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10-1: Counting down the can't-miss first-round clashes at AO 2024

  • Nick McCarvel

It's hard to remember a draw that has produced the cadre of must-see first-round clashes the way Australian Open 2024 has – on both the men's and women's sides.

There's plenty more matches to explore, but we dive into 10 of the best, and count them down from No.10 to No.1.

How does our countdown match up with yours? Let's find out.

10. [10] Alex De Minaur (AUS) vs Milos Raonic (CAN)
Head-to-head: De Minaur leads 1-0

Six years after their first meeting in Brisbane (where Demon won), the tables have turned. It's De Minaur who is the seeded player – now into the top 10 – and the big-serving Canadian who is cast as the challenger, playing just nine matches in 2023 as he continues to try to come back from injury. The match is a clash of styles, with Raonic unafraid to pummel the ball and De Minaur willing to run everything down – and get it back.

De Minaur is primed for a career-best run at his home major after making the last 16 last January

9. [3] Elena Rybakina (KAZ) vs Karolina Pliskova (CZE)
Head-to-head: Rybakina leads 3-0

Speaking of big hitting, we feel bad for the tennis balls in this one. Rybakina, the 2022 Wimbledon champ, meets the 2021 Wimbledon runner-up (and former No.1) in Pliskova, who has dealt with a slew of injuries over the last few months. Last year's finalist here, Rybakina appears primed for a deep run again after soaring to the Brisbane title, losing just 15 games in five matches played.

MORE: AO 2024 women's singles draw

8. Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) vs [20] Magda Linette (POL)
Head-to-head: Wozniacki leads 2-0

Wozniacki's welcome-back gift after four years away from Melbourne Park? One of the surprise stories of AO 2023 in Pole Linette, who made an inspired run to the semifinals. Wozniacki, the 2018 champ, comported herself well in North America in her comeback last year, going 4-3 and making a run to the US Open fourth round, where she bowed out to eventual champion Coco Gauff. Linette went 19-23 on the season after her Melburnian magic.

7. [17] Frances Tiafoe (USA) vs Borna Coric (CRO)
Head-to-head: Coric leads 1-0

Rewind five years and it was Tiafoe who made his breakout run to a major quarterfinal, marking the same AO that Coric made week two for the first time (advancing to the fourth round). Coric arrived in Melbourne way back in early December to ready for his Australian summer, an elbow injury shutting down his 2023 season in September. Tiafoe is looking for a fresh start, too, parting ways with coach Wayne Ferreira at the end of last season to now work with Diego Moyano.

MORE: AO 2024 men's singles draw

6. Dominic Thiem (AUT) vs [27] Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN)
Head-to-head: Thiem leads 1-0

There are plenty of comeback stories to keep an eye on at Melbourne Park this fortnight, and you could count both Thiem and Auger-Aliassime among them, with the two men looking to recapture their golden form at the AO. A wrist injury derailed Thiem in mid-2021 after winning the US Open in 2020, forcing him out of the top 300 and offering the challenge of a long, arduous road back. FAA, meanwhile, struggled with both a knee issue and a drop in confidence in 2023 after making the US Open semis in 2021 and AO quarters in 2022.

5. Danielle Collins (USA) vs Angelique Kerber (GER)
Head-to-head: Series tied 1-1

Our only all-unseeded match-up in the countdown, and this one warrants it: a former AO champ in Kerber against 2022 runner-up Collins, the German back in action for the first time in some 18 months. Kerber showed flashes of her former self at United Cup, but lost four of five matches as a new mum back on court. Collins can always be dangerous, but hasn't found her same level since that final against Ash Barty two years ago, while also battling the health impacts of endometriosis.

4. [1] Iga Swiatek (POL) vs Sofia Kenin (USA)
Head-to-head: Swiatek leads 1-0

While world No.1 and four-time major champ Swiatek is many people's favourite for the title, she has been dealt a challenging draw, with AO 2020 champ Kenin to open and then the winner of Collins vs Kerber next should she win through. Not only is this a match-up of two former Slam champs, it's also a rematch of the 2020 Roland Garros final, which saw Swiatek claim her first major, 6-4 6-1. Kenin has been on the upswing, however, rising from outside the top 200 at this time a year ago.

Swiatek and Kenin will reprise their 2020 French final in the first round

3. [13] Grigor Dimitrov (BUL) vs Marton Fucsovics (HUN)
Head-to-head: Fucsovics leads 2-1

Is Dimitrov primed for another major run at a Slam? Now 32, the Bulgarian captured his first title in seven years with a triumph in Brisbane last week, beating the likes of Holger Rune and Andy Murray en route. That beauty of a one-handed backhand from Dimitrov will be tested fully by Fucsovics, who won their only best-of-five-set meeting at the US Open in 2020 across five gruelling sets. World No.69 Fucsovics is not one to sleep on: he's twice been to the AO fourth round and made the Wimbledon quarters in 2021.

MORE: The recipe behind Dimitrov's renaissance 

2. Naomi Osaka (JPN) vs [16] Caroline Garcia (FRA)
Head-to-head: Osaka leads 1-0

How do you predict what will happen in a match that feels genuinely ... unpredictable? It's just the second event back for Osaka following the four-time major champion's 15-month layoff that included giving birth to her first child last July. Garcia roared back into the top five in 2022, winning Cincinnati and the WTA Finals while reaching the US Open semifinals. But how they will go facing off against another big-hitting, baseline-hugging stalwart? That's for us to find out on match day.

1. Matteo Berrettini (ITA) vs [7] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)
Head-to-head: Tsitsipas leads 3-0

Our pick of the best first-round match-ups offers one question: is a Grand Slam title in the future for either of these two? That seemed a sure bet just a couple of years ago, but Berrettini – the 2021 Wimbledon runner-up – and Tsitsipas – a two-time finalist (including here last year) – have been met with plenty of hurdles, including a year of stop-start for the Italian "hammer" due to injury. They met in the first round here five years ago, when Tsitsipas first made the semis and announced himself to the greater tennis world. But who gets the final word this time around?