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The Top 5: Strong Second-Half Finishers
Several players, including two Team World stars, are stepping up as the season winds down.
Published Oct 01, 2022
WATCH: Tiafoe tops Tsitsipas to clinch the Laver Cup for Team World
One word best describes the professional tennis season:
More so than any other sport, it’s a grind, with only a few weeks making up an offseason. After the brief break, turning around from rest to work quickly and effectively is essential in determining how the season goes—or that might be the common train of thought, at least.
Several players on the ATP and WTA tours are defying that particular piece of logic right now, with their recent results leading them to career breakthroughs as they aim to prove another adage true: It’s not how you start, but rather, how you finish.
Sometimes, when it clicks for a player, it's really quite obvious. At the US Open, Frances Tiafoe was locked in from the first ball, defeating fellow American Marcos Giron—whom he'd split his prior two encounters with—in straight sets. Tiafoe followed that up with a win over Jason Kubler, the Australian who's a serious candidate for most improved player on the ATP Tour. From there, Tiafoe racked up a row of noteworthy wins, topping Diego Schwartzman, Rafael Nadal and Andrey Rublev, before losing to Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinals. Tiafoe returned to the court at the Laver Cup and was part of two of the most noteworthy wins in the event: He beat Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in doubles, with Jack Sock; then clinched the crown for Team World with a victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas.
Talk about a tale of two seasons: Before Wimbledon, Samsonova’s best result was a semifinal on clay in Stuttgart. Unable to play at the third major of the year due to the ban on Russians and Belarusians, the 24-year-old returned to the court with a vengeance, winning in Washington and Cleveland in consecutive weeks. Samsonova then played the US Open, reaching the fourth round before her winning streak was stopped by Ajla Tomljanovic. Last week in Tokyo, she got right back to her winning ways by picking up the biggest title of her career to run her record over the past several weeks to a remarkable 18-1.
Heading into his tournament in San Diego last week, Nakashima—part of the “next-next” generation of young American talent—had been on a fairly consistent run since Wimbledon, where he reached the second round of a major for the first time. Though he was unable to replicate his final-round runs in Atlanta and Los Cabos from a year ago, the 21-year-old posted some solid results during the summer hard-court swing. In San Diego, he fulfilled the dream most tennis players have, by winning in his hometown for his first career title and setting himself up for a potentially strong push to finish out the year.
The current world No. 13 actually started off the year great, with Canada’s title at the ATP Cup, a quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open and his first career singles title in Rotterdam. However, through much of the spring and summer, Auger-Aliassime was plagued by inconsistency, with first- and second-round losses at Wimbledon and the US Open, respectively. But if the past few weeks are any indication, it looks like he’s put all that behind him, with stellar play in singles and, somewhat unexpectedly, doubles. He was all over the court in Davis Cup and Laver Cup, pushing Canada through to the finals in the former and racking up significant points for Team World. Between both events, he picked up wins over world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz and 21-time major champion Novak Djokovic.
Among the latest in a long line of teenage prodigies the sport has known, the 17-year-old Czech has definitely announced herself as one to watch as she finishes up 2022. Though she lost in the first round in her last event, her prior two tournaments were quite memorable: Fruhvirtova qualified for the US Open and then won a round before two-time Grand Slam champ Garbine Muguruza stopped her. After that, she went on to the tour stop in Chennai, India, and claimed the title, with the title run shooting her up the rankings to become the youngest player in the WTA top 100.