Scouting Report: Nadal Targets Slam Record, Can Medvedev & Co. Stop Him?

Following an exhilarating start to the new season, which saw Canada win the ATP Cup title in Sydney and Rafael Nadal capture his 89th tour-level trophy in Melbourne, the world’s best players will now compete at the Australian Open.

ATPTour.com looks at 10 things to watch at the first major of the year.

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1) Rafa Returns: Nadal made a winning return to the Tour earlier this month when he captured his 89th tour-level crown at the Melbourne Summer Set, not dropping a set en route to the trophy. Now the Spaniard will compete at a major for the first time since he reached the semi-finals at Roland Garros (l. to Djokovic) last June. This will be his 17th appearance at the season’s first major..

The World No. 6, who won the Australian Open title in 2011, advanced to the quarter-finals in 2020 and 2021, but will look to go further this year as he chases a record-breaking 21st major title, starting against American Marcos Giron in the first round. The legendary lefty is currently tied with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on 20 Slam triumphs.

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2) Medvedev’s Mission: Second seed Daniil Medvedev cracked the Grand Slam code in September when he defeated Djokovic to clinch his first major at the US Open. With the taste of Slam success in the Russian’s mouth, the 25-year-old will be hungry for more in Melbourne, where he reached the final in 2021.

The World No. 2, who won ATP Cup matches against Alex de Minaur, Matteo Berrettini and Felix Auger-Aliassime at the start of the season, will play Swiss qualifier Henri Laaksonen in the first round.

3) Can Zverev Capture Maiden Major? Alexander Zverev enjoyed a strong second half to the 2021 season, earning a 32-4 record since Wimbledon. He captured the singles gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, his fifth ATP Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati, the crown in Vienna and the trophy at the Nitto ATP Finals.

Despite winning 19 tour-level titles, the German has yet to triumph at a major, with his best run in Australia coming in 2020 when he reached the semi-finals. The third seed will be aiming to change that record over the next fortnight, starting against countryman Daniel Altmaier in the first round.

4) Tsitsipas’ Time? Like Zverev, Tsitsipas is also chasing a maiden major title at the Australian Open. The fourth seed has twice reached the semi-finals in Melbourne, with the first coming in 2019 when he upset Roger Federer en route to the last four aged just 20. The Greek then advanced to the same stage last year, falling to Medvedev.

The 23-year-old, who earned tour-level titles in Monte-Carlo and Lyon in 2021, will hope to set the wheels in motion for another deep run in Melbourne, starting against Swede Mikael Ymer in his opening match.

5) Italian Charge: Italian pair Berrettini and Jannik Sinner both enjoyed impressive 2021 seasons, winning six tour-level titles between them, with their strong form earning them spots at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin (Sinner competed an alternate, replacing Berrettini due to injury). The last Italian man to win a major was Adriano Panatta at Roland Garros in 1976, but with confidence high, Berrettini and Sinner will be aiming to change that over the coming fortnight.

Seventh seed Berrettini reached the fourth round in Australia last year, but faces a tricky opening test against #NextGenATP Brandon Nakashima, who reached two tour-level finals last year. Sinner is seeded 11th and plays lucky loser Joao Sousa.

6) Murray Back On Australian Soil: Former World No. 1 Andy Murray is a five-time finalist at the Australian Open, last reaching the championship match in 2016. The Scot has not competed at the first major of the season since 2019, when he lost to Roberto Bautista Agut in five sets in an emotional performance on Melbourne Arena.

Murray arrives in Melbourne in form, having advanced to the championship match at the Sydney Tennis Classic last week. It was the first time the 34-year-old had reached a tour-level final since October 2019 (Antwerp, d. Wawrinka). Murray will begin against 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili, whom he defeated in three sets in Sydney last week.

7) Home Hopes: There is a feel-good factor around Australian tennis. Adelaide-native Thanasi Kokkinakis soared to his maiden tour-level title at the Adelaide International on Saturday. The wild card had reached a career-high ATP Ranking of No. 69 as a 19-year-old in 2015, before injuries derailed his career. However, the Australian is now fully fit, in good form and will start his campaign against German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann.

Australia’s seeded player at the Australian Open is 32nd seed De Minaur. The 22-year-old, who advanced to the third round in 2021, earned impressive victories against Matteo Berrettini and Ugo Humbert at the ATP Cup earlier this month. The World No. 34 plays #NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti in the first round.

Former World No. 13 Nick Kyrgios will look to entertain the crowd again as he competes for the first time since September against British qualifier Liam Broady. The 26-year-old enjoyed a run to the last eight in Melbourne in 2015 and advanced to the fourth round in 2018 and 2020.

There are 10 Australians in the draw, with Alex Bolt, James Duckworth, John Millman, Christopher O’Connell, Alexei Popyrin, Jordan Thompson and Aleksandar Vukic also playing.

8) #NextGenATP Stars In Action: Carlos Alcaraz is one of the brightest talents emerging in the game right now, as evidenced by his victory at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals in November. The Spaniard is seeded at a Slam for the first time (31st) and plays Chile qualifier Alejandro Tabilo in his opening match.

Eighteen-year-old Holger Rune, who made his main draw debut at a major at the US Open in September, will take on Nur-Sultan titlist Soonwoo Kwon, while Argentine Sebastian Baez, who won six ATP Challenger Tour titles last year, plays Albert Ramos-Vinolas

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9) More Players To Watch: Russia’s Andrey Rublev is at a career-high No. 5 in the ATP Rankings and is a former quarter-finalist (2021) in Melbourne. The 24-year-old will begin his bid for a first major title against Italian Gianluca Mager. Casper Ruud had a standout 2021 campaign, winning five tour-level titles before he reached the semi-finals at the Nitto ATP Finals. The eighth seed plays Alex Molcan in the first round.

Auger-Aliassime and Hubert Hurkacz will also provide a threat in Melbourne. Auger-Aliassime helped guide Canada to ATP Cup glory earlier this month and will look to use his momentum at the first Grand Slam of the season, starting against Emil Ruusuvuori. Tenth seed Hurkacz faces Egor Gerasimov.

10) Mektic/Pavic Lead Doubles Field: Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic won nine tour-level titles as a team in 2021 and will look to add to their trophy haul in Melbourne as they headline the doubles field as the top seeds. The Croatians will face stiff competition from teams including last year’s finalists Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury, third seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos and 2016 champions Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares.

Teams consisting of singles stars in the field include Kokkinakis and Kyrgios, Alcaraz and Pablo Carreno Busta and Lloyd Harris and Popyrin.

Scouting Report: Monfils Headlines Adelaide Field; Kyrgios Returns In Sydney

The action continues on the ATP Tour in Australia this week, with future and established stars aiming to make their mark at two ATP 250 events in Adelaide and Sydney.

Frenchman Gael Monfils will try to maintain his strong form when he leads the field at the Adelaide International 2, while Aslan Karatsev and Nick Kyrgios feature at the Sydney Tennis Classic.

ATPTour.com looks at five things to watch from both tournaments.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN ADELAIDE
1) Monfils Aiming For Back-To-Back Titles: Monfils started his 2022 season in style by overcoming Karen Khachanov to capture his 11th ATP Tour title at Adelaide International 1. The Frenchman did not drop a set en route to the trophy and will be aiming to triumph once again in Adelaide this week. The top seed will face a qualifier in his first match and could face Khachanov in a re-match if both advance to the semi-finals. 

2) Isner Second Seed: John Isner will be aiming to clinch his 17th ATP Tour title at the ATP 250 event this week, after last triumphing in Atlanta in August. The American earned his first victory of the season against Canada’s Brayden Schnur at ATP Cup last week and will face either wild card Thanasi Kokkinakis or Frenchman Benoit Paire in his opening match.

3) Home favourite Kokkinakis Building Momentum: Australian Kokkinakis thrilled his home fans at the Adelaide International 1 last week, capturing victories over John Millman, Frances Tiafoe and Mikael Ymer as he reached his first ATP Tour semi-final since August 2017 in Los Cabos.

The 25-year-old will be aiming for another deep run this week, starting against Paire in the first round.

4) Harris Aiming For Strong Start: Lloyd Harris enjoyed a strong 2021 season, reaching a career-high No. 31 in the ATP Rankings, advancing to the final in Dubai and enjoying a run to the quarter-finals at the US Open.

The South African begins his 2022 campaign in Adelaide targeting more success as he aims to break the Top 20 this year. The fifth seed plays Nur-Sultan champion Soonwoo Kwon in the first round, with Karen Khachanov a potential quarter-finalist.

<img src="https://sportblogg.net/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/harris-scouting-report.jpg" alt="Lloyd Harris“>
Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images

5) Botic vs. Fucscovics Headlines First-Round Clashes: Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp threw himself into the spotlight at the US Open in September when as a qualifier he upset Casper Ruud and Diego Schwartzman en route to the quarter-finals. The 26-year-old then backed up his New York run by reaching the semi-finals in St. Petersburg and the last eight in Stockholm.

The World No. 57 faces a tricky opening test in Adelaide as he takes on eighth-seeded Hungarian Marton Fucsovics. The 29-year-old advanced to the final in Rotterdam and reached the last eight at Wimbledon in 2021.

Other eye-catching first-round matches include Tiafoe against Tommy Paul and #NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti against Benjamin Bonzi.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN SYDNEY
1) Kyrgios In Action: Kyrgios will compete for the first time since he played for Team World at the Laver Cup in September when he takes to court at the ATP 250 event in Sydney.

The Australian is currently No. 93 in the ATP Rankings, but is confident in his ability as he targets a strong start to the season.

“If I’m ranked 1000 or 10 in the world everyone knows what I’m capable of on Tour,” Kyrgios said Saturday. “I’m not a player that hasn’t proven himself… I talk a lot, but I also have beaten a lot of players and I have won a lot of tournaments.”

The 26-year-old wild card will face seventh-seeded Italian Fabio Fognini in a popcorn first-round clash in Sydney.

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2) Karatsev Leads The Field: Karatsev was voted Most Improved Player of the Year in the 2021 ATP Awards after rising from No. 112 in the ATP Rankings at the start of the season to a career-high No. 15 in November.

The Russian will compete in his first tournament of the year this week back in the country where his success started a year ago with a shock run to the semi-finals at the Australian Open. The top seed will play either Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic or a qualifier in his opening match in Sydney.

3) Evans In Form: Daniel Evans stood up and delivered for Great Britain at ATP Cup last week, earning singles wins against Jan-Lennard Struff, Denis Shapovalov and John Isner, while also teaming with Jamie Murray to capture two doubles victories at the 16-team event.

The third seed will be aiming to continue his perfect start to the season in Sydney when he faces either Pedro Martinez or Alexei Popyrin in the second round. Evans has fond memories of Australia, having lifted his maiden tour-level title at the Murray River Open in Melbourne last year.

4) Murray Receives Wild Card: Andy Murray suffered a disappointing first-round defeat against Facundo Bagnis at the Melbourne Summer Set last week, but will be keen to bounce back when he plays a qualifier in the first round in Sydney.

The Scot, who has reached five Australian Open finals and won two titles in Brisbane (2012, 2013), advanced to quarter-finals in Metz and Sofia last season. If Murray can reach the second round at the ATP 250 event, he will face a tough test against second seed Nikoloz Basilashvili.

5) Cressy’s Hot Streak: American Maxime Cressy enjoyed a dream run to the final at the Melbourne Summer Set Open last week, defeating Top 30 stars Reilly Opelka and John Isner, before falling to Rafael Nadal in his first tour-level final. The 24-year-old, who plays an exciting brand of serve-and-volley tennis, will look to continue his momentum in Sydney, starting against France’s Adrian Mannarino

Scouting Report: Medvedev Leads Russia At ATP Cup, Nadal Back In Action

The ATP Tour begins the season with a packed schedule in Australia to kick off 2022. The top stars will compete across three events, with the ATP Cup and two ATP 250 events in Week One.

At the ATP Cup, 16 countries will face off for the title, with the four group winners advancing to the semi-finals. Top 10 stars Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini, Casper Ruud and Hubert Hurkacz lead their countries in Sydney.

Rafael Nadal headlines the field at the Melbourne Summer Set, and Gael Monfils and Sebastian Korda feature at the Adelaide International 1.

FOUR THINGS TO WATCH AT THE ATP CUP
1) Defending Champion: Russia will aim to retain its trophy this year at the third edition of the ATP Cup. The 2021 champion went 4-0 last year and will once again be led by World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev.

The 25-year-old, who is joined by Roman Safiullin and Evgeny Karlovskiy, holds an 8-1 singles record at the tournament, with his only defeat coming against Novak Djokovic in 2020. Russia will have to overcome tough competition in Sydney against home country Australia, France and Italy in Group B.

2) Italian Power: Italy reached the final at the ATP Cup in 2021 and the European country is in a strong position to enjoy another deep run this year. Ttwo Top 10 stars — World No. 7 Matteo Berrettini and 20-year-old Jannik Sinner, who cracked the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time in November — will provide tough opposition in the singles.

Berrettini won three of his four matches at the event last season, earning victories against Dominic Thiem, Gael Monfils and Roberto Bautista Agut. Sinner and Lorenzo Sonego will make their ATP Cup debuts, while veterans Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini return.

3) Tsitsipas, Zverev & Ruud Lead Their Nations: Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Casper Ruud enjoyed strong 2021 seasons, winning 13 tour-level titles between them. Zverev captured the Nitto ATP Finals crown in November and will aim to carry his momentum into the ATP Cup. The 24-year-old leads Germany in Group C and will face Cameron Norrie (Great Britain), Felix Auger-Aliassime (Canada) and Taylor Fritz (United States) in singles action.

Tsitsipas is making his third appearance for Greece at the ATP Cup and will play World No. 9 Hubert Hurkacz (Poland), Diego Schwartzman (Argentina) and Nikoloz Basilashvili (Georgia) in Group D. Ruud won five tour-level titles last year and reached the semi-finals at the Nitto ATP Finals. The 23-year-old went 2-1 at the ATP Cup in 2021 and will lead Norway against Chile, Serbia and Spain in Group A.

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4) Decisive Doubles: At the ATP Cup, an experienced doubles team is vital if you want to have a title run in Sydney. Last year, seven of the 15 ties were won in the deciding doubles match.

This year’s tournament will feature some of the leading doubles stars on the ATP Tour. Great Britain will call on Toronto and US Open champion Joe Salisbury and former World No. 1 Jamie Murray, while Germany will look to Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz. The United States will utilise the experience of Rajeev Ram, who has won 22 tour-level titles.  

THREE THINGS TO WATCH IN MELBOURNE
1) Nadal Is Back: Spaniard Rafael Nadal will return to action for the first time since playing at the Citi Open in August when he competes at the Melbourne Summer Set. The 35-year-old is the top seed at the ATP 250 event and will be aiming to add to his 88 tour-level titles when he takes to court.

Nadal
Photo Credit: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
2) Headline Acts: In a stacked field, two-time tour-level titlist Reilly Opelka, World No. 28 Grigor Dimitrov and South Africa’s Lloyd Harris will all battle for the trophy. Opelka reached his first ATP Masters 1000 final in Toronto last year, while Dimitrov enjoyed a run to the last four in Indian Wells.

After a standout season, Harris arrives in Melbourne at a career-high No. 31 in the ATP Rankings. The 24-year-old reached the championship match in Dubai last year and advanced to the semi-finals in Antwerp.

3) Goffin & Anderson Bring Experience: David Goffin and Kevin Anderson have both enjoyed long stints inside the Top 10, with Goffin climbing to No. 7, while Anderson cracked the top five. Current World No. 39 Goffin earned his fifth tour-level title in Montpellier last season, but has not competed since the US Open.

Former Wimbledon finalist Anderson returned to the winners’ circle for the first time since 2019 when he triumphed in Newport in July.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH IN ADELAIDE
1) Monfils Leads The Way: Gael Monfils will make his debut at the ATP 250 in Adelaide and will look to clinch his first tour-level title since 2020 when he triumphed in Rotterdam. The 35-year-old, who reached the final in Sofia last year, will return to action for the first time since competing on home soil at the Rolex Paris Masters in November.

2) American Charge: Sebastian Korda rose from outside the Top 100 in the ATP Rankings to a career-high No. 38 in October in 2021. The 21-year-old won his first tour-level title in Parma last season and finished the year strongly by enjoying a run to the championship match at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals. He will be aiming to continue his momentum in Adelaide.

Countryman Frances Tiafoe also made waves on the ATP Tour last year, with Tiafoe reaching the final in Vienna. The 23-year-old will compete at the ATP 250 event in Adelaide for the first time.

3) Tournament Standouts Return: Russia’s Karen Khachanov reached the semi-finals of the event last year when it was temporarily moved to Melbourne due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 29-year-old will be targeting a deeper run in 2022. Tommy Paul, who was a semi-finalist at the inaugural edition of the event in 2020, earned his maiden tour-level title in Stockholm in November in his final tournament of the season.