The ‘5th Slam’ gets underway this week in the Californian desert, and although there are quite a few players absent, we should be in for a stellar couple of weeks. At time of writing, some of the players not appearing in the draw include, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Nick Kyrgios, Marin Cilic, and Sebastian Korda, among others.
Nonetheless, that means there are plenty of opportunities for the likes of Taylor Fritz to go back to back, or for players such as Carlos Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner, Felix Auger-Aliassime, and Casper Ruud, to capture their first ever Masters title. From an Aussie point of view Alex de Minaur, Jason Kubler and Jordan Thompson are all in the main draw, hopefully to be joined by a few more qualifiers.
The women are also heading out to the desert for what should be a cracking event. With so many live chances in the WTA at the moment, this could be anyone’s tournament.
Iga Swiatek will likely begin as favourite, but may start to feel the pressure of defending so many points.
As we see almost every week on the WTA tour, it’s impossible to pick who might make it to finals weekend. While Aryna Sabalenka, Elena Rybakina, and Jessica Pegula will be leading the charge, we also have players such as Donna Vekic finding form, Belinda Bencic, Coco Gauff, and Barbora Krejcikova who wouldn’t surprise if they held the coveted trophy aloft. It should be a ripping couple of weeks. Kim Birrell hoping to be the sole Aussie female in the main draw if she can get through qualifying.
ATP Challenger Tour:
Puerta Vallarta 100, Mexico:
The biggest Challenger event of the week will have just a single top 100 player, in Germany’s Daniel Altmaier. Interestingly, the second seed, Enzo Couacaud is ranked a full 101 places lower, at 196, so you would suggest Altmaier has a big shot at taking his second Puerta Vallarta title, after lifting the trophy in 2021. Australia’s Alex Bolt will be using his protected ranking to take his place in the field, and will take on USA’s Bjorn Fratangelo, who is also using a protected ranking. Fellow Aussie James McCabe has qualified for the main draw, the third time the 19 year old has done so at the Challenger level this season.
Antalya 75, Turkey:
Top seed in Turkey this week is Austrian Sebastian Ofner, at a ranking of 158. He’s coming off two first round losses, so will be looking to win a few matches in this second edition of the Antalya tournament. Australia’s Li Tu is in the draw as 7th seed, and will be looking to kickstart his year, after just the one first round exit this year.
Lugano 75, Switzerland:
There’s not many better locations than Lugano for a tennis tournament. Unfortunately it’s not at the old outdoor site on the lake, it’s now an indoor hardcourt event. Nonetheless, it is still a nice place to go and watch some tennis. No Aussies in the main draw here, but some notable players to keep an eye on, are top seed, Dutchman, Gijs Brouwer, hometown player, Dominic Stricker, and Britain’s Liam Broady.
Santiago 75, Chile:
Following on from the highly successful ATP event, Santiago plays host to a Challenger event, and clearly it has paid dividends, with a bunch of players staying on to compete. Top seed is the hometown hero, Nicholas Jarry, and he will be joined by 3 other top 100 players, setting up for what should be a really high quality event.
W60 Trnava, Slovakia:
No big names taking their place in Slovakia this week, but a very competitive draw, with the number one seed, Phillipine’s Alexandra Eala ranked 220. We then have 11 other players ranked inside 300, ensuring a very open field. Ursula Radwanska, who has dropped down to 344 will be keen to push back up the rankings.
W60 Astana, Kazakhstan:
A contrasting field in Astana, with 11 players inside the top 200 competing here, including France’s Kristina Mladenovic, who has been as high as number 10 in the world. Japan’s Moyuka Uchijima leads the field ranked 121 at time of cut-off (131 in the most recent rankings). Having never reached the top 100, she will be looking to string a few wins together to ensure she can get ever closer to a double figure ranking.
W25 Boca Raton, USA:
Aussie Seone Mendez will be in the main draw this week
M25 Quinta Do Lago, Portugal:
Aussie Akira Santillan is featuring in the main draw this week.