Tennis

With Novak Djokovic out, here are the players to watch at the Australian Open

The Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tournament of 2022, moves from the courts of law to the hard courts of tennis after the matter of whether Novak Djokovic would be able to try for his record-breaking 21st Grand Slam men’s singles championship dominated the lead-up to the event.

TPN/Getty Images

Djokovic left Australia on Sunday night after a days-long saga over his eligibility to remain in the country, and all-time greats Serena Williams and Roger Federer are conspicuous absences as they recover from injuries. But Naomi Osaka and Rafael Nadal are returning to major competition, and plenty more big-name players are set to compete. Here’s a look at some of the players to watch in the tournament, which begins Monday (Sunday night in the United States) and runs through Jan. 30 in Melbourne.

TPN/Getty Images

Mike Frey/AFP/Getty Images

Daniil Medvedev

Medvedev, the second seed and world’s No. 2 men’s player, combined with Alexander Zverev to give Djokovic a one-two knockout punch in the U.S. Open. After Zverev pushed Djokovic to five sets in a semifinal, Medvedev ended the Serb’s hopes to complete a calendar Grand Slam in the final, winning in straight sets.

Mike Frey/AFP/Getty Images

Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Reuters

Alexander Zverev

Germany’s Olympic gold medalist in men’s singles, Zverev is ranked third in the world and seeded the same in Melbourne. He beat Djokovic in the Tokyo Olympics, derailing the Serb’s hopes for a “Golden Slam.”

Asanka Brendon Ratnayake/Reuters

Mike Frey/AFP/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal

The Spaniard has slipped to sixth in the world rankings after persistent foot injuries kept him from Wimbledon and the U.S. Open last year. The sixth seed in Melbourne, he has been an outspoken advocate for coronavirus vaccinations and would be a popular choice were he the player to break the three-way tie for all-time Grand Slam singles titles in the Australian Open, a tournament he has won only once (2009).

Mike Frey/AFP/Getty Images

David Gray/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Matteo Berrettini

Berrettini, seventh in the world and the seedings, had three memorable meetings with Djokovic in 2021. Two came in the quarterfinals of the French and U.S. opens, and the third was in the Wimbledon final, where he won a hard-fought first-set tiebreaker. However, he lost all three matches, each in four sets.

David Gray/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Brett Hemmings/Getty Images

Stefanos Tsitsipas

With a victory over Zverev in a French Open semifinal, Tsitsipas became the first Greek player to reach a Grand Slam final. He turned in a memorable performance in the French championship, stunning Djokovic by taking a 2-0 lead before the Serb stormed back to take the title. Tsitsipas is the fourth seed in Australia and is ranked fourth in the world.

Brett Hemmings/Getty Images

Rick Rycroft/AP

Taylor Fritz

The Californian, the 20th seed and ranked No. 22 in the world, pushed Djokovic to five sets in the third round of the 2021 Australian Open; he has not advanced past the third round in a Grand Slam but is one of the top American men’s players.

Rick Rycroft/AP

Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

John Isner

The 22nd seed and ranked 24th in the world, Isner is another top American. The 6-foot-10 tour veteran remains best known for playing the longest match in Grand Slam history, his 11-hour 5-minute, 6-4, 3-6, 6-7, 7-6, 70-68 victory over Nicolas Mahut in Wimbledon in 2010.

Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

Elise Amendola/AP

Reilly Opelka

At 6-11, Opelka is tied with Ivo Karlovic as the tallest ATP-ranked player (taller than Isner by an inch), and he adds power to his height, with a serve that can reach 140 mph.

Elise Amendola/AP

David Gray/AFP/Getty Images

Andy Murray

A wild-card entry into the tournament, the five-time Australian Open finalist is a sentimental favorite, given that he is playing after having a metal implant put in his hip in 2019.

David Gray/AFP/Getty Images

Mark Nolan

Ashleigh Barty

The world’s No. 1 women’s player and the tournament’s top seed, Barty has a 17-1 record against top-10 rivals over the past year and was playing so well in Australian Open tuneups that she chose to skip the recent Sydney Tennis Classic. She has won all seven of her matches so far in 2022.

Mark Nolan

Alastair Grant/AP

Aryna Sabalenka

The Belarusian, who is the second seed and world’s No. 2, suffered two defeats in less than a week Down Under and hasn’t won in over two months, hardly a strong showing if she hopes to challenge Barty in the year’s first Grand Slam.

Alastair Grant/AP

John Minchillo/AP

Garbiñe Muguruza

The Spaniard, the third seed and world’s No. 3, was a 2020 Australian Open finalist, losing to Sofia Kenin. She has had success adapting to surfaces, winning the French Open on clay in 2016 and Wimbledon on grass in 2017.

John Minchillo/AP

Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images

Barbora Krejcikova

Krejcikova, the fourth seed and world’s No. 4, won her first Grand Slam title last year at Roland Garros, the highlight of a strong season in which she won three tournaments in singles and four in doubles with Katerina Siniakova.

Christophe Archambault/AFP/Getty Images

Brenton Edwards/AFP/Getty Images

Sofia Kenin

The 2020 Australian Open champion and 2020 French Open finalist, Kenin is the world’s top-ranked American player at No. 12 and is seeded 11th in the Australian Open. The 23-year-old dropped her father as coach last spring, only to reunite with him in November in preparation for this event. Last year in Melbourne, she lost to the unseeded Kaia Kanepi in the second round, the earliest exit for a defending champion at the tournament since Jennifer Capriati’s first-round loss in 2003.

Brenton Edwards/AFP/Getty Images

Hamish Blair/AP

Naomi Osaka

Osaka started 2021 by winning the Australian Open, her fourth Grand Slam singles title (to go with her 2019 Australian title and her 2018 and 2020 U.S. Open championships — all on hard courts). She skipped the French Open and Wimbledon to focus on her mental health but returned for the U.S. Open, losing in the third round.

Hamish Blair/AP

Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

Coco Gauff

At 17, Gauff is the youngest player ranked in the top 200, coming in at No. 18 and seeded 18th in Australia. The American played well in a tuneup event in Adelaide, where she lost a three-setter to Barty on Jan. 5.

Martin Bureau/AFP/Getty Images

Mark Evans/Getty Images

Emma Raducanu

The 19-year-old British star, who won the U.S. Open last year, is the 17th seed in her first season as a full-time professional on the WTA Tour. She lost in 55 minutes in a recent tuneup event in Sydney, but she said she had not played in 21 days since testing positive for the coronavirus in December.

Mark Evans/Getty Images

Andy Wong/AP

Belinda Bencic

Switzerland’s Olympic gold medalist in singles, Bencic is ranked 23rd in the world and seeded 22nd in Melbourne. After a victory over Beatriz Haddad Maia in a tuneup in Sydney, she said she is still “wobbly” after a bout with covid-19 in December as she plays her way into shape.

Andy Wong/AP

William West/AFP/Getty Images

Jessica Pegula

A 2021 quarterfinalist in the Australian Open, Pegula is 21st in the world rankings and Australian Open seedings and hopes to make headlines in 2022 for tennis rather than for being the daughter of the owners of the Buffalo Bills. Her best finish since turning pro came in a quarterfinal loss to fellow American Jennifer Brady last year in Melbourne.

William West/AFP/Getty Images

Matt King

Danielle Collins

Collins’s best performance in the Australian Open was a 2019 appearance in the semifinals, where she lost to Petra Kvitová. Overall, her best finish came in the 2020 quarterfinals of the French Open, where she lost to Kenin. The American is seeded 27th in Australia and is 29th in the WTA’s world rankings.

Matt King

More from the Post

Novak Djokovic’s legacy, bid for 21st Grand Slam are dealt another setback

Perspective | Novak Djokovic fought the public good — and won. That’s bad news for all of us.

Like Novak Djokovic, many elite athletes go to extremes to gain an edge

The latest from The Washington Post