What were the best tennis moments from 2023?
Top of the list would probably be the epic Wimbledon final between Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic, Aryna Sabalenka beating Elena Rybakina to win the Australian Open, or perhaps Coco Gauff winning the US Open.
But we’re looking outside of the Grand Slams this time.
And we’re not just picking the highlight moments, but some of the most memorable, and most impactful moments from the 2023 tennis season away from the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open.
Alcaraz gets rolling on grass
How different Carlos Alcaraz’s grass season could have been.
Alcaraz was still a novice on the surface at the start of the summer and looked in trouble in his opening match at Queen’s against lucky loser Arthur Rinderknech.
Playing in just the third grass-court tournament of his career, and returning after losing to Novak Djokovic in the French Open semi-finals, Alcaraz dropped the opening set to the world No. 83.
But he recovered to level the contest and then came from a break down in the decider to win in three sets.
It was a victory that would lay the platform for a 12-match grass winning streak during which Alcaraz got better and better, and looked more and more comfortable, culminating in his stunning victory over Djokovic in the Wimbledon final.
Rublev’s ‘fairytale’ Monte Carlo win
One of the most popular players on the ATP Tour, Andrey Rublev was certainly a popular winner at the Monte Carlo Masters as he made his biggest breakthrough yet.
Rublev beat Holger Rune in the final, coming from 4-1 down in the deciding set, to claim the first Masters title of his career and was filled with emotion afterwards.
“To be able to come back and to win is like a fairytale today,” said Rublev.
Monte Carlo provided plenty of entertainment this year – the drama between Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev, the Jannik Sinner v Rune semi-final thriller – and Rublev lifting the trophy was a feel-good moment.
Djokovic beats Alcaraz in thriller
Looking back at this scintillating contest now it was perhaps a pivotal moment in the summer.
Had Djokovic, who looked to be struggling badly in the heat early on, lost to Alcaraz again, how would that have impacted him ahead of the US Open? And had Alcaraz got another win over Djokovic would it have given him an extra boost going into the last Grand Slam of the season?
Djokovic’s victory in the longest best-of-three set final in ATP tour history (since 1990), in a match he described as one of the “toughest” of his career, showed that he was still the one to beat heading into the US Open.
Medvedev makes friends with clay
Daniil Medvedev’s victory in Rome saw him lift his 20th title in 20 different cities, and this was perhaps the most unexpected of the lot considering his chequered history with clay.
It also signalled a slight shift in the relationship between Medvedev and his least favourite surface.
“I don’t love clay, but let’s call it a friendship,” said Medvedev after beating Holger Rune in the final. “My tennis love is hard court, but I like clay more now.”
The romance wouldn’t blossom further at the French Open as Medvedev was bounced out in the first round by qualifier Thiago Seyboth Wild.
Sinner’s ‘key moment’ in Toronto
Jannik Sinner finished 2023 on a tear, and his first Masters 1000 title had an important part to play in that.
“I had excellent results at the beginning of the year, I felt that I was very close but I couldn’t win the first Masters 1000. I lost two finals in Miami [in 2021 and 2023], then when you win the first title it means a lot for a career.”
Sinner had a pretty kind draw in Toronto, only facing one seed – 12th seed Tommy Paul in the semis – and also getting a walkover when Andy Murray pulled out in the last 16.
But no matter the opponents, it was the result he needed.
He would kick on by winning Beijing and Vienna, and then beating Novak Djokovic at the Nitto ATP Finals, where he was runner-up, and again at the Davis Cup, where he led Italy to their first win in 47 years.
Alcaraz, Sabalenka shocked in Rome
Carlos Alcaraz’s loss to Fabian Marozsan at the Italian Open was one of the ‘wow’ moments of the season.
Qualifier Marozsan was playing in his first ATP Tour main draw, while Alcaraz was 30-2 for the season and was coming off winning the title in Madrid.
Marozsan produced a career-best display to win in straight sets, out-drop shotting one of the best drop shotters in the game and consistently hitting with depth.
“It was surprising for me,” admitted Alcaraz afterwards.
Aryna Sabalenka was also shocked early in Rome, losing to Sofia Kenin in the second round.
It was Sabalenka’s first defeat before the quarter-finals at any event in 2023 as Kenin scored her first top-10 win since her 2020 Australian Open victory.
Swiatek blows through WTA Finals
Iga Swiatek laid down a big old marker to finish the season.
Not only did she win the WTA Finals, but she did so for the loss of just 20 games, comfortably beating the previous best of 32 set by Serena Williams.
It was one of the most impressive weeks of the season.
Gauff’s spectacular summer starts
There were signs that things were happening with Coco Gauff’s game in Washington DC.
With the new coaching team of Pere Riba and Brad Gilbert in her box, Gauff played more aggressively and powered through the field to win the biggest title of his career.
Coming off the back of a shock first-round loss to Sofia Kenin at Wimbledon, this was a big week for Gauff and started her momentum-building run towards the US Open, where she won her first Grand Slam title.
Swiatek v Sabalenka face off
The first WTA 1000 final between a world No. 1 and world No. 2 in seven years did not disappoint.
Iga Swiatek and Aryna Sabalenka went toe to toe in Madrid as they battled over two hours and 26 minutes, with Sabalenka prevailing as she earned her first clay win over Swiatek.
Sabalenka revealed afterwards how a year earlier Swiatek had been on her mind during a training block.
“I remember all those sprints and running workouts. It was really tough for me, but I kept thinking ‘If you want to beat Iga you have to keep running, you have to keep pushing yourself.’
“That’s why I respect her a lot and that’s why I’m saying that what she’s done in tennis motivates me a lot. First of all, it’s tough physically against her and secondly, mentally. Because you feel like you don’t have these few games to drop your level. You always have to stay high with her.”
Madrid was where the hard work continued to pay off for Sabalenka.
Krejcikova’s Dubai run
Barbora Krejcikova’s stunning title run in Dubai was a week-long moment.
The 2021 French Open winner hadn’t beaten a top-10 player for over a year heading into the WTA 1000 tournament.
She saved four match points in the second round against Daria Kasatkina and then became only the fifth player in WTA history to beat the top three-ranked players at the same tournament.
First she ended Aryna Sabalenla’s winning start to the season, then she toppled world No. 3 Jessica Pegula, before producing a brilliant performance to beat world No. 1 Iga Swiatek in the final.
“I have to say, it’s big,” admitted Krejcikova. “It was a big tournament for me, a big week for me.”
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