Six months out from the Paris 2024 Games and the Olympics are looming large for the top players at the Australian Open tennis, writes senior correspondent Mike Osborne.
Even on day one at the Australian Open tennis, the first Grand Slam of the year, the eventual champion Jannik Sinner was dreaming of Paris.
And while the red clay of Roland Garros is looming large, it wasn’t the French Open that Italian Sinner had on his mind.
It’s an Olympic year and the 2024 Paris Games are very much on the radar of top players including 22-year-old Sinner, who looms as one of the sport’s future stars after beating Russian Daniil Medvedev in the final at Melbourne Park.
“I think the Olympics will be a key moment for many of the players this year,” said the Italian, one of only a handful of players to have beaten world No.1 Novak Djokovic in the past 12 months.
“The Paris Olympics will be the first time for me and I’m looking forward to the Games. I’m very excited about spending time with all the other athletes.”
The Olympic tennis tournament scheduled from July 27 – August 4 falls between Wimbledon and the US Open. Unlike the grand slam events that feature 128 players in the singles draw, the Games is limited to 64 players.
Each country can only enter four players in the Olympics singles draw and one doubles combination, which means places for Paris will be scarce.
Sinner, coached by Australian Darren Cahill and clearly the top Italian player of the moment, is certain of making the short trip from Rome to Paris for the Olympics for the singles, but he says he’s not sure if he’ll also play doubles.
For the Australians new world No.10 Alex de Minaur will make the cut for the Olympics, but the battle for the other three places is tight between Alexei Popyrin (ranked 43), Max Purcell (45), Jordan Thompson (47), Aleksander Vukic (63) and Thanasi Kokkinakis (68).
Purcell could also play doubles with Perth-based Matthew Ebden, the world ranked No.4 doubles player, after the pair won the Wimbledon doubles in 2022.
No Australian women are currently ranked high enough to qualify for the Paris Olympic singles event, but Australia does have the world No.1 doubles player in Storm Hunter, who could be a strong medal chance in the women’s and mixed doubles.
Much will depend on how the Australian men and women fare at the French Opens and the other tournaments before the Olympic selection cut-off date of June 10 this year.
But for Sinner, who beat Djokovic in the semi-finals at Melbourne Park, the Olympics and another potential grand slam are firmly on his agenda for 2024.
“It means a lot to me to start off with a win,” he said.
“But …. there is still a lot of work to do.
“And we all want to play in big matches in big stadiums.”
Michael Osborne has been a journalist for more than four decades including 35 years with the national news agency Australian Associated Press, rising from junior reporter to Editor.
He was AAP Editor for 11 years and served four years as Head of Sport and Racing. He was also posted to London and Beijing as AAP’s Bureau Chief and Foreign Correspondent.