The tennis season used to be a bit shorter than it currently is. Now tennis is almost a 12-month sport with no downtime for players. Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, and Carlos Alcaraz, for instance, played at the ATP Finals in mid-November and they will be back to play in very early January. Plus, just a couple of weeks into January the first Grand Slam of 2024, the Australian Open, gets underway.
The Australian Open has mostly belonged to Novak Djokovic as he has won the event 10 times. Carlos Alcaraz has only played the tournament twice (of course, he is only 20 years old) and he has not made it past the third round. Daniil Medvedev is great on hard courts, but he has not yet won the first major of the year, though he did make the final in 2021 and 2022.
The 2024 Aussie Open will also be Rafael Nadal‘s second tournament back since he injured his hip at the 2023 Australian Open in the second round. Nadal has won the Grand Slam twice (2009 and 2022), but the last time he won the tournament was a Djokovic-less year as Djokovic was forced to leave Australia due to his vaccination status. Nadal might have a tough fight winning the title, however, as he will still be working his way back from injury.
Battle for No. 1 starts early in 2024 for Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic
But the reason the Australian Open is huge in terms of the No. 1 ATP ranking to begin the year is that Novak Djokovic won the event in 2023 but his 2,000 rankings points will fall off his 52-week collection of points. Alcaraz did not play at the major last year due to an injury so he could pick up a lot of ground on Djokovic should Djokovic lose before making the final and Alcaraz wins the tournament. The only way Djokovic can get the 2,000 points back is to win the event again.
If Medvedev can win his first tournament of 2024, the Adelaide International, and win the Australian Open, he can potentially overtake Alcaraz for No. 2 and set himself up for a run at No. 1 in February. The first part of the year is normally a good one for the Russian as he is fantastic on hard courts and can beat anyone else on the ATP tour at any tournament if he is playing well.
Once Djokovic’s points from January 2023 fall off, he will have 9,000 points while Carlos Alcaraz will have 8,855. It’s not a stretch for Alcaraz to quickly overtake Djokovic for the top ranking early in the year. But Djokovic could get the ranking right back in March as he wasn’t yet allowed in the United States early in 2023 (due to his vaccination status) and he missed tournaments such as Indian Wells. If he does well in those, he will grab No. 1 and carry it through most of the summer, most likely.