2022 vision – what new season could bring

 - Alex Sharp

2021 was a firecracker of a campaign, so let’s hope the 2022 calendar can conjure up some more captivating encounters.

Novak Djokovic - Roland-Garros 2021©Jean-Charles Caslot / FFT

2021 served up a brilliant blend between established, modern-day greats repeating their magic, amongst new charges bursting onto the scene.

2022 has a lot to live up to.

Here is a look at how the tennis landscape could look in the upcoming campaign…

Major champions to repeat?

Eight different players wielded their rackets in the women’s singles Grand Slam finals of 2021 and it will be fascinating how the champions return to action.

All eyes will be on Ash Barty down under. The Wimbledon winner will hope to be in the thick of the action on home soil at the Australian Open. If she plays like her Wimbledon fortnight (and most of her last season), then we are in for a treat.

Reigning champion Naomi Osaka, who curtailed her campaign after the US Open, will have her say.  Both players will hopefully be reinvigorated and firing on all cylinders. They know how to reset and run the Grand Slam gauntlet time and time again.

How about Roland-Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova or ultimate surprise package from the US Open, Emma Raducanu? Can they replicate their free hitting, cope with the extra scrutiny and spotlight?

Pivotal stage in ‘Big Three’ battle

There is a growing consensus that world No.1 Novak Djokovic will launch ahead in the men’s all-time roll of honour.

It couldn’t be more finely poised. The Serbian, holder of three majors after his remarkable Calendar Slam effort, is locked on 20 Grand Slams with his perennial rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Nadal will return from a foot injury in Australia, having been sidelined since August. Meanwhile Federer’s rehab from knee surgery has a more prolonged outlook. Imagine the drama if all three could be in contention for Roland-Garros or by Wimbledon.

Two-time Roland-Garros finalist Dominic Thiem will also be in the fold for major moves, with positive signs after his season-ending wrist injury.

US Open champion Daniil Medvedev will continue to cause havoc, players such as Stefanos Tsitsipas and ATP Finals winner Alexander Zverev will keep pushing.

An injury-free Djokovic is going to take some stopping. Saying that, the Serbian continued his gruelling campaign into December on Davis Cup duty.

To replicate his 2021 season (27-1 in majors) will be near impossible, but as ever it all seems on Djokovic’s racket.

Muguruza back in the big time

Rewind to the 2021 Australian Open fourth round and Garbine Muguruza held two match points at 5-3 in the decider of a box office bout against eventual champion Naomi Osaka. It could have been a third Grand Slam for the Spaniard.

Not that day, but Muguruza bounced back with a promising campaign, which culminated in a thrilling WTA Finals triumph in Guadalajara, Mexico. The Latino spirit reigniting the flame for world No.3 Muguruza.

Expect big things in 2022 from Conchita Martinez’s charge.

Plenty of other Grand Slam alumni will seek to return to the major stage, with Angelique Kerber, Petra Kvitova, Sofia Kenin, Simona Halep and as ever Serena Williams all in the conversation.

Conveniently ranked in a trio from No.22-24, American teenage sensation Coco Gauff, Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic (superb in Billie Jean King Cup action for Switzerland too) and US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez represent a triumvirate who might catapult themselves into contention for the biggest prizes.

Just like 2021, the established order will be rumbled.

ATP ‘Newcomers’ to unleash

NextGen ATP Finals finalists Carlos Alcaraz and Sebastian Korda look poised to continue their sharp rise up towards the upper echelons.

They were joined in Milan by Lorenzo Musetti (you remember his hot shots from RG2021) and four prodigies who made the ATP ‘Newcomers’ list.

Sebastian Baez, Juan Manuel Cerundolo, Hugo Gaston (check out our Youtube for his RG2020 magic) and Brandon Nakashima. Joining them on the ATP list was American Jenson Brooksby.

All five are already inside the Top 100 and this quintet will be a group well worth the ticket to watch next season. Expects hot shots and big shocks.

Sebastian Korda and Carlos Alcaraz posing with their 2021 NextGen ATP Finals trophies© Georgio Maiozzi/Uthopia/FFT

No.1 vs No.2

We’d obviously warmly welcome more world No.1 and world No.2 instalments from Djokovic versus Medvedev.

On the women’s side, Barty and Aryna Sabalenka is a simmering rivalry which could really catch alight in 2022.

The top two extended thrilling duels into three sets during clay court finals in Stuttgart (Barty) and then Madrid (Sabalenka). They followed a 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3 firecracker at the Miami Open which the world No.1 claimed en route to defending that title.

The versatility, spins and retrieval skills of Barty match up superbly against the rock ‘n’ roll powerplay of the Belarusian.

More of this in 2022 please.