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The start of the season has been a hectic journey to say the very least, but the 2022 Australian Open is just days from getting underway in Melbourne Park. In the men's event, Novak Djokovic (UTR Rating 16.26) would have been the favorite to win his 10th Australian Open and record-setting 21st Grand Slam title. The women's draw is led by local hero Ashleigh Barty (13.32) as she looks to win her third major and first Australian Open.
Let's take a closer look at both the men's and women's favorites and dark horses, with help from Universal Tennis INSIGHTS, an algorithm-based prediction tool offering analysis unlike any stats you can find anywhere else.
With Djokovic not permitted to defend his title, No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev (16.21) becomes the title-winning favorite, and lucky loser Salvatore Caruso (14.74) replaces Djokovic at the top of the draw.
THE FAVORITES ACCORDING TO INSIGHTS
Ashleigh Barty — 16%
Anett Kontaveit — 12%
Paula Badosa — 7%
Victoria Azarenka — 6%
Belinda Bencic — 5%
Daniil Medvedev — 26%
Rafael Nadal — 18%
Alexander Zverev — 17%
Stefanos Tsitsipas — 8%
Carlos Alcaraz — 4%
Let’s take a closer look at some key players in the field.
(2) Daniil Medvedev (UTR Rating 16.21)
With Djokovic's updated status, Medvedev takes the mantle as most likely to win the Australian Open. It would be a huge step for the Russian to win a second major in consecutive Grand Slam appearances.
At the US Open last year, Medvedev shut out Djokovic in the final to crush his hopes of winning the calendar-year Grand Slam. The milestone win marked Medvedev's maiden Grand Slam title and it's reasonable to expect him to win more (INSIGHTS would agree). The 25-year-old Russian reached the final in Melbourne last year (losing to Djokovic), so he's proven to be comfortable going deep Down Under.
"I'm feeling much more confident than last year in terms of knowing my game, what I'm capable of..." Medvedev said. " had a lot of time to prepare
Medvedev opens against Switzerland's Henri Laaksonen (15.23), and could possibly face Nick Kyrgios (15.27) in the second round in what would be a blockbuster clash. The first seed in his section at the bottom half of the draw is No. 29 Ugo Humbert (15.23) and he could run into his compatriot and childhood friend Andrey Rublev (15.69) in the quarterfinals.
(1) Ashleigh Barty (UTR Rating 13.32)
The 25-year-old Australian comes into her home Slam with a title under her belt after winning the singles and doubles title in Adelaide last week. Starting the year with a title is perfectly on par with Barty's 2021: The world No. 1 played 13 tournaments last year and won five of them (and reached the final of Madrid).
While INSIGHTS gives Barty the highest odds of winning her first Australian Open (16%), her draw is a challenging one. The first seed Barty could face is No. 30 Camila Giorgi (12.96). Giorgi, the 2021 Toronto champion is an unpredictable big-hitter, but a dangerous threat, and then there's four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka (13.01) in Barty's same top quarter, meaning they could meet in the round of 16.
Barty is no stranger to rising to a challenge, and if she's going to perform her best anywhere, she'd surely pick Rod Laver Arena in front of her home crowd.
Most Likely to Go Deep
(5) Rafael Nadal (UTR Rating 16.20)
The 35-year-old kicked off the year with a trophy in Melbourne, marking his 89th career ATP title, so it's safe to say he's extremely well-adjusted to the environment. He's the No. 6 seed in the Australian Open draw but is the third-highest favorite per INSIGHTS with a 24% chance of reaching the final.
He's in the same half of the draw as Djokovic, which could either mean a huge battle in the semifinals or he'll end up the favorite to navigate out of a chaotic updated draw.
(6) Anett Kontaveit (UTR Rating 13.25)
The Estonian had one of the most impressive second halves of 2021 imaginable by winning four WTA titles and making a run to the championship match of the WTA Finals year-end championships in her debut. Her winning momentum is firmly intact in the new year as she made her way to the semifinals in Sydney this week.
Although her WTA ranking is No. 7, Kontaveit is the No. 2 best player in the world (behind Barty) in the Universal Tennis pro rankings, which lists players in order of UTR Rating. With a No. 6 seeding in Melbourne, Kontaveit is at the top of the second half of the draw and opens against Katerina Siniakova (12.69). The first seed she could meet is No. 27 Danielle Collins (12.94), a semifinalist in Melbourne in 2019.
Most Likely to Go the Farthest Unseeded
Ilya Ivashka (UTR Rating 15.57)
The 27-year-old Belarusian is standing out with a UTR Rating that places him at No. 21 in the Universal Tennis pro ranks despite an ATP ranking of No. 48. He made a breakthrough run to the fourth round of Wimbledon last year and won his first ATP title in Winston-Salem soon after, but hasn't had much success in Melbourne just yet.
He opens against unseeded Pablo Andujar (14.92) and could face No. 8 seed Casper Ruud (15.70) in the second round. While Ruud is ranked and rated higher than Ivashka, he hasn't had much Grand Slam experience with a fourth-round run in Melbourne last year.
Amanda Anisimova (UTR Rating 12.71)
Two years after winning her first WTA title in Bogota and reaching the semifinals of Roland Garros, the 20-year-old American is back on track. She started her 2022 season off by capturing the WTA Melbourne 2 trophy with wins over Daria Kasatkina (12.77) in the semifinals and Aliaksandra Sasnovich (12.58) in the final.
She'll open against a qualifier and clash with No. 22 seed Belinda Bencic (13.12) in the second round. Bencic's most notable result in 2021 was a big one: winning gold in Tokyo.
More Players to Watch
There are a few other players you'll want to keep a close eye on like the newest member of the ATP Top 10 Felix Auger-Aliassime (15.65) and fast-rising youngster Jannik Sinner (15.82), who's seeded No. 11, the highest he's ever been at a major and tied with Alcaraz for a 4% chance of stunning the field to win the major.
There's also No. 21-seeded Jessica Pegula (13.03), a quarterfinalist in Melbourne last year, and unseeded Madison Keys (12.64), a former US Open finalist that showed her best form in Sydney by capturing the title.
•UTR Ratings and INSIGHTS probabilities as of 9 a.m. EST, Jan. 16, 2022. Article updated on Jan. 16, 2022.