As 2022 draws to a close, here are my highlights and low moments for my favourite players.
High – Eastbourne title.
Low – Australian Open R1 loss to Cirstea
The start of 2022 was pretty grim as Petra seemed very out of form. It turned out to be a lingering wrist issue that had curtailed her preseason training and came up throughout the year. Perhaps a remnant of the knife attack in December 2016 that has left Petra with not much feeling in her index finger and put different stresses and strains in her grip and left arm generally. Petra has always liked Australian but she got precisely one win there in 2022 and the opening round loss to Cirstea was the nadir. More depressing was watching a sad press conference after that loss with uninterested journalists saying, ‘didn’t she beat you at the same stage last year?’ And poor Petra, slightly tetchy for once, reminding them it was round 2 last year.
Things picked up in the Middle East before that wrist injury returned but it was definitely was a factor in the poor results in the early part of the year.
Which brings the highlight and that 29th title and the first on grass for a few years. The Eastbourne draw was pretty packed but Petra had her way cleared by a few Brits, before gaining revenge over The Form Player on grass, Beatriz Haddad Maia who beat her in round 1 at Birmingham, where Petra is a two time champion. She took out Jelena Ostapenko in the final, and was even back in her shoes with her name on! Guess the sponsors don’t do that when you drop outside the top 10. I imagine these were old grass court shoes! This was a pretty drama-free, dominating run. Petra didn’t drop serve in her last 3 matches and it was Petra playing the sort of grass court tennis that made me a fan.
The Cincinnati run to the final, although well beaten by Garcia
The epic win over Muguruza at the US Open and a truly epic final set
Bagelling Camilla Giorgi then beating Aryna Sabalenka in Dubai was a little glimpse that good old Petra was still there back in February
Petra hitting a 119mph serve at Wimbledon.. how? Wind assisted?
High – Ostrava title
Low – losing to Krunic in R2 of the US Open
Barbora’s 2022 was probably defined by the arm injury that struck her in February and scuppered most of her season. While losing in R1 of Roland Garros as defending champion might be seen as her low, she hadn’t played in a very long time and was clearly not fit. She started well but you could almost see Krejcikova hit a wall physically and the fact she tested positive for COVID the next day, putting her out of the doubles – where she was also defending champion – meant this was just bad timing. By the summer, she seemed to be fit, but regaining form and sharpness was the issue. The US Open R2 might seem an odd pick as the low, but things had been looking promising with a pretty good round 1 win and played well to take the first set. However, Krunic is a fighter and what was so depressing about this loss was that as soon as Krunic played better, Barbora seemed to crumble and hit out wildly. Control and calmness are her superpowers, but this was a messy loss. The eyes of the tennis world were all on Serena Williams that week at the US Open but this was when I wondered if 2021 had all been a dream…
Which made Barbora’s autumn renaissance all the sweeter. The title in Tallinn was brilliant – wins over Kostyuk, Tomljanovic, Haddad Maia, Bencic and Kontaveit were impressive and finally it seemed Barbora was back, but better was to come! The Ostrava tournament was pretty glorious. Petra had a good run, but Krejcikova overcame the plucky young American, Alicia Parks, who had beaten Maria Sakkari and Karolina Pliskova with some huge serving. She had a hard fought win over super-serving Wimbledon champion, Elena Rybakina and then it was the final against runaway world number 1, Iga Swiatek.
This match was definitely the match of the year and probably the best of Barbora’s career. Yes, RG21 was a slam, but the crowd was still slightly COVID-sparse. In Ostrava, we had the best crowd for a women’s match outside of the slams. Being close to the Polish border, the crowd was split between Czech and Polish fans, who were loud and enthusiastic, creating a brilliant atmosphere. Swiatek had a stunning finals record to this point, usually sweeping opponents away very rapidly. The match itself was of terrific quality and the result of the contest came down to one loose service game from Swiatek at 3-4 in the third set. Seemingly mentally frazzled for a moment, she made some poor choices, was drawn into the net and passed by Krejcikova. Serving at 5-3, Iga got her mojo back and played some phenomenal tennis to really make Barbora work for it, eventually taking it with an ace in her 6th match point. A wonderful match of over 3 hours and hopefully an indication Krejcikova can get back to the top 10.
Krejcikova and Siniaková
Added to my favourites this year are the doubles team of Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova (and also Katka as a singles player!) so I’m taking them separately in considering highs and lows.
High – US Open win to complete the career grand slam
Low – blowing a 7-2 lead in the match tie break to lose the Year End Championship final
As a doubles team, Barbora and Katka didn’t play a lot, but when they did..? Three grand slam titles is a phenomenal achievement and the crowing moment was taking the US Open title. This looked unlikely when they were a set and 1-4 down to Taylor Townsend and Caty McNally in the final. Krejcikova wasn’t playing that well and the Americans seemed inspired. However, the Czechs kept fighting and once they took the second set, it was a foregone conclusion. The American team looked deflated, the Czechs pumped to get the final grand slam title and complete their set. The Australian Open title to start the year was an unexpectedly tough battle against Haddad Maia and Danilina, with the match point moon ball from Barbora a particular highlight. The Wimbledon title was notable for a massive battle against Nicole Melichar-Martinez and Ellen Perez in the QF. Outplayed for a set and a half, the Czechs showed real grit and determination to come through and rolled to the title from there. They have now won 6 grand slam doubles titles and hopefully will add a few more.
Unfortunately the pair ended the year on a disappointing note. The overwhelming favourites to retain their doubles title at the Year End Championships, Krejcikova and Siniaková breezed through the group stage and the semifinals. In the final they faced Veronika Kudermatova and Elise Mertens. This team had been playing well, especially Kudermatova who had just missed out in singles. The Russian/Belgian duo started like a rocket and were a set and a break up – hmm, that sounds familiar. Time for a Czech fight back. And it happened! Krejcikova and Siniaková battled back into the match, taking set 2 and racing to a 7-2 lead in the match tiebreak.
(On a personal note, I really wanted this as it was my birthday but I had had to have a tooth pulled, so my celebratory meal was cancelled and I was in pain. Please Barbora and Katka, cheer me up.)
Yay, 7-2….. and then… I’m not sure what happened but they got tentative and Kudermatova and Mertens sensed blood. They raised their level and intensity and just seemed to want it more. Of course, judging low points is subjective. Objectively, Krejcikova and Siniaková had an amazing season but a real shame they couldn’t finish on a winning note.
A new addition as a favourite on a regular basis and for her singles too. Read on for how come..!
High – beating Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the Portoroz final
Low – losing in round 1 of Wimbledon to a qualifier
Wimbledon 2022 was a mixed bag for Siniaková. While she would win the doubles title 2 weeks later, day 1 was a low. I was at SW19 on day 1 and ready to race to court 16 to see her play Maja Chwalinska, a Polish qualifier. Unfortunately, due to poor queue management, by the time I got into the grounds, Katka had lost the first set 6-0 and it was raining! While she put up more of a fight in set 2 – and I was right there behind her chair – it was a tough loss.
But let’s end on a happier note, Katka’s first singles title in several years. In many ways this run is what drew me in as a paid up fan of her in singles too!
After winning the US Open doubles on the Sunday, Katka was on a plane to Slovenia and on court a few days later. Battling jet lag and rain delays – Siniaková had to win her quarterfinal and semifinal on the same day – she faced an in-form Rybakina. The way she fought off the Rybakina serve and stayed solid herself was extremely impressive. Katka’s battling, energetic and passionate manner is very engaging, but being a fan is even more of a roller coaster than being a Petra fan! That US Open victory resulted in both Katka and Barbora going on to win singles titles in the following weeks. Success breeds success?
Other Siniaková highlights include 3 other doubles titles with 3 different partners, the oddest of which was her teaming up with Kristina Mladenovic to win the 250 in Monastir. With 12 doubles slam titles between them, Siniakova and Mladenovic seemed kind of over-qualified against the other ITF level girls.
Siniaková’s win over Coco Gauff in singles at the Billie Jean King Cup finals ended her season on a good note. The Czechs lost in the semifinals, but Siniaková had two match wins. This was mere days after the YEC in Texas and a long haul to Glasgow. Siniakova puts her all into her tennis and her energy is fabulous but even she was tired by the semifinal and couldn’t contest the singles again.
When you see the strides others have made off the back of doubles success, could Siniaková make a move? She has the athleticism and skill and has had good wins over the years. I’d love to see her get into the top 20 but for now, doubles number 1 for the second year running, 7 trophies for the year. Pretty good.
So many stories, so many highs and lows. Happy 2023!