No. 1 seed Iga Swiatek leads the pack of a what could be a new Big Four. @wta
A Big Four is emerging in women's tennis and three champion-grade mothers are suiting back up in this year's Australian Open.

The 2024 Australian Open begins on January 14th. Here are the stories to watch in the ladies’ draw.

Is A Big Four Coalescing at the Top?

Parity has been the hallmark of the WTA Tour for the last 10–20 years. It’s part of what makes each Grand Slam exciting and befuddling. Anyone can win. Or perhaps more accurately, anyone can lose.

Singular dominance has been largely absent from the game for a long time. The 80s had Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert. The 90s had Steffi Graf and Monica Seles. The 2000s had Serena, Venus, and Justine Henin.

The 2010s through present day has been mostly up for grabs, though.

An unexpected, often unheralded, player will catch lightning in a bottle for two weeks, and the eye test during those weeks screams permanent contender.

And then, poof. They lose in the early rounds of subsequent tournaments, typically failing to rise up and contend again.

One thing the sport has never truly seen is group dominance.

Something feels different now though. We have four women at the top of the game who might be starting a new era in tennis. A Big Four on the women’s side, perfectly timed as the Big Four that mercilessly controlled the men’s game enters its twilight.

The current top four, in order, are Iga Swiatek, Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina, and Coco Gauff. Each of these players has reached multiple major finals and won at least once, so their get-over-the-hump moments are behind them.

Between them, they have won 6 of the last 7 Grand Slams, and they are claiming most of the titles in between as well. It feels like something is brewing.

Sabalenka briefly took over the world No. 1 ranking from Swiatek following a loss in the U.S. Open finals to Gauff. Swiatek swiftly reclaimed the top spot, rightfully so. She is by far the most consistent winner of the bunch and has more Grand Slams (4) than the rest combined (1 apiece).

Rybankina and Gauff are both at career highs right now, ranked Nos. 3 and 4 respectively.

With an average age of 22½, this youthful group could burgeon into a four-headed rivalry stretching over the next decade-plus.

At 19 years old and entering her first major since breaking through at the 2023 U.S. Open, Coco Gauff openly declared she wants to win “double-digit” majors. That’s the kind of bold proclamation that can actually get her there. It means she expects to win again, she’s embracing the pressure, and each win will be a stepping stone rather than an overachievement or moutaintop. She has good mental coaches around her, and everything is clicking right now as she started the season with a title in Auckland.

Rybakina has the best mental fortitude of the group and enters the Australian Open on the heels of a 6-0, 6-3 thrashing of Sabalenka in the Brisbane finals. More astounding is that she only lost 15 games in the entire tournament (five matches total, one retirement after a 6-1 first set). That’s 66-15 in total games. She’s a popular pick for frontrunner to lift this year’s trophy.

Returning champ Sabalenka will experience the pressure of being a defending champion for the first time in her career. She’ll fight like hell to hold on to it as a rematch with Gauff awaits in the semifinals.

No. 1 seed Swiatek, meanwhile is on a semifinal collision course with Rybakina in the top half of the draw, having gone 5-0 in leading Poland to an oh-so-close runner-up finish to Germany in the United Cup.

It’s hard to see anyone outside of these four women holding the trophy at the end of the tournament. It might be hard to envision anything else for many years to come.

The women’s game would eat up a round-robin group of rivals like this.

Returning Moms

It’s a fun time for nostalgia, too. Three familiar faces are returning to the women’s game after extended absences for motherhood.

Three former world No. 1 players, in fact. And each one a major champion.

Angelique Kerber (3 majors) and Naomi Osaka (4 majors) both returned to the tour last week.

Kerber helped lead Germany to a United Cup championship, and Osaka won her first match back before falling in a tight affair against formerly top-ranked Karolina Pliskova.

2018 Australian Open champion and two-time mother Caroline Wozniacki already returned last summer, where she logged some promising results, but her comeback still feels fresh.

There are five other moms in the draw, too. Victoria Azarenka, Elina Svitolina, Tatjana Maria, Yanina Wickmayer, and Taylor Townsend all have someone other than themselves to play for.

The top-ranked mom at the moment goes to Victoria Azarenka, who sits at world No. 22, barely ending out Svitolina at No. 23.

Welcome back, ladies, and congratulations.

Hometown Contenders

The women’s Aussie contingent is thin. Really thin. Paper thin. We’re a long way from Ash Barty lifting the trophy and walking off into early retirement two years ago. While the Aussie men are rolling up with fifteen blokes, including No. 10 seed Alex de Minaur, the women have six players, zero seeds, and only one automatic qualifier.

Ajla Tomljanovic

Australia’s lone automatic main draw participant is Ajla Tomljanovic. She has the talent to reach week two if she plays lights out, but as an unseeded player she faces a rough draw. An upset win against 11-seed Jelena Ostapenko in R2 could be the confidence spark she needs to springboard her into a deep run here and a turnaround 2024 season after struggling in 2023.

Wild Cards and Qualifiers

After Tomljanovic, there are four wild cards and one qualifier. Here’s the kicker though. The qualifier has the best name in the tournament, if not all off tennis.

Storm Hunter battled through qualifying, and it turns out that’s no surprise. She’s on a bit of a career upswing, having just finished 2023 as the year-end world No. 1 ranked doubles player.

Anything beyond R1 in singles would be a smashing success. The place to keep an eye out for her is in doubles, where she’s paired with Katerina Siniakova as the draw’s #3 seed.

Best First Round Matchups

1 Iga Swiatek vs. Sofia Kenin

Danielle Collins vs. Angelique Kerber

18 Victoria Azarenka vs. Camila Giorgi

Yanina Wickmayer vs. Varvara Gracheva

3 Elena Rybakina vs. Karolina Pliskova

14 Daria Kasatkina vs. Peyton Stearns

20 Magda Linette vs. Caroline Wozniacki (WC)

16 Caroline Garcia vs. Naomi Osaka

Dark Horse

16 Caroline Garcia


3 Elena Rybakina vs. 8 Maria Sakkari


3 Elena Rybakina