Montage of Swiatek and Djokovic holding the Italian Open trophies

Photos : Getty

There’s no better time than this brief interval when most tennis superstars are taking it easy to crown the best of 2022.  

There’s a WTA and ATP top 3 in three categories, since choosing an undisputed winner would be an agonizing challenge. There are too many outstanding candidates and performances to pick just one. 

Some top 3s will surprise you, and others will square with yours and those established by all manner of tennis writers. The highlight reels just never get old. 

2022 in the WTA 

Top 3 players 

1- Iga Swiatek 

Photo : AFP 

The epitome of consensus. And for good reason. 

In March, the World No.1 ranking was bestowed on Iga Swiatek on the heels of Ash Barty’s unexpected retirement.  

It was a gift Iga couldn’t decline and then categorically refused to share at any point during the hellish season to which she subjected her fellow players and the WTA’s stats department. 

Between February 22 and June 5, she racked up 35 wins and took home 6 straight titles for a total of 8 winner’s trophies and a stunning 65–9 record in an absolutely unbelievable season. Not to mention the 19 sets she won 6-0 in a somewhat humiliating record for her colleagues. 

Fierce, forthright, fearless.

2- Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula 

Photo : Peter Power/Tennis Canada 

Two players for two good reasons.  

Looking back on all Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula accomplished this past season is a fascinating exercise. They sit at No.6 (Pegula) and No.7 (Gauff) in singles and No.3 (Pegula) and No.4 (Gauff) in doubles. It’s been forever since two players have risen that high in both rankings, at the same time, in the same year.  

And it’s been 13 years (2009) since a pair has managed to qualify for the WTA Finals in both events.

3- Caroline Garcia 

Photo : WTA 

Caroline Garcia went full throttle in the second half of 2022. 

Moving up 70 spots in the rankings in a season is exceptional, but landing in the Top 10 makes the feat positively astounding. And when the final destination turns out to be the Top 5, the triumph is astounding.  

When the starting pistol went off on June 19, she made a quick climb from No.74 all the way to No.4.  

Source : 

In the six-month period, Garcia won 36 matches and lost only 9. She claimed the crowns in Bad Homburg and Warsaw, fought her way into the semis of the US Open and reigned supreme at the WTA Finals. 

And all at the age of 28, after a couple of tough seasons. 

Only two exceptional players kept her from attaining the very top.  

Top 3 rookies 

1- Linda Fruhvirtova

Photo : Julien Crosnier/FFT 

This year, the elder of the prodigious pair of sisters took a giant leap of 201 rankings spots from No.279 to No.78.  

Even more impressive is her move up 253 spots in just seven months, between February 20 and September 18, from No.327 to No.74.  

At the age of 17!  

Linda built herself a 29–17 record. More importantly, she competed in two WTA 250 finals with a win in Chennai. She also posted back-to-back victories over veterans Kovinic, Mertens and Azarenka in Miami. 

2- Quiwen Zheng

Photo : 

In 2022, at the age of 19 (she’s since turned 20), Qinwen Zheng shot up 99 places in the rankings, from No.126 to No.27, by reaching three finals and taking home two titles (W60 in Orlando and WTA 125 in Valencia).  

She played a total of 56 matches, including qualifiers, for a 38–18 record and outmaneuvered the likes of Sloane Stephens (twice), Simona Halep, Alizé Cornet, Ons Jabeur, Bianca Andreescu, Jelena Ostapenko, Paula Badosa and Garbine Muguruza.  

If Linda Fruhvirtova hadn’t had such a spectacular year, Qinwen Zheng would be the no.1 newcomer. 

3- Jule Niemeier

Photo : 

Though some will say she’s a little late in the game at the age of 23, Jule Niemeier is nevertheless a promising player. In 2022, she moved up 66 spots from No.133 to No.67 in 60 matches (39–21).  

Her season’s highlights feature a dazzling performance in the quarters of Wimbledon, where she took out then World No.3 Anett Kontaveit. 

Top 3 comeback kids  

1- Tatjana Maria

After giving birth to her second child, Tatjana Maria made her way back to tennis with determination.  

In February, she strung together a 13-match winning streak at three tournaments. She won in Rome, in the US (W60) and in Bogota, Colombia (WTA 250), but her greatest achievement of 2022 was her surprising semi at Wimbledon.  

In eight months, from February to October, she climbed 242 ranking spots, from No.311 to No.69. 

2- Daria Saville 

After sitting out 2021 because of an Achilles injury, Daria Saville moved up 557 spots, from No.627 to No.50, between February and September.  

She played in the quarters of the WTA 1000 in Miami and the final of the WTA 250 in Granby, where she fell to then No.10 Daria Kasatkina. 

3- Donna Vekic 

In 2022, 26-year-old Donna Vekic evolved from No.112 to No.47, but her most impressive feat came in her last 10 matches (7–3).  

And at the WTA 500 in San Diego, she stunned everyone when she steamrolled over No.7 Maria Sakkari, No.22 Karolina Pliskova, No.5 Aryna Sabalenka and No.19 Danielle Collins before losing a three-set final to the queen herself, Iga Swiatek. 

2022 in the ATP 

Top 3 players 

1- Novak Djokovic 

Photo : Eurosport 

The man needs no introduction.  

Even at 35 years old and even after missing one third of the season, Novak Djokovic remains the most feared player in the ATP. When things got rolling for him in mid-April, he was unstoppable: 39–4 (41–6 for the entire season, to be exact).

Owing to his own convictions and the global pandemic, he missed two Slam opportunities and was deprived of the points he would have earned for the third, at Wimbledon. That means he lost more than 8,000 points in just four months, from July to November.  

And yet, he found a way to close out the year as No.5, only 2,000 points behind the leader. One Twitter account found a pretty apt way to sum up his run.  

He’s certainly come a long way since his very first training session back in 1991.  

2- Rafael Nadal

Photo : Martin Sidorjak

He’s the man many sports writers will say is the player of the year, and rightly so.  

Like Djokovic, Rafael Nadal had to overcome his fair share of adversity. Despite a nagging left foot injury and an abdominal tear, his record is impressive, especially when you look at the start of the season.  

Rafa came roaring out of the gate with 3 straight titles, 20 straight wins and a 35–3 record between January 1 and July 10. He also further crowded his trophy case with two more Slam crowns collected in Melbourne and Paris.  

In the race for Slam titles, he sprinted past Djokovic with 22. 

But how long will his body hold up? Regardless, his spirit remains admirably unique. 

3- Carlos Alcaraz

Photo : US Open 

As Rafael Nadal’s worthy successor and a talented all-around player, Carlos Alcaraz was a serious contender for player of the year. Until September, that is, when his lackluster fall run caused him to drift down from No.1 to No.3 and an injury kept him out of the ATP Finals. 

Still, in 2022, he dominated the ATP with five titles. His most recent at the US Open came with a bonus: the World No.1 ranking.

Considering the war in Ukraine and its consequences for Russian and Belarusian players and Novak’s pandemic impediments, some will always put an asterisk next to Alcaraz’s name. In 2023, all eyes will be on him to prove them wrong. 

The 19-year-old has what it takes to be a long-standing member of the world elite. When you can win rallies and amass points the way he does, the future is very bright. 

Top 3 rookies  

1- Holger Rune

Photo : AP 

In pro tennis, prodigies don’t pop up every year, but 2022 still managed to produce two such wunderkinds. 

There was Carlos Alcaraz, of course, and there was 19-year-old Holger Rune. The Dane made plenty of eyes glaze over, especially in the latter half of the season when he spent two weeks in the Top 10. He went gangbusters in the fall: four back-to-back finals and two titles to add to the two he won at the start of the year. 

In 2022, he rose from No.103 to No.11. Phenomenal. 

2- Jack Draper

Photo : LTA 

Towering 20-year-old sensation Jack Draper also made headlines in 2022. He moved up a spectacular 223 spots in the rankings from No.265 to No.42.  

Canadian fans will recall the flawless showing that deprived Félix Auger-Aliassime of a ticket to the second round of the US Open (6-4, 6-4, 6-4)—the same treatment Draper reserved for Tsitsipas in the second round of the National Bank Open in Montréal.  

3- Ben Shelton

Photo : 

Without ever leaving the US and despite starting the season on June 4, 20-year-old Ben Shelton managed to climb 477 spots in the rankings. 

The NCAA men’s singles champion left his Florida Gators to turn pro in August, which explains the late start. 

In 49 mainly Challenger matches, he compiled an interesting 38–11 record that carried him from No.573 to No.97 in the ATP rankings. He wrapped up 2022 with three consecutive titles: Charlottesville, Knoxville and Champaign. 

Top 3 comeback kids 

1- Borna Coric 

After being plagued by a shoulder injury for two years, Borna Coric was cleared to compete in May. He made a spectacular comeback, rocketing from No.279 to No.26 (253 spots) between May 22 and September 11 and grabbing the Cincinnati Masters trophy in the process.   

2- Dominic Thiem 

After nursing a serious wrist injury, Dominic Thiem lost his first seven matches of the season but slowly found his footing and moved up from No.352 to No.100 in three and half months, between June 12 and October 30. He fought in three ATP 250 semis: Gstaad, Gijon and Antwerp. 

3- Stan Wawrinka 

He may not have made a miraculous comeback like Borna Coric, but the veteran continued to live out his tennis dream. Stan started 2022 as No.361 and ended it as No.148, up 213 spots, despite playing only 25 matches including qualifying events. 

He got as far as the semis at the ATP 250 in Moselle and the quarters at the ATP 500 in Basel. 


Twitter: @paul6rivard 

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