10 names to watch in Melbourne

By Eleanor Crooks, PA Tennis Correspondent, Melbourne
PA Media: Sport

The new grand slam season kicks off with Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka defending their titles at the Australian Open.

Usual suspects Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Serena Williams will once again be among the title favourites when play gets under way at Melbourne Park on January 20.

Here, the PA news agency picks out 10 other names to look out for.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas

Stefanos Tsitsipas lifted the ATP Finals trophy (John Walton/PA)
Stefanos Tsitsipas lifted the ATP Finals trophy (John Walton/PA)

The 21-year-old Greek returns to the scene of his grand slam breakthrough as a top-10 player and ATP Finals champion. No longer a surprise package, Tstisipas’ big task will be to deal with the weight of expectation and keep his composure, which has been a problem at times.

Daniil Medvedev

Daniil Medvedev has already reached a grand slam final (Trevor Collens/AP)
Daniil Medvedev has already reached a grand slam final (Trevor Collens/AP)

The mercurial Russian’s brilliant US Open, where he made it all the way to the final and pushed Nadal to five sets, sent him to the top of the list of young players likely to break the big three’s slam stranglehold. A remarkable athlete for his height with stand-out defensive skills.

Denis Shapovalov

Still only 20, Shapovalov seems to have dealt with the choppy waters that nearly always follow a big breakthrough and come out the other side as a serious contender. With passion and exuberance in bucket-loads, the Canadian looks to be heading for the top 10.

Andrey Rublev

Somewhat in the shadow of his fellow young guns, Russian Rublev was the first of them to make a slam quarter-final at the US Open in 2017. Injury set him back but the 22-year-old is on the up again and goes into the tournament on a 12-match winning streak after titles in Doha and Adelaide.

Jannik Sinner

The hottest young teenage talent in tennis, 18-year-old Italian Sinner burst into the top 100 last season before producing a staggering performance to beat Alex De Minaur and win the Next Gen ATP Finals. Possesses explosive power off both wings and a competitive zeal to match.

Ashleigh Barty

Melbourne has not had an Australian women’s singles champion since Chris O’Neil in 1978 but Barty goes in as the world number one having won her maiden grand slam title in Paris last year. A quarter-finalist at Melbourne Park 12 months ago, her profile has sky-rocketed since.

Karolina Pliskova

Karolina Pliskova has begun this season in strong form (Tertius Pickard/AP)
Karolina Pliskova has begun this season in strong form (Tertius Pickard/AP)

The tall Czech has been regarded as an imminent slam winner for several seasons so could this be the tournament where it finally happens? Last year Pliskova staged a remarkable comeback to beat Williams in the quarter-finals but lost a close one to Osaka. Recently hired Dani Vallverdu as coach.

Amanda Anisimova

Anisimova reached the fourth round in Melbourne last January as a 17-year-old and went on to make the semi-finals in Paris. Tragedy followed with the sudden death of her father and long-time coach, Konstantin, in August. Tennis understandably took a back seat but she is a huge talent with a love of the big stage.

Caroline Wozniacki

Could there be a fairytale finish to Wozniacki’s career? The Dane announced last month she will retire after the tournament at the age of 29. Melbourne finally brought her the grand slam title she craved in 2018 and it has been a tough road since. Sure to get a great reaction.

Coco Gauff

Coco Gauff produced a stunning run at Wimbledon (Mike Egerton/PA)
Coco Gauff produced a stunning run at Wimbledon (Mike Egerton/PA)

One of the hottest tickets in Melbourne, as she has been at every tournament since that remarkable Wimbledon breakthrough, will be 15-year-old Gauff. The American does not turn 16 until March and already has a WTA title to her name. Will face Venus Williams, who she beat at Wimbledon, in the first round.

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