• 1. Who’s Really Number One?

To grasp what’s going on now at the top of the Hologic WTA Tour rankings is reminiscent of a concept from the world of baseball: The person leading the league in batting average is not necessarily the MVP.

Following the Australian Open, Iga Swiatek will remain No. 1 in the rankings. Aryna Sabalenka is No. 2.

But consider each player’s results over the last five majors. Swiatek has won one (Roland Garros), only once reached the quarters of another (Wimbledon), and this year in Australia was beaten in the third round.

Sabalenka has now won two straight Australian Opens, been to the finals of another (US Open), and the semis of two others (Roland Garros and Wimbledon). Said Sabalenka after Saturday night’s final, “It's been in my mind that I didn't want to be that player who win it and then disappeared. I just wanted to show that I'm able to be consistently there and I'm able to win another one.”

Swiatek leads their rivalry 6-3, including a 2-1 mark in 2023. The only time these two have met at a major came in the semis of the 2022 US Open, Swiatek winning a superb match, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 from 2-4 down in the third. As 2024 progresses, let’s see if indeed they can play each other at many of the year’s high-stakes events.


  • 2. How Will Global Political Issues Continue to Impact Tennis?

The leaders of the WTA recently received a letter with these words: “we believe allowing Saudi Arabia to host the WTA finals is entirely incompatible with the spirit and purpose of women’s tennis.” Its authors were Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, two past WTA presidents and, of course, two people as iconic and credible as it gets in all of tennis. Also in January, Rafael Nadal announced his partnership with Saudi Arabia.

So what is to come as pro tennis ponders various business agreements with Saudi Arabia? What do active players make of all this? And who from the WTA—currently seeking a new CEO—is providing leadership around the complications of doing business with a nation that treats women so poorly?

Then there is the ongoing war in Ukraine—and the tremendous poise, passion, and perspective demonstrated by the likes of Australian Open semifinalist Dayana Yastremska, quarterfinalist Marta Kostyuk, and Elina Svitolina. As Svitolina wrote in a recent BBC column, “As a high-profile Ukrainian athlete I feel it is my mission to help Ukraine and the Ukrainians who are in need—whether that is the rebuilding of homes, medical needs or helping young sports talent. I want this responsibility. It motivates me to wake up every morning and do something which is useful for Ukrainian people.”

  • 3. What’s to Come for Returning Mothers?

Three mothers who’ve each won Grand Slam singles titles and been ranked No. 1 in the world returned to Melbourne for the first time in several years—Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, Caroline Wozniacki. Though between them, only Wozniacki reached the second round, all three were optimistic and eager to compete. As Osaka said following her three-match Australian summer, “It's weird because I felt like when I was in L.A. training, I was really worried that I wasn't going to be able to keep up with any of the girls that I played in my matches. Coming here and I guess playing three tough matches, I feel positive that I'm able to play, I'm at least able to challenge them.” With each of these three boasting very different story arcs, playing styles, and personalities, it will be fascinating to see how their respective ’24 campaigns play out.


  • 4. Might More Doubles Create More Champions?

Of the 2024 Australian Open’s eight quarterfinalists, the three who’d previously won Grand Slam singles titles have all had significant success in doubles. Aryna Sabalenka won two doubles majors several years ago. Coco Gauff has been ranked number one in doubles. Barbora Krejcikova’s resume includes ten Grand Slam doubles titles.

Might more players consider this as a path to improvement? Consider the benefits of adding in one extra match a day that is likely to take no longer than 90 minutes: A broader array of skills. Additional competitive experiences. Shared engagement with a partner who could likely become a friend. Why not?

  • 5. Will Mid-Match Coaching Continue to Be So Cumbersome?

By “cumbersome,” I really mean second-rate. Yes, since mid-match coaching is impossible to police, I’ve accepted that it might as well be legalized. But can you imagine an NFL coach sitting high up in the stands alongside other spectators, limited to one side, yelling across fans, the players at times not able to hear? My hope is that eventually, the way coaching occurs will become far more professional, with the coach on the side of the court, akin to Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup. Other team members can send text messages to the sideline coach.

  • 6. The Minister of Happiness Needs Support

In early January, Ons Jabeur admitted that had she won last year’s Wimbledon final, she and her husband, Karim Kamoun, would have sought to have a child. That is quite a lot of pressure to put on oneself and one’s family. Since then, tennis’ “Minister of Happiness” has been scratching for her best form. Seeded sixth in Melbourne, Jabeur lost in the second round to Mirra Andreeva, 6-0, 6-2. One hopes she can regain the joy that has long made her a fan favorite.