Nadal’s 19th year with a title, Barty and Halep win : 10 tennis facts you might have missed during the Djoko-fiasco

Found it difficult to keep up with the actual tennis news this week? We’ve got you covered

Maxime Cressy and Rafael Nadal, Melbourne, 2022

Tennis has been all over the news this week because of Novak Djokovic’s situation, but very little of it has focused on what’s happened on the court. It’s a shame, because there has been so much action – and some important stories. If you’ve missed out on the latest ? Let us fill you in. Nadal, Osaka, Barty and so many other players have news for you.

1. Nadal is back

Rafael Nadal won his first competitive singles match after a five-month injury lay-off, and then proceeded to win the title in Melbourne – the 89th in his career. It is the 19th consecutive season in which the Spaniard has lifted a singles trophy. Sure, he was helped slightly by Tallon Griekspoor’s withdrawal from their quarter-final encounter, handing him a walkover into the last four. Nevertheless, winning a title without dropping a set is always a nice thing to do.

2. Osaka is back – sort of

Naomi Osaka was looking solid in Melbourne, reaching the semi-finals but opting to withdraw with an abdominal issue. Still, she looked happy, and she also seemed comfortable with her media duties after all the kerfuffle last year.

3. Barty and Halep in ominous form

World No 1 Ash Barty did the singles-doubles sweep in Adelaide, while Simona Halep started her campaign to return to the Top 20 following an injury-blighted 2021 with a trophy in Melbourne. Two great champions – they’ll both be worth watching during the Australian Open.

4. Gauff pushes Barty – but falls at final hurdle

Coco Gauff turns 18 in two months, and has been in the Top 40 since her 17th birthday in March last year. She pushed Barty all the way in Adelaide round of 16, but ultimately fell 4-6, 7-5, 6-1. She may not have been too disheartened, though, saying before the encounter.

“Obviously you want to win every tournament you play. But the big focus is the Grand Slams. For me playing this tournament was to see how many matches, consecutive matches, I could get in before Australian Open. I think this [match against the world No 1] would be a perfect kind of test for me.”

It was the fourth time the teenager had faced a world No 1, and her third defeat, losing to Naomi Osaka previously. Her only win against the top-ranked player came against Barty in Rome last year when the Australian had to retire from the match through injury.

5. Stefanos Tsitsipas returning to fitness – but perhaps not ready in time for Australian Open

Stefanos Tsitsipas admitted he had been physically struggling following his return from surgery, and he didn’t learn too much about his condition after a truncated ATP Cup campaign. He lost against Diego Schwartzman 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-3, and got a quick walkover win when Nikoloz Basilashvili had to withdraw from their match.

The world No 3 took the opportunity to play doubles with Michael Pervolarakis and get some more time on court, but admitted afterwards he still wasn’t sure whether he’d be at his peak in time for the Australian Open.

“I didn’t really have the opportunity to play a lot of matches. I only had two singles matches, not even two, one and a half, less than a half,” he said in his press conference. “I can’t tell you really right now. I need to play some more tennis to assess the situation.”

6. Anisimova and Cahill link up – and win

Amanda Anisimova is working with Simona Halep’s former coach Darren Cahill. The new link-up helped her to a title win at the Melbourne Summer Set 2, and the American is hoping their collaboration can continue into the Australian Open and beyond.

It was the 20-year-old’s first title since 2019, the year she reached her maiden Slam semi-final at Roland-Garros as well as her career-high ranking of world No 21. That was also the year she lost her father, to whom she was very close, and who also acted as her coach. It was a lot for a 17-year-old to cope with. 2022 is showing signs of being the year that a fully-fit Anisimova can begin to return to the top of the game.

7. Auger Aliassime on the rise as Canada win ATP Cup

It was Canada who lifted the ATP Cup – a first senior team title for them – and with a string of three singles wins over the course of the week, Felix Auger Aliassime is set to return to the ATP Top 10 when the new rankings are released.

It was a disappointing tournament for 2021’s team tennis champions Russia, who failed to reach the final, despite the best efforts of Daniil Medvedev in singles. It was also a less than impressive display from his doubles partner Roman Safiullin, who lost his last two singles matches in the competition.

As world No 167, the 24-year-old is in qualifying for the Australian Open, and has been much touted to do what compatriot Aslan Karatsev managed last year – flying through to the main draw and reaching the semi-finals. He’ll need to do better than he did against Jannik Sinner in the ATP Cup group stage, falling in straight sets, and against Denis Shapovalov in the semi-final, losing in three tight sets.

8. Pleasure and performance again for Monfils

Gael Monfils – who admitted after the event that he had struggled during the pandemic – won his first title in almost two years by beating Karen Khachanov in the Adelaide final.

9. Serve and volley is back, thanks Cressy

American serve-and-volleyer Maxime Cressy reached the final in Melbourne, where his conqueror Nadal paid tribute to his performance: “I’m sure that on hard, indoor, grass, he can be a very dangerous player, and I am really sure that if he’s mentally prepared – I don’t know him, he looks quite nice and humble and professional – so if he’s able to stay focused and do what he has to do, he’s going to be much higher on the ranking at the end of the season without a doubt.”

10. Peng Shuai – silent but not forgotten

There has been no further news from China about Peng Shuai, who turned 36 on January 8. We don’t forget her and we are still worried.

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