It may seem a while yet before the stars of world tennis head over to the southern hemisphere to take part in the Australian Open. But, there is a real possibility that Novak Djokovic may miss the tournament due to not meeting vaccine requirements.
The world number one loves playing in the first major tournament of the season – it’s historically his best event. However, the Australian Minister for Immigration, Alex Hawke, has recently stated that foreign visitors to the country need to be fully immunized to enter, this means Djokovic will be refused a visa.
So, if the Serbian doesn’t meet the requirements for entry, then who will replace him as the favorite to hoist aloft the Sir Norman Brookes Trophy in 2022?
The Russian and current world number two, was the runner up in last year’s tournament losing to Djokovic but defeated him in the U.S. Open, denying the Serbian a calendar Grand Slam. Medvedev has had a productive 2021, at the time of writing he’s matched his best of four singles titles in one year and has also racked up half a century of wins in the process.
Zverev is another player who’s had a positive year and is certainly worth considering as a winner in Melbourne. The German recently got to the quarter finals at Indian Wells and like Medvedev, has won four singles titles in 2021. The 24-year-old reached the quarter finals last time out in the Open, but also made it to the semi-final in 2020. After knocking on the door for the last two years, it could be his time.
Another semi-finalist at the 2021 Australian Open was Tsitsipas. The dynamic Greek finished in the final four for the second time in his career in Melbourne. His five-set comeback victory over Rafael Nadal back in the quarter final in February was stunning. Whilst he’s had an impressive 2021, winning the Australian Open would elevate him to a new level. Certainly not a shy and reserved type, Tsitsipas says he was destined to be a tennis player. We must admit after his performances this season, it’s hard to argue with him!
One of the game’s greats, Nadal is looking for 2022 to be a year to remember. But the 35-year-old from Majorca is still to overcome the injury, that brought a premature end to this season back in August. While it’s still a little bit early for betting activity surrounding the Australian Open, some early outright winners’ odds have been posted amongst Coral’s odds listings, and Nadal – somewhat surprisingly – is listed at 8/1 along with Tsitsipas. If Nadal can get fit, he could well spring a surprise and win his second Open title in Melbourne.
The Austrian is another player who previously came very close to winning the Open title in the Rod Laver Arena. Thiem was defeated by Djokovic in what was his third Major final appearance, in fact 2020 was his best year of his career to date. He reached the quarter final in the French Open and won his first Major at the U.S. Open. However, the story of his 2021 has been one of injury and indifferent form. But after taking some time away from the court since August to rest and recuperate, Thiem will be looking to make a real statement upon his return.
Of course, it’s still a little early for Aussie Open speculation, and there’s plenty of good tennis yet to be played in 2021. Nevertheless, the Djokovic factor has shined an early spotlight on Melbourne. As we learn more about the defending champion’s status, and as we ramp up for the 2022 season in general, we’ll keep you covered here at Tennis Connected.