With Novak Djokovic making his return to Melbourne after his ill-fated trip to Australia in 2022, and much speculation on who will fill the 43-major-trophy-size voids left by Serena Williams and Roger Federer, there are more than a few storylines to watch going into the 2023 Australian Open. But, perhaps, lost in such conversations is a pretty basic question:
Who’s going to win this thing?
While every player in the draw has a legitimate chance to hoist the trophy at the end of the fortnight, some have a better chance than others.
Here’s a tiered look at where some of the best and brightest in the men’s and women’s fields stand entering the tournament.
Of course, we are more than aware that someone not listed on here could stun us, like Emma Raducanu did as a qualifier at the US Open in 2021. But frankly, we didn’t think you would have the patience to read about 256 players.
Tier 1: The absolute favorites
Novak Djokovic (Serbia): He’s a nine-time champion at the event and won three straight from 2019 to 2021. While there are a ton of questions about how he’ll fare this year after being deported in 2022, and the emotions that his return undoubtedly conjure up, he still is the best and most dominant player currently in the game.
Despite playing a limited schedule in 2022, and missing two majors, he still won Wimbledon, as well as four other titles, including the year-end ATP Finals. Djokovic started 2023 by collecting yet another trophy at Adelaide. Likely playing with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove, he is going to be very tough to beat. And it doesn’t hurt his chances that world No. 1 and reigning US Open champion Carlos Alcaraz won’t be in Melbourne because of a right leg injury.
Iga Swiatek (Poland): Duh, right? To briefly recap Swiatek’s 2022 season, she won the French Open and the US Open along with six other titles, had a 37-match win streak, then took over the No. 1 ranking in April and never relinquished it. In fact, she finished the year with more than double the ranking points of anyone else.
The 21-year-old is the clear favorite, because — even with a lopsided loss to Jessica Pegula during the United Cup — she is genuinely head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field. This tournament is hers to lose.
Tier 2: The not quite as clear-cut but could-be-champions
Rafael Nadal (Spain): We get it — in many ways, it seems ridiculous to have Nadal in this category and not the one above. After all he’s the defending champion after one of the most inspired performances during the 2022 tournament and has more major titles than any other man in history.
Still, Nadal struggled with injuries for much of the latter part of last season, including having to withdraw ahead of the Wimbledon semifinals with a recurring abdominal tear. After losing in the fourth round of the US Open, he won just one more match on the year and, in a first for Nadal, he lost the first two matches of the new season.
It’s hard to know exactly what to expect from the 36-year-old Nadal entering the Australian Open, but it is certain that he will give it everything he has.
Caroline Garcia (France): Perhaps no one had a better final half of the season — including Swiatek — than the 29-year-old Garcia. In fact, she was one of the few to beat Swiatek — and did it at the Poland Open in front of a very pro-Swiatek crowd. Garcia won her first 1000-level title at Cincinnati, as well as the titles in Poland and at Bad Homburg. She reached her first major semifinals at the US Open and ended the year by winning the WTA Finals. Her red-hot momentum and surging confidence should propel her far in Melbourne.
Casper Ruud (Norway): The runner-up at the French Open, the US Open and the ATP Finals in 2022, Ruud will be looking for that ultimate breakthrough in 2023. He has come oh-so-close and knows what it takes to get to that final match. Will Australia be where he finally puts it all together and wins his first major trophy?
Ons Jabeur (Tunisia): Much like Ruud, Jabeur is out for more in the new year after reaching the finals at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2022 but not being able to win. Melbourne was the site of her first Grand Slam quarterfinals in 2020. Now, she’s coming off of the best season of her career, which saw her end the year at No. 2 and earn her first 1000-level trophy. The sting of the major disappointments might just fuel her to a very strong start of the 2023 season, which already saw her reach the semifinals in Adelaide.
Tier 3: If everything goes their way
Jessica Pegula (USA): Other than Swiatek, no woman was more consistent in majors in 2022 than Pegula, who reached the quarterfinals at the Australian Open, the French Open and the US Open. The 28-year-old ended the season at a career-high ranking of No. 3 and remains the top-ranked American player. She won her biggest title yet at the 1000-level Guadalajara Open in October — defeating four Grand Slam champions en route to the final — and somehow seems to get better with every tournament she plays. During the United Cup, Pegula helped lead the U.S. team to the title and recorded a blistering 6-2, 6-2 win over Swiatek in the semis. She’s reached the quarters in the last two Australian Opens, and will need to find that extra gear to go even further this tournament.
Felix Auger-Aliassime (Canada): The 22-year-old won three straight tournaments in October, then reached his first-ever ATP Finals and a new career-high ranking of No. 6 to end the year. Not to mention, he led Canada to its first-ever Davis Cup victory and beat Djokovic, Nadal and Alcaraz during the final stretch of the season. He reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne last year and has long looked to be one of the ATP’s brightest young stars. Despite an opening-round loss in his first event of 2023, a semifinal or even final run seems well within reach.
Coco Gauff (USA): The 18-year-old’s steady rise up the ranks continued in 2022 as she reached her first major final in Paris and cracked the top five in October. A Grand Slam title has long felt like a given for the teenager, and it’s simply a matter of when. She fell in the opening round at the 2022 Australian Open, but it seems unlikely she will let that happen again, especially coming off of her first US Open quarterfinal appearance in September and a title in Auckland this month. She often seems to play her best away from the American spotlight — could this be her time to collect that first major trophy?
Daniil Medvedev (Russia): The 2021 US Open champion and two-time Australian Open finalist didn’t have his best year in 2022, but he will undoubtedly be looking to avenge his disappointing finish against Nadal in Melbourne. He remains one of the best in the world on the hard court — winning two titles on the surface to end 2022 and opening 2023 with a semifinal run in Adelaide. Medvedev will be hoping to rediscover his form that briefly took him to the world’s top ranking in February.
Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus): Sabalenka is one of the best and most consistent players of recent years currently in women’s tennis to have not yet won a major. The 24-year-old reached her second semifinals at the US Open in September and the final at the WTA Finals in November. While she’s a two-time Grand Slam doubles champion, including the 2021 Australian Open title, she never seems to be able to find her level in singles when the stakes are highest. But she has spoken openly about working with a sports psychologist and won the title in Adelaide to start the new season.
Taylor Fritz (USA): 2022 was a banner year for the 25-year-old. Fritz defeated Nadal for his first 1000-level title at Indian Wells, won titles at Eastbourne and the Japan Open and made his top-10 debut. He also reached his first major quarterfinals at Wimbledon — and missed out on his first semifinal appearance in a fifth-set tiebreak. He has proven to himself he’s just a few points, literally, away from reaching the final four at a Grand Slam and seems to be more confident than ever in his ability. Just take a look at his United Cup-clinching win over Matteo Berrettini for proof. He’ll need to put everything together for a deep run in Melbourne, but he’s certainly capable.
Tier 4: It could happen
Nick Kyrgios (Australia): The dynamic Aussie has always been a crowd favorite at his home Slam and now, having reached his first major final at Wimbledon, he’s proven he has what it takes to be a legitimate contender for Grand Slams. Of course, the pressure of playing at home is often challenging, but all of the pieces are there for Kyrgios to become the first countryman to win the singles title at home since 1976.
Holger Rune (Denmark): The only reason the 19-year-old and reigning ATP Newcomer of the Year isn’t in a higher tier is because of experience and having not previously advanced past the third round at a major. But with three titles to his name in 2022, including at the 1000-level Paris Masters in November, a run into the second week would hardly be surprising for the uber-talented and brimming-with-potential teenager.
Danielle Collins (USA): A surprise finalist at the 2022 Australian Open, the 29-year-old had mixed results the rest of the year but has proven she knows what it takes to go far at the event. Perhaps being back at the scene of her biggest career breakthrough will motivate her to a repeat title match appearance. (Ashleigh Barty, the 2022 champion and the first Australian to win the title since 1978, retired shortly after her victory over Collins.)
Elena Rybakina (Kazakhstan): There arguably hasn’t been a major champion to go as under-the-radar in recent years like Rybakina. The 23-year-old won Wimbledon, but because she received no ranking points due to the tournament’s ban on Russian and Belarusian players, she didn’t have the rankings jump one would normally have.
She reached the final at the Slovenia Open following her All England Club triumph, but otherwise wasn’t much of a factor. Still, she has the ability to win seven matches in a row when it counts, and completely dismantled Swiatek, 6-3, 6-1, in a World Tennis League match in December. She likely will be looking to show her Wimbledon title was no fluke.
Stefanos Tsitsipas (Greece): While he’s best known for his clay-court prowess, Tsitsipas had his most consistent major results in Australia and has reached the semifinals during three of his last four appearances. Despite not coming off of his best season, he thrives in the Aussie summer and with the large Greek contingent that often is in the crowd, as evidenced during his impressive United Cup performance.
Daria Kasatkina (Russia): The 25-year-old had a resurgent 2022, reaching her first major semifinal in Paris and returning to the top 10 for the first time since 2019. Kasatkina won two titles on hard court in August and is capable of beating anyone on any given day on the surface.
Frances Tiafoe (USA): Having pulled off one of the biggest upsets at the US Open with a fourth-round victory over Nadal, and ultimately reaching his first Grand Slam semifinal, Tiafoe, 24, cemented his status as a serious challenger for major titles. The American first made a name for himself on the world stage with a quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open in 2019 — could the event be the place where he takes his career even further in 2023? His strong United Cup performance, in which he went 5-0 in singles, certainly indicates it’s more than plausible.
Karolina Pliskova (Czech Republic): The only active player to have reached No. 1 without a Grand Slam title, Pliskova reached the semifinal at the event in 2019 and is coming off a quarterfinal run in New York. She can never be counted out and is often her most dominant when the expectations are low.
Karen Khachanov (Russia): He’s never advanced past the third round in Melbourne, but that was also true ahead of the 2022 US Open and he went on to advance to his first major semifinal.
Matteo Berrettini (Italy): The 2021 Wimbledon finalist missed both the French Open and Wimbledon last year, but had his best major result in Melbourne with a quarterfinal appearance — and things are already looking up in 2023. He helped lead Italy to a final run at the United Cup and he recorded singles wins over Ruud and Hurkacz during the event.
Jannik Sinner (Italy): At just 21 years old, Sinner has already reached the quarterfinals in every major and was painfully close to reaching his first semifinal at the US Open in September before losing to Alcaraz in one of the most exciting matches of the year. He didn’t do much following that defeat, but it seems all but certain his opportunity is coming.
Maria Sakkari (Greece): Had this list been created last year, Sakkari would have been in a much higher category after she reached the semifinals at both the French Open and the US Open in 2021. However, she was unable to replicate her success in 2022 and a fourth-round appearance in Melbourne was her best major result of the year. She will undoubtedly be trying to get back on track in 2023. She helped lead the Greek team to the semifinals of the United Cup and will be looking for even more at the Australian Open.
Andrey Rublev (Russia): A six-time major quarterfinalist, including during the 2021 Australian Open, Rublev is no stranger to the second week at majors. But getting into the semifinals has proved challenging. He won three hard-court titles in 2022 and will be looking to find a way to replicate his success on the bigger stage.
Veronika Kudermetova (Russia): With career-best campaigns at both the French Open (quarterfinals) and the US Open (fourth round), the 25-year-old landed inside the top 10 for the first time in 2022. Her 2023 campaign got off to an impressive start with back-to-back straight set victories over Amanda Anisimova and Bianca Andreescu in Adelaide — and recorded a bagel set against both.
Hubert Hurkacz (Poland): Hurkacz is the highest ranking Polish male player, but has yet to advance past the second round at a hard-court major. The No. 11 player in the world is a former Miami Open champion and reached the final at the Canadian Open in August. He notched a Wimbledon semifinal appearance in 2021 and helped lead the Polish team to the United Cup semifinals.
Madison Keys (USA): The two-time Australian Open semifinalist had a red-hot start to the season as part of the American squad at the United Cup, winning all five of her singles matches and leading the team to the trophy. Now back inside the top 10 for the first time since 2019, and perhaps slightly under-the-radar, could this be when the 27-year-old finally nabs her first major title?
Tier 4.5: Former major champions who can never be counted out
Victoria Azarenka (Belarus): While it’s somehow been 10 years since her last title in Melbourne, she’s a two-time Australian Open champion who remains more than capable of finding magic on the hard court. Her 2022 season wasn’t particularly noteworthy, but she ended the year with a semifinal run, including wins over Gauff and Keys in Guadalajara and reached the quarterfinals in her season opener in Adelaide.
Andy Murray (Great Britain): Due to his chronic hip issues and subsequent surgeries, Murray hasn’t advanced past the third round at a Grand Slam since 2018. Despite that, he has sounded optimistic about the new year in recent interviews. He proved he’s still able to pull off the big wins in 2022, and as a five-time Australian Open finalist, he knows what it takes to reach the title match. Unlikely but definitely not impossible.
Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic): After reaching the finals in 2019, and the quarters the following year, Kvitova has been handed early losses in Australia the past two seasons. But she’s a two-time Wimbledon champion for a reason and she reached the final at Cincinnati in August.
Tier 5: Wilder things have happened
Lorenzo Musetti (Italy): He’s just 20, lost in the first round in three of the four majors in 2022 and is often unpredictable. But despite all that, he won two titles last year, finished the season with a career-best ranking of No. 23, and recorded victories over Alcaraz, Ruud and Berrettini. Not to mention, he’s no stranger to winning in Melbourne as he claimed the junior title in 2019.
Alex de Minaur (Australia): With Barty having snapped the Aussie drought for the title last year, expect the conversation to focus on when a man can follow suit. While Kyrgios is the favorite to do so, De Minaur has been perhaps the most quietly consistent in recent years among the countrymen. He won the title in Atlanta in July, reached the semifinals in Stockholm in October and had wins over Medvedev at the Paris Masters in his final tournament of the year and Nadal at the United Cup earlier this month.
Beatriz Haddad Maia (Brazil): She’s never made it past the second round at a Slam but she had never won a WTA title until 2022 and ended the year with two to her name. She entered last season ranked at No. 82 and finished with a career-high of No. 15 — and her progress has shown no signs of slowing down.
Borna Coric (Croatia): After missing nearly a year on tour due to shoulder surgery and seeing his ranking plummet to No. 278, the 26-year-old made his return known with a surprising title victory in Cincinnati in August. Coric defeated five top-20 players along the way, including Nadal, Auger-Aliassime and Tsitsipas. He ended the season with the ATP’s Comeback Player of the Year honors and a No. 26 ranking.
Qinwen Zheng (China): The 20-year-old was named the WTA’s 2022 Newcomer of the Year after jumping more than 100 ranking points on the season and ending the year at No. 27. She seems poised for superstardom, on and off the court, and gave Swiatek the biggest challenge of her French Open run with a three-set battle in the fourth round. She had to retire from her match against Kvitova at Adelaide 2 with an injury earlier this week, but there’s no indication she won’t be ready to play in Melbourne.
Sebastian Korda (USA): Like Musetti, Korda is a former Australian Open junior champion, having won the title in 2018. Unlike Musetti, he’s also the son of a former Australian Open champion (and the brother of a golf major champion). Since turning pro, Korda has reached the fourth round at the French Open and Wimbledon and advanced to two ATP finals in 2022. He started the new year by reaching the final at Adelaide. Many have predicted he’s the next big American men’s star, and a substantial run Down Under would seem fitting.
Tier 6: There’s no way… OR IS THERE?
Ben Shelton (USA): Shelton had a meteoric rise late in 2022 and he finished the season with three-straight Challenger titles and a top-100 debut. The reigning NCAA singles champion, Shelton put his peers on notice with a third-round run in Cincinnati — including an upset victory over Ruud — as a wild card in August. While the unexpected Cinderella runs of young players are more common on the women’s side, if anyone could do it on the men’s side, it might just be Shelton.
Emma Raducanu (Great Britain): The 2021 US Open champion had a rude awakening in 2022 with a target on her back and the intense glare of the spotlight. She struggled and didn’t advance past the second round at a Grand Slam, nor did she make a final at any event. She was forced to withdraw from her Round of 16 match at Auckland with an ankle injury last week and it remains unclear if she will be back to full strength once play gets underway. Still, she’s only 20 and now, with the attention slightly removed and a year’s worth of experience as a champion under her belt, she could just surprise everyone with a run into the second week, if healthy.