Spanish teenager Carlos Alcaraz will reach the top 10
Given that Alcaraz rose more than 100 spots in the rankings in 2021 to end up at No. 32 in the world, it's plausible that his meteoric rise will continue in the 2022 campaign. In the final few months of 2021, the 18-year-old knocked off the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini, Jannik Sinner and Andy Murray. And to close out the season, he cruised through the field at the Next Gen Finals to claim the top trophy. The Spaniard's flashy all-around skills show serious promise and barring unforeseen circumstances, he should continue to rise up the rankings at a steady pace this season.
More first-time slam winners
Coming off a highly unexpected US Open final that featured two unseeded teenagers in Emma Raducanu and Leylah Fernandez, there's no reason to think that 2022 will be particularly different. Ashleigh Barty emerged in 2021 as the clear No. 1 player in the women's game, but even she is prone to upsets, such as the one that saw her exit the US Open in 2021 in the third round to Shelby Rogers. Among the strongest candidates to break through for their first Grand Slam title in 2022 are all members of the top 10 in the world – Aryna Sabalenka, Karolina Pliskova, Anett Kontaveit, Paula Badosa, Maria Sakkari and Ons Jabeur. That said, there are likely some lower-ranked players who will make big moves in 2022 as well.
On the men's side, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are the biggest threats to break through for their first slam title after Medvedev accomplished the feat in 2021. Zverev closed last season emphatically when he won his second Nitto ATP Finals title and Tsitsipas was extremely close to winning his first slam in 2021 in Paris before he squandered a two-set lead against Novak Djokovic in the final.
Men's slam record tie to linger into 2023
Given that it appears Djokovic may not play in the Australian Open and given Rafael Nadal's historic dominance at the French Open, the Serbian may not quite be able to break away from his current tie with Nadal and Federer for the all-time record of Grand Slam titles at 20 apiece. After beating Djokovic in the US Open final, No. 2-ranked Daniil Medvedev is creeping up on the No. 1 ranking and he'll be a serious threat to win both the Australian Open and US Open again given his stellar hard-court game. It's highly likely that the 34-year-old Serbian will win at least one major in 2022, and it's never been wise to doubt his abilities when he's in the draw. It's plausible that both he and Nadal could head into the 2023 season with 21 slams each.
Coco Gauff to enter top 10
Gauff, still only 17 years old, has steadily risen up the rankings over the last several seasons to her current spot at No. 22 in the world. The young American has yet to win a big tournament, but she reached her first major quarterfinal in 2021 at the French Open. Gauff has dealt well with lofty expectations from the outside after her run to the fourth round of Wimbledon when she was just 15 years old, and that bodes positively for her future. Gauff is easily the youngest player ranked inside the top 100 and she should continue to reach new heights in 2022.
Ready for a breakthrough?
Rising youngsters Jannik Sinner, (20 years old), Felix Auger-Aliassime (21) and Denis Shapovalov (22) are all ranked inside the top 15 in the world and have the game to go deep at the biggest tournaments in 2022. Auger-Aliassime (US Open) and Shapovalov (Wimbledon) each reached their first Grand Slam semifinals in 2021 but fell to the eventual champion. Sinner's best 2021 result came earlier in the season when he reached his first Masters 1000 final in Miami, and his best major result came in 2020 when he reached the French Open quarterfinals. It's difficult to predict which one of these players will have the most career success, but it's foreseeable that one will make a slam final during the 2022 season.