Australian Open 2024: Emma Raducanu, Novak Djokovic, Naomi Osaka among storylines

Australian Open

By Jonathan Jurejko

BBC Sport at Melbourne Park

Australian Open 2024
Dates: 14-28 January Venue: Melbourne Park
Coverage: Daily commentary from 07:00 GMT on Tennis Breakfast on Radio 5 Sports Extra and BBC Sounds, with selected live text commentaries and matc reports on the BBC Sport website and app.

A host of illustrious names have returned to action at the start of the 2024 season, adding more star power to an eagerly anticipated first Grand Slam of the year at the Australian Open.

Novak Djokovic is aiming for a record-extending 11th men’s singles title – and an outright record 25th Grand Slam singles title – with Aryna Sabalenka looking to defend the women’s singles.

The tournament starts at Melbourne Park on Sunday, concluding with the finals weekend on 27-28 January.

Here, BBC Sport picks out five of the key storylines going into the event.

Raducanu’s return

Britain’s Emma Raducanu is back on court after a long period on the sidelines and will be the focus of lots of attention.

The 21-year-old Briton spent eight months out following wrist and ankle surgeries last year, returning with a victory over Romania’s Gabi Ruse at the recent Auckland Open before losing to Wimbledon semi-finalist Elina Svitolina.

Expectations about Raducanu’s progress must be tempered and patience is required. Pulling out of two exhibition matches in Melbourne this week was illustrative of the precautionary measures she is taking.

A host of physical problems hampered her progress following the shock 2021 US Open victory which catapulted her from relative obscurity to sporting superstardom.

Avoiding major injuries – although minor niggles after a long absence may be unavoidable – will be the key to a productive season.

With an injury-protected ranking of 103, Raducanu will start in the Australian Open main draw after benefitting from the withdrawal of several players above her.

“I think success to me in the long-term is to play a full season, to be healthy throughout and be able to train consistent weeks,” she said.

“I know my level is there, I just need to keep working on it to make it more consistent.”

Djokovic still the man to beat

Serbian great Djokovic calls the Australian Open his “second home”, such has been his dominance over the years.

Since claiming the first major of his career there in 2008, Djokovic has gone on to win nine more titles which include each of the past four years he has been able to play.

The men’s world number one, who has lost two of his past 48 singles matches at Melbourne Park, has not been beaten there since a defeat by South Korea’s Chung Hyeon in 2018.

Time may not be on his side but the 36-year-old is showing few signs of slowing down, having won three of the four majors last year in one of the very best seasons of his career.

This year started with a defeat by Australia’s Alex de Minaur in the United Cup, where he was hampered by a wrist injury.

However, history shows that Djokovic – who has encountered physical issues during each of his past two triumphs – has the knack of producing his best in Melbourne, no matter what obstacles are in his way.

Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz and Italy’s Jannik Sinner are considered the likeliest of the younger contingent to threaten his dominance this year, while last year’s beaten finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas and two-time runner-up Daniil Medvedev have strong pedigree.

However, Djokovic will not see long-time rival Rafael Nadal after the 22-time major champion – in what could be the start of his final season before retirement – pulled out with another injury setback.

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