Could this be the start of a new era for tennis? These are the bright stars we think are ready to step up in Melbourne
By Chris Miller, Writer
As always, the Australian Open is the curtain-raiser for an intensely competitive year of elite-level tennis. And with many of the dominant players from recent times absent from the 2022 tournament, it’s a great opportunity for others on the tour to stake a claim to be the new stars of the sport.
There are still some familiar names among the favourites: Ash Barty will be keen to win in her home nation, while the likes of US Open champion Daniil Medvedev and 20-time Grand Slam winner Rafa Nadal will be strong – and naturally we expect newly crowned Sports Personality of the Year 2021 Emma Raducanu to win every tournament she enters. (No pressure Emma!) But in an uncertain world, the favourites don’t always triumph – so here’s our pick of the other contenders who’ll be plying the baselines of Melbourne Park in the men’s and women’s singles…
1. Barbora Krejčíková
Country: Czech Republic
World ranking: 5
Raducanu wasn’t the only outsider to shock the top players in a major last year: Barbora Krejčíková was unseeded when she defeated Nastia Pavlyuchenkova in the final of the French Open. Her highly accurate serve and quick-thinking net play – she’s a top doubles player too – have helped propel her up the rankings and she can now be considered a serious contender. With her compatriot and world No4 Karolina Pliskova missing the tournament through injury, Krejčíková will have a great chance to claim another Grand Slam title.
2. Casper Ruud
World ranking: 8
If you remember the 1990s, you might remember solid tennis pro Christian Ruud. You might not, though. He never got past the first round at Wimbledon, nor did he crack the world top 30. But his son is a different matter: Casper Ruud is the first Norwegian ever to win an ATP title (he now has six), reached the semi-final of last month’s ATP Tour Finals, and is the highest-ranked Norwegian player of all time. Most of his success has come on clay, but he won October’s hard-court San Diego Open and with topspin skills verging on the magical he’ll be eyeing the Norman Brookes trophy with a certain confidence.
3. Leylah Fernandez
World ranking: 24
If the name sounds familiar, Leylah Fernandez was the other fairy tale story of last year’s US Open. The Canadian teenager’s run to the final was just as impressive as Raducanu’s, as she knocked out three of the top five seeds, including defending champion Naomi Osaka. On court, her athleticism and agility enable her to contain the game’s biggest hitters, and the power she achieves with her left-handed forehand belies her slight frame. The Canadian Press named her 2021’s sportswoman of the year after her US Open heroics – what will it give her if she wins a Grand Slam? We may find out sooner rather than later…
4. Félix Auger-Aliassime
World ranking: 11
Canada is producing a whole generation of potential tennis superstars, which includes Denis Shapovalov and Bianca Andreescu alongside Fernandez – but Félix Auger-Aliassime, who’s been breaking records since he joined the ATP Challenger tour aged 14, may be best placed for glory Down Under this month. The young Quebecer’s improvement in 2021 was phenomenal, as he reached the fourth round in Australia, the Wimbledon quarter-final and lost the US Open semi-final to eventual champion Medvedev. His hard-hitting style and on-court mobility make his game suited to all surfaces and he’ll look to continue his astonishing career trajectory in Melbourne.
5. Maria Sakkari
World ranking: 6
Maria Sakkari is another who had a superb 2021, rising 16 places up the world rankings to break into the top ten and reaching two Grand Slam semi-finals. With a powerful serve and a killer forehand, the Athens-born star has the attributes to beat anyone on her day, as she showed when knocking out three higher-ranked seeds at Roland-Garros last year. She’s never been past the fourth round in Melbourne – but she’s also never been in better form.
6. Cameron Norrie
Country: Great Britain
World ranking: 12
After years of being obsessed with Andy Murray, British tennis fans and media abruptly switched their focus to Raducanu in 2021 – so Cameron Norrie’s success has gone slightly under the radar. His rise hasn’t been as stratospheric, sure, but he’s achieved the highest ranking of any British man other than Murray in 15 years and is the reigning Indian Wells Masters champion. His counter-punching style and strategic approach isn’t what you’d call spectacular but it gets results – and with the sport’s current unpredictability, his intelligence and steadiness mean he’ll have a great chance of success at Melbourne Park.
How do I watch the 2022 Australian Open on Virgin TV?
Coverage of the Australian Open is on Eurosport 1 and 2 HD (CH 521/522), starting at 12am on Monday 17 January.
TV channels: Channels, content and features available depend on your chosen package. Channel line-ups and content are subject to change at any time and to regional variations.
HD: HD TV set, V HD Box, TiVo box or Virgin TV V6 connected with HDMI cables required for HD channels. Number of inclusive HD channels depends on package.