Australian Open 2022: All you need to know

The biggest story this year is set to be the absence of the nine-time champion Novak Djokovic and the Covid-19 induced circumstances leading up to it.

While Naomi Osaka will defend her singles title this year, the men's category will get a new champion after defending champion Novak Djokovic's deportation from Australia ahead of the tournament.   -  AFP

The 2022 edition of the Australian Open is scheduled to be held between January 17 and 30.

This year, as per the guidelines set by the state government for Victoria, where Melbourne Park is situated, all players, fans and staff at the Australian Open have to be fully vaccinated unless someone has acute major medical conditions, serious adverse reaction to a previous dose of a COVID-19 vaccine or evidence of a COVID-19 infection within the previous six months.

History

The governing body of the Australian Open is Tennis Australia, which was formerly known as the Lawn Tennis Association of Australia (LTAA). The first edition took place in 1905 for men and in 1922 for women. The tournament was played on grass in its initial years and moved to hard courts from 1988 onwards.

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The first-ever winners were Rodney Heath and Margaret Molesworth, for the men and women category respectively. 

Interestingly, Mats Wilander has the distinction of being the only player to win the Australian Open on both grass and hard courts.

Since its inception, the slam has been hosted by seven different cities in Australia and New Zealand. Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth have hosted multiple editions in Australia, while Christchurch and Hastings hosted it once each in 1906 and 1912, respectively.

The tournament started as the Australasian Championships and became the Australian Championships in 1927. It was renamed the Australian Open after the beginning of the Open Era in 1969.

Incidentally, Australia’s geographic location proved to be a big deterrent to participants, resulting in low participation. In the 1920s, a ship trip from Europe to Australia took about 45 days. The US Davis Cup players were the first participants to make the long journey in 1946.

How last year’s edition went

The 2021 edition of the Australian Open was held three weeks later than its usual schedule of the second fortnight of January due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the corresponding quarantine rules.

All the players had to undergo a mandatory quarantine period of two weeks. The authorities, however, agreed to allow players to train under strict rules. 

The number of spectators allowed was reduced to 50 per cent and there was also a mid-tournament lockdown which meant some matches being played behind closed doors.

In the men’s singles category, defending champion Serbia’s Novak Djokovic clinched his record-extending ninth (and third consecutive) Australian Open title with a 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 win over Russian Daniil Medvedev in the final. 

In the women’s singles category, Japan’s Naomi Osaka clinched her fourth Major and second Australian Open title after beating first-time finalist Jennifer Brady of USA 6-4, 6-3.

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Japan's Naomi Osaka holds the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup trophy after beating Jennifer Brady of the US to win their women's singles final match.   -  AFP

 

Storylines this year

The biggest story this year is set to be the absence of the nine-time champion Novak Djokovic and the circumstances leading up to it. Initially, Tennis Australia had made it mandatory for every participating player to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

However, it later introduced the grey area of medical exemption which essentially paved the way for Djokovic, who is unvaccinated, to apply for a visa. As it turned out, a mistake in applying for the right visa on Djokovic’s part along with miscommunication between Tennis Australia and the Victorian government on the medical exemption part led to the cancellation of the Serbian’s visa.

He appealed against the decision and got it overturned. Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke then exercised his discretionary powers to revoke Djokovic's visa for the second time on health and good order grounds and this time, Djokovic’s appeal was rejected.

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Novak Djokovic (left) walks in Melbourne Airport before boarding a flight, after the Federal Court upheld a government decision to cancel his visa to play in the Australian Open, in Melbourne, Australia, January 16, 2022.   -  REUTERS

 

Amidst all this, there was the chaos of Djokovic being detained in a hotel, his family’s objection to his treatment in Australia, Djokovic’s own clarifications regarding his December 16 COVID-19 test and the obvious politicisation by the ruling party in the host country. 

Djokovic’s issue also meant problems for others such as Czech player Renata Voracova who was already playing in the warm-up events at the time of the Serbian’s arrival in Australia on medical exemption but was later asked to leave the country by the Border Force officials. 

All in all, leading up to the tournament, the in-court proceedings have overshadowed the anticipated on-court action.

With Djokovic’s absence, the only player in the men’s singles draw who is a former champion is Spain’s Rafael Nadal as Swiss maestro Roger Federer continues to stay away due to injury.

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In the women’s singles field, Australia's Ashleigh Barty and Japan’s Naomi Osaka are set to be the overwhelming favourites but there is a possibility of a new champion as has been the case in women’s tennis in recent years.

Oldest and youngest winners

In the men’s singles category, Ken Rosewall holds the unique record of being both the youngest and the oldest player to win the Australian Open. An 18-year-old Rosewall won his first title in 1953. Nineteen years later, at the age of 37, he bagged the title again.

Among women, however, the honours belong to two different players. Martina Hingis became the youngest player to win the title at the young age of 16 in 1997. Australian Thelma Coyne is the oldest winner, having won the title at the age of 35 in 1952.

Attendance

The opening slam of the year has seen a steady increase of on-venue spectators each year. Since 1988, when Melbourne Park first hosted the event, the average growth rate over the period has been more than 7 per cent. The 2020 edition saw a total of 812,174 people attending the tournament.

Prize money

The Australian Open is the first Grand Slam to offer equal prize money to both the men’s and women’s winners and this year’s amount is $2,875,000.

Trophies

The men’s singles championship trophy is called the Norman Brookes Challenge Cup, named after Australian tennis great Sir Norman Everard Brookes. He won three Grand Slam titles in his career: Wimbledon in 1907 and 1914 and the 1911 Australasian Championships. He was also a part of the nation’s Davis Cup team that emerged victorious on six occasions. Post-retirement, Brookes went on to become the president of the LTAA.

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The women’s singles championship trophy is called the Daphne Akhurst Memorial Cup, named after the winner in 1925-26 and 1928-30. Akhurst was inducted into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame on Australia Day (26 January) in 2006. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2013.

Most successful players at the Australian Open:

Men’s

  • Novak Djokovic: 9 titles (2008, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019, 2020, 2021)
  • Roger Federer: 6 titles (2004, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2017, 2018)
  • Roy Emerson: 6 titles (1961, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967)
  • Andre Agassi: 4 titles (1995, 2000, 2001, 2003)
  • Ken Rosewall: 4 titles (1953, 1955, 1971, 1972)
  • Jack Crawford: 4 titles (1931, 1932, 1933, 1935)

Women’s

  • Margaret Court: 11 titles (1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973)
  • Serena Williams: 7 titles (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2017)
  • Nancye Wynne Bolton: 6 titles ( 1937, 1940, 1946, 1947,1948, 1951)
  • Daphne Akhurst: 5 titles (1925, 1926, 1928, 1929, 1930)
  • Monica Seles: 4 titles (1991, 1992, 1993, 1996)
  • Steffi Graf: 4 titles (1988, 1989, 1990, 1994)

Pride Day on January 24

 A new addition to the Slam is the very first AO Pride Day set to be celebrated on January 24 which has been described by the tournament’s website as “a joyful celebration of the diverse LGBTQ+ community.” It’ll include the iconic Rod Laver Arena being lit in rainbow colours at night, pride-themed entertainment via musicians Roller Derby and Drag Queens amongst various other programmes planned.

Kia Arena to host the finals

A new 5,000 seat Kia Arena at Melbourne Park will host the finals on January 30.

Notable absentees

  • Men - Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic
  • Women - Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Karolina Pliskova, Bianca Andreescu, Jennifer Brady

Title contenders

Men - Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Rafael Nadal, Matteo Berrettini, Stefanos Tsitsipas

Women - Ashleigh Barty, Naomi Osaka, Iga Swiatek, Paula Badosa, Elena Rybakina

Where to watch:

In India, viewers will be able to watch the live telecast of the matches on the Sony Pictures Network (SPN) and stream the matches live on the SonyLiv app.
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