Messi, Djokovic, Usyk, Haaland, Nadal - 52 of the best sports images of 2022

We pick out some of the most memorable images from the past 12 months

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All eyes were on the Middle East at the end of 2022 as the first football World Cup finals to be held in the region took place in Qatar

And what a tournament it turned out to be, climaxing in a dramatic final in Doha between Lionel Messi's Argentina and Kylian Mbappe's France.

After 120 rollercoaster minutes – that saw Messi score two and Mbappe three – the scores were level at 3-3 and the match was decided by penalties that ended with Argentina winning a third world title, after coming out top 4-2 in the shoot-out.

Victory meant, at the age of 35 and playing in probably his final World Cup, Messi had finally lifted the one trophy that had eluded him throughout his illustrious career.

On the tennis court, it was certainly an up and down year for Serbian great Novak Djokovic. He started the season by being deported from Australia by the government ahead of the opening Grand Slam of the season due to his refusal to have a Covid-19 vaccine. He would also be forced to miss the US Open at Flushing Meadows for the same reason.

But it was business as usual at Wimbledon as he defeated Nick Kyrgios to seal a seventh title at the All England Club and a 21st Grand Slam crown. Djokovic would also go on and win the season-ending ATP Finals by beating Casper Ruud in Italy.

It was also normal service for Rafael Nadal at the French Open as the Spaniard sealed an incredible 14th title at Roland Garros at the age of 36. He dispatched Ruud in ruthless fashion in straight sets to make it Slam crown No 22 after winning the Australian Open less than five months earlier, when coming back from two-sets down against Daniil Medvedev.

In boxing, Saudi Arabia played host the heavyweight title rematch between reigning champion Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua.

The Ukrainian again came out on top after beating his British opponent with a split decision verdict at the King Abdullah Sport City Stadium in Jeddah to keep a tight hold of his WBA, WBO and IBF belts. A unification bout against Tyson Fury hopefully looms in 2023.

In November, the boxing bandwagon headed for Abu Dhabi as undefeated WBA light-heavyweight title-holder Dmitry Bivol took on Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez at the Etihad Arena.

Bivol simply had too much for Ramirez in the headline bout of the inaugural Champion Series as the judges gave it to the dominant Russian by unanimous decision.

There was a familiar winner of the Formula One season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix as world champion Max Verstappen stormed to yet another victory at Yas Marina Circuit.

After the drama of 2021, this year's race saw the Red Bull driver lead from the moment the lights turned green, taking the honours for a third year running.

In the gallery above, we have picked out 52 of the most memorable images from the last 12 months of sporting action.

Updated: December 21, 2022, 4:21 AM