The first major of the tennis season will take place Down Under starting on January 17, 2022. The 2022 Australian Open could be more wide open than we have seen it in years if defending champion Novak Djokovic doesn’t play. Djokovic has won the Australian Open nine times since 2008, making him the first successful player in the tournament’s history by a substantial margin.
The Novak Djokovic Situation
Novak Djokovic’s status has yet to be determined for the Australian Open. Djokovic was granted a medical exemption to participate in the tournament last week although he doesn’t have the COVID vaccine. That decision met with a fierce backlash from the Australian populace, and Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Djokovic’s visa had been revoked on Wednesday. Djokovic is currently stuck inside a hotel in Melbourne, and it seems the situation is at an impasse at this moment. He would be the clear favorite if he were able to take part in the event, but that doesn’t seem likely at this time.
Contenders Besides Djokovic
Last year’s Australian Open runner-up would be the presumed favorite to win the first major of 2022 if Djokovic is unable to participate in this event. Daniil Medvedev had his best season yet in 2021, making it to the finals of the Australian Open and quarterfinals at Roland Garros before winning his first major at the US Open. Medvedev beat Djokovic in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, overcoming the straight set loss he was handed by Djokovic in Melbourne last year. He also made the ATP World Tour Finals in November, so the 25-year-old is playing at a high level.
Alexander Zverev has to win a major, but he is close to breaking through. Zverev has made the semifinals of the 2020 Australian Open, 2021 French Open, 2021 US Open, and the finals of the 2020 US Open. He beat Novak Djokovic and Karen Khachanov on his way to winning the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year, and he has won 13 titles on hard court over the course of his career.
Other Players to Watch
Rafael Nadal is no longer the force of nature he once was in the tennis world. Nadal is the greatest clay court player in the history of tennis by a wide margin with 13 French Open titles, but his lone Australian Open title came all the way back in 2009. He has made the finals of the Australian Open four times since his one triumph here, but he was bested by Djokovic (twice), Roger Federer, and Stan Wawrinka. Nadal has lost in the quarterfinals to Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas in the last two years.
Speaking of Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 23-year-old from Greece has yet to break through and win a major either. Tsitsipas is currently ranked in the top five in the world, and he made the semifinals of the 2021 Australian Open and finals of the 2021 French Open. He had a poor end to the season though, failing to make it out of the Round of 16 in his last three tournaments in 2021.