THE MERCURY IS at its highest point, trips to the beach have become frequent—and necessary, given the extreme heat—and kids are savouring their final days of freedom before returning to school. All of this can only signal two things. One, that it’s January. And two, that the tennis must be on. As permanent a fixture on our calendar as Christmas day, the Australian Open has returned to grace our screens in 2024. With big names young and old battling it out, outsiders ready to make an impression and cast-offs returning with points to prove, the 2024 Australian Open is guaranteed to be one to remember.
This year’s tournament is already underway, with a slew of dramatic finishes and thrilling results already in the books. On the Grand Slam’s opening day, reigning men’s singles champion Novak Djokovic was pushed to the brink against Croatian Dino Prizmic, even dropping a set against the 18-year-old—a testament to Djokovic’s dominance, and the scale of Prizmic’s accomplishment, the Serbian maestro only dropped a single set throughout the entire 2023 Australian Open. Elsewhere, Chris O’Connell became the first Australian to secure a victory after a five-set thriller against Cristian Garín, and 2018 Australian Open Champion Caroline Wozniacki marked her return to tennis with a win.
The Australian Open doesn’t only herald the beginning of tennis’ packed calendar, it’s also a reminder of Rolex’s enduring support for the sport, and the relationship that binds them. Rolex and tennis have much in common. They both celebrate technical precision, unflinching determination and striving for excellence.
Rolex has been the official timekeeper of the Australian Open since 2008, but the Swiss watchmaker’s relationship with the sport stretches back more than 40 years. When Rolex first partnered with Wimbledon in 1978, tennis was undergoing a dramatic transformation and forging its place as a truly international sport, with fans, players and tournaments around the globe. Since those early days, Rolex has supported the sport’s most prestigious tournaments and championed its star athletes.
Where to begin with what’s on offer at this year’s Australian Open? How about comeback stories? Returning to Melbourne Park is Angelique Kerber and Caroline Wozniacki. Both are previous Australian Open Champions, and both are returning to competition after welcoming children—an occasion that is much of a challenge as it is a blessing. “At the moment it’s the offseason, so I am practicing a lot, trying to get fit again and be prepared for January,” Kerber said. “In some ways, it’s as though I’m starting again, with a new story and in this new chapter of my life.”
Even for the Grand Slam’s star athletes like Kerber, who are doubtlessly embroiled in intense training preparations in the tournament’s lead up, the influence of Rolex is impossible to ignore. “Being a testimonee and seeing the Rolex crown makes me feel at home and even more a part of the event,” Kerber said. “Sometimes it gives you additional motivation too and helps you get that extra 2–3 percent out of your game, to perform well on court and run for every ball.”
Australia is where Caroline Wozniacki won her first and only Grand Slam title. For that reason, the Australian Open will always hold a special place in the former world number one’s heart. “Winning the Australian Open in 2018 is something I will remember forever and I’m still very proud, especially after winning such an exciting match in the final.” The opportunity to reignite her rivalry with Kerber is tantalising. “It will be special to share the court with her again and to show my children where I won my first Grand Slam title.”
Wozniacki’s compatriot, rising phenom Holger Rune, is at the opposite end of his career. The 20-year-old has the world at his feet and cites Wozniacki’s achievements as a major influence. “Caroline had a very big impact on me as a young tennis player growing up in Denmark,” he said. “For a youngster, it’s important to know that a person from your country can make it as a professional tennis player; that if you want it enough, if you train hard enough, if you do the right thing, it is possible.”
While Rune is yet to taste Grand Slam glory, he’s eager to change that sooner rather than later. “In 2024, my goal is to win Grand Slam titles,” he said. For Rune, there isn’t a better place to attain his first Grand Slam triumph than Australia. “I have really started to enjoy playing in Australia, especially in 2023. The Australian Open takes place at the beginning of the year so there’s always a great vibe; the energy is unbelievable, the conditions are great and you can feel that the fans are excited to watch tennis.” Rune said. “It’s great to see Rolex’s support of these tournaments and also very cool to know that you’re part of the family of testimonees.”
It isn’t just the current crop of superstars that are excited for the Australian Open, tennis legends are also eagerly anticipating a memorable event. None other than three-time Australian Open winner Rod Laver—who lends his name to Melbourne Park’s centre court—is among the excited fans. “Now I’m a spectator, I enjoy the chance to see the players performing on court. It takes me back to the years I was there competing at the same historic tournaments which have stood the test of time.”
Laver also recognises the importance of Rolex’s partnership with the event. “Rolex being part of the Australian Open is important for the sport and for our country on the global stage,” he said. “Rolex supports so many aspects of the tennis world. It is an incredible partnership and one that I have seen thrive over many years.” With testimony like that, how could the Australian Open disappoint?