Talking points of mens tennis tour in 2022

  01-Jan-2022 07:58:04

Tennis Federer Nadal Djokovic Medvedev Tsitsipas Alcaraz

The 2021 men’s tennis tour saw the domination of Novak Djokovic at the grand slam level wherein he won 3 of the 4 GrandSlams. At the smaller tournaments though, the results were more mixed as the big guns Djokovic and Nadal skipped most of the masters and 500 level tournaments giving a chance to new names like Hubert Hurkackz and Cameron Norrie to pick up their first masters tournament wins in Miami and Indian Wells respectively.

There are many questions to be answered as we approach the 2022 season, the biggest of them being:

1. Will Novak Djokovic be able to get to 21 grand slams?

When Novak Djokovic won the first 3 grand slams of the year, many presumed that he would complete the calendar grand slam by winning the US Open and in the process be the first to 21 grand slams. His hopes were dashed in the final by Danil Medvedev, who defeated Djokovic in straight sets, leaving us with never before scenes of Djokovic breaking down on the court. Many still think it is just a question of when not if Djokovic will win his 21st Grand Slam but there is a possibility of him pulling out of the 2022 Australian Open (his most successful slam) due to the likely vaccine mandate to be imposed by the tournament. Even though Djokovic impressively won the French Open in 2021, it would not be safe to put bets on him winning the tournament for 2 years in a row given the quality of clay court players coming up and Rafa still being around the corner. This would mean that we might have to wait till Wimbledon, a tournament that Djokovic has dominated in the past few years, to see him have a genuine shot at winning his 21st Slam.

2. What holds for Federer and Nadal?

We haven’t seen Roger Federer on the tennis court since his loss to Hurkackz at Wimbledon last year. The 40-year-old Swiss went through a third knee surgery in September and he recently said that “he would be extremely surprised” if he came back for Wimbledon in 2022. As much as we hope to see the Swiss Star in action, it is unlikely that he would be competing for the top prizes in 2022.

Nadal had a rare season in which he failed to win a single slam, owing largely to his defeat by Djokovic in the epic French open semifinal. He pulled out of the last grand slam of the year due to a foot injury which thankfully did not require him to go through surgery. We saw Nadal in action at the Mubadala World Championship wherein he lost to Andy Murray post which he tested positive for Covid. Rafa has since then recovered and is ready to go for his 21st Major in Australia. If he remains injury free, he is still the favorite to win the Roland Garros in 2022 given his dominance on the surface.

3. Which young guns will break through at the slams?

2021 was an interesting season in which we saw the next gen talent breakthrough on the big stage. Two of the brightest of the lot were Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz

Jannik Sinner was consistent throughout 2021. He finished the year at a ranking of 10 winning his first 500 level title (Citi Open) and reaching his first masters 1000 final (Miami Open lost to Hurkacz). Sinner's game is still developing and he has made significant improvements in his serve in the late half of 2021. His consistency may pay dividends in a grand slam field if we see top seeds like Djokovic and Nadal go out early. I don’t think Sinner’s game has the X-factor (as of now) to win a grand slam but it will be fun to see him hustle alongside the big guns at the slams.

Carlos Alcaraz burst onto the scene at the US Open of 2021 when he defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in 5 sets at the 2021 US Open, eventually becoming the youngest man to reach a quarterfinal of a GrandSlam since Michael Change at the 1990 French Open. He followed up his big win by defeating Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner in subsequent tournaments. Following this, he decimated the field to win the Next Gen ATP finals. Alcaraz has majestic shotmaking of both wings and amazing speed that is akin to Rafa in his hay days. That being said, there are major things that he needs to improve, chief among them being his serve. Given Alcaraz’s strengths, he will definitely be a wild card to win the 2022 French Open.

4. Can Zverev and/or Tsitsipas finally win their first major?

Alexander Zverev had a good on-court tennis season despite being under the scanner off the court for the allegations of sexual assault levelled by his ex-girlfriend. Zverev was able to win 2 masters (Madrid and Cincinnati) and reached the semifinals of Roland Garros and US Open, losing both of them in 5 sets. His crowning glory came at the Olympics where he beat Novak Djokovic in the semifinals and eventually won the gold medal. He also went on to win the year-end Nitto ATP finals. The problem with Zverev has been that he is not able to replicate his successes in the best of 3 set format to the best of 5 set format. This year he has made some strides in the GrandSlams and I think it is only a matter of time that he will add a major to his kitty. The potential absence of Djokovic in Australia may give him the chance to clinch his first major

Stefanos Tsitsipas had a great start to the 2021 season reaching the semifinals of the Australian Open (lost to Medvedev) and then winning at the clay courts of Monte-Carlo. His best achievement of the year was reaching the French Open final, wherein he led Novak Djokovic 2 sets to love but eventually lost in 5 sets. After the heartbreaking loss at the French Open, Tsitsipas’s journey for the season was only downhill as he could not make any major impact on the tour and was instead involved in long bathroom break controversies. An elbow injury ended his season prematurely. Tsitsipas’s success in the next season will depend on his ability to bounce back from the injury. I don’t think he is a match for Zverev or Medvedev on the hard courts and given his play style his best chance will come at Roland Garros.

5. Can Medvedev back up his major success

Danil Medvedev started the year reaching the final of the Australian Open, a final which many people expected him to win given his amazing display at the tournament up until that point, despite having Novak Djokovic as his opponent. It was a disappointing final to say the least as Djokovic won in straight sets. At the Roland Garros, Medvedev made an impressive performance to reach the quarterfinals, a notable result given Medvedev’s disdain for clay and his failure to win a single match at the tournament in all his previous attempts. He won the Canadian Masters and then defeated Novak Djokovic in straight sets at the US Open final to win his first Grand Slam. Following this, he finished runner-up in the Paris Masters 2021 (lost to Djokovic) and ATP Finals (lost to Zverev). Given Medvedev’s playstyle, he will be the favorite to win both the hard court Grand Slams along with Djokovic. The only concern for him will be that he does tend to have off days on the biggest stage (Australian Open Final and ATP Finals). If he can avoid that, I would put my money on Medvedev winning at least 1 more slam in 2022.