Did you miss the start of the tennis season this weekend? Here’s 10 things to know

Still recovering from new year’s celebrations and missed the start of the 2022 season? Here are the top stories from the weekend

Rafael Nadal, Melbourne en 2022

For those players who are representing their countries at the ATP Cup, there is no time to celebrate.

The 2022 season officially began on January 1. In addition to the matches played in Sydney, other great festivities are on the programme with intriguing draws for the ATP and WTA tournaments in Melbourne and Adelaide, where Rafael Nadal, Ash Barty, Naomi Osaka, Gaël Monfils and Nick Kyrgios are making their comebacks.

1. UGO HUMBERT’S WIN OVER DANIIL MEDVEDEV

After ending 2021 with five consecutive defeats followed by withdrawals from Bercy and then the Davis Cup, Ugo Humbert launched his 2022 season in some style on Sunday. Facing Daniil Medvedev, world No 2, during the match between France and Russia in the ATP Cup, the 23-year-old left-hander won 6-7, 7-5, 7-6 after a titanic battle lasting 2 hours and 56 minutes. This first career victory against a member of the top three was not enough for the French, though, who were beaten 2-1 by Russia.

 ATP Cup: standings
• ATP Cup: results and schedule

2. TSITSIPAS RETURNS, BUT ONLY IN DOUBLES (FOR NOW)

Stefanos Tsitsipas withdrew from the first round of the Masters 1000 in Bercy, then withdrew after his first group match at the Masters. With a right elbow injury, the Greek ended last season in poor condition before deciding to undergo surgery. He said his “elbow has never been in better shape (…) after years of suffering” in a press conference on Saturday, but he was cautious. Feeling “not yet at 100 percent”, he preferred to skip his singles against Hubert Hurkacz in the ATP Cup and instead to resume gently, with a dead doubles rubber, which he won with Michail Pervolarakis.

3. SHAPOVALOV IS BACK AFTER POSITIVE COVID-19 TEST

Denis Shapovalov tested positive for Covid-19 on December 26, upon his arrival in Australia following the Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament where several participants – Rafael Nadal, Andrey Rublev, Belinda Bencic, Ons Jabeur – also picked up the virus. Canada kept him out of the singles match against the United States and he took part in the doubles match with Felix Auger-Aliassime in a 3-0 loss to Canada.

4. ZVEREV BEGINS 2022 WITH CONVINCING WIN IN SINGLES

Although he lost the decisive doubles match with Kevin Krawietz against the British duo of Jamie Murray and Joe Salisbury, Alexander Zverev was solid in his first singles outing of the year. Playing Cameron Norrie, world No 12, the German won 7-6, 6-1 in 1h27, though he was not fully satisfied. “The first match of the year is never the best,” he said in his on-court interview. Since the start of his winning campaign at the Tokyo Olympics, the world No 3 has won 32 of 36 matches. Of his four losses, three have come against the world’s top two, Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev, and only one against a lower-ranked man – Taylor Fritz.

5. TAYLOR FRITZ PICKS UP WHERE HE LEFT OFF IN 2021

At the Indian Wells Masters 1000, where he defeated Jannik Sinner, Matteo Berrettini and then Alexander Zverev, saving two match points, before falling to Nikoloz Basilashvili in the semi-finals, Taylor Fritz indicated that his progress in managing his nerves was opening up new prospects. In his first match in 2022, he confirmed this. Facing world No 11 Auger-Aliassime in the ATP Cup match between the United States and Canada, the world No 23 won 6-7, 6-4, 6-4 in 2 hours and 28 minutes.

6. NADAL, A GOOD DRAW FOR HIS OFFICIAL COMEBACK

Beaten twice – by Andy Murray and then Denis Shapovalov – in the Abu Dhabi exhibition tournament before Christmas, Rafael Nadal is making his return to the official circuit this week. After injuring his left foot at the French Open, where he fell to Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals, the Spaniard tried to make a comeback in Washington in early August before the US Open, but failed. For his ATP 250 opener in Melbourne, he must face Marcos Giron or a qualifier.

Theoretical draw :

  • 1er tour : Bye
  • 2er tour : Giron/qualifier
  • Quarter-final: Koepfer [7]/ Popyrin/Travaglia/Griekspoor
  • Semi-final: Goffin [4] /Ivaska [6]/Kyrgios/Gasquet)
  • Final : Opelka [2]/Dimitrov [3]/Murray

Proving that he is hungry for tennis, Nadal has also entered the doubles competition with Jaume Munar. The two Spaniards will face Australians Marc Polmans and Alexei Popyrin.

• ATP Melbourne 250 draw
• Monday’s schedule
• ATP Adelaide draw

7. EMMA RADUCANU DELAYS HER RETURN

Initially announced to play the Abu Dhabi exhibition against Belinda Bencic, Emma Raducanu, who tested positive for Covid-19, was replaced by Ons Jabeur. The British prodigy, now coached by Torben Beltz, was then due to officially start her season with the WTA 250 in Melbourne, but she preferred to give herself more time to recover.

“The timing to play Melbourne this week is too tight,” she announced on January 1. The Australian Open main draw starts on January 17 and the Briton is likely to play in Sydney the week before.

8. NAOMI OSAKA WILL PLAY ALIZÉ CORNET ON HER COMEBACK

Now ranked 13th, Naomi Osaka has not played competitively since her third round loss to Leylah Fernandez at the US Open in early September. Last year’s Australian Open winner, before her season turned upside down amid revelations of mental health and anxiety issues, the Japanese star is set to compete in the WTA 250 tournament in Melbourne this week. Her first opponent will be Alizé Cornet, a second meeting with the Frenchwoman, with Osaka having won 6-2, 6-2 at the Gippsland Trophy ahead of the Australian Open last year.

 WTA 250 Melbourne draw
• Monday’s Melbourne Summer Set 1 schedule
• WTA Melbourne Summer Set 2 draw

9. BARTY–GAUFF AND OTHER BIG CLASHES ON THE WTA TOUR

The WTA 500 in Adelaide could quickly offer some big shocks. Unless there is a withdrawal, one is already assured: the first-round match between Paula Badosa and Victoria Azarenka, a rematch of the Indian Wells final. World No 1 Ash Barty, who has been absent from the circuit since her third round loss to Shelby Rogers at the US Open, could face Coco Gauff. The latter must first defeat a qualifier. And if Iga Swiatek and Leylah Fernandez are successful in their opening matches against a qualifier and Ekaterina Alexandrova respectively, they could face each other in the second round.

• WTA 500 draw
• Monday’s WTA 500 schedule in Adelaide

10. POSSIBLE DIMITROV–MURRAY R2 CLASH IN MELBOURNE

Grigor Dimitrov, who enjoyed a bye in the first round as the No 3 seed at the ATP 250 in Melbourne, could face Andy Murray (WC) in his opening match at the tournament. The Briton, still determined to make his way back up the rankings, will first have to overcome Argentina’s Facundo Bagnis. Nick Kyrgios, another wildcard, plays Alex Molcan before a possible second-round match against David Goffin. In Adelaide, Gaël Monfils [1] will face Alex Bolt (WC) or one of last season’s revelations, 20-year-old Argentine Juan Manuel Cerundolo.

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