All-star cast as leading lights hit Acapulco, Dubai and Doha 

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are amongst the big-name hitters back on tour with world class action across the globe.

Nadal Medvedev Australian Open 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

It’s hard to keep up with the trophy lifts coming thick and fast.

A busy week across the ATP and WTA has quickly been usurped by box office names in action in Mexico and the Middle East.

Here’s a round-up of a very congested but compelling period on the calendar.

Medvedev chasing No.1, Nadal returns

Daniil Medvedev has the world No.1 ranking within his grasp. The Russian knows a title run in Acapulco (on debut) would overtake Novak Djokovic at the summit.

Medvedev, opening his account against flamboyant Frenchman Benoit Paire, could run into a Rafael Nadal re-match in the semi-finals.

Nadal overhauled Medvedev from two sets down in the instant-classic Australian Open final last month to post the men’s all-time record 21st Grand Slam title.

The Spaniard looks to remain undefeated in 2022 (10-0) at the event he has already won in 2005, 2013 and 2020. The 35-year-old will start against lucky-loser Denis Kudla who replaced the recent Dallas champion and Delray Beach finalist Reilly Opelka. 

Defending champion Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are also amongst the favourites in Mexico. 

Djokovic excited to duel in Dubai

Following a dramatic departure from Melbourne, world No.1 Djokovic will be eager to ignite his 2022 campaign on familiar hunting ground in the UAE.

The 34-year-old has lifted the ATP 500 event trophy five times (2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2020) aware that his reign at the top is under threat. 

“I know that he’s very close… the only scenario I have in my head is to win every match that I play here,” stated the Serbian.

“It’s in his (Medvedev) hands but he deserves to be No.1. Eventually it’s going to happen and if it happens this week I’ll be the first one to congratulate him.”

Djokovic faces a tricky opener in the shape of hot-shot slinger Lorenzo Musetti. The Italian youngster claimed the first two sets in an absorbing Roland-Garros 2021 fourth round last summer, only for Djokovic to prevail. 

“Knowing I was coming to Dubai, I had something to work for, I had a goal. I am as well-prepared as I possibly can be and I’m excited to be on the tour.”

Marseille finalists Andrey Rublev and Felix Auger-Aliassime, plus Jannik Sinner and 2021 champion Aslan Karatsev will all compete in Dubai.

Ostapenko fires back into the big time

If you cast your mind back to Roland-Garros 2017, you’ll recall the slingshot returns of Jelena Ostapenko and fizzing firepower dismantling the draw.

The Latvian returned to the peak of her powers last week in Dubai, claiming her fifth career title with some devastating displays. 

The 24-year-old rises back into the Top 20 for the first time since October 2018 having blasted past four of her fellow major winners.

Ostapenko dismissed Sofia Kenin, came from a set down to Iga Swiatek and Simona Halep, alongside saving match point in a three-set firecracker with Petra Kvitova.

The world No.13 capped the title run 6-0, 6-4 in a bruising victory over Veronika Kudermetova on Saturday night. 

“Of course, my goals are big: to win in another Grand Slam and to be back in Top 10,” revealed the Latvian. “I did a good pre-season. I was working hard. I think I’m playing well and getting some confidence, which is great.”

The next stop for the marquee names is the first WTA 1000 event of the season in Doha.

Eight of the Top 10 will wield their racket together with former titlists Victoria Azarenka, Halep and defending champion Kvitova.

Mexico is also the location for US Open champion Emma Raducanu and the resurgent Madison Keys over in Guadalajara.

Silverware lining to the weekend

Back at Rio 2020, 406th ranked Carlos Alcaraz chalked up his maiden ATP match win. At the same tournament last week, the Spanish teenage sensation outgunned both Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini on Saturday, before outmanoeuvring Diego Schwartzman 6-4, 6-2 in the final. Talk about the real deal.

The 18-year-old became the youngest ATP 500 champion and has cracked the Top 20 for the first time. 

Brit Cameron Norrie lifted his third title by posting 7-6(1), 7-6(4) over Opelka on Sunday night.

Roberto Bautista Agut’s son ran onto court in a heart-warming moment to congratulate him for a dominant title run in Doha.

The world No.15 swept aside Andy Murray and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina for a total loss of just three games, ahead of edging a three-set thriller against Karen Khachanov. The Spaniard lasered a collection of piercing groundstrokes to gain 6-3, 6-4 revenge over Nikoloz Basilashivili in a repeat of the 2021 final. 

Over to Marseille and world No.7 Rublev returned to the winner’s circle with a top-quality 7-5, 7-6(4) passage past recent Rotterdam champion Auger-Aliassime

"All the battles I have had with Felix since the first time back in 2018 have had drama,” said the Russian, taking home his ninth ATP crown and first since March 2021.

“All have had at least one set that went 7-6 and now he is one of the greatest players. Especially this season, he is on top now. It was a pleasure to share a court with him and have an amazing final like this.”