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No more Barty party: Forecasting the unpredictable 2022 Australian Open

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Roar Guru
6 days ago
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The men’s and women’s draws for the 2022 Australian Open have been made official, and both have thrown up some potentially exciting matches to watch over the next fortnight.

As is convention, we start in the men’s draw, where despite reports that Novak Djokovic could be deported from the country within the next week, the Serb has been included and will face compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic in the opening round.

Should the 34-year-old be withdrawn from the tournament between now and when the order of play for Day 1 is released, then fifth seed Andrey Rublev will take Djokovic’s place in the draw, 17th seed Gael Monfils will take Rublev’s slot and Alexander Bublik will become the 33rd seed and take Monfils’s slot.

But should it happen after the day’s play is released, then Djokovic will be replaced in the draw by a lucky loser, and if he withdraws after the first round then his would-be opponent would receive a walkover.

Back to the draw now, and the first seed the Djoker could face is 25th-seeded Italian Lorenzo Sonego, in the third round. He could then tackle either Cristian Garin or Gael Monfils in the last 16 before a possible quarter-final showdown against Matteo Berrettini.

Garin and Monfils are seeded 16th and 17th respectively and are projected to face each other in the third round.

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Berrettini, last year’s beaten Wimbledon finalist, who is seeded seventh, is expected to breeze through his first two matches but could then strike trouble in the third round, where he is drawn to face 18-year-old Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz.

Alcaraz, who is seeded for the first time at a major at 31st, faces a qualifier in the opening round before he faces the winner of the clash between Marton Fucsovics and Dusan Lajovic in the second round.

Also in this part of the draw is British 12th seed Cameron Norrie as well as another Spaniard in Pablo Carreno Busta and Italian veteran Fabio Fognini, both of whom could face each other in the second round.

Headlining the second quarter of the draw is third seed and Olympic gold medallist Alexander Zverev, who begins his bid for a maiden major title against Daniel Altmaier before he faces either Feliciano Lopez or John Millman in the second round.

He is then drawn to face Canadian 12th seed Denis Shapovalov in the last 16, while veteran Spaniard Rafael Nadal, who along with Djokovic is aiming for a record-breaking 21st major title, could await in the semis.

The king of clay’s first match is against Marcos Giron, after which he could face resurgent Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis, who has reached the semi-finals of both events in Adelaide this month, in the second round.

Rafael Nadal receives a serve

Rafael Nadal (Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

Olympic silver medallist Karen Khachanov could then await in the third round, followed by Hubert Hurkacz, who last year became the first man in nearly two decades to beat Roger Federer in straight sets at Wimbledon, in the last 16.

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Also in the fourth section of the draw is last year’s surprise semi-finalist Aslan Karatsev, who could loom as a potential third-round opponent for Hurkacz; whoever wins this projected clash could then face Nadal in the fourth round.

The fifth section of the draw is anchored by Norwegian eighth seed Casper Ruud, who isn’t expected to strike trouble until the third round, where Alex de Minaur, the only Australian man seeded in the draw, at 32nd, could await.

Potentially awaiting Ruud in the fourth round will be either Italian 11th seed Jannik Sinner or wildcard entrant Andy Murray, whose first match at the Australian Open since 2019 will be against 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili, whom he defeated in three sets in Sydney this week.

Greek fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas is the name to watch in the third quarter of the draw; he will face some potentially tricky opponents down the path, including a possible clash against 26th seed and 2017 semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov in the third round.

He is then projected to face Spanish veteran Roberto Bautista Agut in the fourth round. Also in this part of the draw are Americans Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz, who could face off in the second round if they beat qualifiers in their respective first-round matches.

Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece

Stefanos Tsitsipas (Photo by TPN/Getty Images)

In section seven, as it stands, fifth seed Andrey Rublev will face Italian Gianluca Mager in his first match and is projected to face former US Open champion Marin Cilic in the third round; Cilic, for his part, is projected to face qualifiers in his first two matches.

Also in this part of the draw is Canadian ATP Cup hero Felix Auger-Aliassime as well as Alexei Popyrin, who has twice reached the third round at the Australian Open, in 2019 and 2020.

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At the bottom of the draw Russian second seed Daniil Medvedev begins against Henri Laaksonen before a potentially huge second-round clash against Nick Kyrgios, who is racing the clock to be fit for the Open after testing positive to COVID-19 earlier this week.

Possibly awaiting Medvedev in the last 16 will be either Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, who is seeded 13th, or American talisman John Isner, both of whom are projected to face off in the third round.

Assuming there are no major upsets, the quarter-finals onwards could unfold as follows:

Predictions

Quarter-finals
Novak Djokovic [1] (SRB) vs Matteo Berrettini [7] (ITA)
Alexander Zverev [3] (GER) vs Rafael Nadal [6] (ESP)
Casper Ruud [8] (NOR) vs Stefanos Tsitsipas [4] (GRE)
Andrey Rublev [5] (RUS) vs Daniil Medvedev [2] (RUS)

Semi-finals
Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal
Stefanos Tsitsipas vs Daniil Medvedev

Final
Novak Djokovic defeats Daniil Medvedev

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

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In the women’s draw, top seed Ashleigh Barty has drawn a qualifier in Round 1 but has copped the short straw, drawing two-time champion and world No. 13 Naomi Osaka in the last 16.

Osaka won their only previous match-up at Melbourne Park four years ago, but both players were still in the infancy of their respective careers, and it was the Japanese star who would go on to win the title 12 months later.

In an ominous sign for Barty and her Australian Open dreams, Osaka has never lost after advancing to the quarter-finals of a major, doing so on four occasions: twice each at the Australian and US Opens.

The only player who could stop Osaka from facing Barty is 22nd seed and Olympic gold medallist Belinda Bencic, who ended the Japanese star’s US Open title defence with a straight-sets win at Flushing Meadows in 2019. They are projected to face each other in Round 3.

Whichever player emerges from that section of the draw will then likely face fifth seed Maria Sakkari in the final eight.

Sakkari, twice a semi-finalist at the majors last year, has drawn German Tatjana Maria in her first-round clash and is not expected to be threatened until the fourth round, where she could face Turkey’s Ons Jabeur.

Ashleigh Barty serves

Ash Barty (Chaz Niell/Getty Images)

The second quarter of the draw is headlined by reigning French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova, who kicks off her bid for a second major title against former quarter-finalist Andrea Petkovic.

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Also in this part of the draw are former major champions Jelena Ostapenko and Victoria Azarenka as well as Sofia Kenin, who faces compatriot Madison Keys in an enticing first-round showdown.

Kenin could then face another countrywoman, Coco Gauff, in the third round, followed by Spaniard Paula Badosa, whose first match is against Australia’s Ajla Tomljanovic; the pair only just met in the second round of the Sydney Tennis Classic this week.

Azarenka, seeded 24th, could face, in this order, Elina Svitolina (15th), Krejcikova, either Kenin or Badosa, and then either Barty or Osaka on the way to an unlikely third Australian Open title and first since 2013.

Turning over the page now, and sixth seed Anett Kontaveit begins her campaign against Katerina Siniakova, drawing Danielle Collins (27th) and Elena Rybakina (12th) as potential seeded obstacles in her path to the final eight.

They are part of a stacked third quarter of the draw which also includes Simona Halep, Garbine Muguruza, Emma Raducanu and Sloane Stephens, who have won six major titles between them.

Raducanu, who is seeded at a major for the first time, faces Stephens in what promises to be an intriguing first-round clash of past and present US Open champions.

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Whichever of the two reaches the third round is then likely to face Halep in the third round followed by third seed Muguruza in the last 16. A Halep-Muguruza fourth-round clash would be a repeat of their 2020 semi-final, won on that occasion by the Spaniard.

In the seventh section, former French Open champion Iga Swiatek begins against a qualifier and could face either two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova or Russian tenth seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in the fourth round.

Kvitova is up against Sorana Cirstea in her first-round match, while Pavlyuchenkova could face Australian veteran Samantha Stosur in the second round.

Stosur, for whom this is her final singles tournament – though she will continue playing doubles for the rest of the year – faces fellow wildcard Robin Anderson in the first round.

Samantha Stosur at the Australian Open.

Sam Stosur (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Down at the bottom of the draw, women’s second seed Aryna Sabalenka, who is the only woman who can wrest top spot from Ashleigh Barty in the rankings, begins against Australian wildcard Storm Sanders.

She could then face former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova, whose first match is also against an Australian wildcard in Priscilla Hon, in the third round, followed by either 2016 champion Angelique Kerber or US Open runner-up Leylah Fernandez in the last 16.

Kerber faces a potentially tricky first-round clash against Kaia Kanepi, while Fernandez, who at 23rd is seeded at a major for the first time, is up against Maddison Inglis, also an Australian wildcard entrant.

All going well, Kerber and Fernandez could reprise their US Open fourth-round epic here in Australia, albeit one round earlier.

Assuming there are no major upsets, the quarter-finals onwards could unfold as follows.

Predictions

Quarter-finals
Naomi Osaka [13] (JPN) vs Maria Sakkari [5] (GRE)
Barbora Krejcikova [4] (CZE) vs Paula Badosa [8] (ESP)
Anett Kontaveit [6] (EST) vs Garbine Muguruza [3] (ESP)
Iga Swiatek [7] (POL) vs Aryna Sabalenka [2] (BLR)

Semi-finals
Naomi Osaka vs Barbora Krejcikova
Garbine Muguruza vs Aryna Sabalenka

Final
Naomi Osaka defeats Aryna Sabalenka

The Australian Open gets underway on Monday.

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