Novak Djokovic – 2022 Season Review
Novak Djokovic had a 2022 season defined by uncertainty and ecstasy, being away from competition for extended periods before returning to win on the biggest stage.
Join Tennishead as we chart the unpredictable year for the GOAT contender as he fought on and off court to remain at the top of the game.
Debacle Down Under
A last minute announcement
As the Australian Open approached the tennis world held its breath. The Australian government still required those entering the country to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Novak Djokovic was not. But less than two weeks before the Slam on the 4th January, the world number one surprised his fans with news.
“I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022!” He posted on social media.
It looked as though the 20-time Major champion would have a shot at his 10th Melbourne crown. What followed dominated sporting news ahead of the first Slam of the year.
Happy New Year! Wishing you all health, love & joy in every moment & may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet.
I’ve spent fantastic quality time with loved ones over break & today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022! pic.twitter.com/e688iSO2d4
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 4, 2022
No Nole in Melbourne
What then unfolded can only be described as sensational but now is not the time to rake over the whole sorry debacle, however unless you’ve been living on a desert island you will know that Djokovic was eventually denied access to Australia after a prolonged spell in hotel rooms and court rooms and therefore couldn’t play in the 2022 Australian Open, which was won by Rafa Nadal.
Novak Djokovic returns to the tour
Not quite business as usual
Three weeks after the conclusion of the Australian Open, fans finally got to see Djokovic take to the court in 2022. He entered the ATP 500 Dubai Tennis Championships. A five-time champion, the 34-year-old was expected to go deep even with the rust of not playing since 2021.
Wins over Lorenzo Musetti and Karen Khachanov took him to the quarter-finals. Normal service appeared to have resumed. Next came 123rd ranked qualifier Jiri Vesely. The two had met once before at the 2016 Monte Carlo Masters. The Czech pulled off the upset over Djokovic that day. Few expected him to repeat that result.
Despite the straight sets wins previously, in truth Djokovic was rusty physically and mentally. The big-serving Czech overpowered the top seed 6-4, 7-6 (7-4). In doing so, Djokovic was stripped of the world number one ranking as it transferred to Daniil Medvedev for the first time.
With Novak Djokovic remaining unvaccinated, he was unable to enter the US. That meant he had to miss the ‘Sunshine Double’ of Indian Wells and the Miami Masters. It left the 20-time Slam champion without competitive tennis for more than a month after Dubai.
Back to world number one, Djokovic restarted on the clay at the Monte Carlo Masters on 12th April. He took on Spanish young gun Alejandro Davidovich Fokina. Again with so much time away from play, the two-time champion looked uneasy. He fell to the world number 46 in three sets 6-3, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1. Davidovich Fokina made the loss look less awful by reaching the final. Still, Djokovic’s season seemed a non-starter at this point.
Novak Djokovic win-loss record to this point: 2-2
A glimpse of normality
Novak Djokovic then made his way to a familiar place back in his nation’s capital. In the second edition of the reinstated Serbia Open, the top seed took on compatriots Laslo Djere and Miomir Kecmanovic in his first two matches. He recovered from a set down against both men to face Karen Khachanov for a second time in the season. The same result transpired as the home favourite toppled the Russian 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Djokovic then took on world number eight Andrey Rublev. The formula seemed stable after two sets as Djokovic levelled with a 7-6 (7-4) second set. But he was simply out of steam. by the end as Rublev closed it with a bagel 6-0. Still, Djokovic seemed to have his mojo back, he just needed time to find his best form again too.
Novak Djokovic win-loss record to this point: 5-3
Novak Djokovic builds confidence on the clay
A burgeoning rivalry?
The home clay gave Djokovic his confidence back. He only built on it from there. However, a new talent had emerged at the top of the game, Carlos Alcaraz.
Djokovic claimed a win over Gael Monfils, a walkover past Andy Murray and another victory against Hubert Hurkacz. He then met Alcaraz in the semi-finals, the Spaniard riding high off his first ever victory over Rafael Nadal.
And that confidence translated into the contest. The two men battled brilliantly before Alcaraz recovered from a set down to win 6-7 (5-7), 7-5, 7-6 (7-5). The 19-year-old went on to win the tournament, his second Masters 1000 title.
A Masters master builds on his legacy
Novak Djokovic had performed well in Madrid, easing his fans’ worries. In Rome he came into his own, first with victories over Aslan Karatsev 6-3, 6-2 and Stan Wawrinka 6-2, 6-2.
Felix Auger-Aliassime was next. The Canadian pushed Djokovic hard but was still unable to claim a set off the five-time champion.
In a repeat of their 2020 Rome semi-final, Djokovic then took on world number 10 Casper Ruud. The Norwegian showed little resistance as the Serb claimed victory 6-4, 6-3 to reach his 12th final in the Italian capital.
In his way stood Monte Carlo Masters champion Stefanos Tsitsipas in their first meeting since the 2021 French Open final. A bagel opening set for Djokovic meant the contest looked over before it started. The Greek did perform far better in the second, but ultimately lost 6-0, 7-6 (7-5).
With victory Djokovic secured a record-extending 38th Masters 1000 title. That put him two ahead of rival Rafael Nadal.
Novak Djokovic win-loss record to this point: 12-4
Novak Djokovic makes his Slam return
Déjà vu on the Paris clay
With Australia behind him, Djokovic entered his first Slam back among the favourites for the title. He was the defending champion after all.
Following the draw, the match on everyone’s mind was a possible quarter-final between the him and Nadal, a repeat of their 2021 semi-final. Djokovic made it there with ease, downing Yoshihito Nishioka, Alex Molcan, Aljaz Bedene and Diego Schwartzman all in straight sets.
So came chapter 59 of the epic Djokovic-Nadal rivalry. Djokovic led the head-to-head 30-28, including a win from the year before in Paris. But that guaranteed nothing against Nadal, especially on Court Phillipe-Chatrier.
In a match that lasted more than four hours into the early hours of the morning, Nadal triumphed 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4). He had avenged his third ever loss at Roland Garros, going on to claim his 14th title there and stretching his Slam lead over Federer and Djokovic to two.
Djokovic was in good shape though, and was looking ever more dangerous heading into the second half of the season.
Novak Djokovic win-loss record to this point: 16-5
Back in the Slam race
Novak Djokovic rolls up his sleeves at Wimbledon
Djokovic did not play again in June until Wimbledon rolled around. As in Paris, the world number three was the defending champion. While the event held no ranking points, Djokovic merely wanted to notch another Major on his career belt.
Convincing straight sets wins over Thanasi Kokkinakis and Miomir Kecmanovic in the second and third round were bookended by less convincing displays against Soonwoo Kwon and Tim van Rijthoven, winning those two in four sets.
In the quarter-finals Djokovic took on Jannik Sinner. Of course he was the favourite going in, but the Italian was fresh off defeating Carlos Alcaraz in the fourth round. He was a threat. And so it proved as the 20-year-old took a two set lead 7-5, 6-2. Djokovic was in danger of suffering a first Wimbledon loss for five years.
But a bathroom break and personal pep talk later and the six-time champion was back. He rattled off the next three sets 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 to reach the semi-finals.
Closing the gap
Djokovic was now just two matches from a seventh Wimbledon crown. In the last four he met home talent Cameron Norrie in the Brit’s first ever Slam semi-final. Initially Norrie rose to the occasion to claim the opener 6-2.
But Djokovic knew exactly what to do. He played himself in to the match levelling 6-3. From there it was business as usual for the Serb as he claimed the next two 6-2, 6-4 to reach his eighth career final at SW19.
An unseeded Nick Kyrgios waited there for him. The Australian was physically fresh after a walkover from Rafael Nadal saw him advance to the championship match.
Kyrgios was locked in from start, winning the first set 6-4. But as against Norrie Djokovic’s experience told. He won the second and third 6-3, 6-4 with a break in each. Kyrgios then held on to force a tiebreak in the fourth.
But a decider was not required as Djokovic claimed it 7-3 on his third match point. That placed him alongside Pete Sampras on seven Wimbledon trophies, just one behind men’s record holder Federer.
Moreover, it put Djokovic ahead of Federer in the overall Slam race and now just one behind Nadal’s tally of 22.
Uncertainty lay ahead for Djokovic though as he remained barred from entering the US as an unvaccinated non-citizen. As such, he was unlikely to compete at the US Open.
Novak Djokovic win-loss record to this point: 23-5
The business end
Goodbye to a rival
Unfortunately, the situation in the US did not change for Novak Djokovic. He did not play in New York, meaning he played just two Slams in a season for the first time in his career. More than two months on from Wimbledon, Djokovic was back in London for the Laver Cup. There he joined fellow Big Four members Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Roger Federer in what was the Swiss legend’s last ever appearance as a pro.
Djokovic watched on as Nadal and Federer took to the court together in doubles to close proceedings on the first night. An entertaining encounter ultimately ended in defeat for the duo before the result was overshadowed by the occasion. Team Europe surrounded Federer as he wept at the occasion of his retirement. Djokovic was among them, recognising a rivalry that had brought so much to both men and to the sport.
Djokovic then played two singles rubbers against Frances Tiafoe and Felix Auger-Aliassime. He won the former but lost to the Canadian before Team World clinched their first Laver Cup crown at the fifth time of asking.
Novak Djokovic makes a points push for Turin
The 21-time Slam champion now found himself in an unusual situation. With no ranking points at Wimbledon and having missed both the Australian Open and US Open, he was far from guaranteed a spot at the ATP Finals in Turin. The rules of the event reserve seven spots for the top seven players in the ranking points race on the year. The eighth spot is reserved for either the eighth placed player or a player who wins a Slam and finishes between eight and 20th in the race.
While Djokovic sat within that range entering October, he would leave nothing to chance. He entered a new ATP 250 event in Tel Aviv as well as the Astana Open immediately after, a 500 level tournament. He won in Israel without dropping a set, defeating familiar rival Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-4 in the final.
Cruising in Kazakhstan
Onto Astana and Djokovic eased past Cristian Garin, Botic van de Zandschulp and Karen Khachanov to set a mouth-watering contest with Daniil Medvedev. Their first meeting since the 2021 Paris Masters final, Djokovic led the head-to-head 7-4. What ensued was a brilliant battle that ended in an unfortunate way.
Medvedev took the opener 6-4, before a second set tiebreak was required. Both men were playing at an incredible level, and the intensity of Djokovic helped him to clinch the breaker 7-5. His opponent then immediately retired the match, leaving Djokovic stunned. The Russian had injured himself and was unable to continue, handing the Serb a spot in the final.
Stefanos Tsitsipas was next in a 10th encounter between the pair. Unlike the Medvedev meeting, this was hardly a contest as Djokovic just had too much for the Greek, winning 6-3, 6-4. Djokovic had cemented his place at the ATP Finals with a 90th title of his career.
Surprise defeat in Paris final
Back to one of his favourite venues for the Paris indoors and Novak looked to be hitting peak form for the end of the season. He cruised past Cressy, Khachanov and Musetti before coming up against and inspired and belligerent Tsitsipas in the semi-finals. But Novak being Novak he managed to find a way to win in an incredibly competitive and high standard 3rd set tie break to set up a final against surprise package Holge Rune.
The young Dane had beaten a string of top 10 stalwarts to find himself in his first big final and that form continued as he shocked the crowd (and probably Djokovic himself) to win the final in 3 sets, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 becoming only the second player in recent times to beat Djokovic after losing the first set.
Back to his best and setting records at the ATP Finals
So the Serb headed to Turin for the traditional year ending ATP World tour Finals where he found himself in the toughest group having to face Tsitsipas, Rublev and Medvedev. He won all 3 matches, needing a tie break in the 3rd set to beat Medvedev even though he had already qualified for the semi finals by this stage.
Djokovic seemed to be struggling physically during some of the tennis but the energy sapping Round Robin matches didn’t halt his progress as he overpowered Taylor Fritz before a typically immaculate display against Casper Ruud in the final saw him crowned the year end Champion for a fifth time
Novak Djokovic 2022 win-loss record: 42-7
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