The new tennis season starts on Sunday with the tournament in Adelaide, Australia. An opportunity to take a look at the main events of the year.
The 2022 tennis season ended with Novak Djokovic and Caroline Garcia winning the men’s and women’s Masters tournaments in November, bringing together the eight best players on the circuit. It was a performance for the Frenchwoman, but almost a habit for the Serbian, six-time winner of the event.
In 2023, the native of Belgrade should find his most faithful rival for the world number 1 spot, the Spaniard Rafael Nadal. Will Carlos Alcaraz be able to retain the crown he won in 2022 after a strong season? And will Caroline Garcia continue her winning ways?
The start of the Adelaide tournament in Australia on Sunday, January 1, marks the beginning of a new tennis year. Here’s a quick look at the main issues of the season.
The Rafael Nadal-Novak Djokovic duel, season 13
The two players have been dominating world tennis for more than 12 years. While the Serb leads 30-29 in their meetings, the Spaniard has won more Grand Slam matches (11 vs. 7). Who will finish with the most major tournaments at the end of the season? The Majorcan currently leads the field with 22 titles, while the younger player has 21.
Presented as being at the end of his career and despite physical problems – the Spaniard suffers from a degenerative foot disease – Rafael Nadal has achieved the Australian Open – French Open double in 2022. However, he aims to increase his lead over Novak Djokovic in the race for the title of the greatest tennis player of all time. “I don’t think this will be my last time here. I’m happy doing what I’m doing. I’d like to keep doing it,” the Spaniard said Wednesday, brushing aside the idea of a final appearance at the Australian Open (January 16-29, 2023).
As for the Serbian, he is the most expected player of the season. And for good reason, the year 2022 has been very unusual, with an expulsion from Australia – because of his non-vaccination against Covid-19 – preventing him from defending his title in Melbourne, his absence from the US Open for the same reasons and a victory at the Wimbledon tournament without awarding ATP points due to the war in Ukraine.
At 35 years old, the man who has fallen back to 5th place in the world wants to make up for lost time and is determined to regain his number one ranking. The Australian Open is the perfect opportunity for “Nole” to win his 22nd title and get back in the race for the “GOAT” (for “greatest of all time”).
Carlos Alcaraz, a status to defend
Expected to be a future world tennis great, Carlos Alcaraz did not disappoint. After his first Grand Slam win at the 2022 US Open, the Spaniard became, at 19, the youngest world number 1 since the creation of the ATP rankings in 1973. After his crazy year in 2022, he starts a new season with a status, that of favorite, that he will have to assume. “I’m not going to be the guy who goes up in the rankings anymore. I’m already there, so everything will change and I’ll have to have a different approach mentally,” he told an Emirati daily in December.
Carlos Alcaraz will have to redouble his efforts to stay on top, especially against a vengeful Novak Djokovic and a Rafael Nadal who has not yet retired.
The prince of world tennis will also have to watch out for the new “next gen”. The Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, the Italian Lorenzo Musetti and the Dane Holger Rune, who won titles in Antwerp, Naples and Bercy respectively last season, are the new faces of a talented generation in the wake of the Spanish prodigy. These new young wolves are not far from putting the generation of Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Matteo Berrettini on the map. Long expected to succeed the hegemony of the “Big Three” – Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and the now-retired Roger Federer – the former “next gen” should certainly show some pride if they don’t want to be left behind.
Caroline Garcia, the blue locomotive?
Will this year see the coronation of a French player at the top? The question may seem incongruous, but led by Alizé Cornet and especially Caroline Garcia, the French have regained their color in the Grand Slam, even if the next generation is still slow to emerge. The progress of young Corentin Moutet (ranked 51st) and Luca Van Assche, who won his first Challenger title (second division of professional tennis) in Portugal, should be noted. The top Frenchman in the ATP rankings is Arthur Rinderknech, who is ranked 44th.
All of this is very little compared to the years, finally quite rich, of the four musketeers now aging, two of whom – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gilles Simon – have put away their rackets this year.
Caroline Garcia, who had a superb end to the season with a win at the Masters, is the only one likely to restore the French flag. Now ranked fourth in the world, the Lyon native is not hiding her ambitions. “The dream is always to win a Grand Slam tournament. There are still steps to climb, but now it’s possible,” she said before the start of the United Cup, a new mixed team competition that pits 18 teams against each other in Australia until January 8.
With only 395 points to defend until the next French Open, the Rhone Valley native can even improve her ranking in the first half of the year and become the runner-up to Iga Swiatek, the current tennis queen. Behind Caroline Garcia, Alizé Cornet, who is ranked 36th in the WTA, is the other French representative in the top 100.
Iga Swiatek, a domination to establish
The Polish player was on a roll last season, winning eight titles, including two Grand Slam titles (French Open and US Open). She has dominated women’s tennis to an extent not seen since Serena Williams in 2015. Can the 21-year-old sustainably dominate her sport? By her own admission, she finished the year “mentally and physically exhausted”.
However, no player seems to be able to challenge her reign. From the British Emma Raducanu to the Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka or the American Cori Gauff, none of them can keep up with the infernal pace of Iga Swiatek. Only her runner-up, Ons Jabeur, was able to keep up last season.
The first player in the Arab world to win a WTA 1000 tournament in Madrid, the Tunisian reached an important milestone by reaching the finals of Wimbledon and the US Open. Will she be able to fulfill her Grand Slam dream? Iga Swiatek will surely stand in her way. Unless Caroline Garcia also comes to play the spoilsport.
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