By Nick Carter
What better way to commemorate the end of the 2022 tennis season than to look back on the many, many highlights the year has given us? There have been plenty of stories that have warmed a lot of people’s hearts. This piece is for those who want to think back fondly, with a cup of tea and maybe YouTube with some highlights up. The focus here is mostly on title wins or specific matches in majors, keeping things on the court – let’s dive in.
9th January – Simona Halep wins the title at one of the “Melbourne Summer Set” events held in the first week of the year. It was a welcome result for the Romanian as she came back from injury in the middle part of 2021. The former world number one and two-time major champion is always good to have in the mix, and the result kickstarted a year that saw her return to the top ten, reach a major semi-final at Wimbledon and win another 1000 title in Canada. Obviously, the year did not end well for her when she was suspended for alleged doping, in what is an ongoing situation.
15th January – The WTA 500 in Sydney produced an epic match in the semi-finals between Barbora Krejčíková and Anett Kontaveit that ended with an incredible tie-break. In the end, Krejčíková won 0-6, 6-4, 7-6 (14-12), showing doubters that when the top ten clash in the women’s game, they can put on a great show. Krejčíková then went on to play another memorable match in the final against Paula Badosa, this time losing narrowly, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4).
16th January – Having battled with injury for much of his career, Thanasi Kokkinakis won his first ATP Title in Adelaide. The then-25-year-old had returned in 2021 after two years out, and was finally able to showcase the talent he’d been showing since he was a teenager. Seen as one of the tour’s nice guys, most were pleased he finally was able to make this breakthrough.
21st January – Amanda Anisimova beat Naomi Osaka 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (10-5) in an epic night match at the Australian Open, saving match points and blasting winners as heavy as boulders en route to the victory. Anisimova had won the other WTA “Summer Set” event, which in itself was a great moment, but the win over the defending champion in an entertaining contest showed she was ready for the big time again. The American had been dealing with the loss of her father in 2020, having wowed the tennis world as a teenager at the 2019 Roland-Garros Championships, so this win carried a lot of emotions. Anisimova later on managed to reach the Wimbledon quarterfinals, impressively beating Coco Gauff on the way.
25th & 26th January – The Australian Open quarterfinals ended up producing a lot of drama, as three of the four men’s matches went the full five sets. It started with Rafael Nadal holding off a spirited performance by Denis Shapovalov. Gael Monfils continued to entertain as the popular Frenchman just fell short of a comeback against Matteo Berrettini. The next day, Stefanos Tsitsipas put in one of the performances of his career to beat Jannik Sinner. The grand finale was Daniil Medvedev saving two match points to beat Felix Auger-Aliassime in a brutally close match that still stands as one of the best of 2022. Whilst the women’s quarter-finals were more straightforward, Madison Keys turned heads by earning herself a place in another major semi-final against Barbora Krejčíková. Then, Iga Świątek’s scrappy win against Kaia Kanepi impressed those watching her development, in a result that ended up having a significant impact on the rest of the year, giving the now-world-number-one the confidence to win with her B or C game.
29th January – This was a special night for Australia, as their home players took titles in women’s singles and men’s doubles. The ‘Special Ks’ of Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis wowed the crowds on their way to the title, putting doubles back on the map for a moment. However, the moment that everyone will remember was Ash Barty finally winning her home major. It was an uncharacteristically exuberant celebration to cap an absolutely dominant run for the world number one, who did not drop a set the entire tournament and seemed unplayable at points. Her opponent in the final, Danielle Collins, did push her more than most but Ash was not to be denied. Australia had been waiting over 30 years for a women’s singles champion and Barty had disappointingly fallen short in previous years. Given how loved she is by fans, it was a welcome result. A few months later, this match took on more significance when Barty announced her shock retirement from tennis. As a result, this win was her final professional tennis match, meaning she managed to do what so few achieve and go out at the very top of the game.
30th January – This match ended up being the most significant of the ATP season, as the Australian Open men’s final ended up giving us a classic story. Rafael Nadal somehow came back from two sets down to complete an extraordinary victory over Daniil Medvedev: 2-6, 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-4, 7-5. 35-year-old Nadal had come back from injury and had momentum from winning the ATP ‘Summer Set’ event, but despite his status he was expected to lose to a younger, fitter, more in-form and higher ranked opponent. There was almost a twist in the tale in the final set, but Nadal would not be denied after having worked his way back into the match with a persistence only he has. The result set up an extraordinary few months for the Spaniard, as well as giving him the lead in the storied ‘Grand Slam Race’ for the first time.
13th February – Felix Auger-Aliassime finally won a first career ATP Tour title in Rotterdam thanks to a convincing performance against Stefanos Tsitsipas. He’d had a great start to the season after captaining Canada to the ATP Cup title and pushing Medvedev in Australia. It was a frustrating record for Auger-Aliassime to have lost eight ATP finals, especially for someone clearly as talented as him, so it was great to see him break the duck and really put himself on the map of leading contenders at tournaments. Later in the year he would go on to hit even better form, winning consecutive titles at the end of the season in Florence, Antwerp and Basel. These results confirmed his status as a legitimate top player.
22nd February – 14-year-old Czech Brenda Fruhvirtová put in a respectable performance against former US Open champion Sloane Stephens, losing 6-2, 6-2 after going up an early break. The young Fruhvirtová had gone on an ITF winning streak (and would have an even longer one later in the year) and actually made it through qualifying for the 250 event in Guadalajara. The result looked even better in retrospect after Stephens went on to win the title. Brenda’s older sister, 17-year-old Linda Fruhvirtová, would later impress by reaching the last 16 in Miami and winning a 250 title in Chennai. Both Czechs are clearly talented and could be stars of the future if they keep injury free, but the initial result from Brenda was what put them on the map.
28th February – Juan Martin del Potro played what is probably the final match of his career. The former US Open champion wanted to have an on-court swansong, despite having a knee injury that was causing him pain and even affecting his quality of life. He showed flashes of his old self against Federico Delbonis but his discomfort was obvious. The tennis world then took a moment to celebrate the career of a man who at his best could take it to the old ‘Big Four’ and, had he not been riddled with injuries, could have made it Five.
3rd April – Iga Świątek beats Naomi Osaka to win the Miami Open final, her third 1000-level title in a row. It was a highly anticipated match between the two talented young players, seen as the leading names of their generation. In the end, Świątek outplayed multiple-major champion Osaka, though there were competitive moments in the first set. The result was significant in the wider tennis picture, as Świątek would become world number one the following Monday. Whilst other players might have wilted after inheriting the top ranking after Barty’s retirement, the Pole proved herself worthy of it by dominating the event in Miami and establishing herself as the ultimate player to beat.
15th April – Another epic quarterfinal day, this time in Monte-Carlo, as all matches went to deciding sets. Alejandro Davidovich Fokina backed up his impressive run by coming back against Taylor Fritz. Grigor Dimitrov frustrated Hubert Hurkacz in one of his random epic performances. Alexander Zverev then edged Jannik Sinner in a deciding set tie-break, in a match that really could have gone either way. Finally, Stefanos Tsitsipas battled some insane momentum shifts, including a 0-4 deficit in the third set, to defeat Diego Schwartzman in a late-night thriller.
1st May – Two young talents won ATP Tour titles on this day, with Sebastian Baez triumphing in Estoril whilst Holger Rune lifted the trophy in Munich. Rune would then use this to reach the Roland Garros Quarter-Finals, in what would be his first rich vein of form this season. His second would see him win two indoor titles, including beating Novak Djokovic in Paris and put himself on the map as being amongst the best of this new generation.
7th May – Ons Jabeur wins the WTA 1000 title in Madrid, beating Jessica Pegula in a nervy final, a significant match for many reasons. The most obvious resonance came from the fact that Jabeur became the first Arab woman to win a title at this high a level. However, Ons’s style of play and easygoing personality make her a popular player in her own right on tour and many were pleased for her on a personal level too. Her talent had been obvious for some time and her variety was often praised, so it was good to see her overcome some of her mental hurdles in that final.
8th May – You’re probably wondering why it’s taken this long to mention Carlos Alcaraz. By this point in the year, the teenage sensation had narrowly lost a deciding tie-break to Matteo Berrettini in Australia, avenged this result on his way to the Rio Open title, pushed Nadal hard in Indian Wells, played an entertaining match against Miomir Kecmanović in Miami and later won his first Masters 1000 at that same event. This was before the European clay season got underway properly, but he backed this up by winning the Barcelona title, beating Tsitsipas and Alex de Minaur in two epics on the way, and all this before he turned 19 during the Madrid Open. To cap it off, Alcaraz won his second Masters 1000 title, beating Zverev in the final, having beaten Nadal and Djokovic back-to-back on the way there (the latter being a fantastic contest). The result took Alcaraz up to a career high of number 6, firmly establishing him as a top ten player. Not only are these impressive results for someone so young, but his game style won so many people over, with his variety of dazzling shots either showcasing great power or great touch. This is where Alcaraz hype began to peak.
21st May – Angelique Kerber beat Kaja Juvan 7-6, 6-7, 7-6 to win one of the matches of the year in the final of the WTA 250 in Strasbourg. The match got so much hype on Twitter; everyone flocked to see it by the end. It was Kerber’s last sporting high of the year, as a few weeks later she announced she was pregnant and ended her season early as she prepared for the next exciting stage of her life.
24th May – Jo-Wilfred Tsonga played the final match of his career, providing a bittersweet performance against Casper Ruud in the opening round of Roland Garros. Tsonga had competed well with the eventual finalist, losing 6-7 (6-8), 7-6 (7-4), 6-2, 7-6 (7-0). Whilst he showed his old magic, even finding a way to break in the fourth set, it was heartwrenching in the end as the Frenchman injured himself as he came out to serve at 6-5 up in the fourth set and barely won a point from there, his movement painfully exposed and his serve losing all potency. He was then celebrated on court by his comrades and his family, the great entertainer having put on one last wonderful show.
30th May – Marin Čilić beat Daniil Medvedev in the night session at Roland-Garros in dazzling fashion, in one of the Croatian’s best performances on clay. Medvedev, a well-established top player and recent major champion, was rendered absolutely helpless as Čilić blasted power shots past him from every position imaginable. Čilić is well liked and this result pleased a lot of tennis fans, especially after he built on it to reach the semifinals.
31st May – Nadal and Djokovic played the latest installment of their epic rivalry with a four-hour, four-set late night match in Paris featuring insane momentum-shifting moments from both players. Whenever these two collide it is always worth watching, and the match brought France and the wider tennis world to a standstill. Nadal prevailed, impressively managing to avoid a fifth set, and set himself on the path to a 14th Roland Garros title. Other highlights in this run worth mentioning were his fending off Auger-Aliassime in five sets, his excruciating battle with Zverev and his imperious performance in the final against Ruud.
1st June – Holger Rune established himself as the latest pantomime villain in tennis after alleging Casper Ruud screamed in his face in the locker room after their Roland-Garros quarterfinal. A meme is born.
4th June – Iga Świątek capped her incredible winning streak with a seemingly inevitable second Roland-Garros title. This seems an appropriate point to mark the achievement of the longest WTA winning streak this century, which reached 37 before Świątek’s loss to Alize Cornet at Wimbledon. The Roland-Garros final was a typical Świątek dominant performance, 6-1, 6-3 against Coco Gauff, showing that her game was levels above the nearest challenger. A US Open title would follow later in the year, but Paris was the ultimate high point for her game in 2022.
12th June – Home wildcard Tim Van Rijthoven, ranked outside the Top 200, somehow won the ATP 250 in Rosmalen. He beat the top three seeds in Fritz, Auger-Aliassime and Medvedev in the Final and became one of the sensations of the grass court season.
19th June – Beatriz Haddad Maia won her second consecutive grass court title in Birmingham, having won Nottingham the week before. This run put the Brazilian back on the tennis map having shown promising signs earlier in the year. The momentum wouldn’t benefit Haddad Maia at Wimbledon, but gave her some belief in her impressive run to the Toronto final in August.
29th June – Scott Barclay is given Wimbledon Centre Court tickets by Judy Murray, making him a star of Twitter (and the BBC).
1st July – After years of heartbreak and close calls, Heather Watson finally reached the fourth round of Wimbledon after beating Kaja Juvan. Venus Williams teamed up with Jamie Murray in the mixed doubles to mark her return to the tour, and showed her enduring fighting spirit as they won their opening match.
5th July – Cameron Norrie provided the highlight of the British tennis year by reaching the Wimbledon semifinals. He beat David Goffin on Court One in five sets, showing that his Indian Wells form in 2021 was definitely not a one-off.
6th July – Rafael Nadal beat Taylor Fritz in a dramatic Wimbledon quarterfinal. This was despite being injured, as the Spaniard looked hampered early on but played himself into the match. Fritz had won the Indian Wells title in similar circumstances and would avenge the defeat at the ATP Finals. However, Nadal did not know when to give up in this match and refused to lose, even though playing on effectively compromised the rest of his season.
7th July – Ons Jabeur beat Tatjana Maria to reach her first major final at Wimbledon. The two are great friends and Maria had never been to this stage of a major in her career, a big achievement for the 34-year-old mother of two. Jabeur recognised this, and insisted on Maria sharing the limelight at the end of the match. Ons would go on to lose in the final to Elena Rybakina despite being the heavy favourite, Rybakina having played at an unbelievable level for 2 weeks
7th August – Daniil Medvedev finally won an ATP Title in 2022, dethroning defending champion Norrie in Los Cabos. It’s a small consolation for what has been a very tough season, although he would go on to win another title in Vienna later in the year.
14th August – Coco Gauff became the world number one in doubles after winning the Montreal 1000 title alongside Jessica Pegula, their second of the year. The precocious 18-year-old had already wowed a few weeks earlier with her run to the Roland-Garros singles final. It was impressive on the court not only because she didn’t drop a set before that final, but also in her mature off-court interviews. However, Gauff and Pegula were regularly tearing it up in the doubles, reaching the Roland-Garros final in that discipline too. This was despite tough competition from other teams like Krejčíková/Siniaková and Kudermetova/Mertens over the course of the year. Gauff finding this level of success whilst still young confirms that the promise she showed aged 15 at Wimbledon 2019 is still very much there. In fact, Coco is now the second youngest player to be ranked number one in women’s doubles, after Martina Hingis.
21st August – Borna Ćorić won an unexpected Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati, having beaten Nadal and Tsitsipas on the way. It was one of, if not the biggest underdog stories on the ATP Tour in 2022. Ćorić had come back from injury having shown a lot of promise early on in his career, so seeing him lift one of the biggest titles on the tour was very pleasing.
31st August – Serena Williams beat world number two Anett Kontaveit on Arthur Ashe Stadium. After a tough farewell tour as she ‘evolves’ away from tennis, Serena’s level stepped up at the U.S. Open, the last time she intended to play the sport professionally. She was able to compete well and her eventual final match was a tough battle with Ajla Tomljanović on the 2nd of September. But the fact that this great champion could still beat a top 20 player even when aging and rusty is a testament to how strong a competitor she is. Serena Williams ended her career on her terms, and we got to see the best of her on the court in the process, and it was great to see.
3rd September – Petra Kvitová beat Garbiñe Muguruza 5-7, 6-3, 7-6 (12-10) in a wonderfully tight battle between two multiple major champions.
7th September – A special day of tennis headlines. Aryna Sabalenka reached the U.S. Open semifinals after a tough start to the year as she struggled with service yips. Yet she recaptured her form in New York and produced the level we all knew she could. Frances Tiafoe backed up his win over Rafael Nadal with an impressive victory against Andrey Rublev to make the semi-finals. For those who know his story, it was a great moment in the spotlight for the American who has had to overcome so much adversity in his life. This along with his talent and his capacity to entertain meant everyone was very excited to see him in the latter stages of a major. Then the night session saw an incredible battle between two stars of the future as Carlos Alcaraz overcame Jannik Sinner after saving a match point. The quality of rallies and the consistent intensity throughout the match made it the best contest of the year, and gave a lot of hope that this rivalry between the youngsters would entertain for years to come.
11th September – Carlos Alcaraz won the U.S. Open. The future seemed to have arrived at the moment the teenage Spaniard celebrated sealing match point, after a tough run to the title that saw him having to overcome Čilić, Sinner, Tiafoe and Ruud, all in very close matches, the first three of which went to five sets. Alcaraz’s status as a true contender for majors was confirmed and sets up an interesting dynamic with current greats Djokovic and Nadal going forward.
23rd September – Roger Federer played the final professional match of his career at the Laver Cup, partnering with Rafael Nadal for Team Europe. Despite an impressive serving performance from the great Swiss and having match point in the deciding tie-break, they lost to Team World’s Jack Sock and Frances Tiafoe. However, the result didn’t actually matter. It was nice to see Federer on court again, even if we knew it would be the last time. As much as there were entertaining moments in the match, it was the final point everyone was waiting for. Once that was done, Federer dissolved into tears as the emotion of it all took over. As his family and team-mates celebrated his career along with the media and the crowd, two images stood out: Federer holding Nadal’s hand during the tributes and then him being held aloft by his fellow European players. Despite the loss, Roger went out on a high.
9th October – Barbora Krejčíková beat Iga Świątek 5-7, 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 in one of the matches of the year to win the title in Ostrava!!! Krejčíková had come back after being hampered by injury and COVID in the middle part of the season, but showed her class to end Świątek’s dominance in finals, closing out the match after an absolutely scintillating final game. The 2021 Roland-Garros Champion is starting to establish herself as one of the most clutch players on tour. The match was competitive to the end, with both players playing at an incredible level.
23rd October – Jessica Pegula won the final 1000 event of the year in Guadalajara. The American was the most consistent singles player throughout the year, regularly featuring in the latter stages of tournaments, often losing to the eventual champion. It was deserved that Pegula’s persistence was rewarded with a title, and a big one at that, as she rose to third in the singles rankings.
3rd November – Gilles Simon plays the final match of his career against Felix Auger-Aliassime at the last 16 of the Paris Masters. Simon had run out of steam after two epic wins against Andy Murray and Taylor Fritz. Even though it was his last event, he was almost defying retirement even as it stared him in the face. It was very similar to his Roland-Garros run, where he somehow beat Pablo Carreño Busta in five sets and followed up with a straight-sets win against Steve Johnson, before petering out against Marin Čilić. Simon may not have had the stellar moments his fellow ‘musketeers’ Tsonga, Monfils and Gasquet had, but he was a relentless competitor on the court and it was good to see him show this to the end.
7th November – Caroline Garcia won the biggest title of her career at the WTA Finals. Garcia brought one of the highest peaks of any player on tour during the middle part of the year, winning three titles on three surfaces in three months. Her title in Cincinnati and victory against Swiatek in Poland on clay were the main highlights. However, going into the WTA Finals Garcia was in a slump following her semifinal loss at the U.S. Open. She found her best again after a close battle with Daria Kasatkina, then outplaying Maria Sakkari and edging out Aryna Sabalenka. Garcia has shown an impressive level before, but 2022 saw her outdo herself and confirm the talent so many had spotted in her early on in her career.
20th November – Novak Djokovic got the last word after winning the ATP Finals. After having limited success in 2022 due to a self-inflicted reduced schedule and his Wimbledon title being overshadowed by international politics and the antics of Nick Kyrgios, it was good to see the Serb legitimately at the top of the game again. It was a brilliant title run to cap off an impressive Indoor season which saw Djokovic win three titles and go 18-1. In Turin, Djokovic only dropped one set and generally was a level above his opposition. In many ways it was appropriate that the man who made tennis headlines off-court at the beginning of the year was front and centre on-court at the end.