Australian Open 2020 is primed to be the best in the tournament’s 115-year history, with the sport’s top 100 men and women confirmed to compete at Melbourne Park from 20 January to 2 February.
World No.1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic (SRB), winner of a record seven Australian Open singles titles, will return to his happy hunting ground, hotly pursued by 2019 US Open and Roland Garros champion No.2 Rafael Nadal (ESP), seeking his 20thoverall Grand Slam singles title, which would equal that of men’s record-holder Roger Federer (SUI).
At 38, world No.3 Federer is in contention for a seventh Australian Open title, having stunned the world by last capturing the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup in 2017 and 2018, sparking a renaissance in form and a return to the No.1 ranking.
Standing in the path of these AO giants is five-time finalist Andy Murray (GBR), who 12 months ago did not know if he would ever compete in singles again after a hip injury.
Returning to the main draw with a protected ranking of No.2 and restored physical powers, Murray is just one of many fascinating storylines that will transfix the world when the first Grand Slam tournament of the season begins.
Hoping to upstage the greatest rivals in sport is the next generation of superstars, No.4 Danil Medvedev (RUS), No.5 Dominic Thiem (AUT), No.6 Alexander Zverev (GER) and last year’s AO revelation, Athens-born No.7 Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE), embraced by Melbourne, home to the largest population of Greek fans outside Greece.
On the women’s side, tennis fans will follow the fortunes of new champions, young stars on the precipice of greatness, and a living legend of the sport in No.9 Serena Williams (USA), who has claimed more titles than any other woman at Melbourne Park in the Open era (7), and is one short (23) of equalling Margaret Court’s record 24 majors.
Pregnant with her daughter Alexis Olympia during her victorious AO 2017 final, Serena could line-up with another popular mother, Kim Clijsters (BEL), who announced she’ll be returning to tennis and possible Grand Slam action after an eight-year absence during which the bubbly Belgian became a mother of three and a noted tennis broadcaster.
Missing the sport she excelled in before and after motherhood, Clijsters, who won her fourth Grand Slam overall and her first AO in 2011, declared in September that she would train hard to start her revival in January.
With the balance of power in women’s tennis at an enthralling stage in the game’s history, and the fight to be No.1 a constant battleground for supremacy, defending champion [No.4] Naomi Osaka (JPN), the first Japanese-born champion in AO history, will have a surfeit of powerful challengers wanting to emulate her success in Melbourne.
Australia’s own Ashleigh Barty (Qld) heads the list, following her rise to No.1 after capturing Roland Garros in June and maintaining pole position with consistency throughout the 2019 season.
Big things are expected of fearless 19-year-old Canadian sensation No.5 Bianca Andreescu (CAN), who earned the nickname ‘She The North’ after capturing the 2019 US Open, while AO 2018 finalist No.6 Simona Halep (ROU) brings gritty Grand Slam experience to Melbourne with a title at Wimbledon in 2019 to sit alongside her maiden major, won at Roland Garros in 2018.
Together with dangerous top 10 competitors and Czech compatriots No.7 Petra Kvitova andNo.2 Karolina Pliskova, AO 2020 will include former champions No.13 Angelique Kerber (GER) and No.24 Caroline Wozniacki (DEN) with the incredible No.51 Venus Williams (USA), making her 20th appearance in Melbourne at the age of 39, having reached the final in 2003 and 2017.
“Both the men’s and women’s fields are extraordinary and filled with a mixture of former champions and amazing newcomers,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said.
“Will it be the year for Serena to come through again after all that she has done in tennis, or will we see another breakthrough champion emerge?
“Can Roger Federer pull off another major at one of his happiest Grand Slam destinations? Will Novak continue to dominate or will it be time for the next generation of players to step up?
“One thing is for sure, there will be plenty of drama and no shortage of incredible matches for fans to see.”
Leading her country to the Fed Cup Final in November, Barty will be joined in the AO main draw by fellow Grand Slam champion Samantha Stosur (Qld), fast-moving No.50 Ajla Tomljanovic (Qld), who has been making up for lost time since shoulder surgery in early 2016 sideswiped her tennis dreams, and rising talents Priscilla Hon (Qld) and Astra Sharma (WA).
Aussie men will be well-served with an array of crowd-pleasers, including Australia’s top-ranked male, the ‘Demon’ Alex de Minaur (NSW) now at a career-best No.24, electrifying Canberran No.28 Nick Kyrgios (ACT), gritty Queenslander John Millman, big-serving Sydneysider Alexei Popyrin and dangerman Jordan Thompson (NSW), enjoying a break-out season in 2019 with entry into the top 50 after reaching his first ATP Tour final at s-Hertogenbosch.
“This could well be the year we see an Aussie reach the final stages of the event and even win it,” said Tiley.
“Barty will have the backing of the entire nation and has now tasted Grand Slam success. There is no reason why she can’t go all the way.”
Long regarded as the players’ favourite, the Australian Open continues to deliver with the best facilities in the world for all competitors.
In 2019, the players delighted in the Player Pod, designed to cater for the players’ every need. The array of new facilities included everything from upgraded locker rooms, recovery, treatment and medical zones along with huge new dining and relaxation areas.
In 2020 the bar will be raised even higher, with the opening of the new Practice Village, located at the National Tennis Centre at the eastern end of the precinct.
As well as increasing opportunities for the fans to see the players go through their match practice and warm ups, the Practice Village offers further amenities, such as additional hot and cold plunge pools and recovery areas, upgraded player dining and a state of the art gym, with both indoor and outdoor practice courts. All accessible via an on-call shuttle service from the player entrance within the Pod.
The AO smashed attendance records in 2019 and is expected to attract similar crowds when the world’s best players arrive in January. The men’s and women’s finals were aired live in more than 220 territories around the world this year, reaching more than 900 million homes daily.