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- British professional tennis player
Throughout the litany of festive award ceremonies, still a sense of disbelief permeated from Emma Raducanu over her US Open win.
Months on, it still seems improbable that in only her second Grand Slam, she would come through three qualifying matches and the main draw without dropping a set to win in New York when she had not been talked about as a potential protagonist.
Since that moment, her every move has been pored over from the Met Gala appearance to accepting the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award while serving Covid-19 isolation in an Abu Dhabi hotel room.
How does she follow that up in 2022? Covid already has implications for that. She had foregone Christmas at home in order to work with new coach Torben Beltz and primarily focus on improving her strength and fitness for a first full season on the WTA Tour.
The spotlight will be on her at Grand Slam one of the season, the Australian Open, where she will be a big draw having earned a global following, equating to 2.1million followers on Instagram and rising.
Following up that fairytale in New York will prove difficult and, if the expectation and pressure wasn’t already high enough at Wimbledon in her dream run to the fourth round, it will be to another level come the summer.
From a British perspective, Raducanu will likely be British tennis’ big story for the foreseeable future but there are still others, notably Andy Murray.
There were signs late in 2021 that things were finally moving in the right direction for him but quite how his metal hip holds up is another matter.
Then there is the question of whether Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans, both seeded in Melbourne, can continue their rise in the men’s game.
Australia has long been the main talking point for men’s and women’s tennis in 2022, Government officials down under having made clear it is a no jab, no play policy - which has resulted in some falling by the wayside.
World No1 Novak Djokovic had looked in danger of falling by the wayside in that regard but is on the entry list as he sets out for an outright record 21st Grand Slam title. On the evidence of last season and season’s past in Melbourne, few would argue against a Djokovic win.
That quest for the record books is aided by the absence of Roger Federer, who has not just ruled out the Australian Open but the French and Wimbledon too. Whether he returns to the top of the game again at the age of 40 is a moot point.
Rafael Nadal, like Raducanu, is among those to have picked up Covid in Abu Dhabi. That, combined with injury problems which cut short his season, raise question marks about the impact he can have early in 2022. As ever, the focus will be on the French Open and winning there after a rare blip last year.
Can the younger players finally create their own era of dominance? Daniil Medvedev looks the best set to do so having won the US Open and ATP Finals but Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev are among others knocking on the door.
It remains to be seen if a dominant force can emerge from the women’s game. Serena Williams’ hopes of a record 24th Grand Slam title get more distant with her absence over fitness concerns in Australia.
Meanwhile, the WTA Tour has found itself in an unwanted controversy that show few signs of resolving itself with the wellbeing of Peng Shuai.
There have been appearances on camera with IOC president Thomas Bach and some stilted interviews with the Chinese media but the WTA continues to push for assurances over the doubles specialist’s wellbeing.
And to their credit, the WTA has pulled out of all tournaments in China for the foreseeable future, costing itself millions of pounds in the process.
It feels like a turning point for the women’s game, quite how that plays out in 2022 in the sport diplomacy circles is anyone’s guess.