Australian Open 2024: 5 dark horses for women’s singles title ft. Victoria Azarenka & Jelena Ostapenko

Main-draw action at the 2024 Australian Open will kick off on Sunday (January 14). The first Major tournament of the year boasts a packed field on the women’s side.

While the likes of Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka are the favorites to triumph at the Melbourne Slam, there are quite a few outside prospects that can go all the way and could be considered dark horses.

Without further ado, here’s a look at five players ranked outside the top 10 who can win the 2024 Australian Open:

#5 Elina Svitolina

Elina Svitolina celebrates at the 2023 French Open.
Elina Svitolina celebrates at the 2023 French Open.

Former World No. 3 Elina Svitolina has been enjoying a bit of a career renaissance lately. The Ukrainian had been out of action for the majority of 2022 due to maternity leave, casting a shadow on whether she could live with the high-quality top players in the women’s top rankings.

The 29-year-old dispelled any such notions in style though, winning her first WTA title in nearly two years in Strasbourg. She followed it up with quarterfinal and semifinal runs at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, respectively, beating World No. 1 Iga Swiatek at the latter Major.

Svitolina has an all-round game; she has a dependable first serve and clever shotmaking, giving her a good chance against any player. Thus, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Ukrainian goes on another giant-killing run at the Australian Open.

#4 Zheng Qinwen

Zheng Qinwen hits a forehand at Wimbledon.
Zheng Qinwen hits a forehand at Wimbledon.

Zheng Qinwen enjoyed a great sophomore year on the WTA tour in 2023. The Chinese achieved several career milestones, winning her first two pro titles and finishing the year inside the top 20.

The 21-year-old has shown a lot of promise ever since making a surprise quarterfinal run at the 2022 French Open. She possesses big groundstrokes and a huge serve thanks to her 5’10” frame, while also displaying good footwork and court coverage.

Having said that, it takes far more to win a Major tournament. Qinwen has a great mentality and always takes her opponents to the distance even in a losing effort. This resilience will give her passable odds to win the Australian Open if the top seeds fall early.

#3 Liudmila Samsonova

Liudmila Samsonova hits a forehand.
Liudmila Samsonova hits a forehand.

Liudmila Samsonova reached a new career-high ranking of 12 on the women’s tour last year. The Russian has always had the reputation of a giant killer, thanks to both the weight of her shots and her recent results.

Very few players on the women’s side would like to face the World No. 13. On her day, Samsonova can blow off her opponents with her long levers. She also possesses a killer instinct while facing top players, allowing her to spring upsets on them in the past.

The only attribute that holds her back is movement across the baseline. Samsonova has deep groundstrokes, but her physical conditioning can fails her sometimes. She will really have her work cut out to record a deep showing at the 2024 Australian Open.

#2 Jelena Ostapenko

Jelena Ostapenko has been in great form lately.
Jelena Ostapenko has been in great form lately.

Former World No. 5 Jelena Ostapenko has had a great start to her 2024 season, reaching the quarterfinals and semifinals in Brisbane and Adelaide, respectively. The Latvian had lost her way on the WTA tour some years back, but has now established herself as by far the most dangerous player outside the women’s top-10 rankings.

The 2017 French Open champion did fairly well against top players last year. Thanks to an uber-aggressive intent and smart positioning, the Latvian is able to pummel her opponents from the baseline. Although this style of play is very risky, her peers can do very little when she is on top of her game.

Ostapenko reached the quarterfinals in Melbourne last year. She will be eager to improve on her performance this year, provided her focus stays intact during tough matches.

#1 Victoria Azarenka (Former Australian Open champion)

Victoria Azarenka reached the quarterfinals of last year's Australian Open.
Victoria Azarenka reached the quarterfinals of last year’s Australian Open.

Two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka will always come into the Happy Slam with plausible chances of winning the title. The Belarusian mother’s career has been affected by injuries, but she still remains resilient.

The 34-year-old is looking for some redemption in 2024 after a quiet season last year. She is always a lock to do well at the Australian Open, having reached the quarterfinals or higher six times from 15 appearances at the tournament.

Moreover, the former World No. 1 has a solid baseline game. While she has a strong, authoritative forehand, her backhand often steals the show. She likes changing direction with her two-hander, and on a fast court this tactic works incredibly well.

As long as Azarenka is in good shape physically, she can make a statement at the 2024 Australian Open.