Fabulous tennis overcomes messy start as Nadal and Barty make history

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal once again manages the unbelievable and now has 21 majors | Janet MacIntyre/Shutterstock

While the Novak Djokovic visa shambles derailed all coverage ahead of the tournament, thankfully, we had more than enough spectacular tennis to digest over the fortnight.

Let's take a look at some of the main storylines from the 2022 Australian Open.

Phenome-Nadal Moves To 21

What do you say about a player that was two sets, 2-3 and 0-40 down to the best player in the world…and won?

What do you say about a man who missed the second half of 2021 and considered retirement due to a chronic foot injury? A man who entered the Australian Open with only a few matches beforehand and 35 years on the clock…and won?

As if we needed another scintilla of evidence, Rafael Nadal is one of the most astonishing athletes to ever grace sport. His willingness to sacrifice body and mind regardless of the circumstances is almost unmatched.

In the end, the sheer force of will of the Spaniard, allied with that legendary forehand, were enough to overcome Daniil Medvedev in the final.

With 21 career singles majors, there is now a new man atop the all-time list and he could well add more this season. Beyond remarkable.

Barty Continues To Set Standard

While Nadal rages against the dying of the light, Ash Barty is firmly in her prime and a beacon of women's tennis.

Ash Barty
Ash Barty is the dominant force in women's tennis丨Lev Radin/Shutterstock

You would have thought that halting a 44-year drought for Australian women in Melbourne would have been more stressful, but the 25-year-old did not drop a set. While it's true that she did not have to beat a top 20 player en route to the title, that's a simplistic statement.

First, Danielle Collins, Madison Keys, Jessie Pegula and Amanda Anisimova are hardly mugs. Second, Barty can only beat the players before her. The higher ranked players simply exited too soon.

And finally - let's be honest - Barty is clearly the best player in the world by some distance. The Aussie icon captured the trophy in seven of her last 15 tournament outings and is only getting better.

She is a magnificent tennis player and, by all accounts, a wonderful person. That's some ambassador for tennis and we should be thankful.

Medvedev's Steady Charge To The Top

If Daniil Medvedev isn't officially the best male player in the world right now, it's only a matter of time. The hard court maestro of the moment, if the Russian can do a bit more on the other surfaces then the no.1 ranking will be his.

Apart from his other considerable assets, I wonder if we've ever seen a 6' 6" player that moves as well as the 25-year-old? The world no.2 will be looking forward to the Sunshine Swing with relish given his form.

Much Credit For Collins

In every respect, Danielle Collins has just roared into the WTA's top 10.

She deserves a lot of respect for this feat after overcoming a significant health issue. The American had a large cyst removed from her uterus just last year after an endometriosis diagnosis.

Despite that, the 28-year-old secured two titles in 2021 and followed that with an impressive surge in Melbourne. Collins had too much for Iga Swiatek in the semis and had a 5-1 lead over Barty in the second set of the final before things shifted.

It will be interesting to see if she can continue this form for the rest of the season. I can foresee an excellent March for the rowdy Floridian.

Mixed Emotions For The Nearly Men

Given that he only underwent elbow surgery at the end of last season, Stefanos Tsitsipas will be highly encouraged with his outing Down Under. A run to the last four and wins over Jannik Sinner and Taylor Fritz set the Greek up nicely for 2022.

Stefanos Tsitsipas
Stefanos Tsitsipas is a three-time Australian Open semi-finalist丨Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock

The same can't be said of Alexander Zverev and Andrey Rublev. It was a complete shock to see the German fall in straight sets to Shapovalov in the fourth round given his colossal 2021 campaign. Rublev was even further from the mix as he exited in round three to Marin Cilic.

Both men will want to gain confidence swiftly ahead of the Sunshine Swing.

Swiatek Needs To Follow Halep

It was another tournament of progress for Iga Swiatek as blew past her previous best (fourth round) in Melbourne.

The 20-year-old has started 2022 well with back-to-back semi-final runs. Over the long-term, Swiatek could take inspiration from Simona Halep.

The Romanian hasn't got the Pole's weaponry, but her consistency since 2014 has brought 15 trips to the quarter-finals or better of majors. That's a very reachable target for someone of Swiatek's calibre.

Canadians Kick On

In my preview, I wondered if Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov would be buoyed by Canada's ATP Cup victory.

It seemed to do the trick for their confidence as both men reached the last eight in Melbourne Park. FAA was only beaten in five sets by Medvedev, while Shapovalov also extracted two sets from Nadal before falling.

Canada will hope that its dynamic duo can keep moving forward through the rest of 2022.

Will it ever happen for Keys or Svitolina at a major?

To win a grand slam is to occupy rarefied air on the tennis tour. But what if you're a perennial contender for majors but it never quite happens?

Alas, semi-finalist Madison Keys is still a member of the 'almost' club with Karolina Pliskova. As for Elina Svitolina, you wonder if the tireless Ukrainian will ever lift major silverware?

Players Looking To Rebound

With so many contenders (on paper) for grand slams on the women's side, there will inevitably be disappointing turns for many of them.

Aryna Sabalenka
Aryna Sabalenka crashed out 丨Leonard Zhukovsky/Shutterstock

Despite excellent form coming in, it just didn't happen for Anett Kontaveit (2nd round), Garbine Muguruza (2nd), Paula Badosa (4th) and Maria Sakkari (4th). As for Aryna Sabalenka, a strangely out-of-sorts serve curtailed her chances of competing here.

What Now For Djokovic?

After dominating the tournament buildup, I'll give the last word to the (current) world no.1. While it seems that Novak Djokovic will next play Dubai, where there is no vaccination requirement, the rest of his season seems open to question.

With Nadal now on 21 grand slams, the Serb will surely be keen to defend his Roland Garros title and bring himself level once again again in the stakes. That may not be possible though given recent changes to France's vaccination policy.

We could easily see a scenario where Nadal moves to 22 majors ahead of Wimbledon. And how about this for a hypothetical: what if Djokovic isn't allowed into SW19 and a certain Swiss great is just fit enough to return in time?

Watch this space!

While you're here, why not subscribe to my free weekly newsletter? It gives you a round up of the latest tennis news along with results, rankings, upcoming tournaments and more!