The 2022 Grand Slam season is over. Now it’s time to reflect.
It was a stunning season with three of the Majors being won by the then reigning world No. 1. Ashleigh Barty started the year with a dominant battle for the Australian Open title and then passed the torch to Iga Swiatek, who would become the first woman to win two Slams in a single season since 2016. Amidst her century-old 37-game winning streak is the 21-year-old from Poland took home her second Roland Garros title and then crowned the year with her first US Open title.
Despite dominating at the top, the Hologic WTA Tour would still crown a new Major champion in Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan. who put on an inspired run at Wimbledon. And in a dramatic and fitting farewell, Serena Williams said goodbye one last time.
Greg Garber, Courtney Nguyen and Alex Macpherson reunite to break things up.
What is your biggest learning from the 2022 Grand Slam season?
Garber: The unpredictability. Ashleigh Barty won the Australian Open title over Danielle Collins, but what about Alizé Cornet’s quarter-finals – her first ever at a Major in her 63rd appearance. At the French Open, Coco Gauff became the youngest major finalist since Maria Sharapova won Wimbledon in 2004. Elena Rybakina won Wimbledon out of nowhere.
At the US Open, Serena Williams defeated No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit and Ajla Tomljanovic defeated Williams – and then Ons defeated Jabeur Tomljanovic and Caroline Garcia to reach their second straight Grand Slam final.
Nguyen: When Iga Swiatek sets her mind to something, she implements it. Even before she broke down in tears, Swiatek had a breakthrough to the semifinals of the Australian Open, her biggest result on hard at the time. Heading to Roland Garros, she easily made up for her day as a heavy favourite.
But New York was different. To win the US Open, Swiatek had to get in shape in unfavorable conditions, against what would become her most difficult of the three big heats. Swiatek showed the field that she can dominate with sheer willpower. And she’s only 21.
Macpherson: Appreciate Alizé Cornet on a Grand Slam stage while we still have her. Describing herself as “the angry girl” at the US Open, the Frenchwoman delivered some of the most indelible moments of any major.
In Australia, she outlasted Simona Halep in temperatures of 33°C over 2 hours and 33 minutes to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. In Paris, supported by a raucous crowd, she defeated Jelena Ostapenko to win the first-ever women’s Roland Garros night game. At Wimbledon, she ended Iga Swiatek’s 37-match winning streak in the third round. And in New York, she edged out defending champion Emma Raducanu in the first round, fittingly sealing the all-time record of consecutive Grand Slam peloton night appearances against Arthur Ashe.
Swiatek was clearly the MVP of this season’s Slams. Who is your runner-up and why?
Garber: Ons Jabeur, of course. Although she was heading for a breakthrough season, it had to be particularly satisfying for Jabeur, who had made only two previous major quarterfinals. She and Swiatek were the only players to reach two Grand Slam finals in 2022.
Nguyen: Greg has Jabeur covered so I’ll go with Coco Gauff. With her first major final at Roland Garros, the 18-year-old American showed she’s ready to take the next step in singles. She then showed great composure and mastery of Arthur Ashe Stadium to reach her first US Open quarterfinal. In doing so, she wowed fans and reporters with her composure, humor and willingness to use her platform to discuss all sorts of topics. We always knew Gauff was ready for primetime, but now I can’t wait.
Macpherson: For me it has to be Elena Rybakina who will end 2022 as the only active reigning Grand Slam winner alongside Swiatek. Ahead of the US Open, the Kazakh remarked that she hadn’t really felt like a big winner in terms of media attention or court assignments, and she was right. Perhaps the media has no idea what to do with an introverted woman with few words who doesn’t offer them easily packaged “moments”.
So it’s worth saying here: Rybakina’s non-reactions are extreme to the point of iconic, but more importantly, they’re authentic; and while other players had easier-to-sell stories, she was the one who actually went out and delivered the goods to win Wimbledon.
What player who didn’t do particularly well at this year’s Majors do you think will bounce back next year?
Garber: I would love to see Maria Sakkari come back into the game. After reaching two major semifinals in 2021, she seemed poised to take it to the next level. Instead, she did not advance past the fourth round in any of the Grand Slams. After an off-season restart, hopefully she’ll find a way back to her form.
Nguyen: For the first time since 2017, Naomi Osaka survived a complete Slam season without a major win. In fact, she won the Slams this year 2-3, both wins coming from Australia. Her draw certainly didn’t help, drawing Amanda Anisimova in Melbourne and Paris and Danielle Collins in New York. I think their luck will change next year. I am confident that she will be back in the slam mix in 2022.
Macpherson: I support Courtney at Osaka and I want to reiterate that Bianca Andreescu should never be written off.
But throughout 2022, I felt like Belinda Bencic was on the cusp of a deep slam run that never came. She lost to Anisimova at the Australian Open and was defeated by Leylah Fernandez 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 at Roland Garros – a match that was closer and better than I expected given Bencic’s dislike of reds Sand. On her beloved lawn, her Wimbledon preparation was hampered by an ankle injury sustained in the Berlin final; At the US Open, she inexplicably lost to Karolina Pliskova after a set and a break. Surely Bencic will come over the hump in 2023?
What was your most memorable match?
Garber: Elena Rybakina d. Ajla Tomljanovic, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, Wimbledon Quarterfinals.
During her first four games at Wimbledon, six of Elena Rybakina’s eight sets required seven games. Rybakina rolled. In the quarterfinals, Ajla Tomljanovic then won the first set 6:4. It was the only set Rybakina would lose before reaching the final and it forced her to dig deep. She came back and won 6-2, 6-3, hitting 15 aces in total. This moment prepared her for the final. As Ons Jabeur won the first set, Rybakina reacted and claimed her first major title.
Nguyen: Ajla Tomljanovic the Elder Serena Williams, 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-1, US Open third round.
It is poetic that Williams’ last match was the longest match she had ever played at the US Open. She didn’t want to go and the fans didn’t want her to go. I will remember the last game where Williams saved five match points and the emotion that gushed out of the fans to keep them going. And I will also remember Tomljanovic, who kept her nerve against all odds.
Macpherson: Tatyana Maria D. Yelena Ostapenko 5-7, 7-5, 7-5, Wimbledon, fourth round.
I was number 1 for this wild ride, about the most extreme stylistic contrast you could find on tour. At any point you felt like anything could happen. Ostapenko delivered stunning power, Maria blunted her with delightful finesse, Ostapenko responded by raising the stakes even more – but it was the 34-year-old mum-of-two who would save two match points and move on to an unlikely first Grand Slam- semifinals
Finally, can you sum up in a few words how you felt when Serena Williams left the pitch for the last time in New York?
Garber: Respect. At the age of 40, Serena has saved five match points and spent more than three hours in her farewell match against Ajla Tomljanovic, according to Serena. I will miss that fire and that anger. That’s what tennis is like.
Nguyen: I have often thought of Serena’s 2015 US Open, a tournament that should have been a hilarious celebration of her career but was dashed both by the stress associated with her quest to complete the Grand Slam calendar and by Roberta Vinci have been done. As Serena left the seat this time, I thought back to 2015 because she finally got the weeks-long outpouring of unconditional love, admiration, and respect she deserved.
Macpherson: Ambivalence, as she clearly feels. Rarely have I seen a champion stop – sorry, develop — so reluctant when they still feel they give so much more. There’s been a lot of talk about what a “fairytale ending” might look like, but I also felt great admiration that Serena had the very opportunity to do so after the 2017 Australian Open – and turned it down in favor of an ambitious and unprecedented comeback that will come with the times be considered one of the most groundbreaking chapters in her career.