Andy Schooler looks ahead to the Men’s Australian Open 2022, which has already had it’s fair share of drama and begins on Monday.
World ranking: 2
Tournament history: RU-4R-4R-2R-1R
Best Grand Slam performance: Winner, 2021 US Open
2022 record: 3-1 (ATP Cup SF with Russia)
Projected draw: Laaksonen, Kyrgios/Qualifier, Humbert, Schwartzman, Rublev, Tsitsipas, Djokovic
Was well beaten by Novak Djokovic in last year’s final but took revenge at the US Open eight months later with his form in the second half of the season arguably the better of the two. Has great variety in his game so is able to win matches in several different ways and come up with differing game-plans for the same opponent. The Greenset courts of Melbourne Park tend to play faster than the tour average which should suit the Russian, who looks to have a great chance.
World ranking: 3
Tournament history: QF-SF-4R-3R-3R-1R
Best Grand Slam performance: Runner-up, 2020 US Open
2022 record: 2-1 (ATP Cup group stage with Germany)
Projected draw: Altmaier, Lopez/Millman, Harris, Shapovalov, Nadal, Djokovic, Medvedev
Having won the Olympics and the ATP Finals, Zverev held strong claims to be considered the best player in the second half of 2021. But he did lose out in the US Open semi-finals to Djokovic and so remains without a Grand Slam title, something which means there is still a mental barrier to break through. With a big first serve and one of the best backhands in the game, Zverev is capable of winning in Melbourne but it could be a brutally-tough second week for the German with Denis Shapovalov seeded to face Zverev in the last 16 before potential meetings with Rafael Nadal, Djokovic and Medvedev.
World ranking: 6
Tournament history: QF-QF-RU-QF-RU-1R-QF-RU-DNP-RU-QF-QF-W-SF-QF-DNP-4R-3R
Best Grand Slam performance: Winner, 20 titles (1 at Australian Open)
2022 record: 4-0 (Champion, Melbourne)
Projected draw: Giron, Kokkinakis/Qualifier, Khachanov, Hurkacz, Zverev, Djokovic, Medvedev
It’s hard to see Nadal lifting the trophy on January 30. He’s still in the early stages of another injury comeback, although that did start well with the Spaniard winning the recent warm-up event in Melbourne. However, Nadal has only ever won the Australian Open once – back in 2009 – while he’s been handed a terrible draw which could see him face the in-form Thanasi Kokkinakis, Karen Khachanov and Hubert Hurkacz before the quarter-finals.
World ranking: 4
Tournament history: SF-R3-SF-R1
Best Grand Slam performance: Runner-up, 2021 French Open
2022 record: 1-1 (ATP Cup group stage with Greece)
Projected draw: M Ymer, Ramos-Vinolas/Baez, Dimitrov, Bautista Agut, Ruud, Medvedev, Djokovic
Has a good record at the Australian Open, reaching the semi-finals in two of the last three editions. However, he continues to be dogged by a long-standing elbow problem, one which resulted in him withdrawing from the recent ATP Cup mid-tournament. There’s also a feeling he’s fallen behind the likes of Medvedev and Zverev in the chase for the biggest prizes. Does have a decent draw though – his third quarter looks the weakest of the four – so if the body stands up then the Greek could go well.
Best of the rest
Briton Dan Evans is proving an awkward customer for all-comers so far this season. He won every match he played at the ATP Cup where victims included Shapovalov and John Isner before reaching the last four in Sydney. Yes, he’s in a tricky part of the draw but conditions should suit his game and at 200/1 he’s worth considering.
Finally, Alex de Minaur is worth a mention as the host nation seeks its first men’s singles champion since 1976. De Minaur looked to have put a miserable 2021 campaign firmly behind him with some excellent displays at the ATP Cup and he’s landed in that weaker third quarter which has Tsitsipas, Casper Ruud and Jannik Sinner as its highest seeds. He usually plays well in his homeland and his excellent defence could take him far in this section. 200/1 looks big.