Who needs a big 2022 season?
Maybe their 2021 wasn’t up to scratch. Maybe they are coming back from injury and hoping to get to the top of the game again. Maybe they are looking to prove themselves one final time.
We pick out a few players who will be determined to ensure the year ahead is a successful one…
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“I think 2022 we will know what Andy Murray is going to do. Is he going to continue on tour or is it going to be his last year? I think this is kind of the season that’s going to determine how much longer we’re going to see of that great champion.”
Greg Rusedski called it last month: this is a huge year for Andy Murray.
The three-time Grand Slam champion showed signs of progress during the second half of the 2021 season with wins over Carlos Alcaraz, Hubert Hurkacz and Jannik Sinner. He also looked good at the Mubadala Tennis Championship as he beat Dan Evans and Rafael Nadal on his way to the final.
But can he rediscover a consistent level? His positive results over the last six months were often followed with disappointing losses and Murray has not won three matches in a row on the ATP Tour in over two years.
With his ranking at No. 134 in the world, the difficult draws are going to keep coming for Murray, and if he continues to lose in the second or third rounds will he maintain his motivation to keep playing?
Murray has shown that he can still beat the best on his day, but there’s still another level or two that he needs to find to win tournaments again. Perhaps with new coach Jan de Witt in his corner he can find it.
The 2021 season was one to forget for Dominic Thiem.
Expectations were high heading into the year that the Austrian could build on his US Open victory and challenge for more major titles. However, he has almost been forgotten about as Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev have taken up the charge to challenge Novak Djokovic.
His form was off to start the season and injury issues did not help. He said in March that he needed to “reset” but a wrist injury in the summer saw him shut down for the rest of the year.
Now his plans for 2022 have started on the wrong foot as he withdrew from the Mubadala Tennis Championship and also pulled out of two Australian Open warm-up events. Even though his participation at the first Grand Slam of the new year looks to be in doubt, he remains hopeful of competing with the very best in the world again. “It’s been a bad year now, but I hope that another six or seven good years will follow,” he said this month.
It would be a welcome sight to see Thiem’s hard-hitting and explosive game back on tour.
With two titles, a run to at least the last 16 of every major, and an appearance at the WTA Finals, Iga Swiatek did not have a bad season.
But given the very high level that she has shown at times, there’s a feeling that there’s much more to come from Swiatek.
The 20-year-old perhaps sensed that herself as she recently split with long-time coach Piotr Sierzputowski. She also said after going 1-2 at the WTA Finals that she sees areas for improvement.
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“My goal for next season is going to be more relaxed on court, kind of like trust myself with my game, not let the stress bother me so much, like accept it. I’m going to try to accept it a little bit more.”
Swiatek is the youngest player in the top 10 by a few years and clearly has the game to win more big titles. If she can perform at her best on a consistent basis she will be a force on the WTA Tour.
Felix Auger Aliassime
Felix Auger Aliassime’s stock has been climbing over the last few years and under the guidance of Toni Nadal it feels like he might be set to take another step forward.
The 21-year-old broke into the top 10 this year and impressed in the summer as he made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and semi-finals of the US Open. While he can sometimes slip under the radar in a Next Gen discussion, he clearly has a very bright future. The question is how bright.
His results have improved since he started working with Toni Nadal in April and he says he feels more “confident” in himself.
“I think to summarise what Toni has brought this year, he’s brought a lot of confidence in the team, that we’re on the right track, he’s brought confidence that making the semi-finals of Grand Slams are challenging but it’s something that’s doable, something of a normality than something that’s extraordinary. He’s just brought a lot of confidence to myself and my team,” Auger Aliassime told the Match Point Canada podcast.
Auger Aliassime has already notched 100 wins on the ATP Tour and has made eight finals, without yet winning a title. That should be the next goal for the Canadian as he looks to continue his career progression over the next 12 months.
Probably the best player on the WTA Tour yet to win a major, Karolina Pliskova came so close this year as she reached her second Grand Slam final at Wimbledon and made the quarter-finals of the US Open.
But is time running out for the 29-year-old?
With her big serve and powerful groundstrokes she has the game to trouble most players on tour, and maybe after her run to the final this year will fancy another shot at Wimbledon. Pliskova’s season has not started on the best note as she has withdrawn from the Australian Open with a hand injury, but at the top of an open WTA Tour she could still be a factor at the big tournaments.
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