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What we learned: AO Week 1 has delivered on every tantalising front

  • Alex Sharp

Forget all the build-up and hype, Australian Open 2022 has delivered and more.  
Somehow the opening week has whizzed by. Some world-renowned names remain in contention, but we've also witnessed a cocktail of shocks, marathon matches and eye-catching main draw debuts. 

MORE: Men's singles results AO 2022

Let's take a look at some of the key takeaways from the main draw at Melbourne Park thus far.

Alcaraz ready for lift-off

The buzz about Spanish young gun Carlos Alcaraz has ramped up in decibels in the past few seasons. The comparisons to a certain Rafael Nadal (sleeveless top and bulging bicep at AO 2022) continue, but the headstrong 18-year-old is his own self. 

Juan Carlos Ferrero's charge reached the US Open quarterfinal last season and concluded his 2021 campaign with the ATP Next Gen Finals silverware. So it wasn't surprising he reached the third round here. 
What was vividly apparent was that the world No.31 is primed for a deep run at a major. Too soon? Watch the highlights of his 6-2, 7-6(3), 4-6, 2-6, 7-6(10-5) thrilling defeat by Matteo Berrettini. 
He saved a match point, had the crowd in the palm of his hand, and is bursting with belief.

Alcaraz is "box office".

It took a dogged Berrettini to end Alcaraz's AO campaign

"I feel I'm close to the top players," said Alcaraz. "Berrettini is world No.7 as of today, and I almost defeated him. I've already beaten some Top 10 players.

"With this level and the feelings I have, I think that I"m ready to be among those kinds of players."

Major champions making major moves

We might be witnessing an ever-changing landscape in the upper echelons of the sport, but players with Grand Slam pedigree continue to prove their class is permanent.

MORE: Men's singles draw AO 2022

On the men's side Rafael Nadal continues to shoot for an historic 21st Grand Slam title with a couple of absorbing displays. The 2009 champion is joined in the second week by fellow major winners Daniil Medvedev (US Open 2021) and Marin Cilic (US Open 2014).

Over to the women's event and world No.1 Ash Barty is bringing a brand of tennis few have ever matched. The two-time Grand Slam champion has sauntered into the second week alongside the likes of Barbora Krejcikova (Roland-Garros 2021), Victoria Azarenka (Australian Open 2012-13), Simona Halep (Roland-Garros 2018, Wimbledon 2019) and Iga Swiatek (Roland-Garros 2020).

MORE: Women's singles results AO

That might just seem like a list, but it highlights these players' champion mentality and is proof they know how to build a major run.

Badosa belongs in show time

This time last year, a 70th-ranked Paula Badosa was "locked in a room" devastated by a first-round loss here.

Paula Badosa

"It's amazing and I have goosebumps, because I played here two years ago against Petra (Kvitova) and I played on this court because of her because she was the seeded player," recalled the world No.6 earlier this week, mentioning a few times that she loves taking to a show court as the featured contender.  
"Being here and playing centre court, because of me, now I'm the seeded player, I'm really happy and proud of myself."

MORE: Women's singles draw AO 2022

Embracing the limelight and shining with spectacular tennis, the Spaniard will take some stopping this fortnight.

Medvedev motoring

World No.2 Medvedev is ready to rule and on his own terms. The US Open champion has dropped just one set and has been incrementally building his level.

He bit back when some of the partisan home crowd got on his back – he'd defeated Nick Kyrgios in four sets, but his spicy on-court interview adhered him to the wider public in a very Medvedev-like manner.

The Russian is in fine fettle, poised to hit the final again. And the No.1 ranking in his sights. 

"I have been No. 2 for quite a long time. I have been playing pretty well. Of course, I want to become No.1, win 25 slams, or something like this," mused Medvedev. 
"I manage to become No. 1, even with these circumstances (Novak Djokovic absent), I think I should still have some credit."

Persistence pays off

Alize Cornet, on her 32nd birthday, returned to the Australian Open last 16 for the first time since 2009. Her stellar career, includes an appearance in 60 straight Grand Slam main draws.  

Amanda Anisimova dipped down the rankings over the past few seasons but is enjoying a 2022 renaissance with a title and a blockbuster 4-6 6-3 7-6[10-5] comeback triumph over 2021 champion Naomi Osaka.

Taylor Fritz's tears were flowing after he booked his first ever Grand Slam last 16 ticket at the 22nd attempt. 
Madison Keys had just 11 match wins last season, despairing at her dissolved form and confidence, but has bounced back in style with an Adelaide title and some sensational performances in week one.

Adversity, longevity, injuries, hype – this quartet are sound proof that persistence pays off.

Long road back

Rankings projections post-AO 2022 will raise some eyebrows. Grand Slams champions have a major job on their hands to leap back up the tennis ladder.

Bianca Andreescu is expected to slip to No.39. Naomi Osaka to No.84. Sofia Kenin to No.94. Serena Williams to No.244. And Venus Williams to No.461. 
These are five world-class players who belong at the very peak of the sport, but the competition and depth in women's tennis is such that it is going to make the route back to the top a challenging one.