A year after this event was delayed until February due to the pandemic, the Australian Open is back on schedule in 2022. While Serena Williams, Roger Federer, and Novak Djokovic will not be present, top names like Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka, Ash Barty, and Daniil Medvedev are all playing.
The men’s singles draw only includes four Major singles champions (Nadal, Murray, Cilic, Medvedev). Will this be the second straight Slam where a new Grand Slam champion is crowned? Following the deportation of Djokovic, reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev is now the favorite. But how will he react to that pressure? And recent Slam finalists like Sascha Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Matteo Berrettini are eager to take advantage of this opportunity.
The women’s singles draw features 14 Major singles champions. As the trend has been for many years, the last nine Slams have been won by eight different women. Will someone such as Barty or Osaka assert their Major prowess, or will another new name prevail? And how will Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez perform after their electrifying runs at the US Open?
Monday’s schedule sees three of 2021’s most improved Americans taking on top ATP names: Nadal, Berrettini, and Norrie. WTA action includes the 2020 champion taking on a title winner from just 48 hours earlier, while another of Saturday’s champs faces the No.2 Australian. And defending champion Osaka, as well as top-seeded Barty, will also play their opening matches.
Each day this preview will highlight the five most intriguing matchups, while outlining the other notable matches on the schedule. Monday’s play will begin at 11:00am local time.
Matteo Berrettini (7) vs. Brandon Nakashima – Second on Margaret Court Arena
With Djokovic removed from the draw, Berrettini is now the highest seed in his quarter. Six months after reaching his first Major final, Berrettini is seeking put last year’s Australian Open disappointment behind him, when he was forced to withdraw from his fourth round match against Stefanos Tsitsipas due to an abdominal injury. Injuries have unfortunately been a recurring theme in Matteo’s career. Just two months ago at the ATP Finals, the Italian was heartbroken when an oblique injury knocked him out of the event’s debut in his home country. In his return from injury at this month’s ATP Cup, Berrettini went only 1-2, though he did push Medvedev to three sets in a high-quality affair. Nakashima is a 20-year-old American who won two Challenger titles last season, and reached back-to-back hard court ATP finals in July. Brandon earned six top 40 victories in the second half of 2021. He can definitely test the Italian No.1, but he cannot match Berrettini’s fire power, which should enable Matteo to dictate his fate.
Cam Norrie (12) vs. Sebastian Korda – Third on Kia Arena
Kia Arena is a new 5,000-seat on the grounds of Melbourne Park, and is now the tournament’s fourth-largest venue. Norrie had a tremendous 2021, going 52-25 with two titles, including his first Masters 1000 title at Indian Wells. However, he’s currently on a four-match losing streak, and went 0-3 two weeks ago in the ATP Cup. Meanwhile, Korda rose 80 spots in the rankings last season, finishing inside the top 40. The now-21-year-old claimed his first ATP title in Parma, and was the runner-up of the ATP Next Gen Finals. Last January, in the Delray Beach semifinals, Korda defeated Norrie 6-3, 7-5. Sebi is yet to compete in 2022, as he tested positive for COVID upon arriving in Australia. With neither player currently possessing a considerable amount of momentum, 12th-seeded Norrie is the favorite to advance based on his recent success and significant edge in experience.
Rafael Nadal (6) vs. Marcos Giron – Not Before 4:00pm on Rod Laver Arena
As Gaspar Ribeiro Lanca highlighted on Twitter, this will be the first Major of Nadal’s long career without both Federer and Djokovic in the draw. But Rafa does not arrive with much match play, which is usually crucial to his chances at a Slam. This will only be Nadal’s fourth match since the first week of August. He only required three wins to prevail at a lead-up event two weeks ago in Melbourne, his first tournament since undergoing a procedure to address a lingering foot injury. Overall Rafa was 24-5 in 2021. At this event a year ago, he let a two-set lead slip in the quarterfinals against Stefanos Tsitsipas. Giron is a 28-year-old American who achieved a career-high ranking of No.56 this past October. Between June and October, he reached four ATP quarterfinals. However, upending a player as formidable as the 20-time Major champ is a feat Marcos is yet to achieve. But he should offer enough to resistance to reveal just how ready Nadal’s body is for this Major, in his first best-of-five match since June.
Sofia Kenin (11) vs. Madison Keys – Not Before 5:00pm on John Cain Arena
Last week was huge for the career of Madison Keys. After going 11-15 last season, she gained her first title since 2019 by becoming the champion in Adelaide. Similarly, Kenin also had a rough 2021, and is hoping to rediscover the form that made her 2020’s WTA Player of the Year by bringing her father back as her coach, just six months after he left her team. Kenin has a 2-2 record thus far in 2022. These Americans played three times in 2019, with Keys taking both of their hard court matchups. Based on that history, and their current form, Madison should be favored to eliminate the 2020 champion.
Paula Badosa (8) vs. Ajla Tomljanovic – Last on Margaret Court Arena
On Saturday in the Sydney final, Badosa overcame Barbora Krejickova in a third-set tiebreak after a dogged fight by both players. The Indian Wells champ has now won 13 of her last 16 matches. Tomljanovic advanced to her first Major quarterfinal six months ago at The Championships, but has lost almost as many matches as she’s won since that time. And just this past Wednesday in Sydney, she was defeated by Badosa in their first meeting. Assuming Paula is fully recovered from Saturday’s grueling final, the Spaniard should be able to eliminate the Australian for the second time in as many weeks.
Other Notable Matches on Monday:
Naomi Osaka (13) vs. Camila Osorio – This will only be Osaka’s fourth match since her US Open upset at the hands of Leylah Fernandez. Osorio is 20-year-old from Colombia who ended 2021 at a career-high ranking thanks to reaching her second WTA final in October. This is their first career meeting.
Reilly Opelka (23) vs. Kevin Anderson – Opelka achieved his first two Masters 1000 semifinals last year, and debuted inside the top 20. Anderson has struggled to regain his level of a few years ago after battling multiple injuries. Six years ago in Atlanta, when Reilly was ranked 837th in the world, he upset Kevin in three sets.
Ash Barty (1) vs. Lesia Tsurenko (Q) – Barty was a stellar 42-8 in 2021, and started this season by winning a WTA title in Adelaide. Tsurenko is a 32-year-old who came through qualifying without dropping a set, and was a quarterfinalist at the 2018 US Open. Both of their previous encounters have occurred in Australia, with each prevailing once.
Barbora Krejcikova (4) vs. Andrea Petkovic – The reigning French Open champion is coming off the aforementioned demoralizing loss on Saturday to Paula Badosa. Last summer, Petkovic earned her first WTA title since 2015. But she also lost to Krejcikova last summer, as Barbora was victorious in straight sets at Wimbledon.
Sascha Zverev (3) vs. Daniel Altmaier – Zverev accumulated 59 wins last year, and has advanced to the second week at the last eight Majors. Altmaier is a fellow German who ended 2021 by winning a Challenger tournament in Puerto Vallarta.
Monday’s full Order of Play is here.
US Open: Shelby Rogers Delivers; Serena Still A Threat To Win 24th Major
After all of these years of playing in the U.S. Open, Shelby Rogers is finally a seeded player.
The Charleston, S.C., native has been playing America’s premier tennis event almost continuously since her debut in New York in 2010. She’ll turn 30 years old in a few weeks and has worked her way up the rankings to 31st in the world.
That’s a big achievement from the little girl who hung on the fences more than two decades ago to watch her older sister Sabra play high school matches that eventually led to an Al-American career for Sabra at Emory University. Sabra became a psychologist and, of course, is one of Shelby’s biggest fans.
LOOK OUT FOR ROGERS?
Rogers took the direct route. She didn’t play high school tennis, but left the classroom before high school to train in tennis, study online and play the junior circuit. She turned pro in 2009 at age 16.
Monday evening at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, It took Rogers awhile to start living up to her ranking. But once she turned the corner after dropping the first set in nine games, Shelby started looking like a seasoned top 30 player.
Rogers sort of blew The Netherlands’ slim Arantxa Rus away, taking a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory in the opening round of the U.S. Open. Rogers especially played the deciding 28th game of the match like the veteran pro she is. She hit one long forehand and netted one ball in that game, but otherwise she rode her big serve to victory in the clinching game. At 40-30, she delivered a huge first serve down the middle that Rus couldn’t put into play.
WOMEN’S RACE TO TOP PRIZE WIDE OPEN
The way things are on the women’s tour these days, with no true leader while once-amazing top-ranked Iga Swiatek tries to regain her dominance, anything is possible.
Yes, even finally a 24th Grand Slam title for Serena Williams.
But this is about Shelby Rogers. She is playing the best tennis of her career nearly a decade and a half after her life as a professional tennis player started.
With any kind of luck, Rogers could leave New York ranked among the top 25 players in the world, or maybe higher if she continues to serve and play the kind of big-ball tennis she played in the last 19 games Monday night.
WHO’S NEXT IN LINE
So, what’s after Swiatek, who started the year on fire with a long unbeaten streak that went through the French Open and rewarded her with as many points as the confined totals of the Nos. 2 and 3 players. Of course, Ashleigh Barty’s retirement after winning the Australian Open opened the door for Swiatek’s rise to the top.
And then Wimbledon’s grass took care of Swiatek.
Nos. 2-5 Anett Kontaveit, Maria Sakkari, Paula Badosa and Ons Jabeur are all outstanding players, but none currently fit in the great column. They appear to be waiting in line for Swiatek or another Barty-like player to step forward to rule the women’s tour.
WHAT ABOUT UKRAINE’S DARIA!
Then there are almost totally unknown players such as Ukraine’s Daria Snigur. I hadn’t given Snigur much chance at all on the pro tour until her shocking U.S. Open first-round victory over multi-Grand Slam tournament winner and seventh-ranked Simona Halep.
The last time I had thought about Snigur was when she upended Charleston’s Emma Navarro in the Junior Wimbledon semifinals and then won the Junior Grand Slam tournament.
At Junior Wimbledon in 2019, I thought Navarro, who also is now on the WTA Tour and is currently ranked 145th in the world, would roll past Snigur the way she had in the 2019 Junior French Open quarterfinals. But Snigur is so deceptive with her ground strokes that strike like lightning, she dominated Navarro at that Junior Wimbledon.
So, maybe the currently 124th-ranked Snigur may be ready to make a mark on the tour after scoring her first tour victory by defeating Halep.
NO NOVAK, BUT RAFA IS THERE
Without Novak Djokovic, the men are about as unpredictable as the women, with the exception of one player. Rafa Nadal, of course, entered this U.S. Open, with a perfect 19-0 record this year in Grand Slams.
Daniil Medvedev is the defending champion at the U.S. Open, but even though he is ranked No. 1 in the world, it’s a long road to the final for the Russian. Medvedev hasn’t always been predictable.
And already, No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas has been eliminated by a complete unknown, Daniel Elahi Galan.
Wow! The Greek star probably was about as much of a favorite as Medvedev.
And poor Dominic Thiem was cast on an outside court. And he lost. Just a couple of years ago, Thiem was winning the U.S. Open.
My top five picks in order would be: Nadal, Jannik Sinner, Nick Kyrgios, Medvedev and Andy Murray. Yes, Andy looks pretty fit.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
Will Rafael Nadal Keep The Grand Slam Winning Feeling Going In New York?
Rafael Nadal has injury doubts heading into his search for a 23rd grand slam title in New York.
Rafael Nadal will look to repeat successes from Melbourne and Paris by answering his doubters with triumph in New York.
The Spaniard enters the last grand slam with injury doubts having only just come back from an abdominal injury suffered in his Wimbledon quarter-final against Taylor Fritz.
It was injury that saw his calendar grand slam dream come to an end and ever since then has been recovering in the hopes of finishing the grand slam year strong in New York.
However in his first match back Nadal was defeated in three sets to Borna Coric in New York which has put doubts on whether the Spaniard can be a threat in the US.
Nadal will likely not have to worry about Novak Djokovic but a victory in New York could see him be world number one with current number one Daniil Medvedev defending the title.
The likes of Medvedev, Carlos Alcaraz and Stefanos Tsitsipas will be standing in Nadal’s way and if the Spaniard isn’t match-fit then he could face an early exit.
However as tennis pundit Barbara Schett pointed out, ruling out Nadal at this stage would be foolish and the Spaniard always raises his level at the grand slams, “The match is always different from practice,” Schett told Eurosport.
“And whoever had an abdominal injury and a tear on the abdominal muscles knows how it feels. You have to be extremely cautious. You’re worried that you’re going to reinjure it again.
“And I think that’s what we’ve seen on Wednesday. When he played against Coric, he was a little bit uncertain how the body was going to hold up. And for sure he’s going to feel better and better.
“If there’s no damage to the abdominal muscle, then he still has a week and a half to improve his health, to improve the trust also that he can extend and he can’t bend on the serve because that’s the trickiest shot, the serve and the smash.
“When that is the case, Rafa Nadal certainly can be dangerous again at the US Open. I mean, he’s so fired up at every single Grand Slam. We’ve seen this year playing the best tennis of his life. You can never, ever write him off.”
Nadal is currently undefeated at grand slams and if fit, the Spaniard will certainly fancy himself to win another seven matches at the US Open this year.
Whatever it should be interesting to see if Nadal improves before the US Open with the tournament starting on the 29th of August.
Does WTA Need A Top Rivalry To Drive The Sport?
Iga Swiatek is the WTA’s dominant world number one but does she need a rival in order to drive the sport to new heights.
The WTA has a dominant world number one and a variety of talented players on the tour but the one thing it’s lacking at the moment is a top rivalry.
First of all it was supposed to be Bianca Andreescu and Naomi Osaka, then Ash Barty and Osaka and also Barty and Iga Swiatek.
However none of these match-ups created a top rivalry over a long period to generate an overwhelming amount of interest.
After Barty’s shock retirement, many people were left disappointed at the fact that her and current dominant world number one Iga Swiatek could not compete for the sport’s biggest titles in a fierce rivalry.
Now Swiatek sits at the top of the WTA rankings with almost a 4,000 point lead at the top. The rest of the field are very talented and that in itself is an intriguing aspect of the WTA’s appeal.
But the one thing the women’s game lacks is a top rivalry to generate a hype that the ATP clearly has right now.
As Mark Petchey said it’s an issue that needs solving soon as every sport has one, “Rivalries drive the sport. What they do is make sure that it manifests itself in a big polarisation of a large fan base, against another one,” Petchey was quoted as saying by Tennis365.
“You look across the board, over F1, look at the tribal nature of AFL, of Premier League football here. It’s a huge part of what you need to have a successful sport. That is the one thing that is missing from the women’s tour at the moment, is a superb rivalry, with a little bit of edge.
“That’s why I say I’m sad that Ash pulled up stumps, because I think that rivalry could’ve developed with Iga in that way. Would it have been quite as intense as the Rafa-Novak and Roger-Novak rivalries? Probably not. But it would have been there. Going into every major saying that you’re not looking forward to a specific clash potentially when the draw comes out, does hurt the tour a little bit.
“You can’t keep saying ‘oh, anyone can win it’. Because you’re just not tagging anybody… you’re not setting the scene for something amazing that’s going to happen, a nice little volcanic eruption right at the back-end of a major. They need some people to be a bit more consistent and getting through, because that’s what will be a massive driver for the WTA.”
It’s hard to argue with those points of view from Petchey as rivalries are what are talked about for decades after players have retired.
It will be interesting to see whether Swiatek will continue to dominate the rest of the field or whether someone can build a rivalry with the Pole heading into the remainder of the season.
The next big WTA event of the year will take place at the Rogers Cup in Toronto on the week of the eighth of August.
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