Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Iga Swiatek, Serena Williams and Roger Federer all feature in our selection of the best moments of the 2022 tennis season. The season started with Djokovic being deported before the Australian Open, while Nadal won two Grand Slam titles and Swiatek became the dominant force on the WTA Tour. Williams and Federer both retired, tearily, from tennis.
It’s time to look back at 2022.
The season was filled with drama, high-octane action, memorable moments, and some controversy.
With 2023 coming up and the Australian Open on the horizon, we look back at the standout storylines from the last 12 months.
DJOKOVIC DEPORTED, NADAL MOVES TO 21
Could the start to the year have been anymore dramatic?
It looked as though Novak Djokovic was the front-runner in the Grand Slam race after his dominant 2021 season, but things were turned on their head in Melbourne. Djokovic was eventually granted entry into Australia having been detained on arrival and sent to a quarantine hotel. But that was just the beginning.
His arrival sparked anger among Melburnians due to the strict lockdown rules that had been in place since the start of the pandemic. At one stage Djokovic looked set to play the Australian Open – he trained at Melbourne Park – but then he didn’t. A 10-day saga finally came to an end when Djokovic’s visa was cancelled and he was deported from the country.
The tennis did not disappoint in Djokovic’s absence. Rafael Nadal made a stunning run to the final on his return from five months out, beating Denis Shapovalov in a heated five-set quarter-final and then overcoming Matteo Berrettini in the semis. In the final Nadal looked to be down and out against Daniil Medvedev, only to stage one of the all-time great comebacks to win his 21st Grand Slam title.
It was the first time that Nadal had led the all-time Grand Slam standings, moving him one ahead of Roger Federer.
BARTY WINS AUSTRALIAN OPEN, THEN RETIRES
Who saw that coming?
Not the ‘winning the Australian Open’ bit, as Ashleigh Barty was the clear best in the world to start 2022. She destroyed the competition in Melbourne, not dropping a set and only losing three service games during the tournament.
But who would have thought Barty’s win over Danielle Collins would be her last professional match? After 114 consecutive weeks as world No. 1, Barty’s retirement announcement must go down as one of the biggest sporting shocks in recent history.
“I just knew that, for me, the time was right,” she said. “I had given absolutely everything that I could to the sport, and I knew that it wouldn’t be fair to my team, and the people that have invested so much time and energy into my life, to not be 100% committed for them. So, it’s been a hell of a journey, I wouldn’t change a thing, and I certainly have no regrets.”
It doesn’t sound like Barty is planning a return to the court anytime soon.
KYRGIOS WINS AUSTRALIAN OPEN DOUBLES
There was more Australian success in Melbourne as Nick Kyrgios announced himself as a serious doubles player, winning the title – as well as plenty of fans – alongside Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Their run might have riled a few people, but it was fantastic to watch and provided a level of entertainment not always seen in doubles.
MEDVEDEV GETS TO NO. 1
A new name at the top of the rankings, a first non-Big Four name since Andy Roddick in 2004. Daniil Medvedev hit No. 1 on the back of his run to the Australian Open final, victory at the 2021 US Open and reaching the final of the Nitto ATP Finals.
Medvedev became the third Russian to achieve the feat after Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin.
ALCARAZ ANNOUNCES HIMSELF
If Nadal was the standout player in the early months of the season with his 20-match winning streak – which was ended in the Indian Wells final by Taylor Fritz – then spring was all about Carlos Alcaraz.
At Indian Wells he showed off his supreme power and skill by winning his first four matches without dropping a set, before losing to Nadal in a close semi-final. In Miami he took another big step, blazing through the draw with straight-set wins over Stefanos Tsitsipas, Hubert Hurkacz and Casper Ruud.
The Barcelona title went his way too, but the best was to come in Madrid, beating Nadal, Djokovic and Alexander Zverev in successive matches to be crowned champion.
“It is great for tennis that we have such a new superstar that is going to win so many Grand Slams,” said Zverev after the final. “That is going to be world No. 1 and I think is going to win this tournament many more times.”
SWIATEK’S HOT STREAK
Rarely has a player looked so unbeatable as Iga Swiatek did on the clay this season.
Having been installed as No. 1 following Barty’s retirement, Swiatek kept winning, and winning, and winning. It was like the aura was there already as she ran through the Miami Open without dropping a set and then only lost two sets on clay (to Qinwen Zheng and Liudmila Samsonova) before winning the French Open for a second time..
Seeing Swiatek in full flow, with her penetrating groundstrokes and fantastic ability to switch the direction of play, and looking so utterly invincible, was one of the highlights of the year.
NADAL TRIUMPHS AT FRENCH OPEN
How could we ever have doubted him?
In fairness, Nadal was limping off the court in Rome just a week before the start of the French Open, so it was fair to wonder whether he could really last a fortnight and win in Paris for the 14th time. But of course he could. Not only that, but he held off Felix Auger-Aliassime in a thrilling five-setter before dispatching Djokovic to gain some revenge for the previous year. Zverev pushed Nadal hard before having to retire due to injury but Ruud proved no match in the final.
It was another magical performance in Paris from Nadal.
WIMBLEDON BAN FOR RUSSIAN, BELARUSSIAN PLAYERS
One of the more controversial stories of the year was Wimbledon’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. They had been allowed to continue to play at other events but Wimbledon said the decision was “beyond the interests of tennis alone” and was “influenced by the directive guidance which the government gave us in relation to the matter.”
The response from the ATP and WTA tours was to strip Wimbledon of ranking points, which made for plenty of discussion of whether it did or didn’t feel like an ‘exhibition’ event, but was largely forgotten about by the finish, although it was ironic that the women’s event was won by Russian-born Elena Rybakina, who now represents Kazakhstan.
DJOKOVIC WINS WIMBLEDON
Until he won the Nitto ATP Finals, Wimbledon was the standout result of a Covid-disrupted year for Djokovic. He wasn’t as dominant as he has been in the past, only winning twice in straight sets and having to come back from the brink against Jannik Sinner in the quarter-finals, but it was impressive from Djokovic, who played some excellent tennis in the second week to win his 21st Grand Slam title.
“Wimbledon was a very important tournament for me, and after that, I felt a huge relief and a confidence boost,” he told Eurosport in November.
A word too for Kyrgios who served fantastically in SW19, attacked well, found a good balance in his game, and beat Tsitsipas in probably the most heated match of the year. He should be a threat again on the grass in 2023.
SERENA SAYS GOODBYE
“I’m evolving away from tennis”.
Serena Williams revealed that she was retiring in an emotional letter in Vogue, in which she said she felt a “great deal of pain” over the decision and “never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family”.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” she added.
Williams’ announcement came at the Canadian Open after she won her first match in 14 months. She played in Cincinnati before an incredible farewell at the US Open, where she won two matches before losing a third-round thriller against Ajla Tomljanovic. Williams was in tears as she left Arthur Ashe Stadium, the scene of her first Grand Slam victory in 1999.
“These are happy tears, I guess. I don’t know,” said an emotional Serena afterwards. “And I wouldn’t be Serena if there wasn’t Venus. Thank you, Venus.”
Williams has since teased that she may return to tennis, although close friend Caroline Wozniacki does not think it will happen.
ALCARAZ WINS US OPEN
While Williams’ retirement was the big story of the first week in New York, the second week was all about Alcaraz.
The 19-year-old won three consecutive five-set matches – including arguably the match of the season against Sinner – to reach his first Grand Slam final. With the No. 1 ranking on the line against Ruud, Alcaraz delivered again as he blasted his way to victory and became the youngest No. 1 in ATP history.
It was a performance that truly marked the arrival of a new tennis superstar.
“We will always remember this rise from Carlos Alcaraz,” seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander said on Eurosport after the final.
“He was going to get to No. 1 at some point, but to see him do it here by winning is absolutely historic.”
FEDERER RETIRES AT LAVER CUP
Two GOATS gone in one season?
Just a few weeks after Williams’ US Open farewell, Roger Federer announced that his career would be coming to an end too. Federer hadn’t played since Wimbledon 2021 and after another knee surgery and a year of rehab decided that it was time to call it a day.
“This is a bittersweet decision, because I will miss everything the tour has given me,” he said. “But at the same time, there is so much to celebrate. I consider myself one of the most fortunate people on Earth. I was given a special talent to play tennis, and I did it a level that I never imagined, for much longer than I ever thought possible.”
Federer’s farewell at the Laver Cup was an emotional occasion. One of the defining images from the tournament is Federer and long-time rival and friend Nadal sitting in tears next to the court with their hands together after playing doubles.
“When Roger leaves the tour, an important part of my life is leaving too because of all the moments that he has been next or in front me in important moments of my life,” said Nadal afterwards.
HALEP FAILS DRUG TEST
Former world No. 1 Simona Halep was provisionally suspended from tennis after returning a positive test for an anti-anaemia drug, Roxadustat, at the US Open. The 31-year-old said the result was the “biggest shock” of her life, adding that she would embark on a “fight for the truth” to clear her name.
It is not known when Halep might return to the tour.
RUNE CONQUERS ALL IN PARIS
One of the standout tournament victories of the year was Holger Rune’s title run at the Paris Masters. The 19-year-old had shown encouraging form over the indoor hard-court season but few would have predicted that he would become the first player to beat five top-10 players in a single ATP tournament.
Rune saved three match points in his opener against Stan Wawrinka before seeing off world No. 10 Hurkacz, world No. 9 Andrey Rublev, world No. 1 Alcaraz and world No. 8 Auger-Aliassime to reach the final. He arguably saved his best performance for last as he stunned Djokovic in a thrilling final.
Afterwards Rune outlined his plans to get to the very top of the game. “That’s my goal, to be world No. 1. Yeah, why not next year? Let’s see.”
DJOKOVIC, GARCIA WIN ATP, WTA FINALS
It was Djokovic and Caroline Garcia who lifted the final titles of the season at the ATP Finals and WTA Finals.
Djokovic was in imperious form as he won all five of his matches and Turin to claim the ATP Finals for a record-equalling sixth time. Garcia, meanwhile, capped off a resurgent year by beating Maria Sakkari in the semi-finals and then Aryna Sabalenka, who had knocked out favourite Swiatek, in the final.
“It’s definitely a lot of giant happiness,” said Garcia. “Just really proud of the work we did through all the year. I’m really happy to win my biggest title.”
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