Novak Djokovic made tennis headlines and world sport headlines on Sunday when it was announced that the 20-time grand slam singles champion would be deported from Australia for refusing to get vaccinated for coronavirus. Who should be considered the men’s singles contenders now after Djokovic will not be participating at the 2022 Australian Open the next two weeks?
The clear favourite should be Russian Daniil Medvedev. In September, Medvedev won his first grand slam men’s singles title of his career after beating Djokovic in the final of the 2021 U.S. Open, 6-4,6-4,6-4 at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York. He also had a wonderful fall, as he led Team Europe to the 2021 Laver Cup, and Russia to the 2021 Davis Cup title.
Medvedev also reached the final of the 2021 Australian Open, where he lost to Djokovic, 7-5, 6-2, 6-2. Prior to the U.S. Open, he also won the Canadian Open for the first time in his career, where he beat American giant Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-3. Then in January, Medvedev completely clobbered Canadian phenom Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-4, 6-0. The fact that Canada won the ATP Cup overshadowed the fact that Medvedev put down a royal beating on the world number nine.
There are expectations for Germany’s Alexander Zverev and Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas to go deep, but both of them need to be in the right frame of mind mentally in order for them to win their first major. Zverev made the final of the 2020 U.S. Open before losing to Austria’s Dominic Thiem, 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6, while Tsitsipas made the final of the 2021 French Open before losing to Djokovic, 6-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-4. It is fascinating that both Zverev, the number three seed, and Tsitsipas, the number four seed, have each come within one set of winning a grand slam title, after leading their respective finals two sets to none, but have not got the job done.
There are also two darkhorses with Djokovic’s absence. The draw opens nicely for France’s Gael Monfils to make a deep run, and this could just be the time when American Taylor Fritz makes some noise. Monfils, who reached the 2008 French Open semifinal and 2016 U.S. Open semifinal, married women’s world number 15 Elina Svitolina of the Ukraine last year. Fritz meanwhile came away with wins over Cameron Norrie of Great Britain and Auger-Aliassime at the ATP Cup, and reached the semifinals of Indian Wells in the fall.