly Birrell (WC) vs Jelena Ostapenko (11) (LAT)
Daria Saville (WC) vs Magdalena Frech (POL)