Australian Open 2022: Complete Predictions for Men's and Women's Draw
The only two women's tennis players to win multiple singles titles in the last three years were drawn into the same section of the 2022 Australian Open bracket.
That is bad news for the championship hopes of Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka and a great development for the other favorites scattered across the tournament.
Barty and Osaka could face each other in would surely be the most anticipated fourth-round match at a Grand Slam tournament in quite some time.
The winner of that match can't rest easy because a handful of previous Grand Slam winners and rising stars are littered across the top half of the bracket.
The bottom section is more wide open for someone like No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka to reach the final without facing a gauntlet over two weeks in Melbourne.
Over in the men's bracket, the formula is as simple as it has been for most of the last decade. Only a select few players are expected to be in contention for the title.
Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are once again lining up as challengers to the established stars in the draw. As of Saturday morning, Novak Djokovic is still slated to participate in the event despite the ongoing drama about his visa status.
Rafael Nadal will be in Melbourne for the start of the tournament on Monday. The Spaniard has not won in Australia since 2009, so he could be susceptible to a late-round upset against a member of the next generation.
Novak Djokovic's next visa status hearing is on Sunday in Australia, per BBC News.
Djokovic is the tournament's No. 1 seed, but even if he plays, he will not enter Melbourne with the same preparations as other title contenders.
Daniil Medvedev beat Djokovic to win the 2021 U.S. Open, and the Russian could win the first major of 2022, even with the top seed on the courts.
Medvedev reached the final at both hard-court majors in 2021, and he sits on the easier side of the men's singles draw.
The second-seed would only have to play one of Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Rafael Nadal before the final.
Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev are the two biggest threats to Medvedev in the bottom half of the bracket. Rublev has not made it past the quarterfinal stage at a major, and Tsitsipas has been prone to early exits on hard courts. He lost in the third round on three occasions in the last two years in Australia and New York.
Nadal and Zverev are on a collision course to play in the final eight, and the winner of that potential match could face Djokovic in the semifinal.
Djokovic has not had a normal buildup to the tournament, but he is still the three-time reigning champion and the best men's player in the world at the moment.
Djokovic can get by on pure talent in the opening round while he finds his form ahead of the bigger matches on his plate.
If Djokovic does not play, the winner of the Zverev-Nadal match will likely face Medvedev in the final.
Medvedev holds the edge over Zverev or Nadal, and a case could be made that he can beat Djokovic on his best surface again based on what happened in New York last year.
Final Prediction: Daniil Medvedev over Novak Djokovic or Daniil Medvedev over Alexander Zverev
The first week of the women's singles tournament will build up to the blockbuster fourth-round clash between Ashleigh Barty and Naomi Osaka.
Barty captured the French Open in 2019 and Wimbledon in 2021, but she has not won her home major yet.
All of the pressure will be on Barty to make a deep run to defend her home court and top seeding.
Osaka won the 2019 and 2021 Australian Opens, and she took first at the 2020 U.S. Open. The hard court is her best surface, and she will push home-crowd favorite Barty to her limits if the two face off.
The winner of that potential match must be viewed as the favorite to reach the final from the top half of the bracket.
The two have split their four career head-to-head meetings. Osaka won the lone clash at a major in Australia in 2018.
Former Grand Slam winners Sofia Kenin and Barbora Krejcikova reside in the top half of the bracket, as do Maria Sakkari and Ons Jabeur, who have the potential to win their first majors in 2022.
Osaka will not have an easy path to the final if she beats Barty, but if she plays at her highest quality, she can get there.
Aryna Sabalenka may be set to control the bottom half of the bracket as the No. 2 seed. The 23-year-old is coming off her best Grand Slam season that featured semifinal berths at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
Sabalenka has three Grand Slam champions in her side of the bracket. Angelique Kerber has not made it past the fourth round in Melbourne since 2018, Iga Swiatek has never qualified for the final eight in Australia, and Simona Halep is working her way back from a long injury layoff.
Sabalenka would face a tough test in the final against Osaka or Barty, but there is a path for her to make it that far with a favorable draw.
Final Prediction: Naomi Osaka over Aryna Sabalenka