Australian Open 2024: Top seeds, schedule, wildcards, draw and prize money

Top seeds, defending champions, prize money and big names missing out at the first tennis Grand Slam of the year.

Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic has won a record ten Australian Open tennis titles [File: Edgar Su/Reuters]

The first tennis Grand Slam of the year is upon is as Melbourne Park plays host to the Australian Open 2024.

Here’s what you need to know about the tournament:

What are the key dates?

The Australian Open begins on Sunday, January 14 and runs through to the men’s singles final on Sunday, January 28.

The women’s singles final will be staged the day before.

The event’s 15-day duration is a first, given the tournament would usually begin on a Monday, but an extra day has been added in the hope of avoiding late-night finishes.

Players qualify for the main draw by being ranked in the top 104, or by winning three qualifying matches (in qualifiers from January 8 to 11), or by wildcard.

How much is the prize money?

The total prize money for the tournament has increased by 13 percent this year to stand at 86.5 million Australian dollars ($57.83m).

The singles champions will win 3.15 million Australian dollars ($2.11m) each.

Who are the favourites?

Both reigning champions will line up in Melbourne to defend their crowns, with Serbia’s Novak Djokovic defending his men’s singles title and Belarus’s Aryna Sabalenka competing to retain the women’s trophy.

Djokovic, 36, has won the Australian Open on 10 occasions and is the top seed. Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz, Russia’s Daniil Medvedev and Italy’s Jannik Sinner are ranked two, three and four.

Alcaraz heads to Melbourne Park without any competitive matches under his belt this season.

Sabalenk lost the women’s number one ranking to Poland’s Iga Swiatek last year.

America’s Coco Gauff is seeded third behind the pair after winning the US Open in September. Elena Rybakina, who won Wimbledon in 2022, is ranked fourth.

The biggest name to miss out is Spain’s Rafael Nadal as he continues his rehabilitation from a hip injury but Britain’s Emma Raducanu, who won the 2021 US Open, returns from eight months out following surgery on both her wrist and ankle. Japan’s Naomi Osaka also returns after giving birth last July, hoping to add to her four major titles. 

What happened in Thursday’s Australian Open draw?

Djokovic begins his quest for a record-extending 11th Australian Open title and 25th Grand Slam crown overall against one of the qualifiers.

The Serbian 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.

The 36-year-old has been given a relatively gentle start but could play Greek seventh seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals in what would be a mouthwatering rematch of last year’s final.

Meanwhile, Swiatek faces a tricky test against 2020 champion Sofia Kenin.

Defending champion Sabalenka will also take on a qualifier first while 2023 runner-up Elena Rybakina, who Sabalenka in the final of the tune-up tournament in Brisbane, faces former world number one Karolina Pliskova.

Wimbledon champion Alcaraz meets French veteran Richard Gasquet.

The 20-year-old second seed is on course for a quarterfinal 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 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 Gauff faces Anna Karolina Schmiedlova, while Osaka, who won the title in 2019 and 2021, returns to Grand Slam tennis for the first time since 2022 and is pitted against Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia in a tricky opener.

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 begin his campaign against Canadian former world number three Milos Raonic.

What time will the ties be played?

The show courts start at 12pm (01:00 GMT) while the day sessions begin an hour earlier on the outer courts.

The Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena and John Cain Arena will host the night sessions which begin at 7pm (08:00 GMT).

Both the women’s and men’s singles finals start at 7:30pm (08:30 GMT).

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies