Sports

A Nadal comeback? US Open vindication for Sabalenka? We predict the 2024 tennis major winners

NEW YORK — The tennis major season officially came to an end this weekend, with Coco Gauff and Novak Djokovic winning at the US Open.

It was the first of potentially many Grand Slam titles for the 19-year-old Gauff, who defeated new world No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, on Saturday and put an exclamation point on her red-hot hard-court summer. For Djokovic, it was his fourth US Open triumph and 24th major title — matching Margaret Court’s record for the most in history. He defeated 2021 US Open champion Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3 on Sunday.

This year, four women — Gauff, Sabalenka, Iga Swiatek and Marketa Vondrousova — and two men — Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz — took home the sport’s most coveted trophies.

With four months before the next Grand Slam and several unknowns about the status of stars like Rafael Nadal and Naomi Osaka, it might seem early to start guessing who will emerge victorious in 2024. But we’re going to try all the same.

While there are some players (see: Djokovic) who very well could win multiple major titles next year, we are limiting each player to just one for the sake of keeping it interesting.

Australian Open

When: Jan. 15-28, 2024
Where: Melbourne
2023 champions: Novak Djokovic and Aryna Sabalenka

Men’s winner in 2024: Carlos Alcaraz

Despite the fact that Alcaraz is the brightest young star on the men’s side and already a two-time major champion at just 20 years old, in many ways this pick might be a little surprising. Alcaraz missed the 2023 tournament in Melbourne due to a hamstring injury, and his best result in his two previous appearances is the third round. But as the champion at the US Open in 2022 and Indian Wells earlier this year, he clearly is dangerous on the hard court — and his disappointing semifinal loss in New York last week will only motivate him even more. Expect a reenergized and refocused Alcaraz to arrive Down Under with something to prove.

Women’s winner in 2024: Coco Gauff

Did you see what Gauff was able to do on the surface this summer? In addition to her first major title in New York, she won the titles in Washington and Cincinnati and wrapped up her North American hard-court swing with a blistering 18-1 record. She has always had the talent and has been brimming with potential, but now she’s filled with self-belief, mental maturity and knows she can win on the sport’s biggest stages. Gauff seems poised for another big year in 2024, and it starts in Melbourne.

French Open

When: May 26-June 9, 2024
Where: Paris
2023 champions: Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek

Men’s winner in 2024: Rafael Nadal

He has been absent from competition since January with a serious hip injury, and he has said he believes the 2024 season will be his last on tour, so it’s probably not practical to expect Nadal, who will turn 38 during the French Open, to win the title in Roland Garros. But this is Rafael Nadal we’re talking about here. He’s a 14-time champion at the event, and no one will want this title more. Even if he’s not at 100%, he will leave absolutely everything he has on the court in Paris, and as the “King of Clay” that truly could be enough.

Women’s winner in 2024: Iga Swiatek

The four-time champion and current world No. 2 — after being dethroned from the top spot on Monday after 75 weeks — admitted to feeling fatigue after a long 2023 season and was not able to replicate her astounding 2022 success. But the offseason should help Swiatek and she will enter the new year ready to contend at every tournament she plays. While she’s capable of winning hard-court titles as well — and she did reach her first quarterfinals at Wimbledon this year — Swiatek is, without a doubt, the best woman on clay. Already a three-time winner in Paris, Swiatek will dominate yet again in 2024 and bring home her fourth Suzanne-Lenglen cup.

Wimbledon

When: July 1-14, 2024
Where: London
2023 champions: Carlos Alcaraz and Marketa Vondrousova

Men’s winner in 2024: Novak Djokovic

Djokovic entered the fortnight at the All England Club in July as the runaway favorite to win his eighth title at the event, and fifth in a row, but was stunned by Alcaraz in the final. He has been candid about how much the loss stung and how special the tournament is to him, and he will have even more fuel than usual when he gets to London next year. During the US Open, the 36-year-old Djokovic said he knows every major final he plays in might be his last, and he will not let the opportunity at Wimbledon slip away again.

Women’s winner in 2024: Ons Jabeur

Jabeur, the current world No. 7, played in the 2022 and 2023 Wimbledon finals and lost on both occasions. She couldn’t hide her devastation after either match and has been open about just how much she wants to win the title at the All England Club. While the pressure could be overwhelming in 2024, and there might be some lingering emotions she will have to fight through, fan favorite Jabeur will find another gear in the new year and finally have her major breakthrough at the event that means the most to her.

US Open

When: Aug. 26-Sept. 8, 2024
Where: New York
2023 champions: Novak Djokovic and Coco Gauff

Men’s winner in 2024: Ben Shelton

Is this pick a result of recency bias? Most definitely. But an American man has to stop the major title drought — which now dates more than 20 years — at some point, and after seeing Shelton’s heroics in 2023, why not him? The 20-year-old former NCAA champion was electric during his run to the semifinals and even found a way to challenge Djokovic in the final set. A showman with a dazzling display of tricks and a serve that must make John Isner proud, it seems certain that Shelton will build on his momentum in 2024, and his efforts could be rewarded in the year’s final major in front of an adoring home crowd.

Women’s winner in 2024: Aryna Sabalenka

It was a monumental year for Sabalenka, the first woman to reach the semifinals in all four majors in a single season since Serena Williams in 2016. She won her first major at the Australian Open to start the year and finished the major season as the runner-up at the US Open and by taking over the world No. 1 ranking. While she was understandably disappointed by the result on Saturday, she proved she’s a threat everywhere and on every surface. It seems hard to think she won’t win multiple titles in 2024, and one of them could certainly be avenging her 2023 loss in New York.

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