Jannik Sinner
Jannik Sinner is all smiles through the first week of the 2024 Australian Open. @janniksin
After one week Down Under, the ladies' draw has been decimated and Jannik Sinner is quietly destroying everyone in sight. Plus, those easy early rounds are no longer quite so easy.

Sinner Looks Like the Man to Beat

The Australian Open title goes through Djokovic. Everyone knows that.

But quietly, around the colorful Aussie breakfast tables, physio rooms, and ping pong tables, No. 4 seed Jannik Sinner may be the most feared opponent in the locker room right now. He ended 2023 on a tear and has not slowed a bit.

It’s hard to overstate how difficult it is to steal the limelight from Djokovic and Alcaraz, but he’s doing it.

Sinner is the only man who has yet to lose a set.

Through four matches and twelve sets, Sinner has not even been pushed to a tiebreak, meaning he hasn’t played a single set where he didn’t break serve at least once. Only twice did an opponent stretch a set to 7-5.

Sinner will meet No. 5 Andrey Rublev in the Quarterfinals, who fought back to win a gritty five-set win in the fourth round against homecourt favorite (10) Alex de Minaur.

Rublev will be Sinner’s toughest test so far, and if he gets through that, the rubber meets the road in the semis against likely opponent Novak Djokovic, who squares off against an inspired No. 12 seed Taylor Fritz.

Sinner looks more than ready for the moment.

Women’s Field Gets Wiped Out

Pap, pap-pap-pap pap…pap. Pap pap pap.

The women’s field sounded like a puppy bouncing on bubble wrap in week 1.

Seed after seed after seed kept falling. By the time the Round of 16 arrived, only seven seeded players remained, and only three of the top 10. Among the nine unseeded players are two qualifiers.

The seeds that do remain are relatively low: 2, 4, 9, 12, 18, 19, 26.

Compare that to the men’s draw: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 12, 15, 19, 20.

World No 1. Iga Swiatek is gone. So is No. 3 Elena Rybakina.

At the moment, this tournament is Coco Gauff‘s or Aryna Sabalenka‘s to lose, and they’ll meet in the semifinals. The highest remaining seed in the top half of the draw is China’s Qinwen Zheng, the No. 12 seed.

Gauff, Sabalenka, and No. 18 Victoria Azarenka are the only previous Grand Slam champions in the mix.

The women’s game remains a totally unpredictable roller coaster from one tournament to the next. Heading into week 2, each lady has a huge opportunity to get a breakthrough win here.

Wild Cards and Qualifiers Giving People Fits

The quality of tennis being played by wild cards and qualifiers is becoming hard to ignore.

Eight qualifiers and two wild cards advanced to Round 2 this year in the men’s draw.

The days of breezy first and second-round matches are long gone. Top-ranked players have to bring their A-games from day one now or they’ll be picked off by an all-too-eager, hungry, and confident no-name opponent.

The depth of talent is simply different than it has ever been. Players ranked 100 or below used to be virtual walkovers for the higher ranks, but no longer. Now, when you see someone ranked in the triple digits, you probably ought to be a little nervous.

This year’s surprise on the men’s side is Frenchman Arthur Cazaux, a 21-year-old reciprocal wild card entry who knocked off No. 8 seed Holger Rune in Round 2. He backed up that win a tidy 3-set win against 28-seed Tallon Griekspoor. No. 9 Hubert Hurkacz awaits.

Qualifier Lukas Klein (Slovakia) held a two-sets-to-one lead against No. 6 Alexander Zverev before falling in two straight tiebreaks.

No. 19 Cam Norrie had to come back from two sets down to win in five against Italian qualifier Giulio Zeppieri.

The top-ranked guys usually prevail, but the ripple effects from these tussles go far and wide. Guys who get stretched to five sets when they expected an easy day at the office suffer physically, face longer recovery times, and probably get treatment for some bruised confidence, too.

On the women’s side, two qualifiers made the final 16: Ukranian Dayana Yastremska, who routed Wimbledon champ (7) Marketa Vondrousova 6-1 6-2 in Round 1, and 20-year-old Russian Maria Timofeeva, who had three name-brand wins against Alize Cornet, Caroline Wozniacki, and (10) Beatriz Haddad-Maia before falling to a surging Marta Kostyuk.

And of course, who can forget Emma Radacanu’s unprecedented 2021 U.S. Open championship run from the qualies? A run in which she never lost a set, no less. That was such a remarkable feat—so unfathomable, unthinkable, borderline impossible—that it literally may never happen again. But the fact is that it did. It has been proven possible.

We’re feeling the ripple effects of that Grand Slam victory today as we watch all these qualifiers playing to beat the top seeds, not just to tell their grandkids they stepped on the court with them.

Here’s the catch, though. As an unknown player, you only get one chance to sneak up on everyone. Once you score some big wins, everyone knows who you are and what your game is all about. Your weapons, tendencies, and weaknesses have all been exposed. Suddenly there’s film to study. Opposing coaches will scout you. You can’t hide in the draw anymore. So you get one chance to make some free hay. After that, you’ll have to win with talent. The element of surprise is fleeting.

Reflex Volleys

Mirra Andreeva

She’s on the doorstep. Her day will come soon, maybe several times over before she turns 20. Andreeva took her idol Ons Jabeur to the woodshed with a 6-0 6-2 drumming in R2.

Her easy charm was on full display after the match when she said she felt “more mature” than last year when she was playing in the junior final. The interviewer joked “you’re only 16” to which she parried “that’s true, but last year I was 15.” Touché, Mirra.

Fritzipas / Fritzi-Tsitsi

A rivaly we want to see more of is Taylor Fritz vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas, if only for the marvelous nicknames.

Adrian Mannarino

A lot to love about Mannarino’s thrilling 3-match run before running into the Djokovic buzzsaw. Three straight five-set victories preceded that unpleasant 6-0 6-0 6-3 loss that he couldn’t help but laugh about.

Happy to see some clothing sponsors throw him some love before his Djokovic match, but in a way it was too bad, because he had the best t-shirt game in the biz.

Welcome to the top 20, Adrian. Well played.

22-20 Tiebreak

It took sixteen combined match points to bring Anna Blinkova’s upset win over (3) Elena Rybakina to a close. That 22-20 third-set tiebreak was edge-of-your-seat theater. Tough to see either woman lose, but it’s glorious when tennis gives us an ending like that.

Gratuitous Carlos Alcaraz Highlight