#NextGenATP Stars Rune, Draper, Shelton Feature In Biggest ATP Upsets Of 2022
This week, ATPTour.com begins 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 biggest upsets on the ATP Tour this season (excluding the Grand Slams), featuring Holger Rune, Taylor Fritz and Jack Draper. On Thursday we will focus on the best Grand Slam upsets of the year.
5) Libema Open, van Rijthoven d. Fritz (R2), Auger-Aliassime (SF), Medvedev (Final)
Dutchman Tim van Rijthoven’s wild card run on the grass of ‘s-Hertogenbosch comes in at No. 5 on our list — but it could have been the biggest stunner, according to the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
The 25-year-old beat each of the top three seeds in the field — Taylor Fritz, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Daniil Medvedev — to become the lowest-ranked tour-level champion of the season at World No. 205.
In winning his first ATP Tour title, van Rijthoven battled back from a set down against Fritz in the second round, won a third-set tie-break against Auger-Aliassime in the semis and “destroyed” (Medvedev’s word) the World No. 2, 6-4, 6-1 in the final.
“This is new for me, it’s going to take some time getting used to,” said the Dutchman, who had not won a tour-level match prior to his title run. “What a dream this week. I would like to thank my team for staying humble this week, doing the normal things, not making this thing any bigger than it was.”
Building off his trophy run, van Rijthoven went on to reach the fourth round at Wimbledon, taking a set off Novak Djokovic in defeat after cutting down seeds Reilly Opelka and Nikoloz Basilashvili. He reached a career-high Pepperstone ATP Ranking of World No. 101 in July behind his strong showings in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and London.
4) Western & Southern Open, R2, Shelton d. Ruud 6-3, 6-3
Not long after finishing his sophomore year at the University of Florida, then-19-year-old Ben Shelton proved he was ready to graduate to the professional level with a breakout showing in Cincinnati during his first ATP Masters 1000 event.
Facing World No. 5 Casper Ruud in the second round, the wild card made quick work of the Norwegian with a straight-sets victory. The American needed just over an hour to notch his fist Top 10 win.
"I think you've got to fake it till you make it, right?” Shelton said of his jump to the elite level. “If I'm not feeling completely comfortable at the beginning, I'm going to do my best to show that I am until I find myself in a place where I am settled in.”
The American’s victory has aged like a fine wine, as Miami finalist Ruud further proved his hard-court chops by advancing to the title matches at both the US Open and the Nitto ATP Finals later in the season.
Shelton, who officially turned pro just before making his Grand Slam debut in New York, used the momentum and the Pepperstone ATP Rankings points from his Cincinnati run to eventually break into the Top 100 following three straight ATP Challenger Tour titles in November.
3) National Bank Open Presented by Rogers, R2, Draper d. Tsitsipas 7-5, 7-6(4)
#NextGenATP Briton Jack Draper picked the perfect time to score his first Top 10 win, capping what was a day full of upsets in Montreal with the biggest shock of them all at the ATP Masters 1000.
The 20-year-old stunned then-World No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas under the lights for the biggest win of his young career. Draper took control of the baseline as he frustrated the Greek and broke three times on nine chances. While he was aggressive throughout from the backcourt, Draper's superior consistency in the late stages of both sets proved decisive, with the Briton winning the last three points of the match from 4/4 in the second-set tie-break.
"This is why I put in all the hard work, for nights like this on stages like this,” he said after claiming the victory on centre court against a man 77 places higher than him in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.
Draper went on the reach the quarter-finals in Montreal, and continued his strong play by reaching the third round at the US Open. A semi-finalist at the Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals to close his season, he will finish the year inside the Top 50.
2) BNP Paribas Open, Final, Fritz d. Nadal 6-3, 7-6(5)
While not seismic by the measure of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, Taylor Fritz’s victory against Rafael Nadal in the Indian Wells final was remarkable for a number of reasons — none more so than the fact that the American nearly didn't take the court.
After tweaking his ankle in the semi-finals against Andrey Rublev, Fritz was in serious pain the day of the final and nearly pulled out before the match. But going against the advice of his team, he decided to step out onto centre court at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden for what was the biggest match of his career.
Once the action began, Fritz took the match to Nadal, powering to a 4-0 lead with aggressive play on serve and return. The Spaniard began to soak up his opponent's pace in set two, but Fritz saved five break points and reasserted himself late in the set, ultimately closing the deal with a patented serve-forehand combo on match point.
"I can't even begin to describe how ridiculous it is that I was able to play how I could play today," said Fritz, choking back tears after fulfilling his childhood dream of winning the title in his native Southern California. "I've never experienced worse pain in my life before a match.”
Nadal was not in perfect health himself, struggling with a rib fracture which would sideline him six weeks following the final. The Spaniard reached the title match by winning a thrilling three-setter against Carlos Alcaraz in blustery conditions, having escaped a double-break deficit against Sebastian Korda in the third set of his opening match.
The win earned Fritz his first ATP Masters 1000 trophy and his first win against Nadal in two tries. It also ended the Spaniard’s 20-match win streak to begin the season, the best start of his career. Fritz would again defeat Nadal at the Nitto ATP Finals, where he reached the semis on his debut.
1) Rolex Paris Masters, Rune d. Hurkacz (R2), Rublev (R3), Alcaraz (QF), Auger-Aliassime (SF), Djokovic (Final)
Holger Rune was already enjoying a strong indoor season before the Rolex Paris Masters, reaching three straight finals and winning the title in Stockholm. But in claiming the third and biggest title of his blossoming career, the 19-year-old Dane upset five Top 10 opponents in succession in Bercy.
That run only began after Rune saved three match points against former World No. 3 Stan Wawrinka in the opening round. After his early escape, he beat Hubert Hurkacz, Andrey Rublev, Carlos Alcaraz and Felix Auger-Aliassime — all without dropping a set — to set up a final showdown with six-time champion Novak Djokovic.
Rune capped off his Cinderella run with a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 win against the defending champion and former World No. 1, winning a marathon service game to close out the victory. The fearless Dane was particularly effective against Djokovic when following his serve with a forehand approach, winning 89 per cent (16/18) of points that began with that pattern.
“It means everything to me, a perfect way to finish the week,” Rune said after claiming the title.
After beating all those Top 10 players, the Norwegian ended the week in the Top 10 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings himself for the first time.
“I’m feeling lovely to be honest, it’s the best feeling,” Rune said of the achievement. “If you told me four weeks ago, I would be Top 10… I would be like ‘What, sorry?’ Now I’m here and I’m super proud.”