Which tennis players are facing a big 2022?

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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Andy Murray

“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.

Dominic Thiem

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.

Iga Swiatek

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.

Iga Swiatek

Image credit: Getty Images

“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.

Karolina Pliskova

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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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…

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

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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.

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

The 2021 season is in the books and it’s time to look ahead to 2022, with the Australian Open starting in less than a month.

But before turning our attention to next season, how about some recognition for those that stood out this year?

From the breakthrough acts to the biggest surprises, we hand out some 2021 tennis awards…

ATP Cup

Medvedev and Djokovic in a league of their own – Berrettini

AN HOUR AGO

Breakthrough player

If Carlos Alcaraz can build on this season then he will be a force on the ATP Tour for years to come. The 18-year-old won his first title in Umag and earned top-10 victories over Stefanos Tsitsipas, Berrettini and Jannik Sinner. His forehand is a hugely destructive weapon and the way he demolished his rivals at the Next Gen Finals in Milan suggests he is a class above.

There are plenty of contenders on the women’s side, with Barbora Krejcikova, Paula Badosa and Anett Kontaveit all shooting up the rankings and earning their places at the season-ending WTA Finals. Kontaveit’s success mainly came in the final quarter of 2021, when she went on an incredible winning run, while Krejcikova and Badosa had more consistent campaigns. With apologies again to Krejcikova, it’s Badosa who gets the nod after starting the year at No 70 in the rankings and clinching the first title of her career, winning in Indian Wells and making the semi-finals of the ATP Finals.

‘I’m incredibly happy’ – Alcaraz on winning ATP Next Gen Finals in Milan

Best match

Naomi Osaka’s fourth-round win over Garbine Muguruza at the Australian Open was hugely entertaining, as was the Indian Wells final between Victoria Azarenka and Paula Badosa.

Stefanos Tsitsipas played in some belters against Novak Djokovic in the French Open final and Andy Murray and Carlos Alcaraz at the US Open.

But the standout match has to be the semi-final clash between Djokovic and Nadal at the French Open.

It didn’t look like it was going to be a classic as Nadal roared into a 5-0 lead in the first set, but when Djokovic got into the match the quality of tennis hit heights that are rarely seen. The second and third sets in particular featured a number of mesmerising rallies as the two greats pulled each other around the court, much to the delight of the crowd on Court Philippe-Chatrier, who were permitted to stay beyond the 11pm curfew due to the “completely exceptional nature of the circumstances”.

Highlights: Djokovic overcomes Nadal in classic battle in Paris

After an incredible 98-minute third set, Nadal led 2-0 in the fourth set, but Djokovic fought back and sealed a remarkable win.

“Definitely the best match that I was part of ever in Roland Garros for me,” he said afterwards. “And top three matches that I ever played in my entire career.”

Biggest surprise

No surprises here, it’s Emma Raducanu.

Coming from nowhere to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon was impressive, but what she did at the US Open was incredible. Raducanu was consistently brilliant in New York, all the way through qualifying to the final (without dropping a set!), and her nerves rarely seemed to show even as the occasion got bigger and bigger. Her hitting was a joy to watch and hopefully there is much more to come from the British No 1.

Biggest disappointment

He’s been unfortunate with injuries, but Dominic Thiem had a season to forget.

He won just nine matches, lost in the first round of his favourite Grand Slam, only made one semi-final, and his best winning run was three matches. At 28 there is still time for the 2020 US Open champion to get back to the top table, but he needs to get fully healthy after suffering a wrist injury in June and then rediscover his best form soon.

In terms of a disappointing occasion, Serena Williams’ first-round injury at Wimbledon stung.

Serena Williams

Image credit: Getty Images

With questions over a few of her rivals’ fitness, Williams seemed to have a decent shot at finally winning her 24th Grand Slam title at the All England Club. But she lasted just 34 minutes against Aliaksandra Sasnovic before slipping on the grass and injuring her ankle, which lead to an emotional exit from Centre Court, possibly for the last time.

It was also disappointing not to see Juan Martin del Porto back on a tennis court, hopefully that changes in 2022 as he continues to recover from yet another surgery. But Thiem, you’re the unfortunate recipient of this gong.

Biggest controversy

It’s hard to top the toilet break drama at the US Open involving Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Andy Murray was left incensed by the length of time that Tsitsipas spent off court, accusing him of cheating and saying he lost respect for the Greek. Even the next day Murray was still going, tweeting: “Fact of the day. It takes Stefanos Tsitipas twice as long to go the bathroom as it takes Jeff Bazos to fly into space.”

The rule needs to change but Tsitsipas not at fault – Cube crew on toilet break debate

There was plenty of debate about whether Tsitsipas actually did anything wrong or if it was gamesmanship. Eurosport’s Mats Wilander defended Tsitsipas, saying all the “great players stretch the rules”, while 18-time major champion Chris Evert said the problem was the “vague” rule.

It might be the last we see of the lengthy toilet break as the rules have been changed to restrict how long players are allowed to be off court, which should please Murray. A little.

Comeback player of the year

It had some ups and downs, but Andy Murray had a pretty strong season as he continues to try to get back near the top of the game. Murray was impressive as he beat Sinner, Alcaraz and Hubert Hurkacz to finish the year; he will be hoping for more consistency in 2022.

Xavier Malisse made a shock return at the European Open as he teamed up with Lloyd Harris, who he has been coaching, and won two doubles matches. Malisse is 41 and retired in 2013.

Jack Sock has had a tough few years but seems to be heading in the right direction after some encouraging results.

Carla Suarez Navarro takes the award after her emotional return to the WTA Tour following a battle with cancer. It was fantastic that she got to say farewell at the French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open before bowing out at the Billie Jean King Cup finals with Spain.

‘It was tough’ – Suarez Navarro speaks about journey from cancer treatment to Roland Garros

Shot of the year

Carlos Alcaraz won a stunning point at the Next Gen Finals in Milan, but the award has to go to Diego Schwartzman for his outrageous behind-the-back lob in Paris.

Best quote

Benoit Paire had a few memorable grumbles at the start of the season while Hsieh Su-wei raised smiles throughout the season, and Alexander Bublik calling Jannik Sinner “not human” after their match in Miami was amusing.

However, Djokovic takes the award after being asked yet again about the threat of the Next Gen following his defeat to Rafael Nadal in the Rome final.

“This is probably the 55th time I’ve been asked about the Next Gen this week. We are reinventing the Next Gen: Rafa, myself, and Roger, we are the Next Gen.”

– – –

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Medvedev and Djokovic in a league of their own – Berrettini

Matteo Berrettini says he believes only Daniil Medvedev can consider himself in a similar league to Novak Djokovic ahead of the new men’s tennis season.

The Italian is due to face the world number two next Thursday at the ATP Cup in Sydney, a tournament they begin on Sunday when they take on hosts Australia.

Berrettini went up against the US Open champion at the same Australian Open event at the start of 2021, when he was beaten in the final in straight sets, and the Wimbledon runner-up says Medvedev and Djokovic are the men to beat.

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“He (Medvedev) is really solid. He is moving really well, playing deep, serving well, returning,” said Berrettini.

“I mean, he is not missing at all. He is playing good, especially on hard court, he is probably, I mean, together with Novak, the best player that we have now. And yeah, he is really tricky to play.

“Personally, last year, I struggled to play against him, but I work hard to be ready for this match, so we will see.

“We have to think about our first match first, and then about the others. But yeah, obviously, Russia with Daniil and what they have done in the last year (2021), is going to be one of the toughest matches we have to play.”

Berrettini is this year teaming up with Jannik Sinner, who has replaced Fabio Fognini as the second singles player this year having become a top 10 player. The more experienced of the two believes they could go all the way.

“I think, if it is possible, the (Italy) team is even stronger this year. So, for sure, our aim is to get (win) the title (ATP Cup). We know it is going to be a tough job. Every match is going to be difficult, but we believe that we can do it.”

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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…

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Djokovic ‘trying to get to Australian Open’

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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.

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Djokovic ‘trying to get to Australian Open’

One topic has dominated conversation in the tennis world over the past month: is Novak Djokovic vaccinated?

The Serb has remained coy ahead of the Australian Open, where only fully vaccinated players will be allowed to compete.

Now compatriot Dusan Lajovic has shed light on the situation and claimed Djokovic is “trying” to get to Melbourne.

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The world No. 33 fielded questions at the ATP Cup in Sydney, which Djokovic pulled out from on Tuesday.

“I don’t know the official reason [why Djokovic withdrew] but maybe the ATP knows,” said Lajovic.

[Djokovic] just said that he’s not coming to the ATP Cup and he’s trying to get to the Australian Open.

“He said, ‘I’m not coming guys to the ATP Cup; we’ll see about the Australian Open’. I mean, he didn’t specify if he’s coming or not but that he’s waiting for a decision.”

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In Djokovic’s absence at the ATP Cup, Lajovic will lead a Serbia team also featuring Filip Krajinovic, Nikola Cacic, Matej Sabanov and captain Ivan Sabanov.

However, he insisted that Djokovic had hoped to travel to Australia.

“Obviously, when Novak is in the team, the expectations get much higher and everybody’s putting a spotlight on Novak, of course, and trying to push the whole team,” he said.

“Right now, maybe we’re on the sideline a little bit and it could be good for us, it could be bad – we’ll see.

“But it’s definitely different and we’ll get to see what happens after the tournament and how it goes.

“He was, I think, hoping the same as we did, that somehow he will be here, but unfortunately he’s not and we’ve got to deal with it.”

Djokovic will claim the outright record of men’s Grand Slam singles titles if he wins the Australian Open. He is tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20.

The tournament begins on January 17.

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

Novak Djokovic will not be starting his 2022 season at the ATP Cup.

The world No. 1 was entered to play the team event for Serbia and was scheduled to face Norway’s Casper Ruud on Saturday, January 1.

However, he has decided to withdraw from the tournament, a decision that throws into question whether he will play at the 2022 Australian Open, and what preparation he will have if he does play.

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Why has Djokovic withdrawn?

That much is not exactly clear.

It has been speculated that Djokovic never intended to play the ATP Cup and put his name on the entry list to ensure that Serbia qualified, with places at the tournament determined by a country’s top-ranked player.

If Djokovic had not been listed on the team it is unlikely that Serbia would have qualified. Now their qualification has been confirmed they will remain in the ATP Cup, even though Djokovic has withdrawn and world No. 33 Dusan Lajovic is their next highest-ranked player.

And there is of course the all-important ‘V’ word – vaccination.

With three weeks to go until the 2022 Australian Open, it is still not known if Djokovic has been vaccinated against Covid-19. Djokovic has made comments in the past that suggested he is not in favour of mandatory vaccination, but anyone playing this year’s Australian Open, or any of the warm-up events around the country, needs to have been jabbed, or have a medical exemption.

What timescale is Djokovic now on?

If Djokovic intends to play the Australian Open he will have to land in the country soon.

Chartered flights organised by Tennis Australia have started arriving this week, bringing with them the likes of defending women’s champion Naomi Osaka and Americans Alison Riske, Shelby Rogers and Mackenzie McDonald.

Djokovic, who is on the official entry list for the Australian Open, has not been seen yet, although he does also have the option of coming on a commercial flight. That, though, could increase the risk of catching Covid-19.

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When players arrive they need to isolate until they return a negative test result. If a player tests positive upon arrival, as world No. 14 Denis Shapovalov has done, they will need to quarantine for 10 days.

There’s also a chance that if Djokovic arrives soon he could still play a warm-up event. There are ATP 250 tournaments in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney in the fortnight leading up to the Australian Open.

Why has Djokovic not revealed if he has been vaccinated?

Seemingly because he believes it is a personal choice and it is not something he wants to share.

However, by not sharing, Djokovic’s vaccination status has become the big story around the Australian Open. If he has been vaccinated all along then it might well be asked over the next few weeks why he has allowed the story to get to such levels.

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Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley spoke to Djokovic recently but, because of privacy protocols, he does not know if the world No. 1 is vaccinated or has requested a medical exemption. The information is unlikely to be disclosed unless done so by Djokovic.

“If Novak shows up at the Australian Open, he’ll either be vaccinated or he’ll have a medical exemption,” said Tiley. “It’s his choice on his medical condition, it’s his choice to keep personal and private like all of us would do with any condition we may or may not have. We are not going to force him or ask him to disclose that.”

Could Djokovic get a medical exemption?

It has been reported that Djokovic has been trying to get a medical exemption which would allow him to play the Australian Open without being vaccinated.

Tiley has previously said that players applying for a medical exemption will have their case reviewed by an independent three-person panel which would consist of doctors from the fields of immunology, infectious disease and general practice. Victoria sports minister Martin Pakula said the process could set a precedent for other big events.

Whether Djokovic would be granted a medical exemption – and on what grounds – is uncertain and would remain confidential.

If Djokovic does secure a medical exemption then he will be able to follow the same rules “as for travellers who are fully vaccinated”.

What does Djokovic’s withdrawal mean for the ATP Cup?

Aside from losing its top-ranked player, the ATP Cup has also been hit by several other withdrawals.

France have been added to the 16-team tournament, replacing Austria after Dominic Thiem and Dennis Novak both pulled out.

World No. 35 Ugo Humbert will lead the France team and will be joined in Sydney by Arthur Rinderknech, Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Fabrice Martin.

Russian trio Andrey Rublev, Aslan Karatsev and Evgeny Donskoy have all pulled out after positive Covid-19 tests, and Evgeny Karlovskiy will join the team, which is led by world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev. Austin Krajicek has also withdrawn from the USA team, but not be replaced at this time.

Cameron Norrie, Daniel Evans, Liam Broady, Joe Salisbury and Jamie Murray form the Great Britain team.

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Kyrgios fears 'absolute disaster' if Djokovic and Nadal miss Australian Open

Nick Kyrgios has claimed it would be an “absolute disaster” if the big three of men’s tennis – Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer – all missed the Australian Open.

Federer will definitely miss the opening Grand Slam of 2022 as he recovers from his latest knee injury while Nadal is a doubt after he tested positive for Covid-19 earlier in December.

Djokovic is on the entry list but questions continue to swirl around his vaccination status, with only fully vaccinated players allowed entry to Melbourne. He has already withdrawn from the ATP Cup in Sydney.

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The Serb will move clear of his great rivals onto 21 majors if he wins a record-extending 10th title in Australia.

Kyrgios has had few kind words to say about Djokovic in recent years but admitted the defending champion was a huge draw at his home tournament.

“I honestly don’t know Novak’s current situation with anything Covid-related or what he needs to play,” Kyrgios told the Melbourne Age newspaper.

“I hope he’s had a good Christmas and I hope he’s able to play in the sport for as long as possible because I’ve voiced before I think Federer, Nadal and Djokovic need to be (playing).

If all three aren’t there, it’s a disaster. It’s an absolute disaster for the fans and the people that enjoy tennis.

“Yes, it’s obviously a good opportunity for some of the younger guys to come through and make an impact, but as a whole, we do need them to be part of the sport.”

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Kyrgios’ own hopes of a maiden Slam title would be boosted should Djokovic and Nadal miss out, although his one quarter-final appearance in Melbourne came back in 2015.

The Australian Open starts on January 17.

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Tstispas 'starting from scratch' after surgery and now 'without pain'

Stefanos Tsitsipas has revealed that he has been playing with pain for the last two years and after surgery feels like he is “starting from scratch”.

Tsitsipas underwent elbow surgery in November after being forced to withdraw from the Paris Masters and the ATP Finals in Turin.

It was the second season in a row that he ended with injury issues.

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The world No. 4, who made the French Open final this year, returned to training recently and is hoping to play at the Australian Open, which starts on January 17.

“I considered it necessary to have surgery because I had been feeling permanent pain for years while playing, trying to limit the load on that area of ​​my body,” he told Sky Sports in Italy.

“I wanted to return as soon as possible, but without being afraid of relapsing from the injury. It is fantastic to be on the court without feeling pain and seeing that I can do any movement.

“Now I am faced with a totally new challenge because I realise that I had changed my style of play and now I can play without limiting factors. For me it’s like starting from scratch. I’m using a muscle that I almost didn’t know I had because I wasn’t using it to protect the joint, I changed my style of play.

“It was difficult for me mentally to compete for almost two years with this problem.”

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Tsitsipas also spoke about continued speculation over Novak Djokovic’s vaccination status ahead of the Australian Open.

Players need to be vaccinated to compete at the tournament, unless they have a medical exemption, and Djokovic is yet to reveal whether he is or not.

Reports in Serbia say Djokovic is looking “more likely” to play the first Grand Slam of 2022, even though he has pulled out of the ATP Cup, and Tsitsipas says his privacy should be respected.

“I do not promote vaccination, but I am not against it either, I support whoever wants to do it. I am an athlete, not a doctor, so my perspective on these issues may not be correct, I have been vaccinated to have a normal life, but everyone has the freedom to decide.

“I believe that we must respect what Novak does.”

Djokovic was not on the first charter flights that landed in Australia this week.

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