Can anybody dethrone Naomi and Novak? 10 players to watch at Australian Open

Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka are the reigning champions in Melbourne.

Can anybody dethrone Naomi and Novak? 10 players to watch at Australian Open

The first grand slam of the year is quickly upon us and this year’s Australian Open has already made headline news in a different type of court.

While the matter involving Novak Djokovic still remains in the air, focus is starting to switch on the action at Melbourne Park.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at 10 players, from the men’s and women’s game, who will be eyeing a standout tournament.

Novak Djokovic

Hell hath no fury like a Djokovic scorned – but will he actually make it to the tournament to unleash his rage? With approaching two days to go until the first ball is hit, the defending champion’s name is in the draw but, by Monday he may not be in the country after his visa was cancelled for a second time due to his Covid row. A further appeal against the decision will follow and, with it comes the chance of an even more fired-up Djokovic storming to a 10th Aussie win and a 21st grand slam, but time is running out.

Daniil Medvedev

The Russian made big moves in 2021, winning his first grand slam title by beating Djokovic at the US Open. He is the world number two and the likeliest to dethrone the Serbian in Melbourne, with the pair on course to meet in the final, which would be a rematch of the 2021 event. He lost that final, so will have revenge on his mind and the 25-year-old’s ability to stay in points and wear opponents down will suit the conditions in the heat of the Australian summer.

Alexander Zverev

Carlos Alcaraz

Casper Ruud

Casper Ruud won five tournaments on the ATP Tour last season
Casper Ruud won five tournaments on the ATP Tour last season (Mark Baker/AP)

Emma Raducanu

Raducanu stunned the world when she won the US Open last year
Raducanu stunned the world when she won the US Open last year (Zuma/PA)

Naomi Osaka

The second half of 2020 was a difficult time for the Japanese after she suffered mental health issues which saw her withdraw from the French Open and then miss Wimbledon all together. Her return at the US Open was also unhappy as she lost in the third round and then said she was taking a break from the sport. She is back in Australia, though, which is a happy hunting ground, having won two of the last three events at Melbourne Park, including in 2021. If Osaka is in a good place, then the 24-year-old is hard to look past.

Ashleigh Barty

Ashleigh Barty won Wimbledon last year
Ashleigh Barty won Wimbledon last year (Simon Bruty/AELTC Pool/PA)

Leylah Fernandez

Fernandez was the beaten finalist in New York but would also have been a fitting winner. She turned 19 during the competition and showed that she has a very big future in the game. Her ‘leftie’ serve is a big weapon as well as a fearsome forehand, but she also has a great fighting desire. She will be one most players will want to avoid in the draw and will be hoping to get her 2022 off to a flying start.

Garbine Muguruza

The Spaniard is back to her best after the former world number one slipped out of the top 30 in 2019. Having won the French Open and Wimbledon in consecutive years, Muguruza has proved she is capable of going all the way in grand slams and after winning the WTA Tour Finals at the end of last season she will be feeling good about her game. If her big serves and powerful groundstrokes are in good working order she will be hopeful of going one better than the runners-up position she registered in 2020.

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