The 2023 edition of the Australian Open is nearly here, with the world’s best tennis players to descend on Melbourne Park for a packed fortnight.

Ash Barty’s retirement means Iga Swiatek is the favourite to take out the women’s singles, but can the world No. 1 get the job done?

In the men’s draw, Novak Djokovic will be looking to win his tenth Australian Open title following his 2022 deportation saga.

Ahead of the opening round in Melbourne, three writers from The Sporting News‘ have given their predictions for this year’s first Grand Slam tournament…

MORE: The eight men who have toppled Djokovic Down Under

Champion – Women’s singles

Iga Swiatek – The world No. 1 has dominated women’s tennis since the retirement of Ash Barty. She also showed her prowess on the hard courts by winning the US Open. Swiatek needs someone to challenge her but I’m not sure where that’s going to come from. (Kieran Francis, Australia)

Iga Swiatek US Open

Coco Gauff – It’s pretty hard to look beyond Iga Swiatek for most of this year’s slams, but she’s only once gone beyond the last 16 in Melbourne. If anyone can take advantage of a Swiatek slip-up, it’s Gauff: she won in Adelaide without dropping a set and loves hard courts, and with a title under her belt to start the year, pressure on the teenager’s shoulders will have dropped. (Joe Wright, UK)

Veronika Kudermetova – Kudermetova has quietly worked her way up to the world No. 9 rank, showcasing her versatile and well-rounded skillset. Having entered the top ten for the first time in her career, the momentum is definitely on the 25-year-old’s side. She has never gone past the third round at Melbourne Park, but absolutely has the tools to go on an Angelique Kerber-esque run and win it all. (Joshua Mayne, Australia)

Champion – Men’s singles

Novak Djokovic – The boring answer is Novak Djokovic, but who is going to challenge the Serbian? Nadal is struggling, Alcaraz is out injured and Medvedev appears to still be off his best form. 10 Australian Open titles would be a superb achievement. (KF)

Novak Djokovic – After the chaos of last year, winning a 10th title in Melbourne – and drawing level with Nadal in the all-time majors list – would be very special for Djokovic. He was impressive in Adelaide and his closest rivals are either injured or off their game. Only his own hamstring worry is likely to get in the way. (JW)

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Novak Djokovic – Unless his hamstring injury worsens and he is forced to withdraw, it is hard to see anyone else but Novak Djokovic taking out the men’s singles at Melbourne Park. He clearly meant business at the Adelaide International 1 and will be more determined than ever to pick up another Australian Open title after last year’s deportation. In 2023, it’s Novak’s to lose. (JM)

Dark horse – Women’s singles

Jessica Pegula – Maybe not a huge surprise considering she is fourth favourite, but Pegula has never been past the quarter-final stage of a Grand Slam. This could change in 2023 and the American is looming as one of the only hopes to beat Swiatek. In fact, she even beat the Pole at the United Cup. (KF)

Aryna Sabalenka – It seems unfair to label the world No.5 an outside bet, but Sabalenka hasn’t gone beyond the last 16 in Melbourne and has never got to a Grand Slam final. Still, the 24-year-old is one of the form players on the WTA Tour, winning 16 of her past 22 matches and claiming the title in Adelaide. She also took Swiatek to three sets in the US Open semi-finals before beating her at the same stage of the WTA Finals last November. (JW)

Elena Rybakina – Rybakina’s recent form isn’t overly promising, but her Australian Open chances have been underestimated. Being in the same quadrant of the draw as Iga Swiatek is far from ideal, but the world No. 1’s display at the United Cup proved that she is human and beatable. Importantly, Rybakina has experience winning a Grand Slam tournament (Wimbledon, 2022), so she might go further at Melbourne Park than expected. (JM)

Elena Rybakina

Dark horse – Men’s singles

Jannik Sinner – It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if Sinner wins a slam one day, but getting one this early is possible. His recent duels with Alcaraz have shown he can go toe-to-toe with the world No.1. With a host of favourites under injury clouds or form issues, why can’t the Italian talent swoop in? (KF)

Felix Auger-Aliassime – He might have lost in the first round in Adelaide, but Auger-Aliassime closed out 2022 with four titles to his name and took Canada to Davis Cup glory. He was two sets up in the quarter-finals last year against Medvedev in Melbourne and is one of just three players to take Nadal the distance in a French Open match. If he can learn to hold his nerve at crucial moments, a first major won’t be far away. (JW)

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Frances Tiafoe – Normally, a potential fourth-round clash with Rafael Nadal is a one-way ticket out of Melbourne Park. But with the Spaniard out of form, there is every chance Tiafoe could enjoy a deep tournament run. The American beat Nadal at last year’s US Open, going on to reach the semi-finals in New York. No reason he can’t do it again. (JM)

Surprise early exit – Women’s singles

Danielle Collins – Don’t expect last year’s finalist to hang around for long at Melbourne Park. She has struggled with injury since losing to Ash Barty in the final in 2022. Collins has also failed to reach the level she showed early last season. (KF)

Emma Raducanu – Just as preparations were going well, Raducanu sprained her ankle in Auckland and is battling to be fit. Even if she recovers fully, the 2021 US Open champion will face a second-round match against either Coco Gauff or Katerina Siniakova, who beat her in Miami last year. (JW)

Emma Raducanu

Iga Swiatek – I might regret making this prediction since Swiatek is capable of beating any player on the WTA circuit. However, if there is a tournament that she struggles in, it could be this one. She will begin her campaign with a tricky first round clash against Jule Niemeier before last year’s Wimbledon winner Elena Rybakina is projected in the fourth round. The likes of Coco Gauff, Jessica Pegula and Barbora Krejčíková could then all stand in her way to the final. A loss against any one of those quality players is certainly feasible. (JM)

Surprise early exit – Men’s singles

Rafael Nadal – Having lost six of his past seven matches, it’s going to be mighty hard for Nadal to defend his Australian Open title. He might not be a first round exit but as soon as he gets a tough opponent, Nadal is going to be in trouble based on his current form. (KF)

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Casper Ruud – Ruud can be very difficult to predict. Finalist at the French Open and US Open last year, he lost four of eight matches after defeat to Carlos Alcaraz in New York, then promptly got to the decider of the ATP Finals before losing to Djokovic. The No.2 seed could be a real challenger in Melbourne, but he could just as easily go out in round two to Jenson Brooksby. (JW)

Felix Auger-Aliassime – Auger-Aliassime is such an exciting talent, so this is a difficult prediction to make. However, he showed in 2022 that he can be a bit of a ‘boom or bust’ type of player, exiting Wimbledon and the US Open in the first and second round, respectively. He is also coming off a first round loss against Alexei Popyrin in Adelaide. (JM)

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