The 2024 tennis season begins in just a few days. The Brisbane International begins next week and will include tennis fans' first view of Rafale Nadal in almost a year. He isn't expected to win the tournament at this point, but he still makes for much-watch viewing.
Many players will not make their 2024 debut until the Australian Open which begins January 14. This year for the first time the Aussie Open will run for 15 days and not 14. While this is great for the first major of the year, it makes some warm-up tournaments moot as no player is going to want to go from warm-up tourney to Grand Slam.
But what will happen on the ATP tour this year. Which players might do well while others fail? Here are some guesses.
Winner No. 1 - Jannik Sinner
Sinner finished 2023 stronger than anyone else, even Novak Djokovic. While Djokovic did not lose a tournament after falling to Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final and Sinner won fewer tournaments after July, Sinner still defeated Djokovic twice in November. That should give him a ton of confidence heading into the new year.
Plus, it is not like Sinner doesn't have any skill. He hits the ball as hard as anyone and is learning better touch. He is the kind of player who needs to experience losing and winning to make him better. Sinner has now experienced a lot and I see him stealing at least one Grand Slam in 2024 and a few Masters 1000s.
Loser No. 1 - Stefanos Tsitsipas
I like the way Tsitsipas plays. He moves well for someone who is 6'4" though he needs to learn a bit more touch. He has also made the finals of two Grand Slams (2021 French Open and 2023 Australian Open) but he hasn't won a major yet. He does have 10 career titles to his name.
The issue for Tsitsipas this year will be his back. He had issues with it at the end of 2023 and already pulled out of some of the action in the World Tennis League in late December and says he hasn't fully had time to recover from his back injury. A taller player with a hurting back? That's likely to last a while and might affect his entire year.
Winner No. 2 - Holger Rune
Rune has all the skills to be a great and dangerous player for the next decade-plus. He also is going to be well motivated by coach Boris Becker. Becker isn't so much a tactician as a mental health coach and he will get Rune's head right heading into major tournaments.
Rune won't be 21 years old until April so he is far too young to be written off. When a player isn't competing for Grand Slams it is easy to forget about them. Rune has made the quarterfinals at the French Open both times he has played at Roland Garros and made the quarters at Wimbledon in 2023. I think Rune shocks the world and wins the French Open in 2024.
Loser No. 2 - Rafael Nadal
While Rafael Nadal will have a difficult time playing at the level he is used to after coming back from a hip injury, we should also look back to 2022 when Nadal was healthier. Beginning in early May with the Masters 1000 in Madrid through the ATP Finals in November, Nadal only made it as far as the semifinals twice in eight tournaments. He won only one of those which, of course, was the French Open.
My point is that even before was injured, Nadal wasn't winning tournaments at the same level as he used to. Plus, he was losing early in events to players such as Borna Coric and Denis Shapavalov, fine players but not exactly all-time greats. Nadal is likely to struggle with form and health and finish the year outside the top eight players.