The 2022 tennis season had plenty of memorable moments on and off the court.
Rafael Nadal made a successful comeback and took the lead in the Grand Slam race by winning the Australian Open and the French Open. Novak Djokovic was hot on Nadal’s heels and claimed his 21st Major crown at Wimbledon. The sport also bid adieu to icons Roger Federer and Serena Williams, while Ashleigh Barty’s retirement after her Australian Open triumph came as a big surprise.
Iga Swiatek quickly rose to the top and produced a dominant run that saw her claim a couple of Grand Slam titles and ascend to the top of the rankings. But aside from the good, some players also dominated the headlines for the wrong reasons.
Here’s a look at five controversial moments from the year gone by:
#5 Simona Halep tests positive for a banned substance
After an injury-plagued 2021, Simona Halep bounced back strongly this year. She won a couple of titles, reached the semifinals at Wimbledon, and made it back into the top 10. However, the tennis world was shocked when it was announced that the former World No. 1 tested positive for the banned substance Roxadustat in October.
Halep strongly proclaimed her innocence in the matter but was provisionally suspended from the tour following the discovery. In some good news, however, she’s set to contest the ban and seems to have found a way to clear her name, and has requested an emergency hearing in light of the new findings.
#4 Nick Kyrgios accused of assaulting his ex-girlfriend
Nick Kyrgios has always been involved in some drama or the other, but when his ex-girlfriend accused him of assaulting her, it was a lot more serious than his usual antics. His relationship with Chiara Passari ended in late 2021 on a sour note, with police having to step in after a fight between them got out of hand.
In July 2022, it was revealed that Kyrgios would have to show up in court as he was charged with common assault for allegedly hurting Passari. After another hearing in October, during which he remained absent as he was competing in Tokyo, the Australian intends to be present during the next court date in February 2023.
#3 Sara Bejlek groped by her coach at the US Open
Sixteen-year-old Sara Bejlek has made tremendous progress this year. In the junior events, she won the doubles title at the French Open and reached the semifinals in singles. The teenager decided to give it a shot at competing with the pros at the US Open and entered the qualifiers.
Bejlek defeated Heather Watson in the final qualifying round to make the main draw cut for the first time. She walked over to her team to celebrate the occasion, but that’s when things got out of hand. The Czech youngster’s coach gave her a hug, but also appeared to touch her inappropriately.
The footage went viral and there was a considerable backlash as the gestures were deemed objectionable, especially considering Bejlek’s age.
#2 Wimbledon bans Russian and Belarusian players from competing
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to global ramifications in all aspects and tennis was no exception. The country was banned from competing in the Davis Cup and the Billie Jean King Cup. Players from Russia and Belarus were also asked to compete without their country’s flags.
However, things escalated severely in the lead-up to Wimbledon when tournament organizers completely banned Russian and Belarusian players from competing. Reactions from the community were mixed, but the ATP and WTA responded by rescinding the ranking points that are usually awarded for the event.
The tournament organizers were recently fined $1 million for their policy of banning the players, which has caused them to rethink the ban for next year.
#1 Novak Djokovic’s visa scandal
Novak Djokovic’s stance on vaccination is well-known and given how getting jabbed was a prerequisite to travel to many places, it was sure to cause him some trouble. The local government issued an order requiring all players to be vaccinated in order to be eligible to compete in this year’s Australian Open or have a valid medical exemption if they haven’t taken the vaccine.
Djokovic was one of the few players to be granted an exemption by Tennis Australia and the Department of Health in Victoria. This was due to the Serb testing positive for COVID-19 in December 2021. He was granted a visa but was detained by the Australian Border Force when he tried to enter the country in early January.
This kicked off a highly publicized series of events that led to Djokovic’s visa being canceled and his eventual deportation from the country. He was also handed a three-year ban from entering Australia, which has since been overturned.
Djokovic also refused to comply with the vaccine mandate in the United States and Canada. This led to him missing the US Open, along with four Masters tournaments in Indian Wells, Miami, Montreal, and Cincinnati.