Djokovic plays qualifier, Swiatek faces Kenin at Australian Open

Serbian star required treatment for a wrist problem during his United Cup defeat by Alex de Minaur

REUTERS January 11, 2024


Novak Djokovic will begin his quest for a record-extending 11th Australian Open title and 25th Grand Slam crown overall against a qualifier, while top-ranked Iga Swiatek faces a tricky test against 2020 champion Sofia Kenin, after the draw on Thursday.

Djokovic required treatment for a wrist problem during his United Cup defeat by Alex de Minaur last week - his first loss in Australia for six years - and can put that disappointment behind him with a fast start at his most successful major.

The 36-year-old Serb could play Greek seventh seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals in what would be a mouthwatering rematch of last year’s title clash.

Defending women’s champion Aryna Sabalenka also takes on a qualifier first while 2023 runner-up Elena Rybakina, who downed the world number two in the final of the tune-up tournament in Brisbane, faces former world number one Karolina Pliskova.

Wimbledon champion Carlos Alcaraz heads to Melbourne Park for the year’s opening Grand Slam starting on Sunday without any competitive matches under his belt this season, and the Spaniard meets French veteran Richard Gasquet.

The 20-year-old second seed is on course for a quarter-final clash with the rejuvenated Alexander Zverev, who goes up against fellow German Dominik Koepfer.

Tsitsipas squares off with Matteo Berrettini in another tantalising opener, while twice-finalist Daniil Medvedev will start against a qualifier.

Italian youngster Jannik Sinner, who is tipped to go deep at Melbourne Park, will face Botic van de Zandschulp.

US Open champion Coco Gauff will take on Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, while four-times major winner Naomi Osaka returns to Grand Slam tennis for the first time since 2022 and plays Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia in a tricky opener.

Jelena Ostapenko marches into Adelaide semi-finals

Osaka, who won the title in 2019 and 2021, only returned to action at Brisbane having spent 15 months on the sidelines and giving birth to her first child in July.

Angelique Kerber, who also made her comeback to the tour following a lengthy maternity break, will play 2022 runner-up Danielle Collins in her opener and could take on top seed Swiatek in the next round.

Wild card Caroline Wozniacki, another former champion and returning mother, will play 20th seed Magda Linette.

Australia’s Alex de Minaur, who stunned Djokovic last week before beating Alcaraz in a charity match, will spearhead local hopes and begins his campaign against Canadian former world number three Milos Raonic.


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