TOP News

Sports: AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2022: Reigning champion Osaka back in action

Tennis - Australian Open: Osaka Happy to be in Melbourne

 Tennis - Australian Open: Osaka Happy to be in Melbourne © Panoramic Naomi Osaka Melbourne 20211230 After four months of absence, Naomi Osaka prepares to take back the competition in Melbourne upstream of the Open Australia and, in a video published on social networks, has entrusted his happiness from launching the season 2022. It was an image that had been lost.

Naomi Osaka is heading into the 2022 Australian Open as the defending champion and with what she says is a fresh outlook on tennis after taking mental health breaks in the middle of last season and again toward the end.

  AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2022: Reigning champion Osaka back in action © Provided by The Canadian Press

“I feel like, for me, I only really have one major goal this year, and it’s completely unrelated to results and stuff like that,” Osaka said. “For me, I just want to feel like every time I step on the court ... I’m having fun. I can walk off the court knowing that even if I lost, I tried as hard as I could.”

And then, with a self-aware nod to her open discussion of depression and the “huge waves of anxiety” she says she faces when dealing with the media, Osaka added: “Also, I have a goal in the press room that I’m never going to cry again. So hopefully that works out in my favor.”

No Novak yet but rest of tennis prepares for Australian Open

  No Novak yet but rest of tennis prepares for Australian Open While the “will he or won’t he?” question remains for No. 1 Novak Djokovic and his participation in the Australian Open, the rest of the tennis world returns to work this week to prepare for the season’s first major beginning Jan. 17 at Melbourne Park. The men’s ATP Cup team event has been on since the weekend in Sydney, and there are three tune-up events being played this week in Melbourne as part of Tennis Australia’s “Summer Set” of tournaments — two WTA tournaments and one ATP. In Adelaide, there is a joint ATP and WTA tournament this week. Next week, both Adelaide and Sydney will hold joint ATP-WTA tournaments. Djokovic is still nowhere to be seen.

With all of the attention that's been focused on Novak Djokovic's will-he-or-won't-he attempt to participate in the year's first Grand Slam tournament despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19, Osaka's return to action has been overlooked as competition approaches on Monday (Sunday in the U.S.).

Armed with relentless power on her serve and groundstrokes, the ability to quickly seize control of a point and an increasing amount of variety in her game, Osaka is a former No. 1-ranked player who owns four major championships, all on hard courts, including two at Melbourne Park.

After pulling out of the 2021 French Open before the second round, then sitting out Wimbledon, Osaka played at the Tokyo Games, where she lit the cauldron, but cut short her year after a third-round loss followed by a teary news conference at the U.S. Open in September.

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic spends religious day in detention

  Top-ranked Novak Djokovic spends religious day in detention Regardless of who made an error on the visa or the vaccination waiver or whatever, the reality Friday for tennis No. 1 Novak Djokovic was spending one of his important religious holidays in an Australian detention hotel working on his challenge against deportation. Djokovic has been receiving calls from Serbia, including from his parents and the president, hoping to boost his spirits. A priest from the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church in Melbourne sought permission from immigration authorities to visit the nine-time Australian Open champion to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas.

“I could see that she hadn’t played for a couple months, for a few months, because, like, the rhythm was not there sometimes,” said Alize Cornet, who lost to Osaka this month in her first tournament back on tour, “but I think after a couple of matches, she will be again on top probably. She can do a lot of things with the tennis racket, so I’m not worried for her.”

Success on the court never really has been the issue for Osaka.

Her happiness away from the court has come and gone.

“During the offseason, I just hung out with my friends and talked to my family a lot. I felt like that was a way of decompressing the pressure I had on myself. Then I just slowly started to regain the feeling of love that I had towards the game,” said Osaka, who could face No. 1 Ash Barty in a fourth-round matchup with the feel of a final. “It’s not like it ever completely went away, but I felt like it got overshadowed by a lot of emotions that I was feeling just by constantly playing year after year."

Naomi Osaka withdraws from Melbourne tournament semifinal

  Naomi Osaka withdraws from Melbourne tournament semifinal MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka withdrew from her semifinal match Saturday at a WTA tournament with an abdominal injury, allowing her opponent Veronika Kudermetova to advance to the final on a walkover. “I had a lot of fun playing here in Melbourne. Unfortunately I have an abdominal injury which I need to rest and prepare for the Australian Open," Osaka said in a statement issued by Tennis Australia. “Sad to withdraw due to injury from my match today, my body got a shock from playing back to back intense matches after the break I took," Osaka added later on Twitter.

Other things to know about the 2022 Australian Open:

NO SERENA OR ROGER

Serena Williams and Roger Federer are among the significant players missing from the brackets. Both cited injuries; both are 40; Williams has won 23 Slam titles, Federer 20.

“There is nobody like Serena that is dominating tennis like she did. ... Everyone can see that,” said Simona Halep, a two-time major title winner who also was the 2018 runner-up at Melbourne Park.


Video: Shapovalov, Auger-Aliassime win tiebreaking doubles, advance to ATP Cup final (cbc.ca)

Other major champions who aren't in Melbourne: Venus Williams, Stan Wawrinka, Dominic Thiem and Bianca Andreescu.

NADAL AT 20

After playing only two matches over the last half of 2021 because of a painful left foot, then dealing COVID-19 in December, Rafael Nadal won a hard-court title in Australia this month to get ready to pursue a 21st Grand Slam trophy.

“As you can imagine, it’s not possible to be totally confident and comfortable after an injury of probably around six months,” said Nadal, a former No. 1 who is seeded No. 6. “It’s difficult to be 100% confident and feel ... ready.”

Will Novak Djokovic play in Australian Open? Latest news on tennis star's visa decision

  Will Novak Djokovic play in Australian Open? Latest news on tennis star's visa decision World No. 1 Novak Djokovic's name is on the Australian Open draw right now, but will he be able to stay? MORE: Australian Open draws 2022 Is Novak Djokovic playing in the Australian Open 2022? Djokovic's playing status is still undetermined as his visa acceptance is being reviewed at this time. However, in the meantime, he is the No. 1 seed for the 2022 Australian Open. He faces a fellow Serbian, Miomir Kecmanovic, in the first round of the tournament, beginning on Monday. It's unclear when Immigration Minister Hawke will have a decision about Djokovic's visa status.

FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING

Daniil Medvedev and Emma Raducanu will be contesting a Grand Slam tournament as a Grand Slam champion for the first time following their triumphs at last year's U.S. Open.

Medvedev's first major trophy was not much of a surprise, considering he was the runner-up to Nadal in New York in 2019 and to Djokovic at the Australian Open in 2021. Raducanu? She pretty much came out of nowhere, a teenager ranked 150th who needed to go through qualifying just to get into what was only her second main draw appearance at a major.

“One of my goals is not to get too down or too high,” Raducanu said after a 6-0, 6-1 loss to 13th-ranked Elena Rybakina in her first match of 2022. “It’s to just try and keep a steady progress and tracking upwards, hopefully.”

MURRAY IS BACK

Three years since his most recent match at the Australian Open — when he was toasted by everyone who assumed he was about to retire — and five years since he last won a match there, Andy Murray is back in the draw.

He is a three-time Grand Slam champion, a five-time runner-up in Melbourne and a 34-year-old with an artificial hip.

“I don’t know, obviously, how long I’ll be able to compete for,” Murray said.

He cited a couple of goals: 700 career tour-level wins and 50 ATP titles (he entered this week with 691 and 46).

COVID-19

A surge in omicron variant cases prompted a halt to Australian Open ticket sales, putting a cap of 50% capacity on any session that wasn't already guaranteed that level of attendance.

The ATP said this week that 97 of the members of its Top 100 in the rankings are vaccinated; the WTA said 96 of its Top 100 are.

___

More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Howard Fendrich, The Associated Press

Testing times for Australian Open amid COVID-19 pandemic .
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The safety protocols for COVID-19 have been a touchy subject at the Australian Open, particularly after nine-time champion Novak Djokovic was deported for failing to meet the country’s strict vaccination requirements. So Olympic champion Alexander Zverev attracted wide attention after his second-round match when he said “we are not getting tested” and, therefore, there’s more COVID-19 cases around than there was in the more locked-down environment of last year.

See also