NOT the Nadal Invitational?? Is there actually parity at the top of men’s clay court tennis in 2022? First Quarter The stunning news of this year’s draw is that Nadal and Djokovic are in the same quarter. They are likely the two biggest favourites, along with Carlos Alcaraz – who is also in the top half. In some ways it’s a shame the three favourites of the bookies and the pundits are all crowded together but it should make for some exciting matches before the final. Djokovic missed Australia and the Sunshine Double, but came back for the European clay swing. He was upset in Monte Carlo and Belgrade, but had a good run in Madrid. He faced Alcaraz, the new ‘It-boy’ of tennis, in the semis and they played a cracker of a match, narrowly losing 76 57 67. After some early rusty results, Novak was clearly rounding into form. Then last week in Rome, Novak finally ran the table and claimed his first title of the year facing very good (but not superlative) competition.
Who can stop Iga? First Quarter Women’s tennis looks radically different now than it did at the beginning of 2022. Four months ago, Ash Barty was world #1, and a medium-strong one. There were credible challengers to her dominance like former slam winners Naomi Osaka, Barbora Krejcikova, Iga Swiatek, Garbine Muguruza, and Bianca Andreescu. However most of the highest ranked players were non-slam winners like Paula Badosa, Anett Kontaveit, Aryna Sabalenka, and Maria Sakkari. But everything changed in March. Barty retired and Swiatek became invincible, winning all four 1000 events she’s entered this year. She’s on a 28-match win streak, (fourth longest this century). And it’s not just the length of the streak, it’s the way she beats her opponents. It’s become unusual for Iga to lose a set. And the frequency with which she hands out bagels and breadsticks (6-0 and 6-1 sets) is astonishing, 17 in her last 20 matches. Swiatek has already won a slam, the French i