Four Most Underrated Stories in 2022

There’s no shortage of worn out storylines for this year. Tennis loves to repeat itself. We’ve heard a lot about Iga’s historic win streak. How many memes have we seen with the picture of Rafa and Roger “briefly” holding hands? And I hate to even say the words “slam race”. 

But there are 4 stories that didn’t get enough play this year. Four stories that we think deserve a lot more ink. So enjoy the storylines we wish people talked about more: 

Rafa joined Djokovic as the only players in the Open Era to win each slam twice

Excuse me: Only male players (in Andy Murray’s voice). Rafa seemed destined to be stuck at one Australian Open in his career. He was so close many times, but Djokovic remained as the only man in the Open Era to win each of the four slams more than once (Rod Laver also did it, but some of his titles were prior to the Open Era).

By winning the AO for a second time (and the first since 2009!), Nadal joined Djokovic as the only two-time Serena slammers on the men’s side. It’s a feat that people should talk about more (instead of the GOAT debate). 

Considering he secured his first career slam with his US Open win in 2010, there were 12 years between achieving his two career slams. It speaks volumes to Nadal’s staying power on top. Djokovic, by comparison, won Roland Garros in 2016 and 2021 to secure his two career slams–a gap of 5 years. 

We know his record number of weeks in the top 10, but his second win in Australia was monumental for so many reasons. And joining Djokovic in the exclusive club is an overlooked one. 

Stef Became a Grass Court Threat

Have you heard a pundit say Tsistipas had a bad year? Or that it’s hard to evaluate his year? Yeah, that’s a storyline we definitely heard enough. But let’s rewind to Wimbledon 2021. Stef crashed out of Wimbledon in the first round in an upset everyone picked to Frances Tiafoe. His backhand return wouldn’t cut it. He needed more time, which is why he excelled on clay. 

Well, fast forward to now and he’s now won a title on every surface. This year Stef became a legitimate force on grass. He won his first title on the surface ahead of Wimbledon. And then his match against Kyrgios was immediately billed as the biggest match of Week 1. Suddenly we’re assuming he’ll make the third round? We all know that match lived up to its billing, but what’s not discussed as much is that Stef lost in 4 close sets. 

If he went on to win that match, he would have been the favorite to make the final on the bottom half. Nick went on to make the final, and it’s hard to imagine Stef would have lost to anyone in that half. Let’s imagine that the circus of a match went the other way: We could be talking about Wimbledon finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas. Either way, this grass court season was a massive improvement from last year, and he’s put himself in the conversation for years to come. 

Most Top WTA Players Didn’t Win Titles

A lot has been said about the current top of the WTA. And for the first time in a while, it doesn’t seem like the criticisms are exclusively sexist. The women at the top are not as clutch as they once were, and they certainly aren’t as consistent. 

But most glaring to me is how few titles the women at the top of the sport have won. It’s pretty shocking. 

Yes, we’re aware of the depth. And yes, we know that Iga won just about everything this year. But this trend goes beyond this year. Here’s a quick breakdown: 

  • Maria Sakari has one lone title, a small clay title in 2019. 
  • CoCo Gauff has won one title – and it was last year. She didn’t win a title all year. 
  • Jessica Pegula nearly went titless this year before winning her maiden 1000 title in Guadalajara. Whew, just in time. But that was just her second title ever.
  • Veronika Kudermatova didn’t win a title all year. She made one final, losing 3, 1 to Potapova. Not great for a top 10 player. 
  • Aryna Sabalenka, for all her successes this year, wasn’t able to snag the big trophy this year. 
  • Simona Halep, the most decorated member of the top 10 outside of Iga, won one lone title in her bizarre year. 

That means 4 of the top 10 players in the world didn’t win a single title this year. Not even a small one when they were expected to win. Iga won a lot, but she didn’t win every title. The top 10 women have proven to not be clutch, and their lack of titles is just one of the pieces of evidence. 

To be fair: Daria Kasatkina won 2 titles and was consistent throughout most of the year. Caroline Garcia won 4 titles in the second half of the year – so props to her. Iga won 7 titles, and Ons won 2 as well. So it wasn’t all bad news for the top of the game. 

The French Open Finals Continue to Flop 

Roland Garros was undoubtedly the weakest slam this year. Granted, Australia had a player get deported and an all-time run from Nadal. Wimbledon had the Russian player drama and exciting finalist runs (Jabeur and Kyrgios). And the US Open had Serena and Alcaraz. The bar was high this year. 

But Roland Garros was a flop. And the finals were the cherry on a very unsweetened cake. It continued the recent history at the tournament of snoozefest finals. It’s never a good sign when both finals had a bagel set. Ouch. On the women’s side, Iga Swiatek swept aside Coco Gauff 6-0 6-3 in the worst women’s final since the 2017 US Open when Stephens beat Keys with the same scoreline. 

The next day, Nadal beat Casper Ruud 6-3 6-3 6-0. The third set was painful to watch, and the outcome was never in doubt. While most finals at Roland Garros aren’t as terrible as this year, they are notoriously bad. Since 2000, only 6 women’s finals have had a final set. And some of the most cringe-worthy finals have happened here. Look no further than the 2019 final between Barty and Vondrousova, Sharapova’s lopsided win over Errani in 2012 and some of the Henin finals from the early 2000s. As for the men’s side, Nadal has won 8 out of his titles in straight-set finals. Enough said. 

Let’s hope next year’s tournament turns the tide. 

These are stories we’ll be watching heading into next year, and we won’t forget them anytime soon. We’ll see what stories go unreported next year! I bet the eye roll-inducing GOAT debate won’t be one of them. 

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