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Moving on up: The biggest ranking movers in American tennis in 2022

Victoria Chiesa | December 14, 2022


Americans did a lot of winning on the ATP and WTA tours in 2022. U.S. women won a total of 21 WTA titles between singles and doubles in 2022, a tour best. American men? Also No. 1, with a total of 22 ATP singles and doubles titles—one ahead of second-place Spain.

 

All that winning brought a lot of movement up the rankings. While Taylor Fritz, Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula all ended in the year-end Top 10, the most notable gains came elsewhere on the computer—and a healthy mix of new, young talents and resurgent players on both tours made the biggest splashes. Read on to find out who made the biggest jumps up the rankings in the last 12 months.

 

Note: This post accounts for ranking movement for players who ended the 2022 calendar year inside the singles Top 200, beginning the week of Jan. 3 through the week designated as each tour's official year-end rankings. The WTA tablulated its year-end rankings the week of Nov. 7, while the ATP counted its year-end rankings as of Dec. 5. The rankings noted here are the players' positions on those dates, unless otherwise noted with an asterisk (*).  

Taylor Townsend: +772, No. 903 (on April 18) to No. 131

Townsend's return from maternity leave was one of the stories of American tennis in 2022. The left-hander's last tournament prior to the March 2021 birth of her son Adyn was the 2020 US Open. She was still ranked No. 300 when 2022 began, and checked in at No. 483 when she played her the first event of her comeback in April.

 

But a week later, she was No. 903, and No. 739 a week after that. After two quarterfinals to begin her comeback, Townsend won the USTA Pro Circuit W100 event in Charleston, S.C. and skyrocketed nearly 400 places back up the rankings as a result. She added another victory at the W80 event in Tyler, Texas in October.

 

Townsend also shined in doubles, where she reached a new career-high of No. 31 thanks in part to a semifinal showing at Roland Garros with Madison Keys, and a runner-up finish at the US Open with Caty McNally.

Photo by Andrew Ong/USTA.

Photo by Rhea Nall/USTA.
Ben Shelton: +472, No. 568 to No. 97

A nominee for the ATP’s Newcomer of the Year honor, the reigning NCAA champion made a splash in the second half. From May through the season’s end, Shelton posted a 40-11 record, which included his first ATP main-draw win in Atlanta, and a third-round run at the Western & Southern Open, where he upset Lorenzo Sonego and Casper Ruud.

 

Shelton’s sizzling spring led him to a decision to turn professional prior to the US Open, and he impressed further in the season’s final weeks. He ended the season by reaching four USTA Pro Circuit finals in six tournaments, and won three trophies in as many weeks in November.

 

He’ll take a 15-match winning streak into the first weeks of 2023, where he’ll play in the Australian Open main draw for the first time.


Elizabeth Mandlik: +370, No. 489 to No. 119

The daughter of former US Open champion and Hall of Famer Hana Mandlikova, Mandlik made a name for herself in 2022 thanks to four finals on the ITF World Tennis Tour. She won the first two W25 events of her career in Brazil in January, and picked up another trophy in Wichita, Kan. in June. She also reached her biggest career final at the W100 in Landisville, Pa. prior to the US Open, where she upset three seeds—including former Top 10 player Kristina Mladenovic of France—as a wild card.

 

Ranked No. 240, Mandlik qualified for the main draw and earned her first WTA main-draw win at the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, defeating fellow American Alison Riske-Amritraj before putting a scare into then-world No. 4 Paula Badosa. At the US Open, she beat former Roland Garros semifinalist Tamara Zidansek in Round 1 before losing to eventual finalist Ons Jabeur in a tight two-setter.

Photo by Mike Lawrence/USTA.

Photo by Darren Carroll/USTA.
Ashlyn Krueger: +354, No. 532 to No. 178

One-half of the 2021 US Open girls’ doubles champions with Robin Montgomery, the 6-foot-1, 18-year-old Kreuger had a strong first full pro season in 2022.

 

She won her first USTA Pro Circuit title, a W60 event in Evansville, Ind., in July without losing a set, where she beat No. 3 seed Caroline Dolehide and former Top 100 players Victoria Duval and Sachia Vickery along the way. She also reached a W25 final in Sarasota, Fla. in March, and six other USTA Pro Circuit quarterfinals.

 

At WTA level, Krueger received a wild card for both the Miami Open and the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, and successfully qualified for the US Open. In New York, she won a set against former world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in an impressive Round 1 showing. In addition, she and Mandlik reached the doubles final of the WTA 125 event in Tampico, Mexico in October.


Katrina Scott: +230, No. 387 to No. 157

Scott, also 18, won the first three USTA Pro Circuit titles of her career in 2022, and reached four finals overall. After her season began in April, Scott won her first professional title in May at the W25 event in Daytona Beach, Fla., and she followed that up with two more W25 titles in July: first in Columbus, Ohio and then in Dallas, Texas. She later reached her biggest final at the W80 in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. in October, and briefly cracked the Top 150 at a career-high No. 149 before falling to her year-end position. 

 

As a qualifier at the Thoreau Tennis Open, a WTA 125 Series event in Concord, Mass. in August, Scott went all the way to the semifinals. She also won one of the year's longest matches at the WTA 125 in Andorra to end the season: In a staggering 3 hours, 43 minutes, she defeated France's Jessika Ponchet in three tiebreaks, and saved a match point along the way.

Photo by Pete Staples/USTA.

Photo by Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images.
Aleksandar Kovacevic: +199, No. 356 to No. 160

Former University of Illinois star Kovacevic saved his best for last in 2022. He didn't make his ATP main-draw debut until September, when, as a lucky loser, he stormed to the semifinals of the 250-level event in Seoul. Ranked No. 222 entering Seoul, his run to the semifinals catapulted him into the Top 200

 

The seeds for Kovacevic's meteoric rise were planted long before that. Kovacevic reached the quarterfinals or better at eight USTA Pro Circuit events in 2022, which included a runner-up finish at the Indianapolis Challenger in July that pushed him inside the Top 250 for the first time. He also reached the semifinals at other USTA Pro Circuit/ATP Challenger events in Little Rock, Ark. in May; Lexington, Ky. in August; and Champaign, Ill. in November.

 

Prior to transitioning to the pro tour, Kovacevic played for Illinois for five years, and was a 2021 ITA All-American.


Kayla Day: +184, No. 379 to No. 195

Five years after reaching her careeer-high ranking as a teenager, former junior US Open champion Day, now 23, had a resurgent year that saw her win a pair of USTA Pro Circuit titles in three final appearances. 

 

After ending 2020 at No. 475, the left-hander's climb back up the rankings began slowly in 2021, as she reached two USTA Pro Circuit finals. She went one better in 2022, capturing her second and third career W25 titles, respectively, in Naples, Fla. in May and Redding, Calif. in October. Day won her first (and only prior) pro singles title in 2016, the year she won the junior US Open. 

 

Five years after her last appearance at a WTA 1000 event, Day also returned to that level of competition by successfully qualifying for the Guadalajara Open Akron in October. 

Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images.

Photo by Pete Staples/USTA.
Louisa Chirico: +179, No. 337 to No. 158

Steadily rebuilding her career over the last three years after a career-threatening shoulder injury, New Jersey native Chirico showed some of the form that took her to a career-high ranking of No. 58 six years ago in 2022. 

 

Her win at the USTA Pro Circuit W60 event in Charlottesville, Va. in April was her first title in three years, and she qualified for Wimbledon in June to play her first Grand Slam main draw since 2017. In October, she rallied from 6-1, 4-0 to score one of the comebacks of the year: a 1-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) win over fellow American Riske-Amritraj in San Diego. 

 

She also reached the semifinals of the W100 event in Palm Harbor Beach, Fla. in April as a lucky loser ranked No. 317, beating three players ranked ahead of her along the way, and the semifinals of the W60 in Berkley, Calif. in September.


Emilio Nava: +144, No. 323 to No. 179

A two-time junior Grand Slam finalist in 2019, 21-year-old Nava made the biggest gains of his professional career to date in 2022. 

 

After upsetting top seed Tennys Sandgren in the first round, Nava went on to triumph in Shymkent, Kazakhstan in May for his first ATP Challenger title—a tournament he entered at the 11th-hour as a main-draw alternate. He reached two other ATP Challenger semifinals over the course of the year, and three other quarterfinals.

 

However, Nava made his biggest splash at the US Open—just the second Grand Slam main draw of his career. A wild card in New York for the second straight year, he earned his first Grand Slam win against Australia's John Millman, and later won the first set against former world No. 1 Andy Murray in his Arthur Ashe Stadium debut before losing in four sets. 

Photo by Simon Bruty/USTA.

Photo by Brad Penner/USTA.
Alycia Parks: +139, No. 214 to No. 75* (as of Dec. 12)

It's never too late: Parks' biggest gains for 2022 came over the last two months. Having posted just one WTA main-draw win before arriving at the WTA 500 event in Ostrava, Czech Republic in October, Parks went 17-5 over her last seven events to nearly cut her ranking in half. 

 

Ranked No. 144 when she got to Ostrava, Parks qualified for the main draw and knocked off former world No. 1 Karolina Pliskova and No. 4 seed Maria Sakkari for her first Top 20 and Top 10 wins, respectively, before losing out only to eventual champion Barbora Krejcikova. A month later, she won back-to-back WTA 125 titles in Andorra and Angers, France to end her season on a 10-match winning streak.

 

Though her official year-end ranking was No. 118, Parks will be perched well inside the Top 100 to begin 2023.


J.J. Wolf: +108, No. 174 to No. 66

After hernia surgery sidelined him for much of 2021, former Ohio State Buckeye J.J. Wolf returned better than ever in 2022. 

 

Ranked as low as No. 209 in February, Wolf checked off several firsts on his career resume as the season progressed. He cracked the Top 100 in August, and a week later, reached his first ATP 500 quarterfinal with wins over Taro Daniel, Denis Shapovalov and Holger Rune at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. He later upset No. 16 seed Roberto Bautista Agut en route to Round 3 at the US Open—his best-ever Grand Slam result. 

 

To close out the year, Wolf reached his first ATP singles final at the 250-level event in Florence, Italy. He upset No. 4 seed Maxime Cressy and No. 7 seed Alexander Bublik along the way before finishing as runner-up to No. 1 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime. 

 
Photo by Andrew Ong/USTA.
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