Australian Open time. What a wild run-up it’s been this year and still it goes on. Sydney and Adelaide concluded on Saturday with Paula Badosa and Madison Keys as the champs. Badosa-Krejcikova was an excellent final, while Keys winning was a real feel-good story. She looked fantastic all week! The draw for the 2022 Australian Open took place on Thursday and now the attention moves to Melbs. This post is a mish-mash of thoughts on the seeds, the draw and a few wild predictions because why not 😂. Please sound off in the comments with your thoughts on the draw!
(1) Ash Barty: Adelaide was a perfect start for Ash. She had “the” match against Gauff where she was on the ropes, had to battle and raise her level, and she came through the challenge with flying colours. From there on, Barty soared. I would guess AO is the goal for this year. Lots of pressure and expectation at home but she channeled it in 2021 by winning Wimby, the one she went out of her way to say she wanted.
(2) Aryna Sabalenka: Where to start with Sabalenka… I can’t stop thinking about the match she played against Peterson in Adelaide last week. It’s horrible to see someone struggling like that. Sabalenka appeared to have a severe case of the serving yips. No idea what was going on and she was actually serving decently at the end.I hope she’s OK. After that display, I think Sabalenka will do well to get through the first round.
(3) Garbiñe Muguruza: Still like Muguruza as a contender (she was my pre-season AO tip) but there aren’t many data points in 2022 after a quarter-final loss in Sydney. Muguruza is one of the best at switching it on for the Slams and she’s done well in Melbs the last two years, losing out to the champ on both occasions.
(4) Barbora Krejcikova: In case you were wondering, Krej is sticking around. Super start to the year in Sydney, just coming up short in the final. It’s becoming more normal to list Krejcikova as a genuine title contender.
(5) Maria Sakkari: Keeping an eye on Sakkari but like Muguruza, few data points to go on. Not really being talked about which I often think is favourable.
(6) Anett Kontaveit: I don’t know where I stand with Kontaveit. Looked very sharp in Sydney and played a high quality match against Krejcikova in the semis but losing a match having had seven match points is not ideal.
(7) Iga Swiatek: Looked really good in Adelaide with quality wins over Fernandez and Azarenka. Completely outplayed against Barty in the semi-finals though. A safe second weeker pick, not so sure about being an actual title contender.
(8) Paula Badosa: Following on from Krejcikova, it’s so nice to see players who had breakout 2021 seasons start 2022 in the same vein. Badosa’s shots are all there but it is the mentality that stands out and shines bright like a beacon. So mentally strong. The Sydney final with Krejcikova gave me Indian Wells final vibes with Vika in that Badosa never backed down and more than held her own in the high-pressure moments.
(9) Ons Jabeur: Oz Open may have come around a little too soon for Jabeur. Still not 100% after COVID? Hopefully can play her way into the tournament.
(10) Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova: No matches due to COVID so your guess is as good as mine.
(11) Sofia Kenin: Nice to see Kenin back. She had one of those classic Kenin wins against Tomljanovic in Adelaide, back against the wall, not playing particularly well, but toughs it out in three from match point down. Hopefully can go out swinging after being tied up mentally with the pressure of defending last year.
(12) Elena Rybakina: Eased through a favourable draw in Adelaide and then was awesome against Raducanu in Sydney. My feeling about Rybakina hasn’t really changed. She’s an awesome ballstriker, one of the best on the tour. As soon as she’s challenged though, that’s when things can go awry. I can’t get those Olympics results out of my head.
(13) Naomi Osaka: It feels like Osaka is in a good place. Pulling out of her semi-final in Melbs felt like the standard pre-Slam move. Matches in the bank, a little test from Petkovic, that was enough. I’m not concerned about the injury. I tend to think that for the AO when Osaka comes up against top opposition, a little like Muguruza last year, the lack of matches and being in those situations will catch up with her this time.
(14) Simona Halep: Lots of confidence from winning the Melbourne 250 event and has done well in Melbourne in recent years. One to watch and definitely a title contender IMO.
(15) Elina Svitolina: Will have a point to prove after a disappointing start to 2022. This tends to be when Svitolina thrives. Even with this in mind, not on my radar at all sadly.
(16) Angelique Kerber: Loves Australia but lots of unknowns with no matches after having had COVID over Christmas.
(17) Emma Raducanu: I watched the Sydney match and apart the serve, I thought she did OK. Rybakina played really, really well. That was Raducanu’s first match after having had COVID. I liked what she said in press. Unfortunately when you win the US Open it sets the bar pretty high and people expect you to immediately replicate those performances. She’ll be fine. Let’s give her time.
(18) Coco Gauff: On my radar. A good start to the year down under in Adelaide. Had Barty on the ropes and lost out in a tight three setter to Keys in one of the best matches of the first two weeks. Serve has been more consistent. Mentality continues to be excellent.
(19) Elise Mertens: Not on my radar. There was a time last year when I thought Mertens was progressing towards the top ten. Seems in the shadows right now.
(20) Petra Kvitova: Not the best of starts for Petra. I will say though she does often spark into life and do something big when you least expect it!
(21) Jessica Pegula: One of the surprises so far has been Pegula’s winless start to the year. I thought she’d keep building in 2022. Ah it’s early days. I wonder how much defending quarter-final points plays on her mind here?
(22) Belinda Bencic: Not many data points for 2022. No strong feelings.
(23) Leylah Fernandez: Impressed with what i’ve seen of Fernandez post-US Open. I think she’s on a good track.
(24) Victoria Azarenka: Looked superb in Adelaide for 2.5 matches before her body let her down. If she’s fit then i’m intrigued.
(25) Daria Kasatkina: Decent start to the year for Dasha. The Anisimova loss was rough but that was put well and truly to bed with a terrific win over Muguruza in Sydney. Encouraging.
(26) Jelena Ostapenko: No longer with Adidas? Was close to winning that first set against Badosa in Sydney. I’ll never board the Ostapenko train.
(27) Danielle Collins: Why no pre-AO tournaments? Collins is pretty handy at coming into tournaments cold so still could be one to watch.
(28) Veronika Kudermetova: Never looked the same player since those brutal losses at the French and Wimbledon last year. Encouraging to see Kudermetova start the year with a final but expected a bit more in the final against Halep.
(29) Tamara Zidansek: Good run in Adelaide. Pulled out with an abdominal injury. Not really on my radar.
(30) Camila Giorgi: Who knows. Remember when Giorgi won Montreal?!
(31) Marketa Vondrousova: No strong vibes.
(32) Sara Sorribes Tormo: New year, still playing three hour epics!
The first quarter. Barty-Osaka potential fourth round. I couldn’t really focus on anything else when I was scrolling through the draw. I thought i’d be mad at the draw gods but i’m actually pretty psyched even by the possibility. Barty-Osaka is the ultimate match-up that I want to watch right now. Bencic is a key player in this section, potentially drawing Osaka in the third round. Bencic leads their head-to-head at tour level, 3-0. Random segway – Bencic plays Mladenovic first round. Remember when they were best buds? Always wondered what happened there. Oh and don’t forget Anisimova who could play Bencic round two. Oh and Yastremska-Brengle first round. What more could you want? 😁
The second quarter. Nooo. The Kenin-Keys-Gauff-Badosa section. I don’t like it. The Sydney and Adelaide champs both in here. A Keys-Gauff Adelaide rematch could be on the cards for the third round. Doing my draw, this was the section that gave me the most headaches. I want them all in the quarters. I have actually changed my mind after Saturday’s finals as I did have Coco to the semis.
The third quarter. Halep-Muguruza potential fourth round. Last year’s last 16 slate was a belter and this year’s could be more of the same if these potential match-ups live up. Elesewhere, Kontaveit’s section is filled with dangers in every direction you look. Danielle Collins, Clara Tauson, Ana Konjuh, Shelby Rogers. Even Katerina Siniakova, who hasn’t won a match in 2021, could be problematic in the first round. Pick of the first rounders is Raducanu-Stephens. A match of almost complete unknowns. Stephens hasn’t played a match in 2022. Raducanu played just the one that was over in under an hour. Never played the Oz Open before. Who knows… but my instinct is Sloane.
The fourth quarter. Swiatek has a great draw. Sabalenka’s section totally up for grabs. Samsonova and Fernandez lead the charge if Sabalenka’s serving woes continue.
Final prediction: Barty d. Muguruza