The 2022 Grand Slam season is over. Now it's time to reflect.
It was a stunning season that saw three of the majors won by then-reigning World No.1. Ashleigh Barty kicked off the year with a dominant romp to the Australian Open title and then handed off the torch to Iga Swiatek, who would become the first woman since 2016 to win two Slams in a single season. Amid her century-best 37-match winning streak, the 21-year-old from Poland took home her second Roland Garros title and then capped off the year with her first US Open title.
Despite the dominance at the top, the Hologic WTA Tour would still crown a new major champion in Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina, who put in an inspired run at Wimbledon. And in a dramatic and fitting farewell, Serena Williams bowed out one final time.
Greg Garber, Courtney Nguyen, and Alex Macpherson reconvene to break it all down.
What's your biggest takeaway from the 2022 Grand Slam season?
Garber: The unpredictability. Ashleigh Barty won the Australian Open title over Danielle Collins, but how about Alizé Cornet’s run to the quarterfinals – 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 at Wimbledon in 2004. Elena Rybakina, out of nowhere, won Wimbledon.
At the US Open, Serena Williams beat No.2-seeded Anett Kontaveit, and Ajla Tomljanovic defeated Williams – and then Ons Jabeur beat Tomljanovic and Caroline Garcia to reach her second consecutive Grand Slam final.
Nguyen: When Iga Swiatek puts her mind to something, she gets it done. Even before she went on her tear, Swiatek had a breakthrough run to the Australian Open semifinals, her biggest hard-court result at the time. Going into Roland Garros she easily made good on her tag as the heavy favorite.
But New York was something else. To win the US Open, Swiatek had to play herself into form in unfavorable conditions, against a draw that would be her most difficult of the three major runs. Swiatek showed the field that she can dominate by sheer force of will. And she's just 21.
Macpherson: Treasure Alizé Cornet on a Grand Slam stage while we still have her. The Frenchwoman described herself as "the upset girl" at the US Open, and she provided some of the most indelible moments of each major.
In Australia, she outlasted Simona Halep over 2 hours and 33 minutes in 33°C temperatures to reach her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. In Paris, backed by a raucous crowd, she took out Jelena Ostapenko to win the first-ever Roland Garros women's night match. At Wimbledon, she ended Iga Swiatek's 37-match winning streak in the third round. And in New York, she ousted defending champion Emma Raducanu in the first round, fittingly sealing the all-time record of consecutive Grand Slam main draw appearances at night on 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’s been tracking toward a breakthrough season, this had to be particularly satisfying for Jabeur, who had been to 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'm going to go with Coco Gauff. By making her first major final at Roland Garros, the 18-year-old American showed she's ready to take the next step in singles. Then she showed great poise and command of Arthur Ashe Stadium to make her first US Open quarterfinal. Through it all, she wowed fans and reporters with her poise, humor, and willingness to use her platform to discuss any and all issues. We always knew Gauff was ready for primetime, but now I can't wait for it.
Macpherson: For me, it has to be Elena Rybakina, who will end 2022 as the only active reigning Grand Slam champion other than Swiatek. Ahead of the US Open, the Kazakh noted that she hadn't really felt like a major winner in terms of media attention or court assignments, and she had a point. Perhaps the media has no idea what to do with an introverted woman of few words who doesn't give them easily-packaged "moments".
So it's worth saying here: Rybakina's non-reactions are extreme to the point of being iconic, but more importantly, they're authentic; and while other players had more easily sellable stories, she was the one who actually went out there and delivered the goods to win Wimbledon.
What player who did not perform particularly well at this year’s majors do you expect to rebound next year?
Garber: I’d like to see Maria Sakkari get back in the game. After making two major semifinals in 2021, she seemed poised to take it to the next level. Instead, she failed to get past the fourth round in any of the Grand Slams. After an off-season re-set, hopefully, she finds a way back to form.
Nguyen: For the first time since 2017, Naomi Osaka went an entire Slam season without winning a major. In fact, she went 2-3 at the Slams this year, with both of those wins coming in Australia. Her draw certainly didn't help, drawing Amanda Anisimova in Melbourne and Paris and Danielle Collins in New York. I think her luck changes next year. I'm confident she'll be back in the Slam mix in 2022.
Macpherson: I second Courtney on Osaka, and would reiterate that Bianca Andreescu should never be written off.
But throughout 2022, I felt Belinda Bencic was on the cusp of a deep Slam run that never came. She lost to Anisimova at the Australian Open and was edged 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 by Leylah Fernandez at Roland Garros -- a match that was closer and better than I expected, given Bencic's aversion to red clay. On her beloved grass, her Wimbledon prep was hampered by an ankle injury she sustained in the Berlin final; then at the US Open, she inexplicably lost from a set and a break up to Karolina Pliskova. Surely Bencic gets 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.
Through her first four matches at Wimbledon, six of Elena Rybakina's eight sets required seven games. Rybakina was rolling. Then in the quarterfinals, Ajla Tomljanovic took 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 to win 6-2, 6-3, striking a total of 15 aces. That moment prepared her for the final. When Ons Jabeur won the first set, Rybakina responded and went on to her first major title.
Nguyen: Ajla Tomljanovic d. Serena Williams, 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-1, US Open third round.
It's poetic that Williams' final match was the longest match she'd ever played at the US Open. She didn't want to leave and the fans didn't want her to go. I'll remember the final game, which saw Williams save five match points, and the emotions pouring out of the fans willing her on. And I'll also remember Tomljanovic, against all odds, holding her nerve through it all.
Macpherson: Tatjana Maria d. Jelena Ostapenko 5-7, 7-5, 7-5, Wimbledon fourth round.
I was on No.1 Court for this wild ride, about the most extreme stylistic contrast you could find on tour. At any given point, you felt anything could happen. Ostapenko delivered thrilling power, Maria blunted it with delightful finesse, Ostapenko responded by upping the ante even more -- but it was the 34-year-old mother-of-two who would save two match points and go on to an improbable first Grand Slam semifinal.
Lastly, in just a few words, can you put into words what you felt when Serena Williams walked off the court one final time in New York?
Garber: Respect. At the age of 40, saving five match points and going three-plus hours in her farewell match against Ajla Tomljanovic, was so Serena. I’ll miss that fire and fury. So will tennis.
Nguyen: I often thought of Serena's 2015 US Open, a tournament that should have been a full-throated celebration of her career but was undone by both the stress surrounding her quest to complete the calendar Grand Slam and, well, Roberta Vinci. As Serena walked off the court this time, I thought of 2015 again because she finally got the week-long outpouring of unmitigated love, admiration, and respect she deserved.
Macpherson: Ambivalence, just like she also clearly feels. Rarely have I seen a champion retire -- sorry, evolve -- so reluctantly, when they still feel they have so much more to give. There was a lot of talk about what a "fairytale ending" might look like, but I also felt serious admiration that Serena had the opportunity for exactly that after the 2017 Australian Open -- and rejected it in favour of an ambitious and unprecedented comeback that will, in time, be seen as one of the most groundbreaking chapters of her career.