Rafael Nadal is the perfect role model and other things we learned from the 2022 Australian Open

Andy Schooler reflects on the 2022 Australian Open, delivering his A-Z review of the tournament.

The Australian Open was in the headlines long before the tournament got underway thanks to the Novak Djokovic will he/wont he play saga. Thankfully, once the action got underway the headlines were of a more savoury variety as we were treated to a vintage tournament complete with a long-awaited home winner and a record-breaking men's victor.

Here's a look back, starting at A.

Anisimova

Amanda Anisimova Australian Open Jan22

When Amanda Anisimova surged through to the semi-finals of the 2019 French Open, the 17-year-old looked to have the world at her feet. But just two months later, her father (and coach) died, aged just 52.

It is hard to imagine how devastating that must have been for a young woman of that age and it is hardly a surprise her tennis career suffered. But the 2022 Australian Open may just be the point where she announced: 'I'm back'.

Anisimova saved two match points in defeating defending champion Naomi Osaka and pushed eventual winner Ash Barty harder than most in the following round.

Anisimova has a big game - one which has looked destined to take her places for a long time. We should remember she is still only 20 - the rest of the season promises much.

Barty

Ashleigh Barty Australian Open Jan22

A tournament which for so long looked likely to be defined by what happened in a courtroom will thankfully be remembered for what happened on the court. And for that, we largely have Ash Barty to thank. She played some blistering tennis as she became the first home winner of one of the singles titles since 1978.

There has rarely been a more deserved winner, for Barty was head and shoulder above her rivals in Melbourne. She is also very much the world's best right now and probably needs to garner more respect.

Barty now stands a US Open away from becoming only the 11th woman to complete a career Grand Slam, while in a month she will overtake Justine Henin for weeks as number one, thus becoming the player with the seventh-most weeks in top spot in the WTA list. The names ahead are none too shabby - Graf, Navratilova, Williams, Evert, Hingis and Seles.

Cat

Some of tennis' most memorable moments have been player rants - think John McEnroe's "you cannot be serious" or Jeff Tarango (and his wife) at Wimbledon. Perhaps Daniil Medvedev's semi-final histrionics won't be placed in that particular pantheon but they did raise a smile.

While complaining about alleged coaching for his opponent, Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Russian told umpire Jaume Campistol that were he not to issue a code violation "you are, how can I call it, a small cat". Maybe something got a little lost in translation there…

Djokovic

Has a player who didn't actually compete in a tournament ever garnered as many headlines as Novak Djokovic did at the 2022 Australian Open? At least the 'will he/won't he play' saga was over prior to the event actually starting but it has left many questions.

For me, two stand out. First, why are the numbers on his Covid test results, published in court documents, out of sequence? And, secondly, if his positive test of December 16 is to be taken at face value, was he simply planning not to play in Melbourne had he not contracted Covid? Let's hope he doesn't duck his media duties in Dubai…

Era

I'll use this chance to issue another reminder of how lucky you are to have watched tennis in this golden era of Nadal, Djokovic and Federer. Next.

F-bomb

Nadal throwing out the F-bomb, live on Eurosport, in his post-final interview certainly made many chuckle. What happened to the 'apology to those offended', Alize Lim?

Greenset

The court surface used in Melbourne (coupled with the Dunlop balls) deserves a positive mention. Too often in modern-day tennis we've heard about homogenisation of the courts and that rallies have been slowed down too much.

Not in Melbourne. The surface, originally laid prior to the 2020 tournament is faster than average and has encouraged attacking tennis. The serve-volley tactics of Maxime Cressy would not have worked so well elsewhere, while Stefanos Tsitsipas' ultimately unsuccessful gameplan against Medvedev would also have come unstuck. It would be good to see other events follow suit.

Hawkeye

John Blom Australian Open Jan22

Automation was again to the fore in Melbourne with line judges ditched. But even putting aside the concerns about the pathway to becoming an umpire, is this really good for the game?

On a close call, there's regularly confusion over who has won the point - both in the stadium and at home on TV - given the lack of hand signals on court. Good umpires do their best to provide them - John Blom certainly tried in Sunday's men's final - but it doesn't seem right. The players may well like the system but if it damages the viewing product, is that really acceptable in 2022?

Innovate

We heard a lot about the forthcoming tennis documentary series currently being filmed for Netflix. Probably too much. Tennis seems to have jumped late onto a bandwagon ridden successfully by Formula One, whose Drive to Survive series has been credited with raising the sport's profile and delivering more and, in particular, younger viewers. Tennis wants a slice of that cake and is hoping for a repeat.

But the chase for a new audience should never come at the cost of the existing one and with that in mind perhaps someone in tennis can keep an eye on existing deals. It was bordering on criminal for Eurosport's TV coverage of Naomi Osaka vs Amanda Anisimova - one of the matches of the tournament - to end at 5-5 in the final set.

Jelena

Tennis gave Jelena Dokic much but also took plenty away - few people will have had to go through what she did. So it was hard not to be touched by Alize Cornet's comments towards the player-turned-commentator following one of her fine wins. In an event full of emotion, this was right up there.

Kyrgios/Kokkinakis/Knob

Three in one here. Local hero (and sometimes villain) Nick Kyrgios may have lost in the second round of the singles but he still made a big impact on the tournament.

A stunning run alongside the fit-again and rejuvenated Thanasi Kokkinakis brought huge crowds to doubles - always a good thing. It's a format which helps showcase Kyrgios' incredible racquet skills but his attitude to the game also riles many. New Zealander Michael Venus is one - he labelled the Australian "an absolute knob" after defeat in the quarter-finals.

Late

We had our regular reminder of the madness of tennis during the second week. After Daniil Medvedev and Felix Auger-Aliassime had slugged it out for close to five hours in the first match of the night session, organisers insisted on the mixed doubles semi-final going ahead afterwards. The clock had ticked beyond half-past midnight by the time the first ball was struck with the match not decided until well after 2am local time. Unsurprisingly the Rod Laver Arena was virtually empty come the end.

This is, and never will be, the best way to promote your product. At least it didn't go on until 4.34am - as happened at the 2008 Australian Open when Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis set a record for the latest Grand Slam finish.

Murray

Andy Murray Daniel Taro Australian Open Jan22

It's been very much one step forward followed by one back with Andy Murray in recent times and his latest trip to Australia continued that pattern. He did make an ATP final in the run-up to the Australian Open but, having battled to a five-set win over Nikoloz Basilashvili, he was beaten in straight sets by Taro Daniel.

The former world No. 1 clearly isn't satisfied with first-week defeats at Grand Slams and the loss left him admitting improvement was needed in what is "a really important year for me for a number of reasons" if he is to return Down Under in 2023.

The Scot said he wouldn't bother "if I do what I did tonight too often this season". It all sounds a bit like retirement is edging close.

Nadal

There are many things I could write about Rafael Nadal, not too many of them original. But the thought which pervaded most after his remarkable comeback victory in Sunday's final was what a role model he is. If you want your sporting child to know what competing is all about, show them a video of Nadal. The intensity shown on every point is remarkable. And he never goes away. Not even after five-and-a-half hours. Admit it, you'd want him on your side at anything, wouldn't you?

Osaka

Naomi Osaka Australian Open Jan22

It was good to see Naomi Osaka looking in a much more positive frame of mind in Melbourne. An early loss wasn't the greatest of surprises given the small amount of tennis she had played over the months coming in but she certainly showed enough to suggest she'll soon be back competing for the best prizes.

She does not have one significant hurdle to overcome though. With her 2021 points for winning the Australian Open coming off, her ranking has dipped into the 80s - its lowest since 2016. She won't be seeded in Doha (if she plays), Indian Wells or Miami, opening up the potential for tough first-round draws.

As Andy Murray knows only too well, the climb back to the top can be a tough one.

Peng Shuai

Five years after competing in the 2017 Australian Open final, the former world doubles No. 1 was not in Melbourne this year. Question marks remain over how free she is back in China following the allegations she made in November against a former member of the politburo.

Her supporters may have been rather disappointed that her story did not return to the headlines in Melbourne, albeit some fans did manage to gain some traction by wearing T-shirts bearing her name and then being told to remove them by officials - something of an own goal if the tournament didn't want Peng's name hitting the news.

While this story may not have moved on much over the past fortnight, it looks sure to re-emerge at the forthcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing, while the WTA still has some awkward decisions to make regarding its events in China during the second half of the year.

Quarantine

It wasn't anything like last year when plane loads of players spent 14 days in a hotel but some still had to lock themselves away after positive tests - think Andrey Rublev and Denis Shapovalov. It's not yet a thing of the past with Covid still an issue for the tour (see V).

Rules

One of tennis' most modern quirks is its tie-break rules - the four Grand Slams now have four different ways of determining the outcome of a match which goes to the final set. Some like this, some don't, but whatever your view, it's probably best if you as a player know which rule applies at which tournament.

Kaia Kanepi did not, which raised a smile. When the Estonian moved 9-7 up in her final-set tie-break with Aryna Sabalenka, she celebrated wildly. Thankfully for her, she still went on to win the match.

Supercoach

If you thought this was a term which had had its day, think again. Jannik Sinner revealed in Melbourne that he aims to appoint another member to his coaching team. And due to the fact that he recently spent time on the practice court with John McEnroe in the US, two and two were immediately put together. The story was hardly quelled by either party, with Superbrat happy to say he'd be open to working with Sinner.

McEnroe is a former player who has been there and done it - that's the supercoach role. It certainly worked for Andy Murray with Ivan Lendl and Novak Djokovic with Boris Becker. It's probably best to forget Jimmy Connors and Maria Sharapova though…

Top 10

One of the most remarkable statistics to come out of the tournament helps show the lack of consistency which has existed in the women's game in recent years. The 2022 Australian Open was the ninth of the last 14 Grand Slam tournaments not to feature a match between two top-10-ranked players.

Underappreciated

Daniil Medvedev Australian Open Jan22

This is how Daniil Medvedev clearly felt after playing a not-insignificant part of one of the great Grand Slam finals. His press-conference comment that "the kid stopped dreaming" following his treatment by the Rod Laver Arena crowd was thoroughly depressing to hear on what had largely been a great day for the sport.

But just like Djokovic before him, Medvedev had been riled by fans he felt overstepped the line in their support for Nadal. It was hard to disagree, as it was to his suggestion that his nationality has something to do with the lack of appreciation he receives.

With all four Slams played in the 'western' world, there still appears a reluctance among the sport's pretty conservative fanbase to truly get behind players from the old Eastern Bloc. While the departure of Nadal and Federer from the scene is dreaded by many, perhaps their retirement may finally see some truly exceptional players celebrated properly.

Vaccine

The Djokovic saga of early January may already seem (thankfully) a long time ago but don't think it won't return. The reality of a global sporting tour in the Covid-19 era means life is going to be considerably harder for unvaccinated players, the most prominent of which is the world No. 1.

France is currently tightening its border policy on such issues, throwing into doubt whether Djokovic would be able to defend his title in Paris. In the US, unvaccinated travellers currently need to quarantine for seven days. Every country has its own requirements and Djokovic's schedule seems highly likely to be affected in some way unless he performs a U-turn and gets jabbed.

World no. 1

On February 2, 2004, Roger Federer became world No. 1 for the first time. In the 18 years since, just three other men - Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray - have held top spot in the men's game. Daniil Medvedev's quest to break that stranglehold suffered a setback on Sunday but having closed within 900 points of Djokovic, he is still well placed to claim top spot in the weeks ahead.

Xu

Yifan Xu was the only player in the senior draws whose name begins with X. She made the third round of the women's doubles. Give me a break, it's X!

Yarra

I'm old enough to remember the Australian Open champion regularly celebrating victory by jumping in the nearby Yarra River. Boris Becker did so in 1991 and Jim Courier in both 1992 and 1993.

It's not happened in recent years (probably because Courier is believed to have contracted a virus after his second swim) but if ever there was a character who looked like they might revive it, it was Daniil Medvedev. Sadly, we didn't get to find out. The last player to do this was actually Angie Kerber in 2016.

Zoo

Nick Kyrgios described the John Cain Arena after his win over Liam Broady as a "zoo" as he lapped up the atmosphere created by the home crowd.

But the fans hardly covered themselves in glory at the 2022 event. And that's putting it mildly. The 'siuuuu' chants of the first week were a constant annoyance, the heckling of Matteo Berrettini was particularly undignified and the cheering of Danielle Collins' service faults during the women's final just really low. And I've already mentioned how Daniil Medvedev suffered at their hands (see U).

The Melbourne crowd may still have a way to go in terms of catching up with some fans in New York and Paris but, based on this evidence, it's getting there. Verdict: Must do better.

READ MORE: Australian Open: Claiming home Grand Slam was ‘a little surreal’ says Ash Barty

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