Did you know that there was some tennis played over the last week in Australia? It would have been easy to miss it, considering how deeply it was buried beneath the story of a certain Serbian superstar who wasn’t playing tennis Down Under.

In between the saga of Novak Djokovic, and an ever-rising COVID-19 case count, six champions were crowned in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney. Ash Barty, Rafael Nadal, Gael Monfils, Simona Halep and Amanda Anisimova won individual tour events, and Team Canada prevailed at the ATP Cup. Together this mix of new and veteran champions got the 2022 season off to an intriguingly varied start.

Rafael Nadal took the Melbourne Summer Set title in his first competitive tournament since August as the Spaniard prepares for the Australian Open.

World number six Nadal, who missed the end of the 2021 season with a foot injury, beat American qualifier Maxime Cressy 7-6 (8-6) 6-3.

The 35-year-old 20-time major champion is preparing for the Australian Open, which begins on 17 January.

“It means a lot to be back and with a trophy in my hands,” Nadal said.

“I feel privileged and a very lucky guy to be here again. I am coming back from some challenging moments in terms of injuries, so I can’t be happier.”

If Nadal is among the conversation on the men’s side at the Australian Open, then Ashleigh Barty is leading the conversation on the women’s side.

The world No 1 looks as well-placed as ever to triumph at her home Grand Slam, having continued where she left off last year by sweeping the singles and doubles at the Adelaide International.

Barty beat the fifth, sixth and seventh seeds on her way to victory, improving her record against top-20 players to 17-1 from her last 18 matches.

Barty was not getting away after the tournament – “we look forward, we do what we can, then we see how we go” – but the WTA player of the season in 2021 already looks as though she will be the player to beat again this year.

Gael Monfils is officially coming into 2022 hot. The Adelaide No.1 seed took out No. 2 seed Karen Khachanov in the ATP 250 event’s final over the weekend. The Frenchman’s victory marks his first Australian tour-level triumph, scoring new hardware in just over 80 minutes.

Monfils dominated all week long and didn’t drop a single set, beating No.6 seed Tommy Paul in the quarterfinals and Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis in the semis. Not only does Monfils now lead 1-0 in his head-to-head record against the Russian, but the win gave the 35-year-old his first title since 2020 when he defeated Felix Auger-Aliassime in Rotterdam’s final.

During the trophy ceremony, Monfils thanked his team.

“I want to say thanks to my team,” Monfils said. “We have had some tough moments, we lost a little bit of faith but we came back strong from July last year. It is amazing to play in front of you guys, to play in front of a full crowd with a good spirit and atmosphere, this is amazing.”

Romanian tennis player Simona Halep won this year’s Melbourne Summer Set 1 tournament after a 6-2, 6-3 defeat of Russian Veronika Kudermetova, the WTA No. 31.

It is the 23rd career title for Halep and the first since the 2020 Italian Open (Internazionali BNL d’Italia).

With the win, she climbed to the 15th spot in the WTA ranking.

Amanda Anisimova picked up her second career WTA singles title in a three-set thriller at Melbourne Summer Set 2 on Sunday, defeating Belarusian qualifier Aliaksandra Sasnovich 7-5, 1-6, 6-4.

In the first WTA singles final of the season, the No.78 Anisimova needed 2 hours and 9 minutes to triumph. The American had to fight back from a break down in the third set before prevailing over 107th-ranked Sasnovich, who was seeking her maiden WTA singles title in her third career final.

Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov led the celebrations on Monday as Team Canada took to the water in Sydney following its ATP Cup triumph.

Canada overcame Spain 2-0 in the final on Sunday to capture the third edition of the 16-team event, with Shapovalov downing Pablo Carreno Busta, before Auger-Aliassime sealed the win by defeating Roberto Bautista Agut.

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