Best Of 2022

Tsitsipas, Nadal, Felix Comebacks Among ATP Tour's Best Of 2022

Rinderknech, Kecmanovic also make our Top 5
December 05, 2022
Stefanos Tsitsipas and Diego Schwartzman played a match full of twists and turns in the Monte Carlo quarter-finals.
Julian Finney/Getty Images
Stefanos Tsitsipas and Diego Schwartzman played a match full of twists and turns in the Monte Carlo quarter-finals. By ATP Staff

This week, continues its annual season-in-review series, looking back at 2022’s best matches, biggest upsets, most dramatic comebacks and more. In this installment, we look back at the best comebacks on the ATP Tour this season (excluding the Grand Slams), featuring Nitto ATP Finals competitors Stefanos Tsitsipas, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Rafael Nadal. On Tuesday we will focus on the best Grand Slam comebacks of the year.

5) BNP Paribas Open, R2, Nadal d Korda 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(3)
Rafael Nadal's perfect start to the season — a run which included three titles — was on the line in Indian Wells, and the Spaniard stayed hot against Sebastian Korda by winning his 13th set in a row dating back to the Australian Open final.

But the American took command of the match on home soil, outhitting Nadal in a dominant second set and moving within two points of victory at 5-2 in the third. Once again, Nadal showcased his fighting spirit by clawing his way back from that double-break deficit, taking advantage of some late nerves from Korda, who idolised the Spaniard growing up.

Nadal broke easily to close to 3-5, then used two trademark passing shots to level the match at 5-5. After fending off a break point in the ensuing game, he was the steadier player in the tie-break as he won the final five points of the match. 

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"I thought I was lost today... and in Australia, very similar feeling," Nadal said in his post-match presser, comparing his win against Korda to his miraculous comeback against Daniil Medvedev in the Aussie Open final. "But that doesn't mean that I'm not going to keep trying or keep fighting."

The then-35-year-old would extend his personal-best season start to 20-0 by reaching the Indian Wells final before falling to Taylor Fritz in a match which made our list of Biggest ATP Tour Upsets Of 2022.

4) Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships, R2, Kecmanovic d Evans 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(4)
On the fourth of what would be six match points saved, Miomir Kecmanovic hit one of the shots of his life to deny Daniel Evans victory in Tokyo. Emboldened after escaping 40/0 earlier in Evans' 5-4 service game, the Serbian produced a superb defensive tweener to turn the point around at Ad-in.

"It was amazing, It's the first time I ever made that shot in a match," he said of the circus shot. "I'm beyond happy that I was able to do it."

After four deuces and two more match points, Kecmanovic broke to level the match at 5-5 in the deciding set. Brimming with confidence, he saw a match point of his own go begging on return at 6-5 before closing out the tie-break by winning its final four points.

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"That was the first time that I was able to do that," Kecmanovic said of his great escape. "I was completely tuned out of the match and I just went for it in that moment."

The eighth-seeded Evans had won four straight games to recover from 1-4 in the set and bring up his chance to serve out the match. Instead, it was Kecmanovic who advanced to his eighth quarter-final of the 2022 season. He followed that up with a ninth tour-level quarter-final appearance two weeks later in Naples, an October result which lifted him to a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of No. 28.

3) Rolex Paris Masters, R2, Auger-Aliassime d. Ymer 6-7(6), 6-4, 7-6(6)
Felix Auger-Aliassime's 13-match win streak was on the verge of being broken by Sweden's Mikael Ymer, who turned in an inspired performance in Bercy. After taking a tight opening set, Ymer led 4-1 in set two and created two break points to all but seal his progress at the ATP Masters 1000.

But a Felix fightback kept the Canadian in the match. By finding his serve to hold, Auger-Aliassime sparked a run of seven straight games as he took control. Still, the drama was far from over: Ymer twice erased a break deficit in the third set and moved within two points of victory at 5/4 in the tie-break.

After three-and-a-half hours of high drama, Auger-Aliassime celebrated an unlikely comeback win that was even more surprising by the measure of break points: Ymer created 17 looks on return, converting just three times, while Auger-Aliassime was an efficient four of five on his chances.

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"Somehow I found a second wind after saving those break points at 4-1,” the Canadian said after the match. “I played better and better, coming through the court much better, serving better. It was pretty epic. Three hours and 30 minutes on the court, quality rallies. He was making me work all the time. Definitely a win to remember.”

Auger-Aliassime's comeback — particularly the seven-game run which flipped the match — was built on relentless attacking. He played 31 per cent of his shots from attacking positions in the contest, according to INSIGHTS: In Attack statistics. But in the clutch moments, he also found success in the long rallies which Ymer was winning for much of the first two sets.

The victory held significance beyond the tournament itself, as Auger-Aliassime was fighting for his Nitto ATP Finals debut, the Pepperstone ATP Live Race To Turin coming down to the wire in its final week. A few hours after the win, his qualification was confirmed following defeats for Taylor Fritz and Hubert Hurkacz.

The 22-year-old — who entered Paris on the heels of three straight titles in Florence, Antwerp and Basel — would extend his winning run to 15 matches before falling in the semis to eventual champ Holger Rune. Two weeks later in Turin, a win against Nadal highlighted his first appearance at the year-end event. But his year did not finish there: Auger-Aliassime earned three more singles wins and one doubles victory at the Davis Cup Finals as he helped lead Canada to its first title in the competition.

2) Gijon Open, QF, Rinderknech d. Carreno Busta 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(16)
Arthur Rinderknech collapsed to the court after saving nine match points to beat Pablo Carreno Busta in Gijon. Overcome with emotion, the Frenchman lingered on his back as he soaked in the moment.

More than the match itself, Rinderknech was thinking of his late grandmother, who passed away earlier in the week in France.

"It's difficult to say something right now," he said after the victory. "The match was crazy. I want to give this win to my grandma that passed away five days ago. I wasn't able to be there in France with my family. So I play for her this week, and this win is for her."

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The first of Carreno Busta's nine match points came on return at 4-5. Rinderknech escaped that jam, then saw two break points of his own go begging in the ensuing game. The Spaniard had another three match points early in the tie-break before Rinderknech earned the first of his six match points at 8/7. 

In a contest that was largely dominated by the server, with just two breaks across three sets, the pressure of the marathon tie-break saw the script flipped. From 9/9, 13 of the final 16 points went the way of the returner, including a run of nine in a row that was ended by an aggressive service point from Rinderknech, who clinched victory with a volley winner.

"I was trying to fight, but it was difficult," the Frenchman added. "I just thought about my grandma and I was going to give it a shot no matter what and try to win this match. Fortunately, I was able to win this one for her, so it's great. I just don't know how I did it. The tie-break was just ridiculous."

1) Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters, QF, Tsitsipas d. Schwartzman 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-4
A Friday full of of quarter-final drama was punctuated by the biggest thriller of them all as Stefanos Tsitsipas edged Diego Schwartzman under the lights in Monte Carlo.

The defending champion Greek looked set for straightforward progress to the semis, leading 6-2, 5-2, but fell victim to a late Schwartzman surge. The Argentine battled back to win the set in a tie-break, then raced out to a 4-0 lead in the third.

But there was one more extreme twist to come, as Tsitsipas roared back to win the final six games of the match. As the third seed rediscovered his rhythm, he pulled Schwartzman around the court with improved width and depth to reclaim the initiative.

There was plenty of late intrigue within those last six games, with a break-point save required at 4-4 and a majestic diving volley — a shot-of-the-season candidate — bringing up the first of two match points for the Greek.

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"It was a very dramatic match with a lot of ups and downs, and I think that was the key match in that tournament," Tsitsipas told in November as he reflected on his season. "I remember feeling — after winning that match, the next day, having to play my semi-final — I kind of felt fearless, I felt that I really had nothing to lose. I was in very good form at the time, after having played such a long match and feeling my shots more and more during the course of the match. I felt pretty confident going into my semi-final."

Tsitsipas went on to power past Alexander Zverev and Alejandro Davidovich Fokina to retain his title in Monte Carlo.

"It's probably the most difficult thing one can do, to go back-to-back at a tournament," the Greek added.

See more in our Best of 2022 season review landing page here.

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