Top ten tennis stories of 2022: Federer bows out, indomitable Djokovic and more
The new tennis season may be getting an unusually early start with the United Cup, but we shouldn’t be too quick in forgetting 2022 and the big news stories surrounding players like Novak Djokovic.
It was a remarkable year for tennis with some of the most sensational narratives the sport has ever seen.
So, let’s take a look back at some of the best stories that emerged from a special 12 months on the ATP and WTA Tours.
Roger Federer bows out
This list is presented in no particularly order, but we’d might as well start with the moment none of us wanted to see. It was a moment that touched everyone, though.
For much of 2022, Roger Federer was talking about coming back for one last run. He spoke of returning at the Laver Cup, playing Basel, then attempting a full season in 2023. In the end, the Laver Cup was all we got.
He announced beforehand that it would be his final tournament, and he would go out playing alongside Rafael Nadal in a doubles match. They lost, but it didn’t matter. There wasn’t a dry eye in the O2 Arena as arguably the greatest tennis career in history came to an emotional end.
Nick Kyrgios figures it out
For years, the tennis community has lamented, almost in unison, Nick Kyrgios’ stubborn refusal to commit to his craft.
His talent has never been doubted, but too often his attitude has denied him – and us – the kind of matches he is able to deliver.
That all changed in 2022. We saw a new level of professionalism and from the Australian and, more importantly, an expectation that he placed upon himself.
The result was a Grand Slam singles final at Wimbledon, and had he faced anyone but Novak Djokovic he probably would have won it.
Serena Williams retires
Roger Federer and Serena Williams always said they would carry on for as long as each other. They were true to that, with Serena also hanging up her racket in 2022.
It was no real shock, and at Wimbledon Serena showed she was not really in competitive condition anymore from a physical point of view.
She bowed out with the kind of grace and class that you would expect after losing to Ajla Tomljanovic at the US Open and, while no one begrudged her it, we all knew tennis would never be the same again.
Novak Djokovic deported
We perhaps should have known that tennis was in for a blockbuster year by how it started. The world, not just the tennis world, looked on slack jawed as the best player in the world was detained in an immigration detention centre in Melbourne.
Novak Djokovic had travelled to compete in the Australian Open under a legitimate medical exemption, something that was later upheld in court.
However, Australia were serious about their Covid safety measured and Djokovic was deemed, by executive government order, to be a danger to public health due to his views on vaccination.
He was deported just hours before the start of the tournament, and the debate about his treatment will never truly end.
Carlos Alcaraz arrives
Novak Djokovic being heavily restricted on what countries he could enter created an opportunity for someone to step up, and Carlos Alcaraz accepted the invitation.
The Spanish teenager had a remarkable year. He won two ATP 500s and two Masters, including beating Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic back-to-back in Madrid.
At the US Open he really arrived, winning a maiden major and ascending the rankings to become the youngest ATP world number one in history.
Men’s tennis has been waiting for a new superstar for a decade or more, and in 2022 it finally got one.
Rafael Nadal Australian Open comeback
You never write off Rafael Nadal, right? That’s what we should have learned, at least.
Nadal spent much of 2021 battling a serious foot injury, and he travelled to Australia in January admitting to having to adjust his own expectations of himself as a result.
He is Nadal, and not many people really expected him to win the Australian Open. It was just seen as a step on a path back to fitness that would likely, and did, result in another Roland Garros win.
When he was two sets down to Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final, it looked next to impossible for him to turn it around. Impossible is nothing to Nadal, though, and it was him who was left lifting the winner’s trophy at the end of the fifth set.
Ashleigh Barty walks away
As we have already seen, tennis retirements in 2022 were not in short supply.
However, while Federer and Serena were in their 40s and mere shadows of their former selves, Ashleigh Barty walked away while at the very top.
Barty won the Australian Open and, just 25-years-old, a month later announced she had achieved everything she wanted to and retired from tennis.
No one saw it coming.
Novak Djokovic is indomitable
Novak Djokovic had nothing to prove coming into 2022, or at least we thought he didn’t.
What happened in Australia at the start of the year, though, was a test of a tennis player that was unprecedented.
The circumstances, the intense media spotlight, the unimaginable pressure of it all and, ultimately, losing the battle… no one knew what kind of a toll that would take on the Serbian.
However, while he lost the battle, he came through it to win the war. He proved his mettle under the toughest of circumstances and proved how utterly indomitable he is by winning Wimbledon and the ATP Finals. Remarkable.
Iga Swiatek takes her chance
When Ashleigh Barty abdicated her WTA throne, the women’s game appeared to be lacking a leading lady.
Swiatek, though, picked up the mantle and produced some incredibly dominant tennis in 2022. She won title after title, won a second French Open crown and, crucially, proved herself a multi-surface major winner at the US Open too.
She actually finished the year with more than double the ranking points of anyone else on the WTA Tour. Barty retiring and Wimbledon being stripped of its points are both big factors in that, but it’s some statistic nonetheless.
While teenage instant superstars can be glamourous, there is something very satisfying about a player who steadily improves and slowly pieces together a very complete game.
That is what Casper Ruud did in 2022. He was always very good, but I am not sure everyone was convinced he’d become a truly elite player.
You could argue that he still isn’t, but that would be unfair. He reached two Grand Slam finals and narrowly lost the ATP Finals.
He now looks like he has a very complete game behind him and is certainly one to watch in 2023.
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