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The Top 5...Players eyeing a hard-court rebound
There are no shortage of Grand Slam champions looking to turn things around in North America.
Published Jul 27, 2022
With the all-too-brief grass-court stretch of the season behind us, both tours will ramp it up on the hard courts in preparation for the US Open.
And for some players, these events in North America couldn’t come soon enough.
It’s an opportunity for some established superstars to wipe the slate clean, as far as recent misfortune goes. Several stars on the ATP and WTA, from Grand Slam champions to former members of the Top 10, will get ready to compete on the surface where they’ve had their greatest successes. Here’s a look at five of them looking to bounce back on the hard stuff.
After reaching his third career Grand Slam final—all on hard courts—in Melbourne at the start of the year, the Russian was unable to build upon that in terms of results, though he did reach the top spot on tour for the first time. Medvedev was forced to the sidelines after Miami, due to a hernia, but returned in time for Roland Garros. After reaching the round of 16 there, he went on a bit of a tear on the turf, reaching back-to-back finals in the Netherlands and Germany. However, Wimbledon’s ban on Russian players left Medvedev outside the All England Club’s gates (he made the most of it, per the video above), and his momentum was ground to a halt. The defending US Open champion is at his best on hard courts, though, and will be eager to solidify his number-one ranking with at least one title in the weeks ahead.
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Showing some fine form with a run to the Miami final, the four-time major winner—all on hard courts—then made it known that she was ready to take on the French Open and Wimbledon like never before. But unseeded in Paris, Osaka had one of the toughest first-round assignments, drawing Amanda Anisimova. After going down in straight sets, the former No. 1 hit pause on her campaign due to an Achilles injury. She’s close to being back in business, though, having requested a wild card to play in San Jose. If she’s truly healthy, Osaka could make her presence felt as she looks to add to her Grand Slam title haul.
Though the grass-court season marked a return to action after a year’s absence for the sport’s most prolific major champion, the two weeks of play represented minor steps back. Williams reached the semifinals at the Eastbourne International in doubles, stopping when her partner, Ons Jabeur, had to drop out. Then at Wimbledon, she lost an epic match to the young Harmony Tan in the first round. Eager to prove to that she’s far from done, Williams has accepted a wild card into Cincinnati as part of her preparation for New York. Of her 23 Slams, 13 have come on hard courts—including six at the Open.
The young Canadian made his first mark on the sport in 2017 when, as a teenager, he shocked Rafael Nadal in front of the home crowd in Montreal. In the years since, Shapovalov has shot up the rankings, peaking at No. 10 in 2020. However, after a solid start to this year, the 23-year-old has been in a prolonged slump, going 1-7 in his last eight matches, all on clay or grass. Its an unusual tally compared with prior campaigns. But with three of his four career finals coming on hard courts, and a US Open quarterfinal appearance on his resume, Shapovalov has a chance to put the recent past behind him.
Returning to the court for an exhibition in Atlanta this week after several months off due to injury, the American appears ready to hit the reset button on 2022—and 2021, for that matter. The past two years have been difficult for Kenin, on and off the court, but she’s not so far removed from her first Grand Slam title at the 2020 Australian Open. Provided she’s in a healthy place physically and mentally, the summer hard-court swing could give her a much-needed boost in the rankings.