What to look for ahead of Week 2 at the 2023 Australian Open

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What to look for ahead of Week 2 at the 2023 Australian Open originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The Australian Open is already delivering iconic tennis moments early in 2023, blessing fans with both major upsets and high-quality play.

With a handful of injuries mixed in, the tournament on both the men’s and women’s sides are up for grabs, which is not what tennis fans have gotten used to over the years.

While the first week of the Australian Open has been a lot about the extreme weather conditions and shocking upsets, Week 2 is sure to present some legendary matchups to conclude the tournament. Here’s what to look out for:

Novak Djokovic, Casper Ruud, Stefanos Tsitsipas battle for world No. 1

These three men are playing for more than a Grand Slam.

With world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz out of the Australian Open due to injury, Djokovic, Ruud and Tsitsipas can all grab that top spot with a title win. Ruud can also reach that mark by making the final, as long as neither Djokovic nor Tsitsipas wins the championship.

If none of these guys make it to the last day of the tournament, Alcaraz will stay on top.

In addition to the world No. 1 ranking, Djokovic is playing for his 10th Australian Open singles title and 22nd Grand Slam title overall to tie leader Rafael Nadal.

2023 Australian Open tennis ball troubles

No two tennis courts are exactly the same, and neither are two tennis balls.

Players are complaining that the 2023 Australian Open balls are of “worse quality” than usual.

Nadal and Djokovic took their concerns to media day, expressing that after a few hits, the ball is becoming fluffy and slow.

“After a couple of hits, the ball loses the pressure,” Nadal said. “It's more difficult to hit with the right spin, but I think it's easier to play when you play flatter on the shots.”

Djokovic said after his first-round win on Tuesday that he thinks matches will drag out because of this, which is not particularly good for the 35-year-old dealing with a lingering hamstring injury.

While it may not be much of a problem in the first few rounds, the longevity of matches can catch up with players by Week 2 and change some outcomes of the tournament.

Who is the best young men's tennis player in the world?

This year more than ever, the young crop of ATP players is making a push to dominate the bracket.

All within the world's top 15, there are a handful of men that can win the 2023 Australian Open below the age of 25. The highlighted names include No. 3 Ruud, No. 4 Tsitsipas, No. 6 Andrey Rublev, No. 7 Felix Auger-Aliassime, No. 9 Taylor Fritz, No. 10 Holger Rune and No. 13 Alexander Zverev.

This number is shocking because it further backs the direction men’s tennis is heading as we see the greats of the game begin to fizzle out and/or retire.

While shocking, it is also a positive knowing the game will be in good hands when fans have to say goodbye to Djokovic and Nadal.

Emma Raducanu-Coco Gauff: A glimpse of women’s tennis near future

This matchup did not disappoint.

Emma Raducanu, 20, and Coco Gauff, 18, took the court on Wednesday at 3 a.m. ET and put on a show. Ultimately, Gauff took the match 6-3, 7-6 and had to save two set points in the second set to close the Brit out in straights. The difference maker was Gauff being the steadier player and controlling the tempo of the points.

These two players have dealt with great amounts of success and pressure in their young careers.

Raducanu is known for her Cinderella run at the 2021 U.S. Open, where she started as a qualifier in singles and went on to win the entire tournament. Since that victory, the Brit has been struggling to string together wins for herself.

On the other hand, Gauff has been consistently winning on the big stage since she was 15 and while she has yet to win a singles Grand Slam, she has made it deep in numerous majors, including reaching the final of the 2022 French Open.

Gauff will now face American Bernarda Pera for a spot in the fourth round.

Will Andy Murray win the Australian Open?

Don’t count Andy Murray out, and fans love to see it.

The 35-year-old Brit has found his mojo, securing an impressive victory over 2022 Australian Open semifinalist and world No. 14 Matteo Berrettini in five sets.

“I think the last few years, I've certainly questioned myself at times,” Murray said after the win. “There's certainly a lot of people questioning me and my ability, whether I could still perform at the biggest events and the biggest matches.”

The last Grand Slam Murray won was at the 2016 Wimbledon, and he has been shaky ever since.

Look out for Murray as he will take on Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round on Thursday. Kokkinakis led Italy’s Fabio Fognini two sets to love before the match was suspended for the night and ultimately closed him out in straight sets.

The sky’s the limit on the women’s side

With a stacked WTA top five in Iga Swiatek, Ons Jabeur, Jessica Pegula, Caroline Garcia and Aryna Sabalenka, it is anyone’s game. Unlike the men’s side, where we expect one of the top guns to bring home the title, the women’s side is up for grabs with numerous women playing up to par.

No. 1 Swiatek is used to the big stage and handles pressure very well.

While the Pole has the experience under her belt, the other four women are on fire, especially No. 3 Pegula, No. 4. Garcia and No. 5 Sabalenka, who are all vying for their first Grand Slam title.

Jabeur’s best performance in Melbourne to date is making a run to the 2020 quarterfinals. However, the 28-year-old is carrying much momentum from last season, reaching the singles final of both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.

Has Iga Swiatek won the Australian Open?

The world No. 1 has never won the Australian Open. Her best result to date in Melbourne was reaching the semifinals in 2022 before falling to American Danielle Collins.

Swiatek won the French Open twice (2020, 2022) and the U.S. Open once (2022).