McEnroe backs Williams to make another 'real run' at a Grand Slam title

John McEnroe expects Serena Williams to make at least one more “real run” at winning a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title.

Williams, 40, has been stuck on 23 majors since winning the Australian Open in 2017, just six months before she gave birth to daughter Olympia.

She has lost in four finals since and has not played since retiring in the first round of Wimbledon with injury last summer.

Australian Open

‘It was really painful’ – Cornet reveals 13 years of hurt in emotional on-court interview

24/01/2022 AT 11:16

It is not yet clear when she will return to action, but McEnroe thinks she remains “motivated” to at least draw level with Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Slams.

“Serena looks as though she is still training and trying to get herself ready and absolutely wants to try and break the record,” seven-time Grand Slam champion McEnroe told Eurosport.

“She seems very motivated still and I anticipate her coming back and making a real run at Wimbledon or trying to do one more US Open.

“She is desperate for one more even though it doesn’t change anything in my book. She is one of the greatest athletes, male or female, that has played the sport, so of course we would like to see her play again, but she is also 40 and doesn’t have the fear factor that she once had amongst the younger players, so that makes it more difficult.”

Williams did not play at the 2022 Australian Open as she said she was not yet ready to “physically compete” at her “highest level”.

She may target a return on home soil at the WTA 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami in March.

‘She is a mini Serena’ – Azarenka on Williams family and her social network

But getting back to full fitness appears the primary focus for Williams right now and McEnroe thinks the three-set format in the women’s draws at the Grand Slams will be beneficial in her quest to equal Court’s record.

“She has the slight advantage over Roger [Federer] that the length of the matches are shorter in the women’s game.

“There is an opportunity to recover whereas it’s more difficult if you get stuck in a couple of five-setters at the Grand Slams. Those are the tournaments the players care most about.”

– – –

Stream the 2022 Australian Open live and on demand on discovery+. A subscription for discovery+ is now £29.99 for the first year for UK users, down from £59.99

Australian Open

When is the Australian Open draw? Who could Djokovic face?

12/01/2022 AT 13:28

Australian Open

Australian Open 2022 – Who’s playing, when’s the draw, what’s the schedule

10/01/2022 AT 14:15

‘It was really painful’ – Cornet reveals 13 years of hurt in emotional on-court interview

Alize Cornet had a hugely emotional moment with Jelena Dokic after she beat Simona Halep 6-4 3-6 6-4 in the searing heat on Rod Laver Arena.

The win meant that the 32-year-old – who has hinted that this year might be her last as a professional – reached a first Grand Slam quarter-final at her 63rd showing at a major.

And following the win, she embraced Jelena Dokic – conducting on-court interview duties – whose presence reminded her of one of the most painful moments of her career.

Australian Open

‘It’s insane, it’s inhumane’ – Cornet upset at umpire over towel in searing heat

5 HOURS AGO

The pair were slated to meet at the quarter-final stage of the Australian Open back in 2009. Cornet lost – despite having a couple of match points – her fourth-round match to Dinara Safina, who would then go on to beat Dokic on her way to the final. Safina would lose to Serena Williams in the showpiece.

The poignancy of the moment was not lost on either, who embraced before Cornet went on to tell the crowd how much it would have meant to have faced off against Dokic.

“I wanted to play against you so bad. I was so disappointed,” said Cornet.

“I loved your game and I was so excited about playing the quarter-final against you and I couldn’t and it was really painful. I’m still here!”

‘It’s insane, it’s inhumane’ – Cornet gets upset at umpire over towel visit

The 32-year-old then turned her attentions to the match on Rod Laver Arena against two-time Grand Slam winner Halep, saying:

“It was a battle with Simona today in this heat, after 30 minutes of the game we were both dying on the court. We kept going for two and a half hours with all our heart.

“Congrats to Simona because I know she struggled a lot and I admire this player so much. She’s such a fighter and an example to me. To beat her today to go to my first quarter-final is a dream come true. I don’t know what to say. It’s just magic.

“It’s never too late to try again.”

Cornet will play USA’s Danielle Collins after she beat Elise Mertens. Should Cornet emerge from that match victorious, she will face either Iga Swiatek, Sorana Cirstea, Kaia Kanepi or Aryna Sabalenka for a spot in the final.

Highlights: Cornet reaches first quarter-final with superb win over Halep

– – –

Stream the 2022 Australian Open live and on demand on discovery+. A subscription for discovery+ is now £29.99 for the first year for UK users, down from £59.99

Australian Open

‘Never too late’ – Tearful Cornet stuns Halep to reach first ever Grand Slam quarter-final

8 HOURS AGO

Australian Open men

‘I think we’ll still see him next year’: Konta on Murray’s future

YESTERDAY AT 15:47

When is the Australian Open draw? Who could Djokovic face?

With the 2022 Australian Open set to start in Melbourne on January 17, we answer all the key questions around the draw, including when it takes place, the seedings, and who could play.

Novak Djokovic, who on Monday hit out at what he called “continuing misinformation” surrounding his Covid status on Wednesday, and Naomi Osaka are set to defend their crowns. But who will they, and Emma Raducanu and Andy Murray face at Melbourne Park at the first Grand Slam of the year?

When is the draw?

ATP Sydney

Murray battles past second seed Basilashvili in Sydney

43 MINUTES AGO

The draw will take place on Thursday, January 13 at 3pm local time (4am GMT).

What are the seedings?

Men’s singles

  • 1. Novak Djokovic
  • 2. Daniil Medvedev
  • 3. Alexander Zverev
  • 4. Stefanos Tsitsipas
  • 5. Andrey Rublev
  • 6. Rafael Nadal
  • 7. Matteo Berrettini
  • 8. Casper Ruud
  • 9. Felix Auger Aliassime
  • 10. Hubert Hurkacz
  • 11. Jannik Sinner
  • 12. Cameron Norrie
  • 13. Diego Schwartzman
  • 14. Denis Shapovalov
  • 15. Roberto Bautista Agut
  • 16. Cristian Garin
  • 17. Gael Monfils
  • 18. Aslan Karatsev
  • 19. Pablo Carreno Busta
  • 20. Taylor Fritz
  • 21. Nikoloz Basilashvili
  • 22. John Isner
  • 23. Reilly Opelka
  • 24. Dan Evans
  • 25. Lorenzo Sonego
  • 26. Grigor Dimitrov
  • 27. Marin Cilic
  • 28. Karen Khachanov
  • 29. Ugo Humbert
  • 30. Lloyd Harris
  • 31. Carlos Alcaraz
  • 32. Alex de Minaur

Women’s singles

  • 1. Ashleigh Barty
  • 2. Aryna Sabalenka
  • 3. Garbine Muguruza
  • 4. Barbora Krejcikova
  • 5. Maria Sakkari
  • 6. Anett Kontaveit
  • 7. Iga Swiatek
  • 8. Paula Badosa
  • 9. Ons Jabeur
  • 10. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova
  • 11. Sofia Kenin
  • 12. Elena Rybakina
  • 13. Naomi Osaka
  • 14. Simona Halep
  • 15. Elina Svitolina
  • 16. Angelique Kerber
  • 17. Emma Raducanu
  • 18. Coco Gauff
  • 19. Elise Mertens
  • 20. Petra Kvitova
  • 21. Jessica Pegula
  • 22. Belinda Bencic
  • 23. Leylah Fernandez
  • 24. Victoria Azarenka
  • 25. Daria Kasatkina
  • 26. Jelena Ostapenko
  • 27. Danielle Collins
  • 28. Veronika Kudermetova
  • 29. Tamara Zidansek
  • 30. Camila Giorgi
  • 31. Marketa Vondrousova
  • 32. Sara Sorribes Tormo

Who could Djokovic face?

With no match practice before the tournament, Djokovic will be hopeful of getting a kind draw in the first week of the Australian Open – if he plays.

Djokovic has been allowed to train in Australia after a judge quashed the decision to deny him a visa. However, there is still a chance that the Australian government will cancel his visa for a second time.

If that happens and he can’t play the Australian Open then Daniil Medvedev will be the top seed with Alexander Zverev the second seed.

If Djokovic plays then he could face a potential quarter-final against sixth seed Rafael Nadal if they are drawn in the same quarter. A repeat of last year’s final between Djokovic and Medvedev would also be on the cards.

Who could still qualify?

Harriet Dart is into the final round of qualifying, where she will face Australian Kimberly Birrell for a main draw spot.

Liam Broady will face American JJ Wolf in the second round of qualifying on Thursday morning GMT.

Katie Swan was beaten 6-0 7-5 in the second round of qualifying by fifth seed Viktoriya Tomova.

Britain’s Liam Broady celebrates winning a point against Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman during their men’s singles second round match on the third day of the 2021 Wimbledon Championships

Image credit: Getty Images

Which British players are in the draw?

Andy Murray will be competing at the Australian Open for the first time since 2019 after getting a wild card.

Murray is a five-time finalist at the tournament but could get a tough draw as he is unseeded.

US Open champion Emma Raducanu will make her Australian Open debut. The 19-year-old, who won just one game in her only warm-up match of the year, will be one of the top 20 seeds on the women’s side.

Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans will both be seeded in the men’s draw.

Who’s not playing?

The biggest names missing on the men’s side are 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer and 2020 US Open champion Dominic Thiem.

Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic, Kyle Edmund and Kei Nishikori are also not playing.

On the women’s side, Serena Williams will not be competing as she continues to recover from injury.

Williams, 40, has not played since retiring from her first-round match at Wimbledon last summer.

“Following the advice of my medical team, I have decided to withdraw from this year’s Australian Open,” said Williams. “While this is not an easy decision to make I am not where I need to be physically to compete.”

Venus Williams will also not be playing, meaning for the first time since 1997 neither of the Williams sisters will be at the Australian Open.

World No 5 Karolina Pliskova misses out with injury, with Jennifer Brady, Karolina Muchova and Bianca Andreescu also not in action.

Stream the 2022 Australian Open live and on demand on discovery+. A subscription for discovery+ is now £29.99 for the first year for UK users, down from £59.99

Australian Open

‘She needs time’ – Henman urges patience with Raducanu

2 HOURS AGO

Australian Open

ATP rival criticises ‘selfish’ Djokovic, says exemption is ‘tough to accept’

3 HOURS AGO

Australian Open 2022 – Who's playing, when's the draw, what's the schedule

All you need to know ahead of the 2022 Australian Open as Novak Djokovic’s participation remains uncertain and Naomi Osaka looks to defend her women’s singles title.

When is it?

The main draw for the Australian Open gets started on Monday, January 17.

Australian Open

‘I want to stay and try to compete’ – Defiant Djokovic now targets Aus Open

AN HOUR AGO

The qualifiers will take place from January 10-14. You can see the full tournament schedule further down the page.

Who’s playing?

Questions continue to linger over whether Novak Djokovic will defend his title.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion was released from detention on Monday after winning his appeal to remain in Australia. Judge Anthony Kelly ruled that it was “unreasonable” to cancel Djokovic’s visa and his passport and personal items were returned to him immediately.

However, Australia’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke may consider a second notice of cancellation of Djokovic’s visa.

If Djokovic does play the first Grand Slam of the year he will do so without competing in any warm-up events and with less than time than expected on the practice courts.

The two biggest names missing from the men’s side are Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem.

Federer is recovering from a third knee surgery and has said he may not even be back in time for Wimbledon, when he will be approaching his 41st birthday.

Thiem looked on track to play in Melbourne after a wrist injury but has opted to spend more time on the practice courts and will instead return competitively for the first time in six months on clay later in January. The 2020 US Open champion pulled out of the Mubadala Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi and then withdrew from Australian Open warm-up events scheduled for early this month.

Former Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka is also out as he recovers from foot surgery. Wawrinka, who won the first of his three majors in Melbourne in 2014, has not played since March 2021.

Also missing are Milos Raonic, Guido Pella, Jeremy Chardy, Kyle Edmund, Aljaz Bedene and Pierre-Hugues Herbert.

Roger Federer célèbre sa victoire contre Marton Fucsovics en 8e de finale de l’Open d’Australie, le 26 janvier 2020 à Melbourne.

Image credit: Getty Images

Former world No 3 Raonic has slipped down the rankings in the last few years and is out with a heel injury. British No 3 Edmund underwent knee surgery last summer and pulled out of the Battle of the Brits event recently. He has not played a competitive match since October 2020. Herbert has opted not to compete in Australia due to the vaccination rules.

On the women’s side, there will be no Serena or Venus Williams for the first time since 1997.

Venus Williams has not played since August due to a leg injury and, now ranked No 318 in the world, would have needed a wild card to enter the tournament. Serena Williams, who won her most recent Grand Slam title in Melbourne in 2017, has been out of action since withdrawing from her first-round match at Wimbledon with injury.

“While this is never an easy decision to make, I am not where I need to be physically to compete,” Serena said in December.

“Melbourne is one of my favourite cities to visit and I look forward to playing at the Australian Open every year. I will miss seeing the fans, but am excited to return and compete at my highest level.”

Serena Williams made the last four of the 2021 Australian Open and two of the other semi-finalists are also out. Fellow American Jennifer Brady, who lost in the final to Naomi Osaka, has withdrawn due to a foot injury and Karolina Muchova is also not playing.

Osaka returned from a five-month break to play at the Melbourne Summer Set 1 and is set to defend her women’s title.

‘As good as it gets’ – The best of champion Osaka at 2021 Australian Open

Andy Murray is going to play the Australian Open for the first time since 2019 after getting a wild card. Murray is a five-time finalist at the tournament and is set to finalise his preparations at an ATP 250 event in Sydney.

Emma Raducanu withdrew from a warm-up event after testing positive for Covid-19 last month but is joining Murray in playing in Sydney before competing at the Australian Open for the first time.

Rafael Nadal made an impressive return to action after five months away as he won the Melbourne Summer Set. Nadal, 35, has been battling a foot problem and tested positive for Covid-19 recently, but will feature at the Australian Open.

Nick Kyrgios is a doubt after testing positive for Covid-19, while world No 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas is a potential injury worry as he recovers from elbow surgery.

When is the 2022 Australian Open draw?

The draw will take place on Thursday, January 13, time TBC.

How can I watch the 2022 Australian Open?

Eurosport will be providing live coverage of all 14 days of the tournament.

Barbara Schett and Mats Wilander will be among the team providing expert analysis from Melbourne.

‘Let Novak play tennis!’ – Djokovic family address rally in Belgrade

Full tournament schedule

  • Men’s and women’s singles first round: Monday, January 17 and Tuesday, January 18 (play starts at midnight GMT, night session starts at 7.30am)
  • Men’s and women’s singles second round: Wednesday, January 19 and Thursday, January 20 (play starts at midnight GMT, night session starts at 8am)
  • Men’s and women’s singles third round: Friday, January 21 and Saturday, January 22 (play starts at midnight GMT, night session starts at 8am)
  • Men’s and women’s singles fourth round: Sunday, January 23 and Monday, January 24 (play starts at midnight GMT, night session starts at 8am)
  • Men’s and women’s singles quarter-finals: Tuesday, January 25 and Wednesday, January 26 (play starts at midnight GMT, night session starts at 8am)
  • Women’s singles semi-finals: Thursday, January 27 (play starts at 8.30am GMT)
  • Men’s singles semi-finals: Friday, January 28 (first semi-final at 3.30am GMT, second at 8.30am)
  • Women’s singles final: Saturday, January 29 (8.30am GMT)
  • Men’s singles final: Sunday, January 30 (8.30am GMT)

Tickets and general info

The 2022 Australian Open is expected to be at full capacity.

Every spectator will need to be vaccinated, unless they have an exemption, and there will be various Covid-safe measures around Melbourne Park.

Fan capacity was reduced because of the pandemic during the 2021 Australian Open, which included five days of empty stands due to a Covid-19 outbreak in Melbourne.

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley has said there are “zero expectation of a cap on crowds” for the 2022 edition.

“If there’s a position we have to limit numbers we’ll respond accordingly,” he said.

Odds and favourites

Men’s singles

  • Novak Djokovic – 5/4
  • Daniil Medvedev – 7/4
  • Alexander Zverev – 3/1
  • Rafael Nadal – 8/1
  • Stefanos Tsitsipas – 16/1
  • Jannik Sinner – 16/1

Women’s singles

  • Ashleigh Barty – 10/3
  • Naomi Osaka – 11/2
  • Garbine Muguruza – 10/1
  • Simona Halep – 12/1
  • Iga Swiatek – 12/1
  • Anett Kontaveit – 12/1

– –

Stream the 2022 Australian Open live and on demand on discovery+

Australian Open men

‘Justice has spoken’ – Nadal labels Djokovic situation a ‘circus’

3 HOURS AGO

Australian Open

French star Lim joins star-studded Discovery talent team for Australian Open

5 HOURS AGO

Serena and Venus to miss Australian Open for first time since 1997

Serena and Venus Williams are both set to miss the Australian Open, meaning it will be the first time since 1997 that neither sister will be competing at the Grand Slam.

Serena has ruled herself out of the tournament with a hamstring problem, while a series of injuries means older sister Venus will also have to watch on from the sidelines.

The pair have enjoyed some astonishing success between them, after winning 121 singles tournaments, four mixed doubles tournaments, and spent more than 300 weeks at number one in the singles rankings.

Tennis

Serena to win No. 24, no titles for Nadal: Bold tennis predictions for 2022

31/12/2021 AT 17:28

Serena & Venus Williams

Image credit: Getty Images

They have been a formidable force in the women’s doubles too, winning 14 Grand Slams, and triumphing in four consecutive tournaments from Wimbledon in 2009 to Roland Garros in 2010.

Their impact on the wider sporting world cannot be underestimated either, which includes considerable success at the Olympics. In total, they have won four gold medals each – three of those came as a double pairing, along with one each in the singles.

Meanwhile, the times which they faced each other head-to-head will go down in tennis folklore. The sisters have met 31 times, which also includes nine meetings in Grand Slam Finals.

Milestones and records are nothing new for these sporting superstars, they remain the only two women in the Open Era to face each other in four consecutive Grand Slam finals, between the 2002 French Open and the 2003 Australian Open. It was Serena who took the bragging rights in these titanic tussles, winning all four of those matches.

Serena has achieved the most success individually out of the two sisters, claiming an eye-watering 23 Grand Slams and 73 WTA singles titles. She also held all four Grand Slams at the same time on two occasions, in 2002-2003 and in 2014-15.

But there are sadly doubts as to whether or not the younger Williams sister will venture onto the court again.

She is now ranked at 41 in the ATP rankings and is one Grand Slam away from matching Margaret Court’s record of 24 titles.

Serena Williams | Open de Australia 2021

Image credit: Getty Images

If the current trend continues, then it appears that the modern-day tennis great could finishing agonisingly short of matching that haul. Her last Grand Slam win came almost five years ago at the Australian Open in 2017.

Meanwhile, Venus has arguably seen an even bigger fall from grace, and is currently down in 318th in the rankings, meaning she would have needed a wildcard to compete in this month’s Australian Open.

The 41-year-old competed at just 10 tournaments in 2021, and her last appearance came at the WTA 250 event at Chicago in August.

Stream the 2022 Australian Open live and on demand on discovery+

Australian Open

Will Djokovic play at Australian Open? 22 questions for the 2022 tennis season

31/12/2021 AT 09:53

Australian Open

Opinion: Uncertainty reigns as 2022 Australian Open approaches

21/12/2021 AT 14:02

Serena to win No. 24, no titles for Nadal: Bold tennis predictions for 2022

How many major titles will Novak Djokovic win in 2022? Will Serena Williams finally win her 24th Grand Slam title? Will Naomi Osaka add to her Grand Slam collection? And what’s next for Emma Raducanu?

The 2022 tennis season is shaping up to be an intriguing one.

And with the start of the 2022 Australian Open just weeks away, it’s time to gaze into the crystal ball and make some bold predictions for the year ahead…

Tennis

Best match, biggest surprise, biggest disappointment: 2021 tennis awards

31 MINUTES AGO

Four different men’s major winners

When was the last time that happened I hear you ask.

You have to go back to 2014 to when Stan Wawrinka, Rafael Nadal, Djokovic and Marin Cilic all lifted majors for one of the few occasions this century that four different men have lifted a Grand Slam trophy in the same season.

So who’s going to win them in 2022?

Daniil Medvedev is going to go one better than last year and win the Australian Open, whether Djokovic is there or not. Stefanos Tsitsipas is also going to get some revenge on Djokovic by winning the French Open, followed by a 21st Grand Slam title for Djokovic at Wimbledon. And the US Open? Alexander Zverev will follow in the footsteps of Medvedev and Dominic Thiem by making his major breakthrough in New York.

Serena will win Wimbledon and then retire

It’s all about No. 24 for Serena Williams, it has been for some time.

Williams has hardly played on the WTA Tour over the last few seasons except for when she has been gearing up for a major. That approach is unlikely to change in 2022 as she is recovering from injury and will be looking to focus all her energy on one last shot at another Grand Slam title.

Her best chance to tie Margaret Court’s record will clearly be at Wimbledon, where she seemed as though she would have a good shot this summer before an unfortunate injury saw her retire in the first round. If Williams does win Wimbledon then that seems as good a place as any to call it a day. Yes there would be the potential carrot of trying to break the all-time record at the US Open, but Williams hasn’t won her home major since 2014, and physically it could be a tough ask. Instead it would be fitting if she called time on her fabulous career with an eighth Wimbledon title, which would make it her most successful Slam.

Serena Williams celebrates winning Wimbledon in 2015

Image credit: Getty Images

Osaka will come back with a bang

A 2021 season that started so well for Naomi Osaka, winning her fourth Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, ended with her uncertainty over her future in tennis.

Osaka played just eight matches after withdrawing from the French Open following her decision not to attend press conferences. She announced after her third-round exit at the US Open that she would be taking an indefinite break from tennis, but looks set to return in Australia.

Osaka has entered an Australian Open warm-up event in Melbourne, where she will be looking to get into form ahead of the first major of the season.

It appears an ideal place for Osaka to get back on court. She has played some of her best tennis at the Australian Open and the media spotlight will not be on her as fiercely at the ‘happy Slam’ as it is at some of the other top-tier events. If Osaka is fit and healthy she will be a contender in Melbourne and that may set her up for a big season.

Raducanu will make a Grand Slam semi-final

With a new coach corner in her corner and a new season coming up, it feels like the start of a fresh chapter for Emma Raducanu.

The 19-year-old will hope to put her post-US Open results firmly behind her – two wins from five matches – and focus fully on her first full year on the WTA Tour. What is reasonable to expect from Raducanu in 2022? If she can find the same level that she showed in New York then there is no doubt she will go deep in tournaments, it will be up to new coach Torben Beltz to help her do that.

There may be less pressure on her at the first two majors of the year as she will be competing at both for the first time, but Wimbledon and the US Open provide the comfort of familiarity. With a hard-hitting game that can cause damage against any opponent, Raducanu will make the last four of one of the Slams this year.

US Open champion Emma Raducanu has won the Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year prize

Image credit: Getty Images

Murray will make the final of a tournament

Mats Wilander reckons Andy Murray will break into the top 10 again, which is a very bold prediction, but to do that he needs to start making deep runs at tournaments.

So far his attempts to do so have been hindered by tough draws and inconsistent performances, but Murray has shown that he still has the quality to mix it with the very best in the world. This looks as though it will be a pivotal year for him and if he has a strong off-season then he should be able to find another level.

It would be nice to see him in the second week of a Slam again – he hasn’t done that since Wimbledon 2017 – and it would be great to see him challenging for silverware again. He might not get a shot at the biggest prizes but he will make a final next year.

Highlights: Murray wins Battle of Brits over Evans in Abu Dhabi

Federer won’t play at all in 2022

When Federer gave an update on his health last month it was not too surprising that he confirmed he was going to miss the Australian Open.

But his comment that he would be “extremely surprised” to make Wimbledon was…surprising.

Federer has not played since losing to Hubert Hurkacz in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon this year and it was expected that he would target a return at the All England Club after a third knee surgery. However, that now looks uncertain, even if he has made some positives noises about his fitness recently.

Federer will turn 41 next August and seems to be setting himself for a farewell tour. If he doesn’t get back in time for Wimbledon then does not it make sense to return on hard courts in the US and potentially risk further injury? Or will he opt to ensure he is at peak fitness before hitting the tour again for one final time in 2023? The latter option seems most likely.

No titles for Nadal

It’s been pretty much a given over the last 15 years that Nadal would win at least, probably two, clay-court titles a season. But his powers appear to be waning and neither of his two titles on the dirt this year were easy as he was pushed to three sets by Djokovic in the Italian Open final and Tsitsipas in the Barcelona Open final.

While Djokovic still appears to be ahead of the Next Gen, Nadal seems to have slipped back and is now on a par with them. That, combined with uncertainty over his fitness, means that this year could be a difficult one for Nadal.

ATP Cup

Medvedev and Djokovic in a league of their own – Berrettini

AN HOUR AGO

Australian Open

‘People hunting me’ – Norrie believes ‘underdog’ days are over

6 HOURS AGO

Will Djokovic play at Australian Open? 22 questions for the 2022 tennis season

So long 2021, hello 2022.

A new year means the start of a new tennis season, and there will be no time wasted getting it under way as the first balls will be hit in Australia on January 1.

There have been plenty of talking points over the last 12 months, but what lies ahead over the next year? We pick out 22 questions to be answered in 2022…

Australian Open

Djokovic ‘trying to get to Australian Open’

YESTERDAY AT 09:27

Djokovic: Will he, won’t he?

There’s less than three weeks to go until the 2022 Australian Open and it’s still not clear if Novak Djokovic will be defending his title.

World No 1 Djokovic has pulled out of the ATP Cup, having been due to play on the opening day of the event, and has not yet travelled to Australia. If he wants to play the first Grand Slam of the season he will need to be vaccinated or get a medical exemption, and his vaccination status is still unknown.

Djokovic’s decision could have far-reaching consequences not just for the rest of this season but the rest of his career. If he doesn’t play in Melbourne because of the vaccination requirement then how many other tournaments will he miss for the same reason? It seems likely that more events will rule that players need to be vaccinated to compete, so what would that mean for Djokovic?

How far will Murray rise?

What to expect from Murray in 2022? Former British No 1 Greg Rusedski has said he thinks it could be a career-defining season for the three-time Grand Slam champion while Eurosport’s Mats Wilander has suggested Murray can return to the top 10.

That looks a long way off at the moment with Murray ranked 134 in the world, but if he can build on some positive showings at the end of last season then he should start to climb up. Consistency looks like one of the key goals for Murray in 2022 and if he can improve his ranking then he will be hoping that he starts to get some more favourable draws.

Will Osaka return with a bang?

So much has happened in the life of Naomi Osaka since she won her fourth Grand Slam title in Melbourne in 2021.

There was the shock withdrawal from the French Open after deciding not to do press conferences, lighting the Olympic Torch at her home Games in Japan, losing in the third round of the Games, then playing just five matches before taking an “indefinite break” from tennis. Now she’s back in action and aiming to defend her Australian Open title.

Having slipped down to No 13 in the world and with maximum ranking points to defend in Melbourne, it will be intriguing to see what Osaka can achieve over the next month.

Osaka’s break from tennis over as she lands in Melbourne

Can Krejcikova continue to double up?

Barbora Krejcikova had a season to remember as she won big titles on the singles and doubles circuit. But can she repeat the feat?

Krejcikova played far more matches than any of her singles rivals in 2021 and even though more of the top women play doubles than the top-ranked men, it’s still not that common. Will there come a time when Krejcikova has to prioritise due to a risk of burnout, and if so which will she choose?

Will Nadal challenge the best?

Can Rafael Nadal still compete for major titles? That’s one of the more hotly-debated questions heading into the new season as the 20-time Grand Slam champion returns from injury and a recent positive Covid-19 test. Nadal lost both his matches at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, the first time he had been on court since August.

Last time out at the Australian Open he suffered a crushing quarter-final loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas, having led by two sets to love, and whether he can still go the distance on hard courts remains to be seen. Even on clay there may be some questions asked about his ability to dominate as he once did.

Will Barty continue to top the rankings?

Ashleigh Barty has been women’s world No 1 since September 9, 2019 – and she has entered into elite company.

She is only the fifth woman to spend more than 100 consecutive weeks as world No 1 behind Steffi Graf (186), Serena Williams (186), Martina Navratilova (156) and Chris Evert (113).

With a healthy lead over second-placed Aryna Sabalenka, Barty will likely soon overtake Evert’s run of 113 weeks. But how much longer can she stay No 1?

Ashleigh Barty

Image credit: Getty Images

Will Federer play on tour?

The news that Roger Federer would not be playing at the 2022 Australian Open as he recovers from surgery did not come as a surprise. But to hear him say that he would be “extremely surprised” if he plays at Wimbledon in the summer did raise eyebrows.

If Federer isn’t back on tour by the time Wimbledon rolls around he will have missed an entire year and will soon be turning 41. Will he come back during the US swing or save himself for 2023?

When will Thiem, Wawrinka be back?

For much of 2021 men’s tennis was largely deprived of two the best single-handed backhands in the game. Dominic Thiem made a slow start to his season and was then out of action with a wrist injury from June. Stan Wawrinka had foot surgery in the summer and hasn’t played since March.

Neither will be playing at the Australian Open and they, and their glorious backhands, will be missed.

Final farewell for Williams sisters?

What does the year ahead hold for the Williams sisters?

Venus Williams, 41, has dropped to No 318 in the world and is surely entering the final stages of her wonderful career. For Serena, 40, the desire to win a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title may keep her going for longer, although she hasn’t played since Wimbledon due to injury and will not be in Melbourne.

When they do retire it will be a huge loss for the WTA Tour and both should be savoured for as long as they are around.

Serena Williams celebrates winning Wimbledon in 2015

Image credit: Getty Images

Will Australian Open go smoothly?

The 2021 Australian Open was far from smooth sailing. A three-week delay to the tournament due to the Covid-19 pandemic was just the start, with players confined to hotel rooms for up to 21 days on arrival and mice providing unwelcome visitors.

Will there be any hiccups this time around?

Will there be a new men’s No 1?

The last time that Djokovic wasn’t world No 1 was in January 2020, when Nadal topped the rankings.

Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev are the closest challengers heading into the Australian Open, around 3,000 and 4,000 ranking points behind respectively. Even though that sounds like a lot, Djokovic has 6,000 points to defend at the first three majors of the year while Medvedev and Zverev have room to improve. If Djokovic doesn’t play in Melbourne then he could even lose the No 1 ranking by the end of the tournament.

Can Raducanu build on US Open win?

It’s going to be hard for Emma Raducanu to ever top her stunning victory in New York, but it feels like time to put that in the rearview mirror and look ahead.

Since her maiden Grand Slam win, Raducanu has signed a number of high-profile sponsorship opportunities, been crowned Sports Personality of the Year, and hired a new coach. Now a first full season on the WTA Tour awaits, starting with a first-ever trip to the Australian Open, where she will be among the top 20 seeds.

Who will the best youngster be?

Jannik Sinner, Felix Auger Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov finished last season hovering around the top 10 in the world, having all achieved some impressive results. Sinner, 20, is the youngest of the trio and also the highest ranked at No 10 in the world vs No 11 (Auger Aliassime) and No 14 (Shapovalov), but who will finish the 2022 season ahead?

All have the qualities to win big titles, and there’s also Carlos Alcaraz, 18, who likely will very soon move higher than No 32 in the world.

Carlos Alcaraz

Image credit: Getty Images

Will Gauff be a contender at majors?

Raducanu had the biggest ‘wow’ moment of any teenager on tour in 2021, but 17-year-old Coco Gauff had a very solid season.

Gauff, who shot to fame when she beat Venus Williams on her way to reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2019, is the youngest of the six teenagers ranked in the WTA top 100, won the second title of her career in 2021 and made the quarter-finals or better at seven tournaments.

She clearly has a very bright future and it would not be a surprise to see her challenging for more silverware this year.

Can Kontaveit continue to roll?

Anett Kontaveit was the surprise package in the second half of 2021 as she went on a tear to reach the WTA Finals, racking up a 29-4 record in the last three months of the season and soaring up to No 7 in the rankings.

After losing in the final of the WTA Finals to Garbine Muguruza can she keep the momentum going into 2022?

Who will rule on clay?

Will the King of Clay still be the King of Clay?

Nadal was beaten in an epic semi-final at the French Open last season by Djokovic and was made to work very hard for his two titles on the dirt. If the crown is slipping slightly will Djokovic be the one to win in Paris again? Or could Stefanos Tsitsipas, last year’s runner-up at the French Open, assert himself on clay?

Novak Djokovic og Stefanos Tsitsipas

Image credit: Getty Images

How high can Norrie climb?

Cameron Norrie had a year to remember as he won the first two ATP titles of his career, notched up over 50 match wins, and got a taste of the ATP Finals in Turin as an alternate. His impressive victory in Indian Wells helped propel him up to No 12 in the world rankings and his coach Facundo Lugones deservedly won the ATP’s Coach of the Year award.

Norrie made huge strides in 2021 but it feels like there’s another big jump to take if he wants to go even higher.

Will new Davis Cup format be a success?

A new year, a new Davis Cup. After changes to the format this year, the finals of the 2022 edition will be played across five cities, with reports that Abu Dhabi will host the quarter-finals onwards.

Andy Murray has expressed his “concern” at the latest changes and it will be interesting to track whether it impacts who competes at the event.

Will Kyrgios or Tomic bounce back?

It’s probably too late to think that Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic are going to ever win Grand Slam titles – or is it? – but is there at least a scenario where they have a career resurgence?

At 26 it feels strange to be talking about Kyrgios needing a resurgence but he has slipped down to No 93 in the world largely due to his inactivity over the last few years. He showed at Wimbledon that even with very limited practice he is still a threat, so he may be a danger at the Australian Open.

Tomic is more difficult to get a read on. He has drifted off the ATP Tour and down to No 260 in the rankings but has said recently that he wants to give it one more shot to get back to the top.

There has also been some back-and-forth between the pair on social media which could make for a spicy match at the Australian Open.

How will Del Potro’s return go?

It’s been two-and-a-half years since Juan Martin del Potro last played on the ATP Tour. The career of the 2009 US Open champion has been blighted by countless injuries and surgeries but he is finally set to return at the Argentina Open in February.

Del Potro is a huge fan favourite and it will be a welcome sight to see him back playing again. It will be even more fantastic if he can stay healthy and play throughout the year.

Will more tournaments impose vaccine mandates?

The ATP recently said that 95 per cent of the top 100 players in the world rankings have been vaccinated against Covid-19, so if more tournaments do make vaccination mandatory to compete then it won’t be an issue for most.

The same applies on the WTA Tour – judging by the entry list for the Australian Open, where vaccination is mandatory – but a few players could be left with a big decision to make. Five-time Grand Slam doubles champion Pierre-Hugues Herbert is missing the Australian Open as he is not vaccinated out of “personal choice” and young Australian Olivia Gadecki has also decided not to get vaccinated. There may be others who will need to decide if they are going to get the vaccine to continue playing professional tennis.

Will Mektic and Pavic dominate doubles again?

Croatian duo Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic ruled men’s doubles in 2021, winning 56 of their first 61 matches and finishing the season with nine tour-level titles and the No 1 ranking.

Who could dethrone them in 2022? American Rajeev Ram and Briton Joe Salisbury have won a major in each of the past two seasons and made the final of the ATP Finals in Turin. John Peers and Filip Polasek could be a duo to watch, having recorded some impressive results together since the summer. Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares will also be hoping that they can challenge for major titles again.

– – –

Stream the 2022 Australian Open live and on-demand on discovery+.

Australian Open

No ATP Cup, will he play Australian Open? What will Djokovic do next?

YESTERDAY AT 15:47

Australian Open

Kyrgios fears ‘absolute disaster’ if Djokovic and Nadal miss Australian Open

YESTERDAY AT 11:34

Opinion: Uncertainty reigns as 2022 Australian Open approaches

What do you remember about the 2021 Australian Open? The quarantine chaos? Mice invading hotel rooms? Nick Kyrgios calling Novak Djokovic a “tool”?

How about the names of the four women’s semi-finalists?

Naomi Osaka, tick. Serena Williams, tick. And…

Tennis

Exclusive: ‘I am concerned about the Davis Cup’ – Murray sceptical about rumoured change

2 HOURS AGO

Karolina Muchova and Jennifer Brady.

In a sign of the times that we are living in, three of those four won’t be playing in Melbourne next month. And the fourth – Osaka – isn’t guaranteed to be there either as she returns from a tennis hiatus.

Williams and Brady both confirmed their absence earlier this month due to injuries and Muchova, who beat home favourite Ashleigh Barty in the quarter-finals earlier this year, is also out. “I’m doing all I can to get back on the court as soon as I’m able,” wrote the Czech on Twitter, having previously said that she is hoping to start the 2022 season “pain-free”.

The withdrawals add to the growing air of uncertainty over the 2022 Australian Open. With less than a month to go until the tournament starts, it’s not 100 per cent clear who will definitely be on the start line.

The uncertainty appeared to be almost isolated to Novak Djokovic over the last few months due to questions over his vaccination status. With back-and-forths between the Victoria Premier and the Australian Prime Minister, and Djokovic remaining firmly non-committal, the presence of the world No 1 in Melbourne looked anything but assured. Even now, with his name on the entry list for the ATP Cup and the Australian Open, there are still some doubts over whether Djokovic will actually play.

Reports that he is trying to seek a medical exemption from vaccination have been firmly shot down by Tennis Australia and seems unlikely to happen given the expected fierce backlash. However, much will be learned when/if Djokovic actually arrives in Australia.

There is perhaps even more doubt surrounding Rafael Nadal. The 2009 Australian Open champion returned to the court in Abu Dhabi last week following a four-month injury lay-off but then tested positive for Covid-19. He sounds far from sure that he will play in Melbourne. “The idea is to go there and try my best there in Australia… Being 100 per cent honest, I can’t guarantee it. I need to speak with my team. It’s more than six months since the last real official match. Things are difficult and I accept that.”

Add Dominic Thiem to the ‘doubtful’ list too as he continues his comeback from a wrist injury. Thiem was set to return alongside Nadal in Abu Dhabi but withdrew from the tournament and then pulled out of two Australian Open warm-up events.

As well as injury issues, the vaccine mandate has also proved a stumbling block for some players.

After much speculation it has been confirmed that players, staff and spectators must be fully vaccinated to attend the Australian Open. The lead-in events in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide will also require players to have been jabbed. Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said in November that the stance had seen vaccination rates soar from 50 per cent to 85 per cent on tour. However, 2019 men’s double champion Pierre-Hugues Herbert will not be attending as he has not been vaccinated – “it is a personal choice not to get the vaccine” – and nor will promising Queenslander Olivia Gadecki, who has also declined to get the vaccine.

Gadecki, 19, was likely to get a wildcard into the tournament and has not only missed out on the opportunity to play in the main draw for the first time but has also passed up the prize money, with £48,407 on offer for a first-round loss. Even though the introduction of a vaccine mandate means it could become increasingly difficult to be a professional player for those opting not to be vaccinated, women’s world No 1 Ashleigh Barty has come to the defence of her fellow Australian. “It’s the decision that she’s made. I continue to chat to her and my opinion of her changes not at all. I’m proud that she’s made her decision for her reasons – for her right reasons – and that’s all you can do – is make the right decision for you.”

‘It depends on surface’ – Murray says location is key when deciding the best of Big Three

Former world No 54 Natalia Vikhlyantseva has been vaccinated but will still not be allowed to attend the tournament. That’s because her vaccine of choice – Sputnik V – is not on the government’s approved list. Whether that affects any more Russian players remains to be seen.

More withdrawals and disrupted preparations can be expected when players start arriving in Australia next week.

For Andy Murray the main concern seems to be getting on the plane, having missed the tournament this year due to a positive test result shortly before he was due to fly to Melbourne.

“Obviously I want to try and stay safe,” said the former world No 1 after playing at the Mubadala Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi.

“When I get home I will do all my physical training and stuff at home in my house. I am probably not going to go to the National Tennis Centre. There have been a number of cases there in the last week or 10 days.

“So, I will try to find a quiet court and go in there, do my practice, leave essentially and just be at home. Do all my treatment and training at home in the gym I have there until I am able to fly.”

Many players will likely share Murray’s sentiments. Emma Raducanu has been in quarantine after testing positive in Abu Dhabi, where she received the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, and even those who don’t test positive in Australia could still be forced to isolate when in the country due to close-contact protocols. With around 3,000 players, coaches, officials and staff arriving in Australia it seems unlikely that everyone will be unaffected.

For now it’s a case of wait and see and hoping for the best.

– – –

Stream the 2022 Australian Open live and on-demand on discovery+.

Tennis

Raducanu facing ‘steep learning curve’ in 2022 season, says Murray

YESTERDAY AT 14:16

Tennis

‘I have to have total flexibility’ – Nadal tests positive for Covid

YESTERDAY AT 11:16