Demon’s shot at destiny amid local top-100 wave: Verdict on every Australian at the Open


A total of 21 Australians will carry the nation’s hopes of a local champion at their home slam, headlined by Alex de Minaur.

Fresh off a berth in the top 10, de Minaur will be bidding to progress beyond the fourth round at his home slam for the first time.

He’s one of an exciting crop of nine Aussie men in the top 100 and the home crowd will ensure plenty find success at Melbourne Park. Foxsports.com.au assesses the chances of every local.

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AUS OPEN DRAW: Demon handed tricky Aus Open opener vs ex-world No.3

De Minaur gears up for Milo Raonic clash | 01:10

ALEX DE MINAUR (world No.10)

First round opponent: Milos Raonic (world No.319)

It’s a good thing de Minaur is in the best form of his career so far, because Milos Raonic would be a mightily imposing opening round matchup if he wasn’t.

De Minaur will still be very wary of the former world No.3, but the form he is in suggests he should be level-headed and consistent enough to defeat the big-serving Canadian, who has struggled with injury and meek form that have him far from his best that saw him reach a Wimbledon final and Australian Open semi.

It becomes a clearer run after that – or should in theory – with either an Aussie wildcard or Matteo Arnaldi in the second round before being projected to meet 18th seed Nicolas Jarry.

Fifth seed Andrey Rublev is tough but not beyond de Minaur’s reach, but then Jannik Sinner and Novak Djokovic likely await. It’ll be hard, but de Minaur has proven himself up for the challenge this summer so far.

Verdict: De Minaur is primed for a good run at his home slam and should have the second week in his sights. Rublev is a tough opponent but one he’s been able to defeat before. Since he can’t hit his way through some of the game’s biggest names, the challenge will be to think his way through. He has done that brilliantly so far with some impressive wins, it’s just about keeping it up in best of five set tennis.

Demon keeps hot trot going vs. Alcaraz | 01:41

ALEXEI POPYRIN (world No.43) / MARC POLMANS (world No.154)

Face each other in opening round

It’s always somewhat bittersweet when two locals clash at their home slam, but it at least guarantees one Aussie through to the second round. Popyrin should be starting to near some of his best tennis at 24 years of age and inside the world’s top 50. In theory it is his match to lose, with Polmans ranked far below him. Popyrin defeated Polmans in straight sets in their only other encounter, way back in 2018.

Unfortunately for the winner, their Australian Open campaign is almost certain to come to an end in the second round, when they’ll likely face Novak Djokovic. Rough.

Verdict: Popyrin should win this match and he certainly has enough power to at least make Djokovic sweat, but ultimately it would be foolish to think he could get through the defending champion.

Pegula pulls out of semis with illness | 00:49

JORDAN THOMPSON (world No.47) / ALEKSANDAR VUKIC (world No.64)

Face each other in opening round

You don’t have to go far back at all for the form in this one, with Thompson defeating Vukic in the Brisbane International earlier this month. Thompson is in some very impressive form, having defeated Rafael Nadal in that same tournament after saving match points. Vukic has shown glimpses of his potential but at 27 is yet to truly emerge as a consistently solid force on the Tour.

Verdict: Thompson should get the win given the form he’s been in, but will find the level goes up significantly in the second round, when he’s set to face either Stefanos Tsitsipas or Matteo Berrettini. If he can get through that, the draw opens up somewhat.

Thompson continues momentum in Adelaide | 00:59

THANASI KOKKINAKIS (world No.68)

First round opponent: Sebastian Ofner (world No.37)

Kokkinakis will be hungry for redemption after losing to Andy Murray in a marathon second-round encounter last year. He’ll face Sebastian Ofner, who will pose some difficulties. The world No.37 is in the best form of his career so far and has this month defeated the likes of Roberto Bautista Agut, Jan-Lennard Struff and Denis Shapovalov. Kokkinakis is better than his ranking suggests, but this could be a line ball contest. Despite his loss in the first round of the Adelaide International, Kokkinakis looks fit and ready to go after battling injury at the backend of last year.

Verdict: It won’t be easy for Kokkinakis in the first round, but he would back himself in despite the ranking difference, not to mention the support of the home crowd. The winner faces either Grigor Dimitrov or Marton Fucsovics in the second round, but it will likely be Dimitrov, who’s in career-best form. It would be a difficult matchup for Kokkinakis but it has the hallmarks of an epic five-setter.

Kokkinakis out of Adelaide International | 01:06

RINKY HIJIKATA (world No.71)

First round opponent: Jan-Lennard Struff (world No.24)

Drawing a seeded player in the opening round is never ideal, but Jan-Lennard Struff is not the worst result. The German is yet to make it past the second round of the Australian Open, which is his worst result of all four majors. He defeated Hijikata last time they played – in qualifying for Phoenix in 2023 – but Hijikata has come along well recently and should back himself in with an Australian crowd behind him.

Verdict: Struff is far from an insurmountable obstacle for Hijikata and if he gets through the 24th seed he has a decent draw. Either Miomir Kecmanovic or Yosuke Watanuki would await in the second round before a likely clash with last year’s semi-finalist Tommy Paul. It’s not an easy matchup, but he is avoiding some of the bigger threats in the opening few rounds.

MAX PURCELL (world No.45)

First round opponent: Mate Valkusz (world No.214)

It doesn’t get much better than this for Purcell, who has drawn a player yet to crack the top 200 in his career and will be appearing in the main draw of a major for the first time. It’s set up well for Purcell to progress past the first round of the Australian Open for the first time, having exited in the opening round in 2020 and 2023.

Verdict: If Purcell doesn’t take advantage of this opportunity, it’s hard to see a much better one coming along. He should win and get into the second round, where he’s set to face 11th seed Casper Ruud. It’ll be a very difficult task for Purcell, but it should be noted he defeated Ruud in the second round of last year’s Cincinnati Open, scoring the biggest win of his career to date. It would fill him with tremendous confidence and the draw would open up for him somewhat if he were to get through Ruud again.

Medvedev rested & ready before AUS Open | 00:47

CHRISTOPHER O’CONNELL (world No.68)

First round opponent: Cristian Garin (world No.86)

It’s a pretty evenly poised contest to open O’Connell’s Australian Open campaign. Garin may be ranked lower, but he’s defeated the Australian on the two occasions they’ve met, with the most recent in Toronto on hard court last year. One gets the sense this one could be a seesawing affair that goes the distance.

Verdict: This one is a lineball contest. Garin’s win over O’Connell last year may give him the slightest edge, but expect this one to go long.

JAMES DUCKWORTH (world No.95)

First round opponent: Luca Van Assche (world No.79)

Duckworth has made the second round on a number of occasions at Melbourne Park and there are far worse opponents he could’ve drawn in the opening round. Still, Van Assche has been in some good form, winning three matches in Auckland and taking a set off top-20 Brit Cam Norrie.

Verdict: The fact this is Duckworth’s 11th Australian Open main draw appearance shows how consistent he’s been over the years – but his opponent, 12 years younger and the second-youngest in the top 100 behind countryman Arthur Fils, is clearly on the rise. No.25 seed Lorenzo Musetti or another Frenchman, Benjamin Bonzi, await if Duckworth can use the Aussie crowd and his experience edge to pull the upset.

Lehecka wins first title | 00:52

ADAM WALTON (world No.173)

First round opponent: Matteo Arnaldi (world No.41)

Primarily featuring on the Challenger circuit, Walton is likely outmatched by Arnaldi, with the 22-year-old well-placed to progress to the second round of the Australian Open for the first time. He’s coming off a fourth round appearance at the US Open and is improving, while Walton is yet to truly break through on the Tour.

Verdict: It has been a great effort by Walton to get into the opening round, but Arnaldi is a class above.

JASON KUBLER (world No.113)

First round opponent: Daniel Elahi Galan (world No.87)

Kubler comes up against someone ranked higher than him, but Galan is yet to progress past the first round of the Australian Open. Kubler is in some of the best form of his career and will be looking to at least get past the first round for a second straight year. He certainly enjoys playing Down Under, having taken home the doubles title here with Rinky Hijikata in 2023.

Verdict: It’s a lineball matchup here, but the home advantage may tilt it ever so slightly in Kubler’s favour. The winner would fancy their chances of getting through to the third round, with either 26th seed Seb Baez or American J.J. Wolf awaiting in the second round, both matches right there for the taking.

Jason Kubler takes on Daniel Elahi Galan (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Jason Kubler takes on Daniel Elahi Galan (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

JAMES MCCABE (world No.268)

First round opponent: Alex Michelsen (world No.91)

Both of these men should be further up the rankings in the years to come, but for now it’s a battle of potential as opposed to actual output. Michelsen is just 19 years of age while McCabe is 20, but it’s the former who is significantly higher in the rankings. As a result he enters as favourite. It’s a rare opportunity for both, with neither having progressed past the first round of the Australian Open yet.

Verdict: Both have the chance of getting much better in the years to come, but on form Michelsen has to get the nod.

AJLA TOMLJANOVIC (world No.270)

First round opponent: Petra Martic (world No.40)

The rankings would suggest Tomljanovic is grossly outmatched, but the 30-year-old was in the form of her career before injury struck in 2023. She made the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and the US Open before the lay-off and returns to the Australian Open a more ominous prospect than she was at the start of 2022, when she was bundled out in the opening round. Martic has made the quarterfinals of the French Open. Tomljanovic won their last encounter in 2021 at the US Open in straight sets, which will give her confidence despite a relatively meek record at her home slam.

Verdict: It’s mainly about whether Tomljanovic can replicate the form she was showing prior to injury. She showed some promising signs at the United Cup of doing so. If she is at that level, she should edge past Martic. A potential clash with heavy-hitter Jelena Ostapenko would likely await in the second round, with Ostapenko taking on Australian wildcard Kim Birrell. It’s a tricky section of the draw, with two-time champion Victoria Azarenka potentially looming in the third round. None of the above are unbeatable though, so Tomljanovic’s form will be key to how optimistic we can get.

Tomljanovic returns to Australian Open | 00:38

DARIA SAVILLE (world No.152)

First round opponent: Magdalena Frech (world No.69)

Like Tomljanovic, Saville’s ranking doesn’t reflect her quality as a player. She cracked into the world’s top 20 in 2017 before a horror run with injury saw her plummet. The pair met in qualifying at Indian Wells in 2022 and it was a seesawing affair, with Saville ultimately winning 6-0, 3-6, 6-3. She has made the fourth round on a couple of occasions. Frech, meanwhile, is yet to progress past the first round.

Verdict: Saville should win this despite the ranking discrepancy if she is playing somewhere near her best. She’s been in good form in the lead-up. It would be a big step up in the following round, with either 16th seed Caroline Garcia or former champion Naomi Osaka looming.

Daria Saville takes on Magdalena Frech in the opening round (Photo by Steve Bell/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

KIM BIRRELL (world No.116)

First round opponent: Jelena Ostapenko (world No.10)

Birrell hasn’t had the best of luck with her draw, facing former French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in the opening round. Ostapenko made the quarter-finals here last year and would expect to go deep once more. She’s shown imposing form leading into the event, while Birrell has found wins hard to come by in recent months.

Verdict: If Birrell was going to pull off an upset anywhere it would be in Australia, but Ostapenko is a fearsome prospect and will likely be far too good for her opponent.

OLIVIA GADECKI (world No.120)

First round opponent: Sloane Stephens (world No.44)

Gadecki is still growing into her game and faces former US Open champion Sloane Stephens in the opening round, a daunting prospect. The good news for Gadecki is that Stephens has failed to progress beyond the opening round from four consecutive Australian Open attempts. Gadecki’s star is on the rise while Stephens’ best is perhaps behind her, making this a fascinating matchup.

Verdict: Gadecki wouldn’t put a win over Stephens past her given her impressive resumé doesn’t reflect her recent form. It’s a lineball match of sorts, with 14th seed Daria Kasatkina likely awaiting the winner. That’s a winnable match given the Russian hasn’t made it beyond the third round of the Australian Open before. It’s mainly about whether Gadecki is ready yet to start making some inroads at grand slam level.

Tabilo claims his first ATP title | 01:01

TAYLAH PRESTON (world No.201)

First round opponent: Elina Svitolina (world No.23)

Preston will well and truly enter as the underdog against Svitolina, who got to the final in Auckland earlier this month before losing to Coco Gauff in three sets. Preston has shown plenty of promise thus far in her career and took Caroline Garcia to three sets at the Adelaide International earlier this month.

Verdict: She’s still just a teenager, but there’s plenty of reason to be excited about what Preston could produce in the years to come. Even if she isn’t able to topple Svitolina, her drive and competitiveness should ensure there’s at least a decent fight that plays out.

OMAR JASIKA (world No.342)

First round opponent: Hubert Hurkacz (world No.9)

Jasika returns to the main draw of the Australian Open singles for the first time since 2016, having won his way through qualifying. The Melburnian was pushed to a deciding set in all three of his qualifying matches but got through. He’ll face ninth seed Hubert Hurkacz, who boasts as much power as anyone on Tour. The big server’s…



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