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From Federer to Osaka: The Top 5 Late-Season Comebacks
Barbora Krejcikova's recent surge reminds us there's always time to turn around a rough run.
Published Oct 16, 2022
Coming off a dream campaign in 2021—one that included sweeping the singles and doubles titles at Roland Garros—Barbora Krejcikova endured a nightmarish run for much of this season, with illness and injury impacting her results.
Over the past few weeks, though, the Czech has proven that she has a short memory, picking up back-to-back titles, including a final-round win in Ostrava in front of her compatriots over world No. 1 Iga Swiatek.
As Krejcikova has shown, there’s always time to turn around a rough run—even as the clock winds down on a long season. Here’s several other players—from up-and-comers to future Hall of Famers—that have pulled off a similar feat over the years.
There’s no question that 2011 was all about Novak Djokovic, who recorded one of the best seasons ever on the ATP Tour. But what about the man who had dominated the game for nearly a decade before that? Roger Federer won a title in January and reached the final of the French Open, but failed to win a Grand Slam for the first time since 2002. The Swiss star broke his title drought at home in Basel, then won the last Masters 1000 event of the year in Paris before finishing up 2011 with a sixth triumph overall at the ATP Finals.
In the first two years of the 2010s, Caroline Wozniacki finished on top of the WTA rankings, despite not winning a Grand Slam singles title. However, by the midpoint of the decade, the Dane was in a full-fledged slump, brought on by loss of form and injury. At the US Open in 2016, with her ranking outside of the Top 30, Wozniacki started showing signs of a rebound with a run to the semifinals. She went from there to the tour’s “Asia swing,” and claimed her first title in more than a year at the Pan Pacific Open in Tokyo. After a couple more tournaments, she was a champion again at the Hong Kong Open, and back in the Top 20.
There was the quarterfinal in singles at the French Open. And there was the fourth-round appearance at Wimbledon. Other than those two results—impressive as they might be—most of 2017 was rather lackluster for Caroline Garcia: By September, it had been more than a year since the Frenchwoman played in a singles final. She put an end to that drought in a major way in Wuhan, China, winning the biggest title of her career, and followed that up with a victory in Beijing. Those triumphs lifted her into the Top 10 and a spot in the WTA Finals field, where she reached the semifinals.
Announcing himself as a player to watch with his first title as a 20-year-old in 2016, Karen Khachanov made a steady ascent up the rankings over the next two years. In early 2018, the Russian won his second career title, but whether it was the weight of expectations or a matter of still adjusting to playing main-draw ATP events on a consistent basis, he struggled afterward for months. Arriving in Moscow in October with little momentum on his side, Khachanov won the title with the loss of only one set. His last tournament of the year was even more impressive when he beat four Top-10 players in a row to claim the crown at the Paris Masters.
It might seem unfathomable that a player who started the year off winning a major singles title might need some big victories at the end, but that’s the situation Naomi Osaka found herself in in 2019. Following up her 2018 US Open triumph with a win in Melbourne a few months later, Osaka took over the No. 1 ranking, but was far from dominant for the bulk of 2019 season, going without another title through the US Open. After a fourth-round loss in New York, though, she caught fire, ending her slump with back-to-back titles in Osaka, Japan, and Beijing. In the latter final, she defeated Ashleigh Barty, the reigning No. 1.