Australian Open - Men's Outright Winner

There is always great anticipation ahead of the first Grand Slam of the season, but the 2022 Australian Open arrives amid even more bluster and chat than is usual. Of course, much of that isn’t related to the tennis itself, with Novak Djokovic’s vaccination status dominating the build-up, but after two Covid-19 disrupted seasons there is hope 2022 might see the sport return to some normality.

Even after everything that has happened over the last two weeks, with Djokovic kept in a detention hotel for four days upon his arrival in Australia, the world number one is still the favourite to win the first Grand Slam of the year. This is, after all, a tournament he has won a record nine times before.

Challengers to Djokovic

The hard courts of Melbourne Park have always suited Djokovic who won three of the four Grand Slam titles on offer in 2021. However, Daniil Medvedev has emerged as a worthy rival for the Serbian with the 25-year-old making his Grand Slam breakthrough at last year’s US Open, where he beat Djokovic in straight sets in the final.

There was also the meeting between Djokovic and Medvedev at the Paris Masters, where the former came out on top. ‘The Big Three’ may no longer be a thing, with Roger Federer recovering from knee surgery and Rafael Nadal only just returning from his own injury troubles, but there is a growing rivalry between the number one and two seeds. Both are strong on hard courts and could meet each other in the final, just as they did in 2021.

Sascha Zverev is also entitled to feel good about his Australian Open chances after a successful 2021 season which saw him mature mentality. Indeed, the German found a way to move through the earlier rounds of Grand Slams without so much fuss and finished his year with two Masters 1000 titles, the ATP Finals title and a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

In recent times, there has been much talk of an emerging next-generation and 2021 provided the clearest proof yet that a new era is dawning in men’s tennis, even if Djokovic remains the predominant force. A Medvedev or Zverev, who is chasing his first Grand Slam title, victory would add more evidence to the belief.

Nadal, one of the Old Guard, mustn’t be completely discounted from the running. The Spaniard hasn’t played a Grand Slam event since last year’s French Open, and tested positive for Covid-19 only a few weeks ago, but has started the season in strong form, winning the Melbourne Summer Set without dropping a set.

Andy Murray, a five-time Australian Open finalist, is another member of the Old Guard working his way back to the top of the sport with the former world number one playing at a much higher level than his current ranking of 135 suggests. Even still, passage through to the second week at Melbourne Park might be the best Murray can hope for, all things considered - a second meeting with Nikoloz Basilashvili in two weeks awaits him in the first round.

Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini, Jannik Sinner, Andrey Rublev, Denis Shapovalov and Casper Ruud, among others, can feel good about their chances of making a deep run at the 2022 Australian Open, but in terms of an outright winner it’s difficult to look past the top three seeds (and Nadal if his fitness holds up).

Predicting the Australian Open bracket is always tricky with some players ahead of others in their preparations for the season ahead, but this will be even more challenging in a Covid-19-affected landscape. The confusion around Djokovic’s participation epitomises this and it’s possible the picture won’t get much clearer even after the tennis itself gets underway.

Alexander Zverev - 1.5pts @ 39/10
Rafael Nadal - 0.5pts @ 12/1
Sebastian Korda - 0.5pts @ 6/4