Sports

Way-too-early Grand Slam predictions for the rest of 2024

The year’s first major concluded with Aryna Sabalenka and Jannik Sinner taking home the trophies at the Australian Open.

It was the second straight title in Melbourne for the 25-year-old Sabalenka, who didn’t drop a set in her dominant run throughout the fortnight. And she saved the best for last with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Zheng Qinwen in Saturday’s final.

While Sinner, 22, had been equally impressive throughout his run to the final — including a staggering defeat over Novak Djokovic in the semifinals — he needed to dig deep on Sunday to secure his first major title. But he did just that as he stormed back to defeat Daniil Medvedev 3-6, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.

In 2023, four women — Sabalenka, Iga Swiatek, Marketa Vondrousova and Coco Gauff — and two men — Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz — claimed the year’s Slam titles. Will some of them be able to follow Sabalenka’s lead and repeat in 2024?

With four months until the French Open, and even longer until Wimbledon and the US Open get underway, it’s of course tricky to make predictions. But here’s who should be the top contenders at each of the remaining majors:


French Open

When: May 26-June 9

Where: Paris

2023 champions: Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek

Top men’s contenders in 2024: Djokovic, Alcaraz, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Holger Rune (and, if he plays, Rafael Nadal)

There is a lot of tennis to be played — on the hard court and clay — before the action starts at Roland Garros, but if there’s one thing we know for certain, it’s that Djokovic will have more motivation than ever to defend his title in Paris. Coming off a disappointing (by his standard, that is) semifinal result in Melbourne and with his season’s goal of a “Golden Slam” already gone by the wayside, he will have something to prove. He’ll also want to ensure he locks up his 25th major title — and the career record — before the next generation officially takes over.

With that said, there are some formidable foes on the clay. Alcaraz reached the semifinals last year and is the two-time defending champion at the 1000-level Madrid Open. Tsitsipas reached the final in 2021 and has twice won the 1000-level Monte Carlo Masters. Rune, 20, has reached the French Open quarters the past two seasons and reached the finals in Rome and Monte Carlo last year. He seems poised for yet another step forward this season.

And then, of course, there’s Nadal. Sure, he missed almost all of 2023, had to withdraw from the 2024 Australian Open due to a muscle tear on his hip and will be turning 38 during the tournament, but he’s a 14-time champion at Roland Garros. If he’s playing — and potentially for the final time — he can never be counted out.

Top women’s contenders in 2024: Swiatek, Sabalenka, Gauff, Elina Svitolina

Swiatek is a force on all surfaces, but she is in a league of her own on clay. At just 22, she’s a three-time winner at the French Open and — dare we say — is almost as feared by opponents at the tournament as Nadal. While she was not at her best during the lead-in events last year and won only the Stuttgart title, she recorded four bagel sets (6-0) during her 2023 run to the trophy in Paris and left little doubt over her burgeoning “Queen of Clay” status.

But even with that résumé, there still are others that could threaten Swiatek’s attempt at a three-peat. Sabalenka, who has now reached the semis or better at the last six majors, defeated Swiatek for the title in Madrid last season and made it to the final four in Paris. She seems to be improving and getting more and more confident with every match, and an even further run this year certainly seems possible.

Gauff reached the final at Roland Garros in 2022 and the quarterfinals last year — losing to Swiatek in both — and her game and her self-belief have grown over the past six months. Svitolina stunned the world last season when she won the Strasbourg title, just weeks after returning from maternity leave, and then reached the quarterfinals in Paris. A four-time quarterfinalist at the event and a fan favorite of the Parisian crowd, she could do even more this year.


Wimbledon

When: July 1-14

Where: London

2023 champions: Carlos Alcaraz and Marketa Vondrousova

Top men’s contenders in 2024: Alcaraz, Djokovic, Sinner, Andrey Rublev

Alcaraz, 20, did the unthinkable in 2023 when he defeated Djokovic in the final at the All England Club. It was all the more improbable considering it was just his fourth tournament ever on grass. He won the title at Queen’s Club — his first and only warmup event on grass to date — and continued to look more and more comfortable on the surface with every match. That progress continued into the final. After dropping the first set 6-1, Alcaraz raised his level and, well, the rest is history. As he’s only getting better on grass, another deep run, if not a repeat of his title, seems well within reach.

But Djokovic undoubtedly has other ideas. The seven-time Wimbledon champion will be desperate to avenge his surprise 2023 loss, and he remains almost impossible to defeat on grass. He lost just two sets en route to the final last year. He still is the man to beat at the event.

Sinner lost to Djokovic in straight sets in the 2023 semifinals but has defeated Djokovic in three of their four meetings since then. While he hasn’t played on grass since July, his overall game and his mental strength have improved considerably. Rublev reached the quarterfinals at the All England Club in 2023 and is a 10-time major quarterfinalist, and it’s hard to think he won’t get past the round at some point. He reached the final at Halle last season and is confident on the surface, so why can’t he have a breakthrough fortnight at Wimbledon?

Top women’s contenders in 2024: Sabalenka, Gauff, Elena Rybakina, Ons Jabeur

Vondrousova is the defending champion, but as she lost in the first round at the Australian Open — her lone match thus far in 2024 — it’s hard to feel overly optimistic about her just yet. But there is still a crop of elite talent looking to hoist the trophy.

Sabalenka is a two-time semifinalist at the tournament and, in case we haven’t made this crystal clear yet, is as consistent as it gets during Slams lately. As she and Swiatek might very well be jockeying for the world No. 1 ranking at that point in the season, Wimbledon could be what gives her the edge.

Gauff made her major debut at Wimbledon in 2019 and enamored the world with her fearless and joyful play as a 15-year-old. She reached the fourth round in her initial appearance and again in 2021, but she has yet to advance further. Still, a deep Wimbledon run just feels like destiny. Rybakina defeated Jabeur for the title at the All England Club in 2022 — and Jabeur got her revenge in the 2023 quarterfinals and ultimately advanced to the final yet again. Both remain two of the best on the surface, and we all know by now how much Jabeur wants this title. (There’s even a documentary about it.)


US Open

When: Aug. 26-Sept. 8

Where: New York

2023 champions: Novak Djokovic and Coco Gauff

Top men’s contenders in 2024: Djokovic, Alcaraz, Medvedev, Sinner and Ben Shelton

Djokovic won his 24th major title in New York last year, tying Margaret Court’s long-standing record for the most all time. While we don’t know how the rest of his season will fare or if he will be able to achieve his stated dream of winning Olympic gold in Paris in August, it seems safe to assume he will either be looking to put the cherry on top of another groundbreaking year or salvage a disappointing season at the year’s final major. No matter what, he will do whatever it takes to defend his title and win his fifth trophy at the US Open.

But, because it’s the last Slam of the year, sometimes things can take an unexpected turn. Alcaraz won his first major title at the event in 2022 and he thrives on the hard court and with the lively crowds. Medvedev shocked Djokovic in 2021 for the US Open title (and lost to him in the final last season), and he is adored by the raucous fans for his fighting spirit and hilarious on-court interviews. Sinner reached the quarterfinals in 2022 before losing in an unforgettable late-night match to Alcaraz, but, as he showed in Melbourne and during the fall portion of the 2023 season, he has become one of the best players on the hard court.

Ben Shelton, the 21-year-old American, had a star-making run in 2023 as he advanced to the semifinals and proved he might just be the eagerly awaited American man to snap the drought in major titles. We’re not saying he’ll do it in New York in 2024, but we’re not not saying it either. And how fun would that be?

Top women’s contenders in 2024: Gauff, Sabalenka, Swiatek, Naomi Osaka and Mirra Andreeva

Since 2015, the US Open has seen six first-time major champions hoist the women’s trophy. Gauff joined that list last year. After a blistering hot summer on the hard court, in which she also won in Washington and Cincinnati, Gauff fulfilled what long had seemed her destiny with the victory in front of the home crowd. And in 2024, she’s shown the win was no fluke, as she’s already won the title at Auckland and reached the semis in Melbourne. She will be looking to become the first back-to-back champion since Serena Williams (2012, 2013, 2014), and the early signs point to that being a possibility.

Sabalenka, however, will be looking to further her dominance on the hard court and win the other major on the surface. She lost to Gauff in the 2023 final but avenged the defeat during the semifinals at the Australian Open. Swiatek won the trophy in 2022 — her first and only Slam title outside of Paris — and she won on the surface at the 2023 WTA Finals as well. Swiatek lost in the fourth round in New York last year, but she admitted the pressure of needing to defend her title to remain No. 1 had gotten overwhelming at times. With that tension removed, Swiatek could be back at her 2022 level.

And then, thanks to the unpredictability of the US Open, there’s Osaka and Andreeva. Osaka, the 2018 and 2020 champion, returned from maternity leave this month after a 15-month absence from competition. While she lost in the first round of the Australian Open, she showed flashes of promise and her vintage form, and it’s hard to think she won’t be back to a high level with almost a full season of play under her belt. She knows better than almost anyone how to win in New York.

As for Andreeva, the 16-year-old has wowed with her play and tenacity since she burst onto the scene last year and opened 2024 with a fourth-round appearance at the Australian Open. As mentioned, the US Open has seen its share of first-time major champions, and some have seemingly come out of nowhere (see: Raducanu, Emma) to do so. With another season to gain valuable experience, Andreeva seems more than capable of joining that list.

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