Aussie tennis officials are sure to cause controversy whichever way they go after Ash Barty and Nick Kyrgios were named nominees for the Newcombe Medal on Friday. Barty and Kyrgios are among seven players short-listed for the prestigious player-of-the-year award, with Alex de Minaur, Ajla Tomljanovic, Storm Sanders, Matt Ebden and Max Purcell also nominated.
Barty appears to be a shoo-in to win her fifth Newcombe Medal - named after the great John Newcombe - after becoming the first Aussie to win the Australian Open in 44 years in January. However her shock retirement in March might count against her because she only played three months of the year.
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Meanwhile, Kyrgios has put together the best year of his career and produced a 37-10 win-loss ratio, culminating in an extraordinary run to the Wimbledon final. Only Novak Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz have a better win percentage on the men's tour in 2022, with Djokovic denying Kyrgios his maiden grand slam title at the All England Club.
Kyrgios also won the doubles title at the Australian Open alongside Thanasi Kokkinakis, as well as making the quarter-finals at the US Open and claiming a seventh career singles title in Washington. However his absence from Australia's Davis Cup team could cost him, with the Lleyton Hewitt-led Aussie side making it all the way to the final where they lost to Canada.
Kyrgios hasn't played Davis Cup in three years, with Hewitt and de Minaur both revealing they tried to ask him to return to the fold for the recent finals in Malaga. The 27-year-old will instead play exhibition events in Saudi Arabia and Dubai next week to ramp up his preparations for the Australian Open.
"I think before the season started, I was having a conversation with myself that I wanted to kind of reinvent myself on the tour," Kyrgios said recently. "I feel like the last couple of years with Covid and everything that was going on, I really felt like I kind of lost my identity a little bit on the tennis circuit.
"This year I kind of reminded everyone that I'm still one of the best players in the world and was able to do that on the big stage - obviously Wimbledon, US Open, and I also won a title. I guess I had a little moment with myself at the start."
Ash Barty looks likely to win Newcombe Medal
Ebden and Purcell earned their nomination after winning the doubles title at Wimbledon, before helping Australia reach the Davis Cup final. Tomljanovic made the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the US Open, while de Minaur and Sanders were the star performers of Australia's respective runs to the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup finals.
But Barty's triumph at the Australian Open might be enough to get her the gong for a record-extending fifth time. Her victory over Danielle Collins in the final made her the first Australian since Chris O'Neil in 1978 to win their home grand slam.
Barty shocked the tennis world just six weeks later when she announced her retirement from the sport at age 25. The three-time grand slam champion has already won the Newcombe Medal four times - 2017, 2018, 2019 and last year - when she shared it with Dylan Alcott.
The Newcombe Medal winner will be announced at Australian tennis' night-of-nights at the Palladium Crown in Melbourne on December 12. Whichever way officials go, Aussie tennis fans are sure to be heartbroken for whoever misses out.
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