Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka in 22 questions for 2022
Will Novak Djokovic play the 2022 Australian Open? Will Andy Murray win titles again? Will Naomi Osaka return with a bang? What does the year ahead hold in store for Serena and Venus Williams? Will Juan Martin del Potro's comeback be a success? Will Roger Federer play this year? We pick out 22 questions to be answered in 2022.
'That was just ridiculous' - Djokovic's top five shots in 2021
There’s less than three weeks to go until the 2022 Australian Open and it’s still not clear if Novak Djokovic will be defending his title.
World No 1 Djokovic has pulled out of the ATP Cup, having been due to play on the opening day of the event, and has not yet travelled to Australia. If he wants to play the first Grand Slam of the season he will need to be vaccinated or get a medical exemption, and his vaccination status is still unknown.
Djokovic’s decision could have far-reaching consequences not just for the rest of this season but the rest of his career. If he doesn’t play in Melbourne because of the vaccination requirement then how many other tournaments will he miss for the same reason? It seems likely that more events will rule that players need to be vaccinated to compete, so what would that mean for Djokovic?
That looks a long way off at the moment with Murray ranked 134 in the world, but if he can build on some positive showings at the end of last season then he should start to climb up. Consistency looks like one of the key goals for Murray in 2022 and if he can improve his ranking then he will be hoping that he starts to get some more favourable draws.
Will Osaka return with a bang?
So much has happened in the life of Naomi Osaka since she won her fourth Grand Slam title in Melbourne in 2021.
There was the shock withdrawal from the French Open after deciding not to do press conferences, lighting the Olympic Torch at her home Games in Japan, losing in the third round of the Games, then playing just five matches before taking an “indefinite break” from tennis. Now she’s back in action and aiming to defend her Australian Open title.
Having slipped down to No 13 in the world and with maximum ranking points to defend in Melbourne, it will be intriguing to see what Osaka can achieve over the next month.
Osaka's break from tennis over as she lands in Melbourne
Can Krejcikova continue to double up?
Barbora Krejcikova had a season to remember as she won big titles on the singles and doubles circuit. But can she repeat the feat?
Krejcikova played far more matches than any of her singles rivals in 2021 and even though more of the top women play doubles than the top-ranked men, it’s still not that common. Will there come a time when Krejcikova has to prioritise due to a risk of burnout, and if so which will she choose?
Will Nadal challenge the best?
Can Rafael Nadal still compete for major titles? That’s one of the more hotly-debated questions heading into the new season as the 20-time Grand Slam champion returns from injury and a recent positive Covid-19 test. Nadal lost both his matches at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, the first time he had been on court since August.
Last time out at the Australian Open he suffered a crushing quarter-final loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas, having led by two sets to love, and whether he can still go the distance on hard courts remains to be seen. Even on clay there may be some questions asked about his ability to dominate as he once did.
Will Barty continue to top the rankings?
Ashleigh Barty has been women’s world No 1 since September 9, 2019 – and she has entered into elite company.
She is only the fifth woman to spend more than 100 consecutive weeks as world No 1 behind Steffi Graf (186), Serena Williams (186), Martina Navratilova (156) and Chris Evert (113).
With a healthy lead over second-placed Aryna Sabalenka, Barty will likely soon overtake Evert’s run of 113 weeks. But how much longer can she stay No 1?
Image credit: Getty Images
Will Federer play on tour?
The news that Roger Federer would not be playing at the 2022 Australian Open as he recovers from surgery did not come as a surprise. But to hear him say that he would be “extremely surprised" if he plays at Wimbledon in the summer did raise eyebrows.
If Federer isn’t back on tour by the time Wimbledon rolls around he will have missed an entire year and will soon be turning 41. Will he come back during the US swing or save himself for 2023?
When will Thiem, Wawrinka be back?
For much of 2021 men’s tennis was largely deprived of two the best single-handed backhands in the game. Dominic Thiem made a slow start to his season and was then out of action with a wrist injury from June. Stan Wawrinka had foot surgery in the summer and hasn’t played since March.
Neither will be playing at the Australian Open and they, and their glorious backhands, will be missed.
Final farewell for Williams sisters?
What does the year ahead hold for the Williams sisters?
Venus Williams, 41, has dropped to No 318 in the world and is surely entering the final stages of her wonderful career. For Serena, 40, the desire to win a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title may keep her going for longer, although she hasn’t played since Wimbledon due to injury and will not be in Melbourne.
When they do retire it will be a huge loss for the WTA Tour and both should be savoured for as long as they are around.
Serena Williams celebrates winning Wimbledon in 2015
Image credit: Getty Images
Will Australian Open go smoothly?
The 2021 Australian Open was far from smooth sailing. A three-week delay to the tournament due to the Covid-19 pandemic was just the start, with players confined to hotel rooms for up to 21 days on arrival and mice providing unwelcome visitors.
Will there be any hiccups this time around?
Will there be a new men’s No 1?
The last time that Djokovic wasn’t world No 1 was in January 2020, when Nadal topped the rankings.
Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev are the closest challengers heading into the Australian Open, around 3,000 and 4,000 ranking points behind respectively. Even though that sounds like a lot, Djokovic has 6,000 points to defend at the first three majors of the year while Medvedev and Zverev have room to improve. If Djokovic doesn’t play in Melbourne then he could even lose the No 1 ranking by the end of the tournament.
Can Raducanu build on US Open win?
It’s going to be hard for Emma Raducanu to ever top her stunning victory in New York, but it feels like time to put that in the rearview mirror and look ahead.
Since her maiden Grand Slam win, Raducanu has signed a number of high-profile sponsorship opportunities, been crowned Sports Personality of the Year, and hired a new coach. Now a first full season on the WTA Tour awaits, starting with a first-ever trip to the Australian Open, where she will be among the top 20 seeds.
Who will the best youngster be?
Jannik Sinner, Felix Auger Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov finished last season hovering around the top 10 in the world, having all achieved some impressive results. Sinner, 20, is the youngest of the trio and also the highest ranked at No 10 in the world vs No 11 (Auger Aliassime) and No 14 (Shapovalov), but who will finish the 2022 season ahead?
All have the qualities to win big titles, and there’s also Carlos Alcaraz, 18, who likely will very soon move higher than No 32 in the world.
Image credit: Getty Images
Will Gauff be a contender at majors?
Raducanu had the biggest ‘wow’ moment of any teenager on tour in 2021, but 17-year-old Coco Gauff had a very solid season.
Gauff, who shot to fame when she beat Venus Williams on her way to reaching the fourth round at Wimbledon in 2019, is the youngest of the six teenagers ranked in the WTA top 100, won the second title of her career in 2021 and made the quarter-finals or better at seven tournaments.
She clearly has a very bright future and it would not be a surprise to see her challenging for more silverware this year.
Can Kontaveit continue to roll?
Anett Kontaveit was the surprise package in the second half of 2021 as she went on a tear to reach the WTA Finals, racking up a 29-4 record in the last three months of the season and soaring up to No 7 in the rankings.
After losing in the final of the WTA Finals to Garbine Muguruza can she keep the momentum going into 2022?
Who will rule on clay?
Will the King of Clay still be the King of Clay?
Nadal was beaten in an epic semi-final at the French Open last season by Djokovic and was made to work very hard for his two titles on the dirt. If the crown is slipping slightly will Djokovic be the one to win in Paris again? Or could Stefanos Tsitsipas, last year’s runner-up at the French Open, assert himself on clay?
Novak Djokovic og Stefanos Tsitsipas
Image credit: Getty Images
How high can Norrie climb?
Cameron Norrie had a year to remember as he won the first two ATP titles of his career, notched up over 50 match wins, and got a taste of the ATP Finals in Turin as an alternate. His impressive victory in Indian Wells helped propel him up to No 12 in the world rankings and his coach Facundo Lugones deservedly won the ATP’s Coach of the Year award.
Norrie made huge strides in 2021 but it feels like there’s another big jump to take if he wants to go even higher.
Will new Davis Cup format be a success?
A new year, a new Davis Cup. After changes to the format this year, the finals of the 2022 edition will be played across five cities, with reports that Abu Dhabi will host the quarter-finals onwards.
It’s probably too late to think that Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic are going to ever win Grand Slam titles – or is it? – but is there at least a scenario where they have a career resurgence?
At 26 it feels strange to be talking about Kyrgios needing a resurgence but he has slipped down to No 93 in the world largely due to his inactivity over the last few years. He showed at Wimbledon that even with very limited practice he is still a threat, so he may be a danger at the Australian Open.
There has also been some back-and-forth between the pair on social media which could make for a spicy match at the Australian Open.
How will Del Potro’s return go?
It’s been two-and-a-half years since Juan Martin del Potro last played on the ATP Tour. The career of the 2009 US Open champion has been blighted by countless injuries and surgeries but he is finally set to return at the Argentina Open in February.
Del Potro is a huge fan favourite and it will be a welcome sight to see him back playing again. It will be even more fantastic if he can stay healthy and play throughout the year.
Will more tournaments impose vaccine mandates?
The ATP recently said that 95 per cent of the top 100 players in the world rankings have been vaccinated against Covid-19, so if more tournaments do make vaccination mandatory to compete then it won’t be an issue for most.
The same applies on the WTA Tour – judging by the entry list for the Australian Open, where vaccination is mandatory – but a few players could be left with a big decision to make. Five-time Grand Slam doubles champion Pierre-Hugues Herbert is missing the Australian Open as he is not vaccinated out of “personal choice” and young Australian Olivia Gadecki has also decided not to get vaccinated. There may be others who will need to decide if they are going to get the vaccine to continue playing professional tennis.
Will Mektic and Pavic dominate doubles again?
Croatian duo Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic ruled men’s doubles in 2021, winning 56 of their first 61 matches and finishing the season with nine tour-level titles and the No 1 ranking.
Who could dethrone them in 2022? American Rajeev Ram and Briton Joe Salisbury have won a major in each of the past two seasons and made the final of the ATP Finals in Turin. John Peers and Filip Polasek could be a duo to watch, having recorded some impressive results together since the summer. Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares will also be hoping that they can challenge for major titles again.