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A Slam in sight? 10 players eyeing their big breakthrough at AO 2023

  • Dan Imhoff

As a host of familiar contenders ramp up the pursuit of a maiden Grand Slam trophy at Melbourne Park, a fresh bunch of fast-risers stand ready to challenge already proven champions in the second week.

Sebastian Korda

A former junior champion at Melbourne Park, 22-year-old Korda made his biggest leap up on a Grand Slam stage with his straight-sets upset of two-time runner-up and former world No.1 Daniil Medvedev on Friday night.

Twenty-five years since his father Petr Korda scissor-kicked in jubilation on Rod Laver Arena as men's champion, the 29th seed has the chance to reach his maiden major quarterfinal against 10th seed Hubert Hurkacz.

MORE: Day 7 schedule of play

A runner-up in Adelaide, where he held a championship point against Novak Djokovic, the American drew high praise from the nine-time Australian Open winner as one of the smoothest ball-strikers out there.

Stefanos Tsitsipas

The highest-ranked player left in the men's draw following the early departures of Rafael Nadal and Casper Ruud, Tsitsipas has been knocking on the door at Melbourne Park since defeating Roger Federer en route to his first major semifinal in 2019.

The 24-year-old, who enjoys enormous support from Melbourne's sizeable Greek population, has reached the semifinals in three of the past four years, and has the experience of his first major final in Paris in 2021 to draw on should he reach that stage again.

MORE: AO 2023 men's singles draw

In a boost to his chances, Tsitsipas' bogeyman on Rod Laver Arena from the past two years, Medvedev, has been accounted for, but his second-week campaign lifts a gear when he next faces Italian Jannik Sinner.

Holger Rune

Fast-improving and self-assured, 19-year-old Rune has announced his intention to win his first Grand Slam title in 2023.

Should he realise that lofty ambition as soon as next Sunday, he would become the youngest Australian Open champion since Mats Wilander in 1983.

A contemporary of US Open winner Carlos Alcaraz, the Dane's ascent has not been quite as rapid. But after ending the season inside the top 10 following four top-10 victories en route to his first Masters 1000 title in Paris, Rune has every reason to start believing as much.

The ninth seed faces fifth seed Andrey Rublev, a player he beat on that Paris run, for a quarterfinal berth.

MORE: Day 7 men's singles preview

Jannik Sinner

Since bringing Australian coach Darren Cahill into the fray following a knee injury mid last season, Italy's leading prospect has reached back-to-back Grand Slam quarterfinals at Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows.

On both occasions, Sinner took eventual champions Djokovic and Alcaraz the distance, but it was his level against the Spaniard which gave the clearest indication yet of his all-court prowess and a burgeoning rivalry.

Sinner seamlessly staged his first comeback from two sets down to beat Marton Fucsovics in the third round and revealed his game had evolved since he met Tsitsipas in the quarterfinals at Melbourne Park in 2022.

Felix Auger-Aliassime

If a player has written the script for playing their way into this year's men's tournament, then Auger-Aliassime is its likely author.

The Canadian was well below his best in the first two rounds, including coming from a couple of sets down against Alex Molcan, but steadied the ship with a sturdier showing against Francisco Cerundolo to reach the second week at Melbourne Park for the third straight year.

The 22-year-old finally broke his tour final hoodoo last year on his ninth attempt, and it opened the floodgates as he finished the season with four trophies.

Desperate to erase memories of letting a match point against Medvedev slip in last year's quarterfinals, the sixth seed faces unseeded Jiri Lehecka for a return to that stage.

Aryna Sabalenka

Few of Sabalenka's peers present quite as formidable power and shot-making ability, but the 24-year-old readily admits it has been a blessing and a curse.

Expectations quickly mounted when her credentials became clear, but inconsistency has plagued her on the biggest stages.

Having reached the semifinals in three of her past five majors and with her serving woes of last season apparently under control, Sabalenka has never looked this dangerous.

She has won her first seven matches of the new season without conceding a set, and declared her newfound calmness was key to landing that elusive major.

MORE: Day 7 women's singles preview

Coco Gauff

Arguably the most-hyped first-week showdown of this year's women's draw gave a glimpse into a future rivalry when 18-year-old Gauff withstood 2021 US Open champion Emma Raducanu's barrage in the second round.

MORE: AO 2023 women's singles draw

The seventh-seeded American joked no comparison with Serena Williams was justified given the 23-major disparity between them, but that has done nothing to quieten expectations around the first woman to win 100 tour-level matches before her 19th birthday since Caroline Wozniacki 14 years ago.

A runner-up to Iga Swiatek in her first Grand Slam final last May, Gauff has not dropped a set in her first eight matches on hard courts this year ahead of a clash against 17th seed Jelena Ostapenko.

Jessica Pegula

A quarterfinalist in her past two trips to Melbourne Park, Pegula has shown no signs of letting up since her United Cup success, which included a win over world No.1 Swiatek.

The late-blooming 28-year-old also boasts major quarterfinal appearances in Paris and New York from last season and could meet the Pole again in the semifinals.

That rematch remains some way off, with former Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova the impending hurdle.  

After conceding just two games against the gifted Marta Kostyuk in the third round, the self-confessed perfectionist still maintains she is shy of her ceiling.

Caroline Garcia

One of the most prolific match winners in the second half of last season, the Frenchwoman survived the first real scare of her campaign against Laura Siegemund on Saturday night.

Ranked 74th a year ago, many had all but written off the then 28-year-old's hopes of grasping a Grand Slam singles trophy.

Since June, though, Garcia has gone on a tear, winning 39 matches and snaring a maiden major semifinal berth in New York.

A definitive WTA Finals triumph to round out the season has only strengthened the fourth seed's conviction.  

Belinda Bencic

Like Garcia, Bencic has been another name long touted for her talent, yet falling short of her potential on the major stages.

The Swiss Olympic champion has returned to the top 10 for the first time since 2021 following her fifth career title in Adelaide leading, but faces a sizeable step up if she is to halt the in-form fifth seed Sabalenka next.

Bencic said she had attempted to "block out the noise" surrounding her title chances before she easily nullified Camila Giorgi's power to reach the fourth round for the first time in seven years on Saturday.