ATPTour.com’s annual season-in-review series looks back at 2022’s best matches, biggest upsets, most dramatic comebacks and more. Today, we feature the first-time ATP Tour title winners of the season.
Securing a match win on the ATP Tour is hard enough, but stringing together a series of back-to-back victories across a single week to lift a trophy requires even greater technical consistency, physical discipline and mental focus.
This year, 12 players managed that feat for the first time, hitting a milestone that will forever stand out in the context of their careers. As part of our annual season-in-review series, ATPTour.com reflects on the lineup of stars who clinched their maiden ATP Tour title in 2022.
Thanasi Kokkinakis, Adelaide
Kokkinakis clinched an emotional victory in his hometown at the Adelaide International 2 in January, a reward for the Australian’s commitment and hard work after a series of devastating injuries. His run at the ATP 250 event included hard-fought three-set wins against three of the biggest servers on Tour in John Isner, Marin Cilic and Arthur Rinderknech.
“I wouldn’t want to win my first title anywhere else,” said Kokkinakis after edging Rinderknech 6-7(6), 7-6(5) 6-3 in the final. “To my family, friends and coaches, what a ride it’s been. You have seen me at my lowest lows and now the highest high. It’s been a serious journey. For now, I am so happy.”
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Kokkinakis kisses the court in Adelaide. Photo Credit: David Mariuz/Tennis Australia
Alexander Bublik, Montpellier
Bublik capped a rock-solid week at the Open Sud de France – Montpellier by claiming the biggest win of his career to seal his maiden tour-level crown. The Kazakh deployed his trademark combination of big-hitting and deft touches to stun World No. 3 Alexander Zverev in straight sets in the championship match at the ATP 250 event. It was Bublik’s first victory in five championship match appearances.
“I played four finals before and [in] the fifth final I have won against a great player [in] Sascha,” said Bublik after his 6-4, 6-3 victory. “It is great. All my game together. I was serving well and returned well and kept my nerve. I was lucky [at some] moments, and when I had my chances, I used them.” Read First-Time Winner Spotlight.
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Bublik holds his trophy in Montpellier. Photo Credit: JB Autissier/Panoramic.
Felix Auger-Aliassime, Rotterdam
After his eight previous tour-level finals all ended in disappointment, Auger-Aliassime could have been forgiven for showing nerves in February when he took on Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final at the ABN AMRO Open in Rotterdam. Yet the Canadian barely looked back as he charged past the World No. 4 Greek 6-4, 6-2 to break his trophy duck at the ATP 500 event.
“It is definitely a dream come true,” Auger-Aliassime, who went on to lift three further titles in a standout 2022 season, told ATPTour.com after his triumph in The Netherlands. “It is something I have been working for and suffering for at times because we all know my story, having lost finals before, so this one is even more special for me.” Read First-Time Winner Spotlight.
Pedro Martinez, Santiago
A gruelling week on the Santiago clay ended with a maiden ATP Tour title for Martinez, who came through three-set battles against top-quality clay-courters Jaume Munar, Alejandro Tabilo and Sebastian Baez to claim victory at the Chile Dove Men+Care Open. The 24-year-old’s 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 championship match triumph against Baez made him the fifth Spanish tour-level titlist of a 2022 season that was barely two months old.
“We have a really good culture of tennis in Spain, so that’s what gives you confidence to reach new things,” Martinez later told ATPTour.com. “I hope I can go higher in the rankings and keep playing like this.” Read First-Time Winner Spotlight.
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Martinez triumphs in Santiago. Photo Credit: Matias Donoso|@chile_open/@chileopentenis
Holger Rune, Munich
“If I look through the week, what a week,” said Rune after charging to his maiden tour-level crown without dropping a set at April’s BMW Open by American Express. “I played some unbelievable tennis, really fighting my way through it. To be playing here in Munich and winning my first ATP title in front of such a brilliant crowd, I couldn’t really ask for more.”
Rune’s run included his maiden Top 10 victory against home favourite Alexander Zverev in the second round before Botic van de Zandschulp’s retirement at 4-3 in the first set of the final saw the 19-year-old lift the trophy. It was only a sign of things to come for Rune, who later put together a stunning late-season charge to win 19 of his final 21 matches of the year, lift further trophies in Stockholm and Paris, and break into the Top 10 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings for the first time. Read First-Time Winner Spotlight.
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Rune lifts the trophy in Munich. Photo Credit: Christof Stache/Getty Images.
Sebastian Baez, Estoril
Baez drew inspiration from an unlikely source en route to his maiden ATP Tour title at the Millennium Estoril Open — his championship match opponent Frances Tiafoe. The Argentine had noticed the words “Why not me?” on Tiafoe’s bracelet early in the week and wrote them on the camera lens after each of his victories in Portugal.
When the pair eventually met in the final, it was Baez who charged to a 6-3, 6-2 triumph at the ATP 250 event. After receiving the trophy, Baez said to Tiafoe: “Why not me? And why not you, man?” Read First-Time Winner Spotlight.
Tim van Rijthoven, ‘s-Hertogenbosch
Van Rijthoven was still searching for his maiden main-draw win on the ATP Tour prior to arriving in ‘s-Hertogenbosch for the Libema Open in June. By the end of the week, the No. 205-ranked home wild card had five, after a stunning streak of clean-hitting grass-court tennis moved him past Taylor Fritz, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Daniil Medvedev to become the lowest-ranked tour-level titlist of 2022.
“I never thought I would win the tournament,” said Van Rijthoven, who raced past Medvedev 6-4, 6-1 to become the first Dutchman to win the ATP 250 event since 2003. “I wanted to maybe upset one player. But to upset a couple of players and win the title is just incredible.” Read First-Time Winner Spotlight.
Van Rijthoven celebrates in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. Photo Credit: Libema Open.
Maxime Cressy, Newport
With Alexander Bublik leading 6-2, 3-0 in the Infosys Hall of Fame Open championship match in Newport, Cressy’s hopes of clinching his maiden ATP Tour title in his third final were on the ropes. Yet the American’s unwavering commitment to his serve-and-volley tactics engineered one of the comebacks of the 2022 season, as the 25-year-old rallied to a dramatic 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) victory at the grass-court ATP 250 event.
“My dream is to really make serve and volley great again and inspire many people to start playing that game style,” Cressy later told ATPTour.com. “I’ve seen other players do it a lot more, like Rafa [Nadal]. If I can impact the tennis world and make serve and volley a game style that people enjoy and want to play, it’s going to be big.” Read First-Time Winner Spotlight.
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Cressy comes forward in Newport. Photo Credit: Ben Solomon/International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Francisco Cerundolo, Bastad
Cerundolo’s charge to his maiden tour-level crown at the Nordea Open simultaneously banished some disappointing memories of his first ATP Tour final, a heavy loss to countryman Diego Schwartzman in Buenos Aires in 2021. The 23-year-old Cerundolo kept cool throughout his run in Bastad, where his powerful baseline hitting took out Casper Ruud and Pablo Carreno Busta before his 7-6(4), 6-2 championship match triumph against Sebastian Baez.
“Since you are a child you imagine yourself playing in these events and finals,” said Cerundolo at the trophy ceremony. “When I lost in Buenos Aires, I was sad, because I was at home and I lost badly, but I learned a lot from that. I used it today, and I think I played a great match, a great week.” Read First-Time Winner Spotlight.
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Cerundolo takes the trophy in Bastad. Photo Credit: Nordea Open/Johan Lilja.
Lorenzo Musetti, Hamburg
After letting slip five championship points against Carlos Alcaraz in the second set of the Hamburg European Open final, Musetti’s mental fortitude was put to the ultimate test at the ATP 500 event. The 20-year-old Italian passed with flying colours, eventually edging the top seed 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-4 after two hours, 47 minutes to prevail in one of the best ATP Tour matches of 2022.
“It was a roller-coaster until the end,” Musetti, who later backed up his Hamburg triumph with a title run in Naples in October, reflected after the match. “I had so many match points… But I think the key to the match was to keep calm and [have] all the patience [with] myself because it was really not easy. Carlos was putting so much effort in the match points when he was down, so it was not easy to find the energy to come back.” Read First-Time Winner Spotlight.
Brandon Nakashima, San Diego
The pressure of playing at home is not always easy to handle, but Nakashima made it look that way by surging to his first ATP Tour crown for the loss of just one set all week at the San Diego Open. Later describing the run as “Like a dream”, the American acknowledged the experience of winning his maiden Tour title was made even sweeter by the fact he had accomplished the feat in the city where he grew up.
“Of course being in my hometown, I get to go home tonight, celebrate with the team,” said the 21-year-old after beating Marcos Giron 6-4, 6-4 in the final. “I don’t have to fly back [like] if we were somewhere else. I’m sure we’re going to celebrate with all my family down here, all my coaches… Just enjoy this moment as much as possible.” Read First-Time Winner Spotlight.
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Nakashima wins in San Diego. Photo Credit: Will LeFevre.
Marc-Andrea Huesler, Sofia
The only left-handed first-time winner of the 2022 season, Huesler’s big-serving and precise volleying took him past a host of top-quality opponents, including Pablo Carreno Busta, Lorenzo Musetti and Holger Rune, to a surprise maiden title at the Sofia Open. The 26-year-old, who saved two match points against Kamil Majchrzak in the quarter-finals, was the first Swiss player to win an ATP Tour title since Roger Federer in 2019.
“This whole week has been a complete fairy tale for me,” said a delighted Huesler at the trophy ceremony after downing Rune 6-4, 7-6(8). “I would have been happy to pass a couple of rounds and I’m holding the trophy here.” Read First-Time Winner Spotlight.
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Huesler in action in Sofia. Photo Credit: Vladimir Stoyanov/LAP.bg.