Eight players will break new ground at the 2024 Australian Open by contesting the main draw of a Grand Slam for the first time. Get to know them here.

McCartney Kessler (U.S.)

A former college tennis standout at the University of Florida, McCartney Kessler put together a spectacular first full pro season in 2023. The American rocketed from No.948 to No.231 over the course of the season, with her first ITF W60 trophy in Rome, Georgia in October earning her the USTA reciprocal wild card for the Australian Open. That title run included Kessler's first victory over a Top 100 player, a first-round upset of Taylor Townsend. She added a second in December, defeating Clara Tauson in the first round of the Angers WTA 125 event.

Kessler's 44-24 record in 2023 also included an eye-catching Grand Slam qualifying debut as a wild card at the US Open, where she defeated Yuan Yue en route to the final round. The 24-year-old has already picked up where she left off in 2024, qualifying for her first WTA main draw in Auckland to start the year. She opens against Fiona Ferro in the first round.

Alina Korneeva

Just under 12 months ago, ahead of the main event of the women's final on the last Saturday of the Australian Open, two relatively unheralded 15-year-olds seized fans' attention on Rod Laver Arena. Alina Korneeva and Mirra Andreeva went toe-to-toe in a gruellng girls' final for 3 hours and 18 minutes before Korneeva triumphed 6-7(2), 6-4, 7-5.

That contest foreshadowed superb seasons for both. Andreeva didn't spend much longer in juniors, transitioning spectacularly to the main tour to finish in the Top 50. Korneeva became the first player since Ana Konjuh and Belinda Bencic in 2013 to win multiple junior Slam crowns in one season when she claimed the Roland Garros title; she finished the year as junior No.1 after adding the ITF Junior Masters trophy to her haul.

Highlights: Korneeva d. Savinykh, 2023 Hong Kong R1L.Fruhvirtova d. Korneeva, 2023 Hong Kong R2 

At the same time, Korneeva managed to rocket up the WTA rankings from No.771 to No.156 after compiling a 33-8 record. This included titles at the Pretoria ITF W60 and Figueira da Foz ITF W100, and a second-round run in Hong Kong as a qualifier making her WTA main-draw debut.

Korneeva, who prepared for the 2024 season at the Rafa Nadal Academy in Mallorca, says that three-hour battles are among the aspects of tennis she loves the most. That was evident in her first ever Grand Slam qualifying run, particularly a second-round win from double match point down over Ma Ye-Xin. Aptly, the first round will see her take on one of the tour's leading three-hour specialists, Sara Sorribes Tormo.

Taylah Preston (AUS)

Former Top 10 junior Taylah Preston is the youngest Australian Open wild-card recipient this year and one of Australia's top teenage prospects. The 18-year-old already served notice of her promise two years ago, when she scored victories over the experienced Sara Errani and Kurumi Nara in 2022 Melbourne Summer Set and Australian Open qualifying respectively. That year, she also qualified for her first WTA main draw in 's-Hertogenbosch.

But although Preston was sidelined during the 2023 Australian summer with a back injury, once she returned to action she put together a terrific season, shooting from No.836 in April to her current No.203 nine months later. Preston's 49-13 record in 2023 included four ITF titles, culminating in her first ITF W60 in Brisbane in November.

Highlights: Garcia d. Preston, 2024 Adelaide R1

Preston also delivered an eye-catching performance this week as a wild card in Adelaide. Facing the power of Caroline Garcia in the first round, she countered it with big hitting and phenomenal speed of her own, leading the Frenchwoman by a break in the third set before falling. Preston will face another former Top 5 player, No.19 seed Elina Svitolina, in the first round.

Ella Seidel (GER)

Two years ago, Ella Seidel was unranked. Twelve months ago, she was at No.579. Now, the 18-year-old German is at No.172 and continuing to rise fast. In 2023, Seidel won three ITF titles and reached a further two finals, ending the year with her first WTA 125 quarterfinal run in Andorra and compiling a 50-24 record overall. She also made her WTA main-draw debut at her hometown tournament in Hamburg, falling to compatriot Jule Niemeier in three sets.

Highlights: Niemeier d. Seidel, 2023 Hamburg R1

Last October, Seidel told the Hamburger Abendblatt that her short-term goal was to be ranked high enough to compete in her first Grand Slam qualifying tournament at the Australian Open. She succeeded, thanks to a title run at the Bratislava ITF W60 in October, and came through the preliminary rounds at the first time of asking with wins over Elizabeth Mandlik and Hailey Baptiste.

Seidel, whose academic prowess also enabled her to graduate from high school two years early, describes herself as "very ambitious, but also very disciplined when it comes to tennis." Barbara Rittner, head of women's tennis at the DTB, agrees. In 2021, she praised Seidel for working "meticulously, hard and structured." The teenager will have the opportunity to show off the results on the biggest of stages in Melbourne. She has drawn No.2 seed and defending champion Aryna Sabalenka in the first round.

Yuliia Starodubtseva (UKR)

One year ago, Yuliia Starodubtseva was unranked and just embarking on her first full pro season after graduating from Old Dominion University with a master's degree in sport management. Within two tournaments, the Ukrainian lifted her first ITF title in Spring, Texas. By the end of the year, she had claimed another three ITF W60 trophies, made her Grand Slam qualifying debut at the US Open and compiled a 44-16 record to finish at No.160. Along the way, Starodubtseva had wins against tour veterans such as Sara Errani, Madison Brengle and Wang Yafan, as well as top teenage talents Robin Montgomery and Clervie Ngounoue.

The final year of Starodubtseva's standout college career had been marked by heaviness as her hometown of Kakhovka bore the brunt of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Like compatriot Elina Svitolina, Starodubtseva channeled her sadness and anger into her tennis.

"I think she found her calling, being one of the best players in the nation, and bringing attention to her country that way," ODU women's coach Dominic Manilla told ODU Sports in 2022. "She didn't just play for ODU or for herself this season. She did it for Ukraine."

The 23-year-old has continued to battle hard in Melbourne, coming through a third-set tiebreak in her final qualifying match against Gabriela Knutson to reach not just her first Grand Slam main draw, but first at tour level. Her reward is a first-round date with No.6 seed Ons Jabeur.

Lulu Sun (SUI)

Trivia question: Who was the first player born in 2001 to gain a WTA ranking? It wasn't World No.1 Iga Swiatek, nor Amanda Anisimova or Anastasia Potapova. It was Lulu Sun, who entered the rankings in June 2015, just over a month after turning 14.

Watch This: Lulu Sun shines in turning defense into offense

Sun ultimately chose the college tennis route, majoring in international relations and global studies at the University of Texas. That degree was an apt choice, given Sun's background -- born in New Zealand to parents from Hong Kong and Croatia, raised in Switzerland (the country she represents) and educated in the U.S.

On graduating and hitting the pro tour full-time in 2022, she swiftly made an impact, making the final round of Wimbledon qualifying at her first WTA quarterfinal in Seoul that year.

Highlights: Sun d. Blinkova, 2022 Seoul R2 | Sun d. Kessler, 2024 Auckland R1

An ankle injury halted Sun's progress in early 2023, sidelining her for three months, but only temporarily. Her biggest title to date at the Brasilia ITF W80 last August put her on the right path again, and after reaching the second round of Auckland two weeks ago the 22-year-old has risen to a career-high of No.189. Having successfully navigated her second Grand Slam qualifying competition, Sun will face Elisabetta Cocciaretto in the first round.

Maria Timofeeva

Last July, Maria Timofeeva put herself into the record books with a doubly rare feat, taking the Budapest title as a teenage lucky loser contesting her first ever WTA main draw. Only nine players have lifted the trophy in their tour debut; only six have won a WTA tournament as a lucky loser. Ranked No.246 at the time, Timofeeva's surprise run -- which included wins over Daria Saville and Nadia Podoroska -- vaulted her toward the Top 100.

Champions Reel: How Maria Timofeeva won Budapest 2023

But the breakthrough was immediately followed by a setback. Timofeeva was sidelined for three months by a foot injury, only returning to action in December. She did not manage to win consecutive matches in her first three events back. However, the 20-year-old regained her form this week in Australian Open qualifying, dropping just one set in three matches.

A keen vlogger who's enthusiastic about bringing fans behind the scenes of an aspiring pro career, Timofeeva has documented the ups and downs of her past few months on the Kiss My Ace YouTube channel, which she co-runs with fellow pro Ekaterina Kazionova.

There'll be a gulf in experience when Timofeeva takes the court for the first Grand Slam main-draw match of her career. She'll take on Alizé Cornet, who is contesting her 71st major main draw, and a record-extending 68th in a row.

Anastasia Zakharova

Over the past three years, Anastasia Zakharova has slowly but surely chipped away at various significant milestones. She made her tour-level debut as a lucky loser at Gdynia 2021; despite a number of close three-setters, she only posted her first win at this level in her eighth WTA main draw, defeating Anna Karolina Schmiedlova at Hua Hin 2023. 

Highlights: Diyas d. Zakharova, 2021 Astana R1 | Zakharova d. Schmiedlova, 2023 Hua Hin R1

It's also been lucky number eight when it comes to reaching the main draw of a major. The 21-year-old played her first Grand Slam qualifying event at the 2021 Australian Open, and has managed to successfully navigate all three rounds at the eighth attempt.

Currently ranked No.191, Zakharova hit her career-high of No.156 back in June 2022. She will face Yulia Putintseva in the first round of the main draw.

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