WTA 2022 rewind: Swiatek stands alone, Serena’s evolution

It’s time to recap and marvel at an astonishing season across the WTA Tour.

Iga Swiatek, Daria Abramowicz, Tomasz Wiktorowski, entourage, Roland Garros 2022, trophy© Corinne Dubreuil/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Almost too much happened within the 2022 calendar on the WTA Tour, it’s a campaign which will be mentioned for many years to come.

An historic winning streak and legendary figures waving goodbye stole the headlines, with an extensive list of players making their mark within the confines of a tennis court.

Ash drops the mic

Back in March the dominant force in women’s tennis was still Ash Barty.

The world No.1’s all-court craft was making opponents feel helpless, sweeping the field aside at the Australian Open to end 44 years waiting at her home major for a women’s singles champion.

A third Grand Slam, Barty’s game gleaming, an extended stint at the top seemed inevitable. Then, a social media post from the 15-time titlist announced her retirement from professional tennis.

Ashleigh Barty / Open d'Australie 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Goals gained, fulfilled, Ash has always dictated her own pathway.

To be able to win Wimbledon (2021), my one true dream that I wanted in tennis, that really changed my perspective,” revealed the 2019 Roland-Garros winner, finishing up with majors across three surfaces.

“Then came the challenges of the Australian Open (2022) and I think that for me just feels like the most perfect way to celebrate what an amazing journey my tennis career has been.”

Swiatek’s Polish perfection joins the greats

Replacing Barty at the helm of women’s tennis was a tall order. Up stepped Iga Swiatek.

Pretty much every statistic from the 21-year-old’s 2022 season is an eyebrow raiser.

11 months on Tour, 68 victories, just nine defeats. Adding to her 2020 maiden major in Paris, Swiatek collected a second Roland-Garros crown and the US Open.

The tour-leading total of eight titles also included the ‘Sunshine Double’ with the Indian Wells and Miami silverware.

Iga Swiatek / Indian Wells 2022©Antoine Couvercelle / FFT

Having taken over world No.1 in April, the Pole flourished in pole position, eventually compiling a century-best 37-match winning streak, spanning over 135 days!

The record books were being re-written by some scintillating shot-making, improvisation alongside immense athleticism, whilst dispatching opponents in a ruthless manner with 48 straight-set triumphs. So much so Swiatek finished 2022 with 22 ‘bagel’ sets with a 6-0 scoreline, the most since Serena Williams’ 25 in 2013.

There were a lot of comparisons in terms of dominance with vintage Serena and ‘since Williams’ moments. That says it all.

“It's just crazy that it happens," stated Swiatek. "It's that kind of thing that is gonna stay with you for the rest of your career… This season has been so intense and I'm so proud of myself that I could play so well till the end of it.”

Final chapter of the Serena show

A kid from Compton turning pro in 1995, to then becoming a global icon, Serena Williams leaves a legacy like no other.

Back in August she used a first-person essay with Vogue magazine to call time on her hall of fame career.

“I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.”

73 titles, including 23 Grand Slams, 858 match wins, the numbers became irrelevant as Serena put on one final show at the US Open.

The American thrilled the A-list packed Arthur Ashe Stadium with a deciding set blockbuster win over No.2 seed Anett Kontaveit, before the farewell tour was halted in another thriller by an incredibly composed Ajla Tomljanovic 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-1.

“I think she embodies that no dream is too big,” said the gracious Tomljanovic. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, the circumstances, you can do anything if you believe in yourself.”

Serena, one of the greatest of all time, was left to reflect on a final compelling Grand Slam chapter.

“Clearly I'm still capable. It takes a lot more than that. I'm ready to be a mom, explore a different version of Serena.”

Serena Williams / US Open 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Fly with Caro once again

Beginning the season ranked all the way down at No.74, resurgence was the name of the game for Caroline Garcia.

Since soaring to world No.4 in 2017, the supremely gifted Frenchwoman has endured injuries and fluctuating form.

By April 2022, Garcia was sidelined with a foot injury until the grass court campaign in June. Something clicked and the trademark ‘Fly with Caro’ celebration was required on a regular basis.

The key was feeling “liberated” by combining her ever-present quality striking with bold, forward thinking aggression.

Garcia’s commitment to this style and versatility reaped reward, posting title success on three different surfaces in Bad Homburg (grass) Warsaw (clay) and Cincinnati (hard).

Caroline Garcia trophée WA Finals 2022Mike Frey / FFT

In Warsaw, Garcia toppled world No.1 Swiatek, in Cincinatti Garcia triumphed as a qualifier! 13 successive wins catapulted the 29-year-old into the US Open semi-finals.

The big moments, big wins kept on coming for this brave version of Garcia, culminating with the WTA Finals trophy to close a simply miraculous season.

"I cried from pain, sadness and joy in 11 months but I learned so much about myself as a player and a person," Garcia posted on social media.

 "I also learned from every moment, every difficulty, my foot injury made me realise how much I wanted to come back to the courts and above all play my real game, the one I liked to watch, offensive tennis.”

Pegula and Coco double delight

Finishing 2022 inside the Top 10 of both singles and doubles is pretty rare and a pretty strong indication of a superb season.

That’s the case for American duo Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff.

Roland-Garros encapsulated their brilliance, where the compatriots reached the doubles final and Gauff was also the singles runner up. Only a certain Swiatek denied them both in singles play.

On the evidence of 2022, Pegula and Gauff will be in major contention for many years to come.

“How old is she? 18, 19? It's just ridiculous,” quipped Pegula in Paris. "I feel like she's been 18 for like five years. I'm like, ‘Coco, you're like a veteran’.

Coco Gauff et Jessica Pegula / Roland-Garros 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

“She has so much time, so I hope she doesn't get too stressed out about that either, because I'm sure she will have many more chances.”

Pegula, chalking up three last-eight spots in Grand Slams play as part of nine season quarter-finals, has become the ultimate barometer of consistency on Tour.

“I think really there's nowhere to go but up. Even this year I lost to Ash (Barty) in the quarters of Australia, and then I lose to Iga (US Open), which was more like a final, it is what it is,” stated Pegula, up at a career-high world No.3.

“It's just showing my level's right there and obviously players like that, they've hit a different level where they're winning, and I hope I can get to that level at some point.”

Jabeur spreading the joy

Elena Rybakina’s ‘dark horse’ Wimbledon win was the perfect proof that the WTA is spoilt for talent across the board.

The history-making Kazakh broke the heart of Ons Jabeur at SW19. The Tunisian, hailed as the ‘Minister of Happiness,’ continues to inspire millions of people across her home continent with flamboyant play.

Away from the jaw-dropping repertoire and social media golden moments, Jabeur’s results speak for themselves in 2022. Two major finals at Wimbledon and the US Open, a first WTA 1000 trophy in Madrid, all helping the 28-year-old rise to world No.2.

Ons Jabeur / Wimbledon 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

The ‘first African woman to’ accolades keep on coming, having an impact at home is such a huge factor of reciprocal inspiration.

“It means a lot,” said Jabeur in New York. “I’m trying to do more and more. Hopefully I can inspire more and more kids. That’s the goal. This is just the beginning of so many things.

“Definitely want to win a Grand Slam to show that it's not impossible for someone coming from my country, from my continent, to have that title.

“Definitely I'm not going to give up. I'm going to keep my hopes up. I know there is a lot of finals coming for me."