The end of the 2022 tennis season is rapidly approaching.
On the men’s tour there are four ATP 500 events remaining (two this week in Astana and Tokyo), the final Masters 1000 of the year in Paris, and the ATP Finals in Turin.
Most of the world’s top players returned to action this week, but as the end of the year draws near, which are the matches we still want to see before turning our attentions to 2023?
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Alcaraz v Djokovic
It’s been nearly a month since Alcaraz won the US Open. Since his maiden Grand Slam win, which lifted him to No. 1 in the world, he had only played in the Davis Cup, helping Spain qualify for the quarter-finals, before losing to David Goffin on his return in Astana.
In Alcaraz’s absence, the player who has stood out the most has been the returning Djokovic.
"Djokovic is not ranked No. 1 in the world but clearly he is the best in the world,” said former British No. 1 Tim Henman after watching Djokovic outclass Frances Tiafoe at the Laver Cup.
Djokovic has since won the Tel Aviv Open to claim his third title of the year, but is he the best player in the world right now even though he's ranked No. 7? There's only one way to find out.
World No. 1 Alcaraz won the only previous meeting against Djokovic in Madrid, coming from a set down to prevail in three hours and 35 minutes. It would be fascinating to see if he could repeat the feat and overpower Djokovic again.
Alcaraz v Medvedev
If Alcaraz has slipped off the radar a little over the last few weeks, what about Daniil Medvedev?
Usually at his best in the hard-court season, Medvedev didn’t have a great lead-up to the US Open and then lost in the last 16 to Nick Kyrgios, which gave Alcaraz the chance to grab the No. 1 ranking. Medvedev’s only match since was a surprise loss to Stan Wawrinka at the Moselle Open, during which he mocked the crowd after they booed him for throwing his racquet.
With 1,600 points to defend at the Paris Masters and ATP Finals next month, Medvedev needs to get back into form quickly.
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A win in Astana would be a welcome boost, and he is the highest seed following Alcaraz's surprise exit.
The only time Alcaraz and Medvedev have faced off so far was at Wimbledon in 2021 when Medvedev won in straight sets. Much has changed since then and Alcaraz looks a far more formidable threat to Medvedev.
Djokovic v Kyrgios
A re-match of the Wimbledon final? Yes please.
The four-set victory at SW19 was Djokovic's first win over Kyrgios after losing their previous two matches in straight sets.
Could an in-form Kyrgios find a way to power past Djokovic if they met again this season? Or would Djokovic produce another strong returning display to come out on top?
While there's a tiny bit of a bromance brewing between the pair after some barbed words in the past, things may heat up again on the court.
Ruud v Kyrgios
A frosty relationship between Ruud and Nick Kyrgios appears to have thawed over the last few years.
They were involved in a spat which seemed to start in Rome in 2019 when Kyrgios was defaulted for throwing a chair across the court. Ruud called Kyrgios an “idiot” in press afterwards and there have been back-and-forth comments since.
But the two spoke at the Laver Cup last year and Ruud revealed at the US Open that their relationship has improved.
“I think it's easier now, and things have been forgotten. Things have been said, but there is no need to dwell on the past.”
Even if there is no longer beef between the pair, seeing them face off would be intriguing, although it won't happen in Tokyo following Ruud's shock exit.
The head-to-head record currently stands at 1-1 after Kyrgios won in Indian Wells earlier this year, yelling afterwards "I hear no talking now".
They have arguably been two of the standout players of the summer. Kyrgios showed some of his best form before a crushing quarter-final loss at the US Open while Ruud’s run to the final in New York further enhanced his reputation as a top player on all surfaces.
Nadal v Djokovic
It is not known if Rafael Nadal is going to play again this season, but if he does would there be a more highly-anticipated match than against Djokovic?
Nadal has moved up to No. 2 in the world rankings this week despite only playing in Roger Federer’s farewell doubles at the Laver Cup since his surprise US Open exit. It appears he is still not completely recovered from the abdominal injury that hampered his summer, while Nadal and his wife, Mary Perello, are expecting their first child later this year.
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If Nadal does not play again this season it may only be at the Paris Masters or the ATP Finals.
He got the better of Djokovic in their 59th career meeting at the French Open to close to just one behind in their head-to-head record (Djokovic leads 30-29).
Medvedev v Tsitsipas
Stefanos Tsitsipas and Medvedev are two of the more intriguing players to track right now.
Tsitsipas had a largely disappointing summer, tempered only by his run to the Western & Southern Open final when he produced one of his best performances of the season to beat Medvedev in the semi-finals.
But where was that form in Montreal or the US Open, when Tsitsipas lost in the first round on both occasions?
The world No. 6 has not hit the same consistent heights as he has in previous seasons, but with very few points to defend in the remainder of 2022, he has a strong chance to move back up the rankings and get into the top five.
Maybe playing against Medvedev brings out the best in Tsitsipas these days. The pair have not appeared to have a friendly relationship following a spat in their first meeting in Miami in 2018. But after losing the first five in a row against Medvedev, Tsitsipas has hit back and has won two of the last three.
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