Hype travels fast. A relatively full crowd on Court 7 has been getting its first glimpse of Carlos Alcaraz in his second Australian Open main draw appearance. The 18-year-old had an incredible breakout year in 2021, reaching the US Open quarter-final and ending the season by winning the Next Gen ATP Finals. His movement, intensity and weight of shot off both wings are all already top quality and it also looks like he has bulked up a little in the off-season. Clearly one to watch this year in Australia.
Novak Djokovic is gone but, would you believe it, the world is still turning and that means finally there is some actual main draw grand slam tennis to talk about. After the most drawn-out, scrutinised and lamentable build-up to a major tennis tournament ever, the familiar tik-tok of tennis balls being hit over a net will finally take over from the relentless stream of Djokovic takes on, um, TikTok and such like. Of course, the shadow cast by the saga very much remains over Melbourne Park, and Djokovic will remain a hot topic for some time to come, but at least the presence of the likes of Naomi Osaka, Rafael Nadal and Ash Barty on court today will help return focus to the actual game of tennis.
Osaka, the reigning Australian Open champion, kicks off her title defence second up on Rod Laver Arena, where play starts today at 11am local time, midnight in the UK and 7pm in New York. The Japanese returns from a mental health break with what should be a straightforward opener against Colombia’s world No. 53 Camila Osorio. Nadal follows, not before 2pm AEDT, against Marcos Giron of the US, as the Spaniard begins his bid to to move out on his own as the winner of 21 grand slams, before women’s world No 1 and home hope Ash Barty gets the evening session under way against Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko. Plus plenty more around the grounds throughout the day, of course.
Right, you can drop me a line at email@example.com or tweet @mike_hytner. Otherwise, strap yourselves in for day one of the year’s opening grand slam.