The 2023 edition of the Australian Open is nearly upon us, with the world’s best tennis players set to battle it out at Melbourne Park.
Whilst Grand Slam tournaments allow us to watch the big stars face off, they also provide opportunities for lesser-known players to explode onto the scene.
Alternatively, we can see experienced players enjoy a mid or late-career boom after years of grinding it out on the circuit.
The Sporting News takes a look at five players who could make their mark at this year’s Australian Open.
A relatively established player despite his age, Jannik Sinner has all the right traits to become a Grand Slam tournament champion.
The 21-year-old and world No. 16 will be competing in his fourth Australian Open next week as he looks to build on his quarterfinal appearance in last year’s event.
He also reached the final eight at Wimbledon and the US Open in 2022, showing that his performances on the big stage are far from flukes.
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The talented Italian – known for his on-court mobility and strong backhand – is yet to reach the semi-finals of a Grand Slam tournament but this Australian Open could be his best shot yet.
With an injury cloud hanging over favourite Novak Djokovic and reigning champion Rafael Nadal in poor form, Sinner is in contention to take out the men’s singles.
Whilst there has been a lack of surprise men’s singles winners in recent years, there are often players who announce themselves on the global stage in the early rounds of the Australian Open.
Quentin Halys could be one of those players this year.
The Frenchman achieved a career-best ranking of world No. 64 in November, reaping the rewards from a nice run of form.
His start to 2023 has also been strong, reaching the quarterfinals in Auckland and taking Djokovic to two tiebreaks in their Adelaide International 1 clash.
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The nine-time Australian Open champion was full of praise for his 26-year-old opponent after the match.
“It was a great performance from my opponent today,” Djokovic said.
“I want to congratulate him for great quality and a great fight.
“Tough luck but he played like a top-10 player today, no doubt.”
In his five previous appearances at Melbourne Park, Halys has never made it past the second round.
That trend is projected to continue this year, having been drawn against Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas in the first round.
However, if he can push Tstisipas like he pushed Djokovic last week, we could see an early tournament upset.
Iga Świątek may be dominating women’s tennis at the moment, but beneath her in the rankings sit a promising batch of athletes.
Veronika Kudermetova is one of those players, quietly working her way up to world No. 9 last season.
Also the world No. 2 in doubles, the 25-year-old has a versatile and well-rounded skillset.
Now having entered the top ten for the first time in her career, the momentum is definitely on the 25-year-old’s side.
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Her tournament lead-up form is also promising – she reached the quarterfinals in the Adelaide International 1 and is still alive at the semi-final stage of the second-week tournament.
She may not be quite ready to win her first Grand Slam tournament, but women’s draws have been more open than men’s draws in recent years.
2023 could be the year she makes the next step as a singles player.
Beatriz Haddad Maia
Prior to 2022, Beatriz Haddad Maia had never made the top 50 in the WTA rankings.
Now, heading into this year’s Australian Open, the Brazilian is the world No. 15.
The 26-year-old has been a relatively slow burner, but a sensational 2022 season has put her on the tennis map.
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Her relentless style and height advantage gives her a genuine chance of winning any match she plays.
Haddad Maia has only featured at the Australian Open three times before – 2018, 2019 and 2022 – and has failed to progress past the second round on every occasion.
However, if she is able to continue her rapid upward trajectory, there is a good chance she can cause a few upsets and land a career-best finish at Melbourne Park.
Irina-Camelia Begu is by no means a fresh face on the tennis circuit, but in a field full of young talent, her experience could potentially serve her well.
The 32-year-old turned pro in 2005 and has remained in the top 100 for the majority of her career.
Whilst Begu may not have the accolades of fellow Romanian Simona Halep, she plays with a level of consistency that a number of WTA players would envy.
She also comes into this Australian Open ranked world No. 28 after an impressive showing at the Adelaide International 1 where she reached the semi-final.
Tune-up tournaments aren’t always perfect indicators of a player’s form, but after beating both Jelena Ostapenko and Veronika Kudermetova in straight sets, it proves that Begu is capable of a tournament run.