There is, undoubtedly, a power vacuum at the summit of women’s tennis.
Since the start of 2021, eight different ladies have won the 12 available Grand Slam titles – clearly, it’s been very difficult to create a monopoly on the silverware.
With four major wins between 2018 and 2021, Naomi Osaka seemed to be the most likely player to build a dynasty in the vein of Serena Williams or Martina Navratilova. But then she decided to take a break from the sport – leading to the great diversity of champions that has followed since.
The Japanese star has announced her return to the sport in 2024, so can she recapture her crown as the queen of women’s tennis?
Happy Hunting Ground
The betting online for the 2024 Australian Open has Iga Swiatek (11/4), Aryna Sabalenka (9/2), Elena Rybakina (6/1) and Cori Gauff (8/1) as the favourites, but if Osaka does secure a wild card, she will surely be amongst the main protagonists.
The Paddy Power news site and other sources have been reporting on a spate of comebacks from stars of the women’s game, with Caroline Wozniacki, Angelique Kerber and Garbine Muguruza all revealing their intention to return to the WTA Tour early next year.
With Venus Williams also planning to play on and home favourite Ajla Tomljanovic also in the mix, the battle for an Australian Open wild card could be just as fierce as the fight for the trophy itself!
First tournament next year ? so excited, I haven’t been to Brisbane in a while. https://t.co/QpCvtBRGUu
— NaomiOsaka????? (@naomiosaka) November 10, 2023
But it seems almost a certainty that Osaka will be handed a card, injury and fitness permitting. The 26-year-old has signalled her intention to play in more tournaments than she did prior to her break, which will give her the best chance of reaching her former heights.
She will make her return at the Brisbane International, before potentially eyeing one of those wild cards into the Australian Open – where she’s a former two-time champion already, of course.
If Osaka hits the ground running, the rest of the women’s locker room has truly been served notice…
Osaka, and that galaxy of women’s stars, are not the only ones plotting an Australian Open comeback.
Rafa Nadal has also revealed his plan to return to Grand Slam action in Melbourne. The Spaniard has heavily hinted that 2024 will be his last year as a professional tennis player, with advancing years and increasing injuries convincing the 37-year-old that his time is almost up.
But he’ll have a few more cracks at adding to his incredible collection of 22 Grand Slam titles – which includes Australian Open wins as far apart as 2009 and 2022.
Rafa is ????! ?
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has confirmed the return of Rafael Nadal to the Grand Slam for 2024! ?? pic.twitter.com/OoAD5xTN63
— Eurosport (@eurosport) October 11, 2023
Nadal actually suffered a hip injury that required surgery at last year’s edition of the tournament, so he will be eager to make up for lost time after missing out on much of 2023 due to his recovery.
The main challenge facing Nadal and the rest of the ATP Tour is wrestling the trophy away from Novak Djokovic, who has prevailed in four of the last five years at Melbourne Park – and the only blot on his copybook was caused by his absence from the tournament.
If Nadal was to win the Australian Open, or any other Slam event in 2024 for that matter, it would be incredibly popular with the spectators in the Rod Laver Arena and those watching on from around the world. Can he and Osaka deliver an amazing comeback double?