Alcaraz & Djokovic Feature In Best Grand Slam Comebacks Of 2022
This week, ATPTour.com 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 Grand Slam comebacks of the season, featuring Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic. On Wednesday we will focus on Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas' rivalry.
5) Roland Garros, R2, Alexander Zverev d. Sebastian Baez 2-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 7-5
Sebastian Baez first showed fans a glimpse of his potential at the 2021 Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals when he advanced to the semi-finals in Milan. The Argentine then started the 2022 season impressively, clinching his maiden tour-level title in Estoril. However, few gave him a chance when he stepped onto court against Alexander Zverev in the second round at Roland Garros.
The German arrived in Paris following runs to the final in Madrid and the last four in Rome, where he defeated Baez in straight sets. Sport rarely follows a simple script, though, and this proved the case in a rollercoaster clash at the clay-court major. Baez flew out of the blocks as he troubled Zverev in the blustery conditions, breaking Zverev’s serve in the opening game to set the tone for the first two sets. The 21-year-old dictated play with his huge forehand, also deploying his drop shot to good effect.
After Zverev fended off three break points to hold for 1-4 in the second set, however, the momentum in the match changed. Although it came too late to prevent the Argentine from clinching the second set, renewed purpose from Zverev powered him to the third and fourth sets for the loss of just three games combined as he found some consistency in his groundstrokes.
Baez refused to roll over as the players exchanged breaks in a tense deciding set, though, and the Argentine had an opportunity to seal his upset win with a match point at 4-5, 30/40. However, he was unable to return a big serve down the middle from Zverev, who then held his nerve to break himself and claim victory.
“This is the worst he [Baez] will probably ever feel on a tennis court right now, this moment," Zverev said after his three-hour, 36-minute win. "It was such an incredible match, and I know it just too well because I lost the US Open final from being two sets to love up.”
Photo Credit: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
4) Wimbledon, QFs, Novak Djokovic d. Jannik Sinner 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
In recent years, Novak Djokovic has proven to be unbeatable at Wimbledon, with the Serbian capturing four consecutive titles at the grass-court major from 2018 to 2022. Few have come closer to toppling the 21-time Grand Slam champion in southwest London than Jannik Sinner, though, who provided Djokovic with a major scare in the quarter-finals this year.
In a high-quality clash, Sinner successfully targeted Djokovic’s serve early, breaking it four times on the way to a two-sets-to-love-lead. The Italian fired his groundstrokes through the court and looked to trouble the Serbian, who looked to be struggling physically.
On the brink of his first defeat at Wimbledon since 2017, Djokovic rallied. He showcased his big-match mentality by playing consistently to outlast Sinner in heavy-hitting exchanges, engineering a mid-match turnaround. The top seed sealed the sole break of the third set before he raced into an unassailable 4-0 lead in the fourth to force a decider.
All the momentum was with Djokovic, and he made it count with an impressive final-set performance. He offered Sinner few free points and pulled off some spectacular winners, most notably a backhand on the slide to bring up break point in the seventh game that had an enraptured Centre Court crowd on their feet. The top seed then served out to love to seal a 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 three-hour, 35-minute win.
“I must say huge congratulations for a big fight today to Jannik,” said Djokovic. “I’m sure there are going to be a lot of opportunities on the big stage. He is so mature for his age, he has been established now as a Top 10, Top 15 player for the past few years.”
Photo Credit: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
3) Roland Garros, R1, Stefanos Tsitsipas d. Lorenzo Musetti 5-7, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2
Lorenzo Musetti demonstrated his clay-court pedigree at Roland Garros in 2021 when he pushed Novak Djokovic to five sets in the fourth round on his debut in Paris.
Fast forward 12 months and the Italian was at it again at the second major of the year, racing into a two-sets-to-love lead against 2021 finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas. In a late-night encounter on Court Philippe Chatrier, Musetti troubled the Greek with his magical shotmaking.
Tsitsipas led 4-1 and held two break points at 15/40 in the opening set before Musetti went on a scintillating run, winning 10 of 11 games to lead by a set and 4-0. As the Italian found himself in the zone, his opponent could not find the court and struggled with a first-serve percentage below 50 per cent for much of the second set.
However, the Greek started to tighten up his game and began to hit his spots with renewed power and consistency to quickly move ahead in the third set. With renewed confidence, Tsitsipas dug deep, finding rhythm on serve to fly through the fourth and five sets, earning his third win from two-sets-to-love down.
"Things don't come easy. I refuse to give up. That's simply how it works with me," Tsitsipas said. "You never really think about getting back after being two sets to love. You just play it point after point. You just wish that your efforts will pay off on a longer scale, longer run. Being in that situation... it's a mountain that you have to climb, and I was able to climb it and regain the momentum steadily, but consistently."
It was the second time in less than two years that Tsitsipas produced a great escape in the opening round in Paris. He also came back from two sets down against Jaume Munar in September 2020 in the rescheduled edition of the clay-court Grand Slam.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
2) Roland Garros, R2, Carlos Alcaraz d. Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-1, 6-7(7), 5-7, 7-6(2), 6-4
Carlos Alcaraz walked onto court against Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas at Roland Garros with confidence at an all-time high. The 19-year-old arrived at the second major of the year on a 10-match winning streak, having captured titles on clay in Barcelona and Madrid.
However, despite defeating Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev during that run, no one pushed him quite as hard as Ramos-Vinolas did during their four-hour, 34-minute second-round meeting in Paris. With the pressure on, Alcaraz saved a match point in the fourth set and rallied from 0-3 in the fifth set to defeat his countryman 6-1, 6-7(7), 5-7, 7-6(2), 6-4.
For much of the match, Alcaraz was frustrated by his 34-year-old left-handed opponent and struggled to find solutions, which has been a rarity this season. The 19-year-old converted just seven of his 31 break points, putting him in a deep hole.
The Spaniard refused to crumble, though, saving a match point at 4-5 in the fourth set to break back, before he played a nearly flawless fourth-set tie-break to force a fifth set. After a slow start saw him fall behind, Alcaraz never gave up, showcasing more jaw-dropping defence to turn the tables again and seal victory.
"I feel tired," Alcaraz said in his on-court interview, cracking a laugh. "It has been a great battle against Albert. I knew that it was going to be a great match, tough match. We fought until the last point.”
Photo Credit: Adam Pretty/Getty Images
1) Australian Open, QFs, Daniil Medvedev d. Felix Auger-Aliassime 6-7(4), 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-5, 6-4
Following his maiden Grand Slam title at the US Open in 2021, Daniil Medvedev was aiming to become the first player to follow his first major trophy with his second at the next Grand Slam event when he competed at the Australian Open.
After soaring through his opening four rounds in Melbourne, the 26-year-old faced his biggest test yet in the shape of Felix Auger-Aliassime, who had helped guide Canada to ATP Cup glory earlier in January.
In a four-hour, 41-minute thriller, Medvedev survived a major scare, saving one match point as he rallied from two-sets-to-love down for just the second time in his career to overcome the Canadian 6-7(4), 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-5, 6-4.
Auger-Aliassime had a glint of determination in his eye from the outset against Medvedev, crushing winners from all angles during the first two sets to hit through the 26-year-old. After clinching the third set to gain a foothold, Medvedev then faced more adversity in the fourth set. However, he came up with the answers, saving one match point with a powerful serve at 4-5, 30/40, before he turned the tables on the Canadian to break. After holding to level, the World No. 2 further showcased his big-game mindset in the decider, saving all six break points he faced as he upped his power to advance.
“I was not playing my best and Felix was playing unbelievably,” Medvedev said in his on-court interview. “[He was] serving unbelievably, he was all over me. I did not really know what to do, but I told myself, I am going to make him work and fight until the last point. I managed to raise my level. When they closed the roof I felt the momentum change, that I could hit through the court better.”
Editor's Note: Rafael Nadal's comeback to defeat Daniil Medvedev in the Australian Open final was featured in our Best Grand Slam Matches analysis, so has not been repeated in the list of Best Grand Slam Comebacks