2023’s First Grand Slam Tournament: The Australian Open

Sofia Strohmeier, Copy Editor

In the mix of four Grand Slam tournaments — the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and United States Open — the Australian Open began a new year of tennis in Melbourne Park from Jan. 16-29. A total of 256 players in both singles and doubles will compete in matches for a bump in their rankings, prize money and receive the honorary title of Grand Slam champion.

The Australian Open originated in 1905, gaining the title of “The Happy Slam” for its popularity as a fan favorite among guests and players. Furthermore, the event brings record-breaking spectator numbers, reaching 812,174 in the span of two weeks in 2020 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic — the highest viewership any tennis tournament has seen. In total, the tournament has seated 6.34 million guests within the past decade. Previously named the Australasian Championships in its inauguration, it held a partnership with New Zealand until 1927 when it became independently owned by Australia. Now, Craig Tiley serves as both the director of the open and the CEO of tennis in Australia, overseeing the entirety of the sport in the country. 

“The Australian Open is very similar to the U.S. open because it is a hard court tournament, but it is known for being the first Grand Slam of the year,” Miami Palmetto Senior High junior and tennis player Mia Sorrentino said. “I usually watch as much as I can, and I like watching it because I really like seeing how professional tennis compares to junior tennis.”

Many notable players will make appearances in the tournament, such as defending champion Rafael Nadal, who has acquired two Australian Open victories and 22 total Grand Slam wins. Currently, Nadal sits second in the Association of Tennis Professionals rankings below 19-year-old and fellow Spaniard, Carlos Alcaraz, who will sit out of the tournament due to a leg injury. A familiar competitor to Nadal, Novak Djokovic, from Serbia, is fighting for his tenth Australian Open win and to equate Nadal’s 22 major victories. Reaching the final matches in both the 2022 French Open and U.S. Open, 24-year-old Casper Ruud is the first Norwegian player to reach a major final and stands as a considerable contender for this tournament as he currently sits third in the world. 

On the women’s side, number one player, Iga Swiatek from Poland, displays a clear eye for the prize after a successful 2022 season, winning eight total tournaments with two of them being Grand Slams, making her the first female player since 2016 to win more than one Grand Slam tournament in a single year. Tunisian and number two player, Ons Jabeur demonstrated great skill after reaching two Grand Slam finals last year, making her a potential candidate for this year’s title. Additionally, American Jessica Pegula, sitting at the third-ranking spot, beat Swiatek in the United Cup semi-final on Jan. 6, giving her a boost for a victory. 

“Swiatek has become a very good competitor over the past few months, and [I think] Djokovic [will win] because he is one of the most athletic players on the tour and he is known for moving really well on hard courts,” Sorrentino said.

For more information on where and when to watch the matches, click here.