Counting down my favourite WTA matches of the year has become a long standing tradition here on the blog. It’s my favourite season-ending post! I always enjoy reading other people’s lists too as it’s a personal choice. There’s never a right or wrong answer. Sometimes there’s a match that just captures the imagination that may be forgettable to others. Perhaps a favourite player, a favourite tournament, something random that just makes it instantly memorable. If you fancy a blast from the past then you can read previous countdowns on MTB here. I don’t think there are many surprises in this year’s list? Let’s take a look at my top ten for 2022…
10. Beatriz Haddad Maia d. Simona Halep, 6-3 2-6 6-4 (Birmingham, SF)
The surprise star of this year’s grass court season was Beatriz Haddad Maia who mounted a 12 match winning streak that included capturing titles in Nottingham and Birmingham. Haddad Maia’s semi-final win over Simona Halep in Birmingham was arguably the peak of that run. The semi-finals had been held over by a day due to a typically wet day in Brum. I remember following the live scores to this match huddled under an umbrella whilst enduring a rain delay in Eastbourne! When I got round to watching back the match in full, it was a high-intensity match with so memorable rallies. From Haddad Maia’s sledgehammer forehand winners to Halep’s wheels to whip out fantastic passing shot winners. Ultimately, the difference was a series of Haddad Maia surges in the first and third sets as she bloomed with confidence on the green stuff.
9. Belinda Bencic d. Maria Sakkari, 6-7(6) 6-4 6-4 (Berlin, SF)
Three hours and ten minutes in the blazing Berlin sun… and on grass! This wasn’t just quantity, it had quality as well. It was another match that I was live scoring in Eastbourne and enjoyed watching back in full. Bencic was inspired for the final two sets and was seeing the ball like a football towards the end of the second set. The Swiss player was then absolutely clutch in the third set. Unfortunately, it was yet another tough loss for Sakkari who actually played well for the most part. A dwindling first serve percentage didn’t help Sakkari’s cause as she buckled with scoreboard pressure at 4-5 in the third set. Bencic was fantastic and it was such a shame she injured herself in the ensuing final. I’m still convinced that Bencic is primed to go on a tear at Wimbledon. I’ll keep predicting it until it happens… 😂
8. Angelique Kerber d. Kaja Juvan, 7-6(5) 6-7(0) 7-6(5) (Strasbourg, F)
What is it about the Strasbourg final?! Five of the last six finals have gone three sets and three of those were decided in a third set tiebreak. Kerber-Juvan was another instant classic. It’s actually the first of the Strasbourg finals that i’ve managed to watch back and therefore, to feature in the countdown. This was three hours and 20 minutes of superb tennis. In the third set, the pair kept upping the bar for each other. Juvan is such an interesting player and one that I keep adding to the “one to watch” category. She can produce magic out of pretty much nothing. Her overheads were impeccable! I thought Juvan was the better player over the three sets but ultimately Kerber’s experience shone through in the important moments. And of course, Kerber sealed the win with a classic passing shot winner on match point. A perfect ending to a pretty perfect final.
7. Serena Williams d. Anett Kontaveit, 7-6(4) 2-6 6-2 (US Open, R2)
The story of the 2022 US Open was undoubtedly Serena Williams. This was a high-quality contest and to be honest, I wasn’t really expecting it as neither Serena or Anett had been in the best of form heading into this tournament. The bubbling cauldron of Arthur Ashe Stadium just elevated this match further. Considering the intensity of the rallies and how hard both players were hitting the ball, the stats were impressive (70 winners to 67 unforced errors). Kontaveit was almost flawless in the second set. Serena reset in the third set to record her first top ten win since the 2021 Australian Open. Not bad going!
6. Barbora Krejcikova d. Iga Swiatek, 5-7 7-6(4) 6-3 (Ostrava, F)
After the US Open, I tend to switch off from tennis. One match that did catch my Autumn gaze was the final of OSTRAVA!!! This final had a superb atmosphere. It was genuinely hard to work out who the crowd were rooting for with many Polish fans making the short trip to Ostrava. Three hours and 18 minutes. 86 winners between the pair. Krejcikova needed six match points in a thrilling final game where Swiatek conjured up some absolute wizardry to stay in contention.
I’m a firm believer that Krejcikova’s 2021 run was not a flash in the pan. One of her strengths is managing to hold it together in the most nerve-jangling of moments which she did in this final. Krejcikova’s consistency after winning Roland Garros last year is still highly underrated IMO. 2022 was a tough season in singles, partly due to an elbow injury. This win showed that the 2021 level is still there as Krejcikova did something that only Polona Hercog has ever done – beat Iga Swiatek in a final.
5. Amanda Anisimova d. Naomi Osaka, 4-6 6-3 7-6(5) (Australian Open, R3)
The Australian summer of tennis presented some wonderful storylines. My favourite match down under was a hotly anticipated third round encounter at the Australian Open between two players who were unbeaten in 2022 at the time. This was the first match of the year where I was living and breathing with every point. Anisimova saved two match points in the third set and played a sensational third set extended tiebreak to beat Osaka who was the defending champion. The level of ballstriking was immense and it was Anisimova who was outhitting and outserving Osaka for much of the last two sets. It was so tough to call which made it all the more exciting.
4. Karolina Pliskova d. Victoria Azarenka, 7-5 6-7(5) 6-2 (US Open, R4)
I feel like this might be the most underrated and overlooked match of the entire year? In an era of few defining rivalries, Azarenka-Pliskova has low-key been one of the best match-ups on the WTA tour. This was their first meeting in over three years; prior to this last 16 clash in New York, the pair had played each other eight times with the head-to-head split evenly at 4-4. Five of those matches went the distance. This was just a great match. Fast-paced rallies. Both going for it. No holding back. It was raining down winners with 99 combined from the pair. And that’s a talking point because i’ve always thought that Pliskova is overly passive considering the weapons that she possesses. This was surely Pliskova’s best match of the season.
3. Tatjana Maria d. Jule Niemeier, 4-6 6-2 7-5 (Wimbledon, QF)
This wasn’t your average Wimbledon quarter-final. World number 97 against 103. Both in the second week of a Slam for the first time in their respective careers. Niemeier had never won a main draw Slam match before Wimbledon. Maria’s best result in 34 Slam main draw appearances was a lone run to the third round at Wimbledon in 2015.
It also wasn’t your average women’s match. The pair combined for 119 approaches to the net! There were so many layers of variety and the pair captured the imagination of an unsuspecting No.1 Court. Niemeier was all-out serve-and-volleying by the end. It was an approach that I admired but sadly execution let her down in the end as an all slicing-and-dicing Maria, 15 months after giving birth to her second child, marched into the semis. One of the tennis stories of the year. Heartwarming stuff! 🥰
2. Ajla Tomljanovic d. Serena Williams, 7-5 6-7(4) 6-1 (US Open, R3)
Williams-Kontaveit from the second round featured arguably the better quality tennis but it’s the match against Tomljanovic that will stay with me. I remember watching back in the morning having avoided the result. I could tell by the length of the stream it was going to be epic! Three hours and seven minutes. It was a display that was just, yeah… Serena. Tomljanovic needed six match points to get across the finish line. Serena just wouldn’t let go. We still don’t if this will be Serena’s last tournament as there have been swirling rumours of a comeback in 2023. If this was her last foray, it ticked all the boxes for a pretty perfect send-off. To be honest, I think anything after this US Open run would feel like an anticlimax.
The moment was Serena’s but a tip of the hat to Tomljanovic. To be honest, i’ve always regarded Tomljanovic as a player that blinks in the big moments. Not after this match. This was an extraordinary mental display from Tomljanovic and i’m still in awe of how exceptionally well she handled such a unique occasion.
1. Angelique Kerber d. Magdalena Frech, 2-6 6-3 7-5 (French Open, R1)
Well, here’s a surprise… for the fourth time, Angelique Kerber features in my favourite match. It’s also the tenth consecutive year that Kerber has appeared somewhere in the top ten! What makes this one even more special is it came just two days after match no. 8 in my countdown! I actually missed this match live as I was at Roland Garros, watching another great first round match between Emma Raducanu and Linda Noskova. It’s never the same watching back a match where you know the result but omg I felt this moment even on the replay.
Frech, who played a fantastic match, led 5-3 in the third set and had two match points before Kerber mounted a remarkable comeback to win the last four games. The crowd erupted into a chorus of “Angie Kerber” on what would be the final changeover. Kerber gave the fans a racquet clap before stepping out to break serve for the win. In particular, the third set was an absolute treat. There were so many memorable rallies. All the drop shots and cat-and-mouse exchanges. The Kerber forehand to the Frech backhand. What made this match stand out from the rest was so many great points ending on winners. Fabulous winners!
Unfortunately the streak for Angie appearing in the MTB Best Matches countdown will come to an end next year as she takes some time away from the tour to have her first child!
Best of the rest:
Paula Badosa d. Barbora Krejcikova, 6-3 4-6 7-6(4) (Sydney, F): The Sydney final laid down a solid early marker for final of the year. Badosa’s serve and mental fortitude managed to hold Krejcikova at bay as she maintained her 100% record over the Czech player.
Danielle Collins d. Clara Tauson, 4-6 6-4 7-5 (Australian Open, R3): Another cracking third rounder at AO 2022 where Collins rallied from a set and a break down and served superbly in a big-hitting decider. Now looking back, it feels like a sliding doors moment for Collins who went onto reach the final.
Jelena Ostapenko d. Petra Kvitova, 5-7 7-5 7-6(9) (Dubai, QF): Not sure I can remember a match where both players were teeing off on each other’s serves like this and hitting return winners for fun. Kvitova failed to serve out the match in both the second and third sets as Ostapenko fought her way to the win and the title a few days later.
Leylah Fernandez d. Camila Osorio, 6-7(5) 6-4 7-6(3) (Monterrey, F): If the drama on court wasn’t enough, the floodlights failed in the 6-5 game in the third set. It meant that the final had to pause with Fernandez about to serve down match point! Great crowd. Great atmosphere. Great match.
Anhelina Kalinina d. Alizé Cornet, 7-6(5) 7-5 (Charleston, R3): A terrific all-court clay-court tussle. One of those rare gems where both play well at the same time.
Ekaterina Alexandrova d. Marie Bouzkova, 6-7(4) 6-0 7-5 (Madrid, R3): From the super high quality first set where Bouzkova survived a 12 deuce game and hit one of the shots of the year to the third set which was all about the drama as Alexandrova overcame a severe case of the yips to finally close out the match.
Emma Raducanu d. Linda Noskova, 6-7(4) 7-5 6-1 (French Open, R1): A nostalgic choice! I always like to pick a match that i’ve watched live and this was one of my favourite memories of 2022. The end of the second set was fantastic. Noskova is such a talent yet Raducanu managed to hold on and score a battling first ever win at RG.
Jil Teichmann d. Victoria Azarenka, 4-6 7-5 6-5(5) (French Open, R3): Three hours and 18 minutes of bruising clay court tennis. Azarenka had her chances, up a set and a break in the second set and then serving for the match in the third. Teichmann held on for her best ever Slam win.
Tatjana Maria d. Jelena Ostapenko, 5-7 7-5 7-5 (Wimbledon, R4): An absolutely delightful clash of styles made even the more merrier watching Ostapenko throw her bottle and knock over her chair at the end 😂.
Caroline Garcia d. Daria Kasatkina, 4-6 6-1 7-6(5) (WTA Finals, RR): The best match from a mostly dreary WTA Finals. It was all about the third set where both players were playing well. Ultimately Garcia’s willingness to go big paid off in the third set tiebreak.