A new year of Grand Slam tennis is almost upon us as Melbourne will see the start of the Australian Open on Monday. After a controversial build up to the first slam of the season in the wake of Novak Djokovic’s visa troubles, we are ready to go.
The organisers of the tournament will be hoping the Serbian’s saga won’t overshadow the event. However, as at the time of writing, we may still not of heard the last of the Djokovic saga.
Next two weeks could prove very interesting
With Covid related issues and injuries affecting the build up to the tournament, the next two weeks could be very interesting indeed.
A trio of big names have had to pull out of the event due to injuries. Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem, Serena Williams and Karolina Pliskova will all be absent.
Djokovic has reigned supreme in Melbourne and circumstances permitting will be gunning for a record-breaking 10th Australian Open. The Serb will be looking to bounce back from a disappointing end to 2021. Djokovicz lost the US Open final and exited the ATP Finals at the semi-final stage.
How will Djokovic react to his problems in Australia?
The burning question ahead of the start of the tournament will be how will the World Number One handle what he has experienced in Australia so far. If Djokovicz can put these problems to one side, expect him to be right back on his game and a hard player to beat.
It will be interesting to see how the Australian public will react to the Dzokovic situation. Normally an Aussie crowd have warmed to the Serbian in the past, however this year he may not have the full support of everybody.
This may just give Rafael Nadal the edge over Djokovic. The Spaniard hasn’t won the Australian Open since 2009. This tournament still remains the only one of the four slams he has failed to win more than once.
Nadal chasing a record 21st slam
Nadal is also chasing a 21st slam, which would surpass both Djokovic and Federer as the greatest men’s player of all time. The Spaniard comes into the event with a warm up win in his seasonal reappearance at the Melbourne Summer Set.
The one player from the so-called next generation of players to challenge the big three is Russian Daniil Medvedev. The 25-year-old looks the one player to push on after winning his first slam at the US Open last year. He will be looking to go one better this year after losing to Djokovic in last year’s final.
Norrie the Brit in form
British interest in the men’s event will be headed by Cameron Norrie. The 26-year-old has yet to advance past the third round of any of the four slams. However, he had a 2021 to remember. Norrie won his first singles title at Indian Wells. He rose up the rankings to become British Number 1 before ending the year with a late call up to the ATP Finals. After Emma Raducanu’s first ever Grand Slam success last year, surely Norrie can’t repeat that feat. A dangerous player who could well surprise a few people this fortnight.
The question on everybody’s lips in the women’s event is can Radacanu repeat her New York heroics? Radacanu will go into the event in unknown territory for her. She will be the hunted who everybody will want to beat. In previous events she has had no pressure on her, but now she will be under the spotlight in every tournament that she enters.
Big test for Radacanu
The young 19-year-old’s preparations for Melbourne haven’t been ideal. She picked up Covid over Christmas with an enforced break. Only this week Radacanu slumped to a 6-0,6-1 defeat to Elena Rybakina in the Sydney International in her first match of the year.
Reigning champion Naomi Osaka has had a challenging 12 months but will be the player to beat in Melbourne. After a break of four months from the sport, the Japanese girl returned recently and reached the semi final of the Summer Set 1 before withdrawing from the event.
Osaka looking to bounce back
With the likes of Aryna Sabalenka, Garbine Muguruza, Barbora Krejcikova and Maria Sakkari expected to go well, once again it will be an open event. Sakkari had a superb 2021, reaching two slam semi-finals. The 26-year-old recently had an early exit from the Adelaide Open, but is a very resilient player and one to fear.
It is also worth noting that the Australian Open Women’s Singles title has changed hands every year since 2013. Summing up perfectly how competitive the women’s game has become and not expecting the winner to come from the top three in the world, as is in the case of the men’s version of the game.