2022 was an incredibly volatile year for professional tennis. Here are five crazy moments that stand out.
Five Crazy Tennis Moments in 2022
Novak Djokovic expelled from Australia
This is one of the more bizarre events in tennis history, never mind 2022. Novak Djokovic is one of the game’s greatest players and record winner of the Australian Open with nine titles. But through a combination of politics, foolishness, and alleged deception Djokovic found himself on the wrong end of a deportation order.
This all stemmed from Djokovic steadfastly refusing to take a Covid-19 vaccination at any point in the last two years. Vaccination would have enabled him to travel the world and play any tournament he liked. Without having to quarantine for two weeks or get an exemption. Djokovic chose not to be vaccinated and entered Australia on the basis he got an exemption from the relevant authorities. However, the Australian government got wind that he might have a fake certificate and decided to deport him. Djokovic challenged the ruling in court but was unsuccessful. Djokovic was held at a deportation centre along with other migrants, as opposed to his customary five star hotel…
Which of course led to an international incident, with accusations by Djokovic’s family he was being tortured. There were also protestations by the Serbian Prime Minister and opportunists like Nigel Farage turned up in Serbia to offer support…
Oh, and Rafael Nadal won the Australian Open…
Ashleigh Barty retires from all tennis
Ash Barty was the clear World #1. Not only that, but in 2021 Barty became the first Australian to win Wimbledon since 1980 and in 2022 Barty became the first Australian to win their championship since 1978.
Barty was set to dominate for another 12 to 24 months with so many ranking points built up. Therefore, it was a massive surprise when Barty announced her retirement in March at the age of 25. Curiously, this was Barty’s second cutting of ties with professional tennis, she took a break five years previously to play professional cricket.
There may have been signs which we did not take notice of. During 2020 and 2021 Barty pulled out of a number of tournaments. She didn’t play the 2020 US Open or defend her French Open title. She missed the end of year championships in 2021. In fact, despite winning three Grand Slam titles, Barty never defended her title the following year.
Although ranked #1 for 121 weeks, Barty may go down as one of the most polarizing #1 tennis players.
Alexander Zverev’s crazy injury
It is fair to say Zverev did not have a good 2022. Off court accusations and the attack of the Umpire’s chair in Mexico ensured Zverev was often in the news. Unfortunately for him, this culminated in his terrible injury at the French Open against Rafael Nadal.
It was the semifinal stage and thanks to heavy rain, the roof was closed and the match played “indoors.” Due to the rain and cold, the court was extremely heavy and slow. Besides the fraught conditions, Zverev approached the match as if he played on a hardcourt. Constantly planting his feet on the heavy clay to hit the ball as hard as possible. Zverev even blew a number of mini leads throughout the match. Nadal was his usual belligerent self, running everything down. The way Zverev got injured which was shocking. His feet got stuck in the clay and twisted his ankle completely, tearing three ligaments. Shocking as tennis is a non-contact sport and you don’t expect an injury of that magnitude. Zverev screamed in agony, a sorry sight.
I think Zverev was too hyped up for the match and did not play the conditions properly. Perhaps at two meters tall playing light on your feet is not possible for Zverev.
Wimbledon awarded no ranking points
When Wimbledon banned Russian and Belorussian players for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the ATP and WTA tours threatened to retaliate.
I imagine Wimbledon did not think those organizations would go through with their threats, but they did! And stripped the tournanment of all ranking points. The event went ahead all the same and players still seemed to give everything. After all, there was still prestige, and significant prize money to win..
In the women’s event, Elena Rybakina surprised everyone by beating Ons Jabeur in three sets in the final. Another awkward moment, as Rybakina is Russian born but represents Kazakhstan. In the men’s event Djokovic won his 4th Wimbledon in a row matching Sampras’ record. That would have given him a lot of satisfaction after missing so many tournaments in Australia and North America. The beaten finalist? Australian Nick Kyrgios, probably the most volatile performance seen in a final, shouting, ranting and raving constantly at his camp.
First Teenage #1 in Men’s Tennis
This is incredible because for the last 15 years the memo has been that teenagers can no longer excel on the ATP tour. We would hear that body and mind is not developed, and tennis today is too physical. Pete Sampras in 1990 and Rafael Nadal in 2005 were the only teenagers to win major tournaments in 30 years. Before, it was an almost regular occurrence. Bjorn Borg, Mats Wilander, Stefan Edberg, Boris Becker and Micheal Chang all won majors as teenagers.
But Alcaraz was able to buck the trend. To be fair, his rise coincided with Djokovic’s demise due to lack of tournament play. That won’t detract from Alcaraz’s performances, not only winning the US Open but the Miami and Madrid masters as well. Richly deserved and let’s hope more teenagers come through to challenge in future.
Main Photo from Getty.