There is something thrilling about seeing a new contender rise in a sport you love. Whether it’s their earnest desire to excel, their unique mix of personality and play-style or their willingness to challenge the old guard and carve out a name for themselves, new blood in sports is always welcome in my book.
In tennis, the last few years have seen plenty of challengers rise in both the men’s and women’s games. Names like Medvedev, Zverev, Tsitsipas, Alcaraz on the men’s side or Swiatek, Sakkari, Gauff or Raducanu on the women’s side. Modern tennis is awash with talent and potential. And the same is true of the tennis sim management games. Although there haven’t been a lot of compelling options in the past, the tennis sim management genre has some new contenders on the court. And one of those is Tennis Manager 2022 (TM 2022). Developed by a French studio, Rebound Capital Games (a.k.a. Rebound CG), who also developed Tennis Manager Mobile, Tennis Manager 2022 is the sequel to Rebound CG’s mostly well-received Tennis Manager 2021.
But how does this sequel stack up? Is it a charming contender or a forgettable flash in the pan? Let’s do a little scouting to find out.
Graphics / Interface
From the outset, you quickly get the impression that Tennis Manager 2022 takes the overall look of their game seriously. While there is plenty of text and statistics to wade through, Rebound CG has admirably imitated sim stalwarts like Football Manager in seeking to present that information in a clean, professional, attractive way.
Menus and tabs are generally well-laid out and if you’re ever wondering what you are looking at on a particular screen, you can just click the little “?” symbol in the top-left of each page to get a quick tutorial breakdown of that page and the information you’re being presented.
Also, as you play the game and manage your tennis academy, you’ll spend a fair bit of time in your players’ profiles. These profiles have a wealth of information, presented both numerically and in colorful graphs, bars and charts. At first, all of this information might be a bit overwhelming, but I found myself settling in after a little bit and enjoying being able to view all of this information about my athletes in colorful and interesting ways.
Additionally, TM 2022 provides you the option to either quickly auto-sim your athletes’ matches or watch them play out in a 3D match engine. While TM 2022’s match engine doesn’t provide the highest graphic fidelity or most fluid looking player models or hitting motions, I was impressed by how engrossing the tennis action in TM 2022 can be. The players move around the court, attempt various shots and even react when things go their way or not. You can also zoom and use several camera angles, including a close-in view right behind your player. I also enjoyed seeing the different kinds of surfaces and stadiums that can be played in and different crowd sizes, though the crowd is inert as far as I can tell.
TM 2022 graphics and UI are not without their faults, though. For instance, there are small typos / translation issues scattered randomly throughout the game (i.e., “Palmares” for the Awards?). Also, there appears to be no way to compare players or staff from their profile screens. In a game where attributes and the numbers assigned to them matter, this is an oversight that should be addressed sooner rather than later.
Finally, I appreciated all of the reports tracking my players’ training progress, results/rank, and awards, but I felt the statistics tab is currently lacking. I’d like to see totals and not just percentages for each statistical category. Also, I’d like more of a breakdown on how effective my player is with their forehand, backhand, volley, etc. For instance, how prone is my player to unforced errors on their backhand? I currently have no idea when looking through their statistics tab. This is vital information that would definitely aide the analysis and training of each athlete in my academy.
Overall, while not perfect, Tennis Manager 2022‘s graphics and UI were definitely clean, responsive and engaging. If graphics and UI are important to you, TM 2022 definitely scores a winner on this point.
In terms of customization, TM 2022 has a lot going for it. When you start up a new TM 2022 career, you are given the option to create your manager and can customize everything from your gender, age range, face (sadly, no user pics, though), experience level and style. The experience level and style (i.e., Technician, Strategist, Strict, etc.) chosen affect the training and management attributes level you start with.
Once you’ve customized your manager, you can then choose to manage an existing tennis academy, or you can choose to create your own academy and even your own player. When it comes to creating your own academy, you select the name, country and logo. Again, it would be nice to upload or design your own logo in the game, but that option is not currently available. What is available is that you can chose the “initial state” of your academy. Will your academy be a small hole-in-the-wall academy with little staff and poor infrastructure, or will it be a high-profile academy with loads of money and staff? Or will it be somewhere in between? The choice is refreshingly yours in TM 2022.
Once you’ve nailed down what your academy will be like, you can then manage an existing player, or you can choose to create your own player (male or female). When you choose to create your own player, you can shape everything from their name, age, personality, dominant hand, backhand type, playing style, etc. You can also individually tailor the individual player attributes, but if the created player is older, then the game doesn’t appear to allow you to leave available attribute points on the table if you’d like to create, for instance, an aging player with weakening attributes that is making one last run at glory. For some reason, the game currently forces you to assign all of the attribute points available before proceeding.
After you’ve assigned attribute points, the game allows you to customize the 3D look of your player, including their skin / hair color, hairstyle, clothing, shoes, etc. There doesn’t appear to be any face creator at this point and after you’ve created the player, the player profile picture is blank. While I appreciate Rebound CG giving you the freedom to create your own player, I really hope they allow for even more customization here in future iterations of the game.
Beyond the manager, academy and player creation options, TM 2022 also provides customization on how quickly matches from your team or around the tennis world are simulated in the menu. Additionally, when watching a match, TM 2022 allows you to adjust the match speed, camera angle and what highlights you would like to see. All these options nicely allow you to craft your TM 2022 experience the way you want.
Finally, TM 2022 also has mod support on Steam. While the standard game already allows your players to get contracts with real companies like Lacoste, Head, Dunlop and Wilson and even has a number of real-world players who agreed to appear in the game, most of the more well-known players show up with distorted names (i.e., Novak Djorovic) and no pictures. Moreover, on the standard game, the various tournaments go by generic names (i.e., Australian Championships) instead of their more recognizable real-world names. However, all of that can be changed with a few clicks if one uses the “TM Realist 2022” mod on the Steam TM 2022 Workshop. This mod comes with real ATP / WTA names, more than 1,500 faces, real tournament names, updated logos, etc. The TM Realist 2022 mod is a game-changer and the fact that TM 2022 allows for its easy integration through Steam is wonderful.
All said, TM 2022 scores another winner when it comes to customization and flexibility.
Gameplay / Sim Engine
In terms of TM 2022’s gameplay & sim engine, let me break it down by giving you a few highlights and a few areas of concern.
First, in terms of highlights, I really like how smooth TM 2022 plays. Whether firing up the game, clicking through your various management tabs or entering into a 3D match, everything felt snappy and well-optimized. Because sim management games like this cause you to jump between screens regularly, I really appreciated how seamless this game feels. Also, while no game is perfect and there are sure to be bugs and crashes from time to time, I haven’t experienced anything of the sort. In fact, for those who might experience some issues, take heart that Rebound CG continues to patch and refine their game and just recently, they released another patch to fix some small issues and optimize a few things (Patch 2.3.1). It’s always heartening to see a developer who is actively committed to make their product better after initial release.
Another highlight for me in the gameplay is the way that a player’s performance is affected by several factors. Beyond just the strength of their attributes, players are impacted by factors such as their morale (psychological), shape or form (rhythm or pace), physical condition, game-plans, surface mastery, etc. For instance, you might roll out an athlete who has good attributes, but if they’ve had a string of tough losses or you’ve been over-working them in their weekly training sessions, then you cannot expect them to perform at their peak. Moreover, just because you have a game-plan that works against most opponents, it doesn’t mean it will work well against all opponents you might run into in a tournament. So, you need to make sure you are practicing your second or even third game-plans to be ready for whatever the tour might throw at you. You also have to improve your academy infrastructure, so that you can install different type of court surfaces to help your budding tennis stars gain mastery on various surfaces as the tennis calendar progresses.
It can seem like a lot to manage, but as you play the game more, it’s fun to see things start to come together and your hard work pay off in a string of victories and good performances at big tournaments.
One last highlight I will mention is TM 2022’s matches. I love the fact that you can either quickly sim the matches or watch them in the 3D match engine. In the 3D matches, you can not only observe the action, but you can also analyze and impact it to a good degree. In terms of analysis, TM 2022 provides you a separate statistics tab and a 3D Analysis tab where you can review all manner of minutiae such as positioning, playing areas, serve & return areas, etc. When it comes to impacting the play on the court, the game allows you to adjust the intensity level of your player related to serving, returning and key points. Depending upon what happens on the court, this can help or hinder your player, so you need manage this carefully.
TM 2022 also affords you a bevy of tactical options where you can adjust everything from where your player attempts to serve to how risky (i.e., aiming for the lines) they are in hitting their forehand on a return to whether they will seek to target their opponent’s backhand during the rally. If you enjoy fine-tuning your tennis tactics, TM 2022 is certainly the game for you! Finally, the game also allows you to periodically talk to your players. Your encouragements (or critiques) may or may not have an impact on confidence, motivation, relaxation or emotion of your player. Also, while not necessarily realistic for every tournament, particularly the Grand Slams, the game also allows you to talk with your player after each set and seek to pump them up for the action ahead. All in all, TM 2022 impresses by giving you a lot of ways to influence the play on the court.
However, Tennis Manager 2022 does have a few gameplay / sim engine weaknesses worth discussing.
For starters, TM 2022 tennis world feels a bit mechanical and lifeless. Yes, training happens, tournaments take place, and the results generally feel good. However, while you get plenty of emails (perhaps too many?) about what is happening with your academy, you don’t always get a good sense of the ongoing stories and sagas unfolding in the tennis world around you. While you do get an end-of-year email to reflect some of the major happenings / awards, I would have appreciated a recap email after each Grand Slam giving you some of the major highlights, upsets, etc. Also, I wish there were more emails and events regarding my player(s), staff, etc. I like how games like Football Manager, OOTP and Motorsport Manager really bring the world and their respective sports to life digitally. I really hope Rebound CG continues to invest more in making the tour come alive in Tennis Manager.
I also struggled a little bit with the realism of TM 2022’s sim engine. This is partly due to the fact that outside of matches, there is no easy way I’ve found to view statistical totals instead of just percentages. With that said, matches do seem to unfold in realistic ways with various ups and downs. However, I do wonder if there is a lack of realism in the men’s and women’s games are simulated. For instance, in my end of year email, I was notified that John Isner had the most aces on the ATP men’s tour with 847 aces while Naomi Osaka had 879 aces in a year! (Quick aside: Seems TM 2022 is tracking statistical totals in some way but doesn’t allow me to get access to that info yet). While it’s not surprising to see a power player like Osaka getting so many aces, I checked the WTA website and it appears that in the last 6 years, the most aces a female player had was 530 aces by Karolina Pliskova (2016). Isner’s ace count are much more realistic for the men’s tour, but I wonder if under the hood, TM 2022 is treating the men’s and women’s game too similarly and not accounting for some of the finer nuances between the tours. Along with this point, TM 2022 doesn’t currently have any representation or management options available for doubles play of any kind (i.e., men’s, women’s, mixed). It’s currently a singles focused game, but the world of tennis is so much deeper than that.
Another area where I struggled with TM 2022 is in the way it handles “shape.” In a recent “Training Management Tutorial,” Rebound CG defines “shape” as “the level of form” representing “the rhythm and the sensations of your player.” So, if you have a poor shape, then this may affect your player’s physical attributes, your progression in training as well as how much energy they start their next match with. As I understand it, shape is heavily impacted by the player’s performance in matches, so if they lose a series of matches, their “shape” will decrease and in a snowball effect, their future performance as well. The way to increase their “shape” is to perform well in a series of matches, but it sounds like it can also be impacted by prioritizing physical training and to a lesser extent, technical training. All of this sounds good in theory, but as I played, I found “shape” to be a little overpowered. When my player was in good shape, it felt like I was winning more than I expected, and when I was in poor shape, I felt like it either hard to get out of or I need to play in some lowly tournament to knock out a few easy wins to bump me back up. I’m not sure how realistic that is, particularly for a seasoned ATP or WTA tour veteran. Hopefully, Rebound CG continues to refine “shape” in future iterations.
Finally, I was not totally sold by the way TM 2022 handles interviews, goals and negotiations. While interviews popped up at appropriate times depending upon what was happening with my player, I found having to regularly answer four questions a slightly annoying interruption in my gameplay rather than something that builds the narrative surrounding my player and academy. Perhaps my reason for feeling this is that unlike your pep talks with your players, there often isn’t any immediate feedback on the impact of my interview answers. Sometimes it felt like a chore that had to be done, but perhaps this is how player and managers feel in real-life! Also, when it came to goal-setting for my players and for my academy, I wish there was more variability in the goals. For instance, with players, I haven’t seen any players who were focused on getting better sponsors or who wanted to beat a particular rival on the tour a certain number of times. The players just seemed to be hard-coded to focus on performance on whatever tour(s) they found themselves on.
Finally, I didn’t find the negotiations with player or staff to be very interesting. With players, I felt like I was negotiating blindly and just hoping not to anger them. I wish there was more transparency on what may be important to them or not. Also, with staff, I wish staff were more dynamic in their interactions with me and demanded raises at the end of the year, particularly if we performed well. It was too easy to just re-sign good staff for the same amount I was paying them the year before.
In a game as deep as TM 2022, there is certainly more I could touch on regarding the gameplay and sim engine. Succinctly put, TM 2022 affords you a lot of gameplay options, but lacks some of the flavoring and immersion that other more well-established non-tennis sim management games provide.
TM 2022 doesn’t appear to have any online modes at this point. For those who expect this sort of feature in their sim management games, this will show up as a big unforced error in their book, but one must remember that the single-player experience does provide plenty to chew on.
Replay & Fun Factor
So, bottom-line question is Tennis Manager 2022 (TM 2022) fun to play? Despite some of its current flaws or short-comings, I would have to say yes. I found myself enjoying the ups and downs of the season – the big wins, the crushing losses, the injuries and financial / infrastructure management of my academy. I really appreciated the flexibility TM 2022 affords to allow me to enjoy the game I want to whether that is quickly simulating matches or diving deep into the tactics during the 3D matches. TM 2022 pulled me in, gave me a good ride and makes me want to come back for more.
Closing: So, in the sports sim management space, Tennis Manager 2022 is a real contender on the rise. Sure, it still has room to grow and refine, but Rebound CG has something good cooking on their side of the net. I’m excited to see what new heights they take Tennis Manager to in the future.
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