AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2022: Barty seeks a rare title for Australia

Ash Barty of Australia practices at Rod Laver Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne Park, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

Ash Barty of Australia practices at Rod Laver Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne Park, Australia, Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)

PA

A look at the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam tennis tournament of 2022:

AREA

Hard courts

SITE

melbourne park

PROGRAM

The tournament begins Monday morning in Australia (Sunday evening EST). The ladies’ singles final is January 29 and the men’s singles final is January 30; both are due to start around 7:30 p.m. local time in Melbourne (3:30 a.m. EST). As at the US Open, there are separate day and night sessions. The tournament is being played in its usual place on the schedule after starting three weeks late last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

SEEDS

Ash Barty is the No. 1 seed in the women’s draw; Novak Djokovic is the No. 1 seed in the men’s draw. Seeds follow the WTA and ATP rankings.

2021 WOMEN’S SINGLES CHAMPION

Naomi Osaka, Japan

2021 MEN’S SINGLE CHAMPION

Novak Djokovic, Serbia

LAST YEAR

Osaka improved to 4-0 in the Grand Slam final winning six straight matches to retire in what was initially a tight competition, beating Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-3. With serves that reached 122 mph (197 km/h) and produced six aces, and serve returns that helped create six breaks, Osaka became the first woman in 30 years to win her first four tournament finals of the Grand Slam. Brady had to go through a harsh 15-day quarantine upon arriving in Australia because someone on his flight tested positive for COVID-19. Djokovic relied on his relentless comeback and grassroots excellence to win 11 of 13 matches in a single streak and beat Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2 for a third straight Open trophy. Australia and his record ninth overall.

WHO IS MISSING

Six-time Australian Open champion Roger Federer is out as he continues his lengthy recovery from surgery on his right knee. Dominic Thiem, who lost to Djokovic in the 2020 final, has a right wrist injury. Former champion Stan Wawrinka is out following foot surgery and Milos Raonic will miss the Australian Open for the first time since 2011 with an Achilles tendon injury. On the women’s side, the 2022 Australian Open will be the first since 1997 where the tournament does not include either of the Williams sisters. Serena has a hamstring injury and Venus hasn’t played since August due to a leg injury. Other absentees include Brady, who has a left foot injury, Karolina Pliskova (right hand injury) and 2019 US Open champion Bianca Andreescu, who said she will take time off from the sport to meet mental health issues.

KEY STATISTICS

1978 – The last time an Australian won the Australian Open singles title (Chris O’Neill). Two-time major champion Barty wants to end that streak, although she may meet defending champion Osaka in the fourth round. Barty is coming off a win at the Adelaide International this month, beating Coco Gauff, 2020 Australian Open champion Sofin Kenin and 2020 French Open winner Iga Swiatek en route to her 14th WTA title.

CASH AWARDS

Total: A$75 million ($54.6 million). The singles winners each take home A$4.4 million (about $3.15 million).

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Naomi C. Amerson