Tennis fans, the wait is finally over. The Australian Open is upon us!
Melbourne Park may be Novak Djokovic’s playground, but his Visa cancellation has given the men’s field a huge opportunity to lift the Norman Brooks cup.
A new men’s champion will be crowned for the first time since 2018, when Roger Federer clinched his 20th Grand Slam.
Federer will also be missing, and as Nadal and Murray battle on in their twilight years, a fresh champion seems likely.
On the women’s side, Ash Barty remains a heavy favourite in her home slam. The World Number one’s stiffest challenge may come from four-time grand slam champion Naomi Osaka, who is aiming to put a turbulent 2021 behind her.
Women’s favourite Ash Barty. Photo: Simon M Bruty via Getty Images
But there are other former champions right on their heels, including Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza and Iga Swiatek.
It’s a tough tournament to predict, but we’re willing to put our reputation on the line with some bold(?) tips.
Here are the Jaded Newsman’s predicted sleepers, flops and champions for AO22.
I’m taking a huge leap of faith here as Monfils doesn’t always bring his A-game to the biggest stage. His tendency to take unnecessary risks can often result in early round marathons that leave him drained for the big matches. But Monfils has played with a rare discipline of late and he looks like a man who realises his time is running out. A semi final run is definitely achievable for “La Monf”.
One of the most improved players on the tour last year, Fritz has the tools to give anyone problems. His nightmare draw means he could face Tiafoe, Bautista Agut and Tsitsipas in the first four rounds. But if he’s firing, he can beat the lot of them. The talented American was unlucky to lose a tense 5-setter to Djokovic last year, but he will bury those painful memories in 2022.
It might seem odd to call the world no. 9 a sleeper, but few believe he can make a run to the final. I’m going big and predicting just that. He’s a prodigiously talented shotmaker, who is quickly maturing into the full package. When FAA does put it all together, he’s going to do some damage. The young Canadian will go deep in the tournament and knock off at least one of the Top 5 seeds.
Felix Auger-Aliassime. Photo: Elsa via Getty Images.
The Russian had a tough finish to the 2021 season and he is yet to prove he can beat elite competition in the majors. May find a way past Marin Cilic, but unlikely to beat Auger-Aliassime in the 4th round.
Tsitsipas will be aiming to improve on an impressive semi final showing last year, however, he’s arrived in poor form. After coming agonisingly close to French Open glory last year, the Greek suffered a serious slump. He’s also had elbow injury surgery during the offseason. Expect an early exit.
Stefanos Tsitsipas. Photo: Tim Clayton via Getty Images.
Murray’s a great champion and it would be a tremendous comeback story, but his body won’t hold up at Melbourne Park. Although his run to the Sydney final featured some encouraging wins, he did them all the hard way. It’s hard to see him sustaining that sort of effort over 5 sets past the 3rd round here.
I’m not sure how many times I’ve said this ahead of a Grand Slam – it feels like 100 – but this will be the tournament where Alexander Zverev finally fulfils his promise. He was close to winning a pandemic-effected US Open in 2019, but he really seemed to turn a corner at the Tokyo Olympics. That Gold Medal should spur him on to greater things and avoiding Medvedev until the final is a major bonus. Zverev will become the first German to win an Australian Open since Boris Becker in 1996.
Alexander Zverev. Photo: Sarah Stier via Getty Images
Enters the Open with an Adelaide International title under her belt. Keys has the weapons to give anyone problems if she can maintain some consistency. If she gets through a tricky opening match against Sofia Kenin, the momentum should carry her past the quarter finals.
Maddison Keys. Photo: Matthew Stockman via Getty Images.
There are some concerns about Sakkari’s form leading into the AO, but she’ll arrive with huge support from Australia’s Greek community. The world number 6 will ride that wave to an impressive showing.
Swiatek won’t win the tournament, but the 2020 French Open champion should make her first Australian quarter final or better. She’ll arrive full of confidence after a strong showing in Adelaide.
A multiple slam winner, who made the final here in 2018, Halep has a nightmare draw. Add an injury-ravaged 2021 to the mix and it’s hard to see her going far.
When Osaka’s at her best, she’s arguably the benchmark in women’s tennis. But a tumultuous 2021 that included struggles with mental health and serious inactivity, means her preparation has been far from ideal. She’s likely to face Anisimova and Barty in the and 3rd and 4th rounds, where she’ll be eliminated.
Naomi Osaka. Photo: Tim Clayton via Getty Images.
Sabalenka’s confidence is at rock bottom. She’s been bounced in the 1st round at two consecutive warmup events. During those matches, she served a total of 40 double faults. The young Belarussian looks set to struggle in Melbourne.
Last year’s finalist will go one better this year. Muguruza played exceptional tennis to clinch the WTA Finals last season. The 28 year old has two slams to her name and a fairly favourable draw. Barty may be the favourite, but the pressure of playing in her home tournament will weigh on her heavily. Muguruza’s poise and experience will carry her to the title.
Garbine Muguruza. Photo: Clive Brunskill via Getty Images.