2023 did its best to pit the next generation of the ATP Tour against the old guard and it led to some incredible drama throughout the season. Before the calendar flips, let’s relive the best moments of the year.
Le Monf Continues to Amaze
Most of the attention in 2023 was focused on the young stars trying to assert themselves at the top of the tour and one particular veteran trying to hold them off.
However, a different elder statesman continued to be a highlight, both in terms of his story and his shot-making, on the ATP Tour.
37-year-old Gael Monfils made his return to the tour after an injury hiatus and it took him some time to get his footing. But once he got going, the flying Frenchman provided some of the most impressive and emotional moments of the year.
At Roland-Garros, his first major in over a year and first Slam after birth of his daughter last October, he rallied from 0-4 down in the fifth set to defeat Sebastian Baez, leaving everything he had on court. His emotional reaction after the win showed just how much the win meant to him.
In Toronto, he was at the peak of his powers, ripping powerful winner after winner on his way to his first Masters 1000 quarter-final in two years (also in Toronto) where he narrowly lost a slugfest with the eventual champion Jannik Sinner.
Capping off the year, he reached the final in Stockholm, marking 19 consecutive years where he reached at least one final, and won the title, defeating Pavel Kotov in a three-set comeback.
While he may not have won any big titles, Monfils once again proved to be among the most engaging players on tour.
Age of Alcaraz
Carlos Alcaraz came into 2023 perhaps with higher expectations than anyone else on tour.
While he may have finished the season one spot lower on the rankings than he started, statistically he improved on his breakout 2022 campaign by reaching eight finals, winning six including his second major at Wimbledon and two more Masters 1000 titles, and posting a better overall record.
He was the only player on tour to win at least one title at every level (250, 500, 1000 Grand Slam) in 2023.
His victory over Djokovic in the Wimbledon final was one of the best matches of the year, while also one of the biggest upsets as he ended the Serb’s bid to tie Bjorn Borg and Roger Federer with five straight titles at the All-England Club. It also ended up denying Djokovic of the Calendar Slam.
His rivalries with Djokovic, which also featured the best best-of-three match of the year in the Cincinnati final, and Jannik Sinner were highlights on the tour.
At just 20 years old, Alcaraz’s sophomore campaign reassured fans that the tour is in safe hands.
Sinner on the Rise
Over the final months of the season, few if any players were better than Jannik Sinner.
After the US Open, the Italian went 23-3 to finish the season, winning a pair of ATP 500 titles, reaching the final of the ATP Finals, and leading Italy to their first Davis Cup title in nearly five decades.
He also beat world No. 1 Novak Djokovic three times (in singles and doubles) in the month of November. This to cap off a season that had seen him win his first Masters 1000 title in Toronto.
Expectations are sky-high for the Italian heading into 2024.
The Kids are Alright
Alcaraz and Sinner are just the cream of an increasingly impressive crop of youngsters.
They already have the makings of a future Big Three along with Holger Rune, who reached a pair of Masters 1000 finals on clay and qualified for the ATP Finals for the first time at just 20 years old.
Also bursting onto the scene in 2023 was American Ben Shelton, who reached the quarter-finals of the Australian Open and semifinals of the US Open. The 21-year-old also handed Sinner one of his few defeats in the fall on his way to his maiden Masters 1000 quarter-final. He lifted his first ATP Tour trophy in Tokyo.
19-year-old Frenchman Arthur Fils also caught some attention by winning his first title in Lyon and reaching a second final in Antwerp.
Djokovic Stands Alone
Despite all the promise shown by the youngsters on tour in 2023, at the end of the year it is still Novak Djokovic standing alone atop the ATP Tour.
For the fourth time in his career, Djokovic won three out of four Slams. He won 83 out of 84 sets required to complete the calendar Slam. By winning Roland-Garros, he became the only man to have won all four majors at least three times while also taking the outright lead for most Grand Slam singles titles by a man.
By winning the Australian Open, he joined Rafael Nadal as the only tennis players to win the same major singles title at least 10 times. His US Open victory saw him tie Margaret Court for the most major singles titles all-time. He also became the first singles player, male or female, to accrue over 400 weeks at No. 1 in the world.
He may have been a swinging forehand volley in the fifth set at Wimbledon away from completing the undisputed greatest season in tennis history.
Honourable mention: Rafa Not Finished Yet
Perhaps the player most conspicuous by their absence in 2023 was Rafael Nadal, who played just four competitive matches before missing the rest of the season with a hip injury.
However, that did not stop him from stretching his streak of weeks in the Top 10 to 912, more than 17 full years and arguably the most unbreakable record in tennis as he has 130 more weeks than second-place Jimmy Connors (retired) and the longest active streak, belonging to Djokovic, is over 520 weeks (10 years) behind Nadal’s mark.
In May, when announcing his withdrawal from Roland-Garros, Nadal said 2024 will be his final season. But things are looking up for the Spaniard who recently confirmed his participation in the Australian swing. So Djokovic will not be alone in trying to hold off the next generation at the start of the next season.
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