Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Andy Murray, Stefanos Tsitsipas: 2022's best men’s tennis rivalries
What will be the best rivalry on the ATP Tour in 2022? Novak Djokovic v Daniil Medvedev, Djokovic v Alexander Zverev, Andy Murray v Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Carlos Alcaraz v Jannik Sinner are just some of the match-ups to look out for. Stream the 2022 Australian Open live and on-demand on discovery+.
Roger Federer v Rafael Nadal. Nadal v Novak Djokovic. Federer v Djokovic.
The last 15 years on the ATP Tour have been dominated by the battle for supremacy between the Big Three, but the landscape is now changing with a new generation set to take over. Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev have shown themselves to be contenders for the biggest titles while youngsters like Jannik Sinner, Felix Auger Aliassime and Carlos Alcaraz are soaring up the rankings.
With plenty of fresh match-ups to look forward to, what are the rivalries to keep an eye on heading into 2022?
With five matches played in 2021 and a 3-2 record in favour of Djokovic, this was arguably the most exciting rivalry of the year on the ATP Tour.
Djokovic came out on top in their first two meetings in Australia, but Zverev turned the tables in some big spots, beating the world No 1 in the semi-finals of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and at the same stage of the ATP Finals in Turin. They also served up a thriller at the US Open as Djokovic prevailed in five gruelling sets - featuring a 53-shot rally - to reach the final.
Despite Djokovic’s defensive brilliance, Zverev has shown that he can cause him problems with his powerful flat hitting and strong serving. Zverev’s serve in particular has improved greatly, becoming such a weapon that when it is firing it can take a match out of any opponent’s hands, even a brilliant returner like Djokovic.
“Against him you have to play the best match that you can,” said Zverev at the US Open. “You have to be perfect, otherwise you will not win. Against him, you have to win the match, you have to be the one dominating points.”
Zverev has firmly demonstrated that he can dominate points and beat Djokovic, and it will be fascinating to see if the world No 1 is able to counter when they meet again.
Novak Djokovic v Daniil Medvedev
The three meetings between Djokovic and Medvedev in 2021 weren’t anywhere near as thrilling as the matches between Djokovic and Zverev, but when the world No 1 and No 2 face off there is usually a title on the line.
That was the case at the Australian Open – a straight-sets win for Djokovic – the US Open – a straight-sets win for Medvedev – and the Paris Masters – a three-set win for Djokovic. Like with Zverev, it’s clear that Medvedev has the type of game to trouble Djokovic, with his heavy hitting making the US Open final an incredibly one-sided match. But Djokovic showed in Paris that he is prepared to change tactics to get the desired result as he added more variety and served and volleyed more.
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What makes the rivalry between Djokovic, Medvedev and Zverev even more intriguing is their close relationship. They have all spoken this year about their admiration for each other, with Medvedev calling Djokovic a “friend” after a practice session together and Djokovic showering Zverev with praise following his win at the ATP Finals. Can that friendship continue amid high-intensity matches or will there be some plot twists?
Rafael Nadal v Stefanos Tsitsipas
The 12-year age gap means this is probably not going to be a long-term rivalry, but more Nadal v Tsitsipas matches in 2022 can surely only be a good thing.
The pair met in a thrilling contest in the quarter-finals of the 2021 Australian Open when Tsitsipas came from two sets down to beat Nadal. They then faced off in one of the matches of the year in the final Barcelona Open final as Nadal saved a championship point to beat Tsitsipas over three hours and 38 minutes.
Tsitsipas could hardly have played better in that match and it should be tight again if they slug it out on clay this season. If they get the chance to go at it over five sets at Roland-Garros it could be one of the best clashes of the fortnight.
Highlights: Tsitsipas launches astonishing comeback to beat Nadal
Jannik Sinner v Carlos Alcaraz
A rivalry in its infancy right now, but one that could form a key part of the future of tennis.
Alcaraz, 18, and Sinner, 20, met for the first time on the ATP Tour at the Paris Masters in October, with the Spaniard emerging as a 7-6 7-5 winner. It was an engrossing spectacle between two players who love to hit the ball hard and rarely back down from their shots.
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Both have room to grow and improve, and their progress over the next 12 months will definitely be worth tracking. Will Sinner be challenging for Grand Slam titles soon? Or will Alcaraz make a big leap and move ahead of his younger rival?
Even though Alcaraz is two years younger there doesn’t seem to be too much between them at the moment and it would not be a surprise to see them both challenging for a place at the season-ending ATP Finals. Seeing how they develop throughout their matches against each other will be fascinating.
Andy Murray v Stefanos Tsitsipas
Potentially the spiciest match-up of 2022?
Murray and Tsitsipas met for the first time at the 2021 US Open and their first-round clash was filled with drama and controversy. So unimpressed was Murray with Tsitsipas' behaviour during the match that he said afterwards he had "lost respect" for him and also accused him of "cheating".
There will be no lengthy toilet breaks if they do meet again as the ATP have introduced stricter time limits, but this one could be worth watching for the post-match handshake alone.
Dennis Shapovalov v Felix Auger Aliassime
The two Canadians sometimes slip under the radar when there's talk about the Next Gen, perhaps due to their ages putting them between the teenagers like Alcaraz and the current leading crop of Medvedev and Zverev, who are mostly in their mid-20's.
But Shapovalov, 22, and Auger Aliassime, 21, both had strong seasons, each making a Grand Slam semi-final, and there could be much more to come from both.
They played three times on tour in 2021, with Auger Aliassime winning twice. World No 11 Auger Aliassime says they have a “good healthy rivalry” and want to continue to push each other.
“With Denis we have this good healthy rivalry, we've known each other for a long time but I just feel like there's this tension when we play each other, we want to show our best, we want to play our best tennis and there are high quality matches every time we play.”
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Stream the 2022 Australian Open live and on-demand on discovery+.