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Down and Out When 2022 Began, Novak Djokovic Is On Top Again. Kind Of.


Djokovic — hoisting and embracing his children, who’ve been with him all week — was on top of tennis over again.

“In my mind, I at all times see myself as the very best player on the earth,” he said.

He was this week, but that is tennis.

In fairness to the game, it’s been a weird 12 months. Coronavirus outbreaks. Changing vaccination requirements. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Sick-timed injures at the highest of the game. And yet, nobody, not even the individuals who run tennis — and there are quite a lot of them, in seven different ruling organizations — would ever suggest that the game makes it easy on fans.

While 2022 could have been especially messy, tennis is the rare sport that seems to encourage the mess. Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece won probably the most matches among the many top players, but only one significant tournament, making him either a serious disappointment or a rising force, or each, depending on the week or the month, or the prism that he or anyone else uses to measure the season.

Prefer a more subjective measure? Nick Kyrgios, the temperamental and combative Australian, a master showman and “tennis genius” in keeping with Djokovic’s coach, is the reigning crowd favorite, especially with the younger generation. He packs stadiums all over the place, for singles and doubles, but hates to travel and plays a limited schedule. He can also be facing a domestic violence charge in Australia in relation to a fight with an ex-girlfriend last 12 months.

“It’s like you have got this book and everybody is writing different chapters,” said Andrea Gaudenzi, the chairman of the ATP and a former player. “And you’ll be able to only find those chapters in several bookstores, and also you’ve got to work out the story.”

The danger for skilled tennis because the world has known it for a half-century is that inside confusion there’s a possibility for disruption, and people forces are lurking. Saudi Arabia, which made a large number of men’s golf this 12 months, buying players away from the PGA Tour to create LIV Golf, has begun to dip its toe into tennis. Several top young players — including Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev of Russia, Alexander Zverev of Germany, Kyrgios and Dominic Thiem of Austria — will play in an exhibition in Saudi Arabia in December, likely earning hefty fees just to point out up. Stay tuned in 2023.

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