5 burning questions to answer at the Australian Open 2022

Novak Djokovic has been sent off, the best tennis players in the world are in position and the Australian Open officially kicks off its main draw on Monday. Here are some burning questions we could get answered over the coming fortnight in Melbourne.

1. Will we have a new men’s world No. 1 by the end of the Australian Open?

Djokovic’s absence means world number 2 Daniil Medvedev is the highest ranked player in the tournament draw and the in-form Russian will be seen as the main contender for the title at Melbourne Park.

Medvedev, an Australian Open runner-up to Djokovic 11 months ago and the first major champion at the US Open last September, is trying to become the first man in the open era to win a second Grand Slam title in of his next Grand Slam appearance.

The 25-year-old is also looking to become the sixth man in the Open era to win the Australian Open after winning the US Open the previous season.

But, more importantly, if Medvedev manages to lift the trophy on the Rod Laver Arena in two weeks, he will replace Djokovic as the new world No. 1 and become the first player outside the “Big Four” (Djokovic, Roger Federer , Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray) to reach the top of the rankings since Andy Roddick took the top spot in February 2004.

World No. 3 and reigning German ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev also has a chance to dethrone Djokovic if he secures the Australian Open crown.

2. Can Nadal break the all-time men’s Grand Slam record?

Nadal is the only former champion in the men’s singles draw at this Australian Open and the Spaniard has a golden chance to win the 21st all-time men’s Grand Slam title this fortnight, along with Djokovic and Federer – the two players with whom he shares the record. – both missing the tournament.

Nadal, seeded sixth, who begins his campaign on Monday against American Marcos Giron, is playing his first major since his elimination in the semi-finals at Roland Garros last June.

The Mallorcan has been struggling with a foot injury which forced him to miss Wimbledon and the US Open and is out of a bout with COVID-19, but made a reassuring return to the circuit by winning the Melbourne Summer tournament ATP 250 set in construction. -until this Australian Open.

The question remains whether his body will allow him to compete in a best-of-five format over the next two weeks.

“One day we will see him. I can’t give you a clear or precise answer because I haven’t played a best-of-five since Roland Garros,” Nadal said on Saturday.

“I just want to go day by day. Of course, I will continue to do my best to improve. But every day that I spend on the court, I think it’s positive. Every game I’m able to win is very important for my confidence, it’s important for my physical performance, and you never know what can happen later.

3. Can Osaka defend a title for the first time?

World No.14 Naomi Osaka won the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup in 2019 and 2021, and has won 22 of her last 23 games in Melbourne.

The four-time major champion and seven-time overall holder has never successfully defended a title and will look to change that at the Australian Open.

The former Japanese world No. 1 returned to the circuit a few weeks ago after a four-month absence and reached the quarter-finals of the Melbourne Summer Set tournament in her first event. She dropped out ahead of her semi-final with an abdominal injury but isn’t too worried ahead of her Australian Open first round against Colombian Camila Osorio on Monday.

“I’m healing pretty fast. I’m as good as I can be right now,” she said on Saturday.

4. Can Muguruza maintain the momentum from last season?

Two-time major winner Garbine Muguruza ended 2021 on a high, winning the WTA Finals in Guadalajara to move up to third place in the world rankings.

The former Spanish world No. 1 lost the Australian Open final to Sofia Kenin two years ago and has unfinished business at Melbourne Park.

Muguruza had a long 2021 season which ended in mid-November in Mexico, which could well serve him to maintain his form and momentum.

“I think I really focused on getting the rest needed because you don’t lose your tennis. I think you prioritize getting the energy back, refreshing the mindset and everything,” said the 28 year old player.

5. Will Barty maintain her No. 1 streak?

Defending Wimbledon champion Ash Barty will begin her 104th consecutive week at No. 1 entering this Australian Open, the fifth-longest streak in WTA history.

Two players could potentially topple Barty at the top of the leaderboard: No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka and No. 4 Barbora Krejcikova.

Sabalenka needs to reach at least the final to have any chance of claiming the top, but also needs Barty to lose before the title decider.

Meanwhile, Krejcikova will need to reach the final to have any chance of claiming top spot.

If Barty reaches the third round or Sabalenka reaches the final, Krejcikova would only move to No. 1 by winning the title. If Barty makes it to the semis, Krejcikova can’t get past the Aussie.

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