Who made the cut for the 2024 Australian Open entry list?

The trophies of the Australian Open 2024 are displayed at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia, December 6, 2023. /CFP

The trophies of the Australian Open 2024 are displayed at Melbourne Park in Melbourne, Australia, December 6, 2023. /CFP

Never before have we witnessed a sporting narrative unfold with such breathtaking rapidity as that of Emma Raducanu’s rise to international fame in the world of tennis. Typically, young athletes gradually establish themselves in their respective sports, steadily building towards a moment of greatness. However, this 21-year-old prodigy defied all expectations by bursting onto the scene with unprecedented speed.

While the new girl’s astounding run to the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2021 provided a tantalizing glimpse of her immense potential, no one could have foreseen that Raducanu would follow it up by capturing the U.S. Open title just a few months later.

Yet, lurking beneath this fairytale success story lies a tale of adversity. Raducanu endured a grueling battle with injuries for nearly two years, undergoing surgeries on both wrists and one ankle. Consequently, she has been absent from competitive play since April.

Emma Raducanu celebrates with the trophy after winning the U.S. Open title at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City, U.S., September 11, 2021. /CFP

Emma Raducanu celebrates with the trophy after winning the U.S. Open title at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City, U.S., September 11, 2021. /CFP

Emma Raducanu celebrates with the trophy after winning the U.S. Open title at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City, U.S., September 11, 2021. /CFP

There were concerns surrounding Raducanu’s readiness for the start of the upcoming year. However, these doubts have started to dissipate in recent weeks, as reports have surfaced indicating that she has intensified her training efforts. 

Fortunately, as a previous Grand Slam title holder, Raducanu is eligible to utilize a protected ranking of 103, which grants her entry into tournaments due to her extended period away from the game. However, for all her status as one of the biggest names in the sport, her current ranking is not high enough to secure a spot in the main draw of the 2024 Australian Open, which kicks off on January 14.

The organizers of the prestigious event unveiled the much-anticipated entry list on Thursday, brimming with renowned stars, including world No. 1s Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek, but Raducanu’s name was conspicuously absent from the lineup, much to the disappointment of fans and followers.

Barring a significant number of withdrawals by higher-ranked players or a last-minute wild card invitation, Raducanu will be compelled to navigate the qualifying rounds at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time since her sensational triumph at the U.S. Open in 2021.

Nick Kyrgios attends a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, U.S., December 2, 2023. /CFP

Nick Kyrgios attends a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, U.S., December 2, 2023. /CFP

Nick Kyrgios attends a basketball game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, U.S., December 2, 2023. /CFP

Another notable absence from the roster is Nick Kyrgios. The beloved Aussie talisman underwent knee surgery earlier this year and had to abandon his plans to return at Wimbledon due to a wrist ligament tear. In the entire year, he has only participated in one ATP-level match.

Initially, there was optimism among organizers that the local hero would make his comeback at the Brisbane International. However, the likelihood of seeing him in action at Melbourne Park in January now seems highly uncertain.

Moreover, a total of seven Chinese players have clinched their spots in the entry list. In the women’s singles category, the formidable contingent comprises the likes of Zheng Qinwen, Wang Xinyu, Zhu Lin, Wang Xiyu, Yuan Yue and Bai Zhuoxuan, all of whom have been exhibiting their exceptional skills on the international stage. In the domain of men’s singles, it is Zhang Zhizhen who stands tall as the sole Chinese representative to have made it into the main draw.

Zhang Zhizhen in action during the Shanghai Masters in Shanghai, China, October 11, 2023. /CFP

Zhang Zhizhen in action during the Shanghai Masters in Shanghai, China, October 11, 2023. /CFP

Zhang Zhizhen in action during the Shanghai Masters in Shanghai, China, October 11, 2023. /CFP

Meanwhile, in a welcome development for the organizers, the entry list includes the return of tennis stalwart Rafael Nadal, who has secured his place through a protected ranking after a hiatus of nearly 12 months. The Spanish maestro, with 22 Grand Slam titles to his name, has been absent from competitive tennis since his early departure from this year’s Australian Open.

Fans can also rejoice as Naomi Osaka, a four-time Grand Slam champion, is set to make her comeback following the birth of her daughter in July. The Japanese sensation has been away from professional tennis since the Pan Pacific Open Tennis in September 2022.

Undoubtedly, both Nadal and Osaka will confront the challenge of shaking off the rust accumulated during their injury-plagued seasons. Yet, their inclusion in the event signifies a positive step forward as they embark on the arduous journey to reclaim their positions at the pinnacle of the sport.

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