2024 is set to be an exciting year of tennis, as it will be for most sports fans given the bonus of the Olympic Games in Paris this summer. Looking at the men’s game, not many will bet against Novak Djokovic adding to his record number of grand slam titles.
The Serbian turns 37 in May but has shown no signs of slowing down and remains the dominant player on the ATP Tour.
His 24 career singles grand slam titles put him ahead of every player in history, two ahead of his biggest rival, Rafael Nadal. Djokovic won all except for Wimbledon in 2023, losing in the final of that slam in five sets to Carlos Alcaraz.
His dominance and desire to be the best has not dwindled and he starts as the favorite for all titles in 2024 again as he looks to separate himself from his biggest rivals, namely Nadal and Roger Federer, as the greatest of all time.
Djokovic will face greater competition in 2024, however, with Nadal seeking a return at the Australian Open in January. The Spaniard has not competed on the court since the Melbourne tournament in 2023 and has already earmarked 2024 as “probably” being his last year on the tour.
Nadal has played through injuries throughout his career and his latest setbacks, despite his age, do little to dampen expectations of him being competitive in his final season. It seems the script is well set up for the 37-year-old too in 2024, with more chances to win major titles.
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The location of the Olympics, where Roland Garros will play host to the tennis event in July and August, has fueled talk of a Nadal revival. Nadal is the single most dominant and feared player in the history of the sport on the clay court surface, where he has won 14 out of his 22 slam titles at Roland Garros.
He will have the ambition of adding to his 2008 singles and 2016 doubles gold medals this year, where he could be competitive in each, should he form a ‘super team’ with compatriot Alcaraz for the doubles. It would further cement his position and legacy in the sport, with neither Djokovic nor Federer having won a singles Olympic gold medal, though the latter has won a gold in the doubles.
It is an indictment of how dominant the ‘big three’ players in the men’s game have been for decades that a 37-year Spaniard returning for his final season offers the most credible threat to Djokovic’s dominance again in 2024.
Some names of exception to this would be 2023 Wimbledon champion Alcaraz, with the 20-year-old proving beyond doubt that he is the long-term successor to the ‘veterans’ of the game, with two slam titles to his name already. 2024 could also be a big year for Jannik Sinner, with the Italian 22-year-old growing in stature this year.
Sinner was voted the ATP Tour ‘Fan Favourite’ singles player of the year, only the third name since 2003, with Federer winning all until 2021, and Nadal claiming it in 2022.
His popularity has, however, also been backed up by strong results on the tour, which saw him win his maiden ATP Masters 1000 tournament and lead Italy to its first Davis Cup title since 1976.
Daniil Medvedev is the only other name in the top 10 with a grand slam to his name and is the only other player in the men’s game truly capable of winning a slam in 2024.
With only five serious names in the mix for grand slam titles in the men’s game in 2024, there is a huge contrast to that on the WTA Tour, which promises to be as competitive as ever.
Over the past decade, the men’s tour has only had four different slam calendar winners on two occasions (2014 and 2020), while the mix of winners in the women’s comparatively has happened on six occasions over the same period including the 2023 season.
There is no standout serial winner in the women’s game either, with even the world number one, Iga Swiatek, winning ‘only’ four titles since 2020. The openness of the game is best summarised when looking back at the Wimbledon Championships in 2023 which was won by Marketa Vondrousova, ranked number 42 before its start.
Six out of the current top 10 women’s players have at least one grand slam title, with the number of winners extending further into all areas across the top 30. Another reason for the openness of the draw in women’s tennis is the reduced time spent on court whereby surprises are more likely due to games being played to best-of-three sets, as opposed to best-of-five in the men’s game.
The women’s side will be even more competitive with the hopeful return of the two biggest and most commercial names to emerge from the sport in recent years. The first is four-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka who returns after pregnancy and hiatus during the 2023 season.
Osaka adds commercial and popular fan interest beyond any other player and will be a huge addition to the tour regardless of her success. Osaka’s return will generate huge media interest as she seeks to return to her best and make history by joining a short and exclusive list of grand slam-winning mothers.
Throughout the sport’s history, only Margaret Court, Evonne Goolagong, and Kim Clijsters have achieved the feat of winning a slam after giving birth.
At only 26, the Japanese-American star has plenty of time to record more victories on the tour, but the size of the task is best exemplified by Serena Williams’ inability to do so after giving birth in 2017, despite reaching a final on four occasions.
However, there is more reason for belief in Osaka given her age, with Serena competing after pregnancy from the age of 36.
The other big name with hopes of making a competitive return in 2024 is British star Emma Raducanu. The 21-year-old has been blighted by injuries and an unstable coaching setup but her 2021 US Open triumph has shown her potential to be great.
Raducanu has been able to jump on the commercial success that has followed but will be using 2024 as an important season to mark a return to the top of the game.
Overall, it’s an exciting time for the women’s game heading into the Australian Open next year where the list of potential winners goes on.
Added to the names already mentioned, Coco Gauff and Aryna Sabalenka have proven their credentials at the slams, with wins in 2023, whilst hopes will remain high for Ons Jabeur finally breaking her bad luck at the majors.
The likes of Belinda Bencic, Elina Svitolina, and Maria Sakkari could prove a threat too, whilst young prospects such as Leylah Fernandez and Mirra Andreeva could break through into the top 10 and compete at the majors in 2024.
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