The start of the New Year brings a renewed optimism to sports fans the world over. For many sports, the start of a new competitive calendar brings the hope of opportunity and the first major trophy provides an insight into the prospective landscape of the coming season.
In Tennis, the Australian Open presents the curtain-raising championship of the competitive season. With just under 800,000 spectators attending the event each year, it has grown into the southern hemisphere’s biggest sporting competition each January. The warm weather of an Australian summer mixed with the very best athletes in the world of tennis provides an electric atmosphere at Melbourne’s state of the art Melbourne Park; boasting 33 hard courts and six clay courts. With the tournament being played entirely on the hard courts, the high ball speed and powerful hitting is enough to entice every possible tennis fan to the start of a long and competitive year of tennis.
Australian Open 2022 Build-Up
With such a prestigious history as one of the leading major championships on the tour, the Australian Open naturally has a big influence on the players participating. This year, the tournament boasted an emphatic list of players, with both the men’s and women’s competitions showcasing the very best players in the world.
On the women’s side, Ash Barty, World Number 1, was aiming to become the first local player to win the Championship in over 40 years. She led a field that contained every member of the world’s top 40 players going into the tournament. World famous Naomi Osaka targeted her fifth major singles title and British Sports Personality of the Year 2021 Emma Raducanu, reigning US Open Champion, made her Australian Open debut. An unfortunate absentee from the competition is the most decorated female tennis player of all-time; Serena Williams. The American withdrew prior to the tournament on the basis of advice from her medical team.
On the men’s side of the draw, an equally exciting line-up promised an enticing draw. An almost unbelievable 10th Australian Open trophy was up for grabs for Novak Djokovic as he looked to earn his 21st major singles title, a men’s record. The world number 1 headlined a draw that also contained perennial majors winner Rafael Nadal, also tied with Djokovic at 20 for his career, along with a total of 49 of the world’s top 50 players.
The only notable absentee from a long list of established players came in the form of fan-favourite Roger Federer. The Swiss did not take part in the season opener due to his continued rehabilitation from his knee surgery in 2021.
Australian Open 2022
Before the tournament even began, one of the biggest controversy’s occurred that threatened to detract from the illustrious tournament. The world number 1, Novak Djokovic was detained by Australian customs after initially being granted a medical exemption to play in the competition on the back of his unvaccinated status. After a significant public outcry, the Serbian was detained and questioned for days, starting a controversial series of events that threatened to impact his ability to play in the tournament as well as his freedom as an error on his entry form carried the threat of a 5-year jail sentence if intentionally committed.
After a back-and-forth few days, the World Number 1 was eventually deported from the country and unable to challenge for the title with the entire tournament threatened to be swallowed up by the debacle that preceded it.
On the court, Nick Kyrgios provided plenty of entertainment both on and off the court, with impressive points and performances aplenty to accompany his comments regarding the future of the sport after such substantial coverage of Federer, Djokovic and Nadal in recent times. Teaming up with doubles partner Thanasi Kokkinakis provided a raucous atmosphere for fans throughout the tournament.
Those same Australian tennis fans got to witness Ashleigh Barty end a 44-year drought; the first Australian Women to do win in the Women’s singles in that time.
On the Men’s side, the headlines afforded to Djokovic before the tournament were hijacked by an irrepressible Rafa Nadal. The spaniard produced a memorable display, coming from two sets down to win an epic final with second seed Daniel Medvedev. In doing so, Nadal became the most successful Men’s tennis player of all time with his 21st Major title.
The 2022 Tennis Season
After such an exciting opener to the season, filled with headlines from both on and off the court, the stage has been set for a competitive 2022. A hugely competitive campaign has been all but guaranteed on the men’s side. The stranglehold that the all-time calibre of top-3 players have at the summit of the game refuses to be relinquished with Nadal’s latest victory.
Despite this, the previously untouchable top 3 are now seemingly under constant threat at every tournament, ensuring the landscape on the men’s side becoming a far more volatile and unpredictable one. On the women’s side, Britain’s Emma Raducanu winning the US Open in 2021 having had to win qualifiers for the tournament is a testament to the opportunities available for new champions to emerge and whilst Ash Barty will be hoping to carry her form to tournaments outside of her home country, it looks as though the women’s tour will produce a number of worthy champions this season.
Whatever the outcome through the major championships of the season, the unpredictability of every tournament provides an intrigue that few other sports can match. The opportunities for greatness throughout the course of a calendar year provides the allure and expectation that every player on the tour aspires to fulfil and, given the make-up of the respected top 20 players on each side of the singles’ draw, there looks to be every chance that many will throughout the calendar year.
The Australian Open may have just been the start of the season, but it provided every bit of excitement that tennis fans around the world can look forward to through the rest of 2022.