They have reached the big stages, but their adventure has just begun. Flavio Cobolli, Arthur Fils, Alex Michelsen, Dominic Stricker and Luca van Assche are the nominees for Breakthrough of the Year at the 2023 ATP Awards, whose winners will be announced during the month of December.
In a vote carried out by tennis players, the award goes to the #NextGenATP player who will enter the Top 100 for the first time in 2023, generating the greatest impact on the ATP Tour during the season.
|Best Position (Date)
|No. 95 (October 23)
|No. 36 (October 30)
|No. 94 (November 20)
|No. 88 (October 2)
|Luca Van Assche
|No. 63 (October 23)
Flavio Cobolli (21)
“I want to be the future of tennis, I don’t want to stop,” Cobolli told ATPTour.com after breaking into the Top 100 in October.
The Italian lifted the second ATP Challenger Tour title of his career in Lisbon and reached the Olbia final two weeks later, becoming one of seven tennis players capable of winning at least 40 Challenger matches in 2023 (40-26).
“It was special, without a doubt, because this year I have worked a lot,” said Cobolli after winning in Lisbon. “I’ve played for 36 weeks, that’s a lot. I felt tired but this title means a lot to me and to the season. I don’t want to stop here, I want to look for new goals in 2024.”
Cobolli reached the first Grand Slam final draw of his career at Roland Garros, where he was defeated by world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz. The Italian also reached the quarterfinals at the ATP 250 in Munich.
Arthur Son (19)
The youngest ATP Tour champion this year? The puncher Fils, who triumphed on local soil in May at the ATP 250 in Lyon.
“I’ll always remember it,” Fils said after lifting the title. After a dream week, Fils entered the Top 100 for the first time. And she never stopped.
Despite not having any ATP Tour victories at the start of the season, the Frenchman made five semi-finals in 2023. Fils climbed to his best all-time position of No. 36 in October after reaching the final in Antwerp, where he defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas in the penultimate round. The Frenchman closed the season as runner-up at the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM.
“It’s been a fabulous year. I started at No. 250 but I’ve closed it at No. 36, that’s great,” Fils said. “It could have been even better. I lost some close games, but it’s an experience and I’ll try to do better next year.”
Fils’ year of emergence began from day one. Arthur won his first nine matches of the season, including the title at the Oeiras Challenger. In February, he made the most of the opportunities to play at home, reaching the semi-finals in Montpellier and Marseille.
Alex Michelsen (19)
If you look at the Top 600 at the beginning of January, you wouldn’t find the American’s name until the last place: 600.
Michelsen has climbed more than 500 places this year, with a surprising runner-up finish in Newport as the season’s high point. “I’m going to need a month [para procesarlo]”said Michelsen, who had not won any ATP Tour wins before that week. The American came to the grass tournament with the momentum of his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Chicago.
Michelsen announced in August that he would resign from his collegiate ties, having previously committed to the University of Georgia. Instead, the Californian turned professional and won his first match in a Grand Slam final draw at the US Open before embarking on an intense season finale, winning nine consecutive matches in November to link up with the title at the Challenger in Knoxville and the final in Champaign.
“If you had told me in January, when I was No. 600, that I would be in the Top 100 in November I would have thought it was crazy,” Michelsen said. “I never thought it would happen so quickly. I had that feeling after the Newport tournament. I rose to No. 140 and I thought I could do it at the end of the year, but I still saw the Top 100 as a bit far away. I’ve done it and I feel great.”
Alex Michelsen competes in the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM. Photography: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
Dominic Stricker (21)
In New York a new dimension was reached.
Stricker made it through US Open qualifying and advanced to the fourth round in the final Grand Slam of the season. The Swiss surprised Stefanos Tsitsipas after hitting 78 winners in a second-round victory in five sets after four hours and 10 minutes.
“I was down 3-5 but I managed to turn around the fourth set. I don’t know how I did it, but I did it and I was able to maintain a very high level of tennis. I have no words,” Stricker said at the time.
With two ATP Challenger Tour titles in his hands during 2023 (Rovereto, Prague), the great performance at Flushing Meadows introduced Stricker to the world Top 100 for the first time on September 11. At 21, he became the youngest Swiss to sign the milestone since Stan Wawrinka (20) did so in 2005.
“I’ve felt better on court than last year. I notice that my game has evolved again,” Stricker told ATPTour.com in August. “I’m getting fitter, that helps too. Off the track everything has become more serious. I’m working a little harder than before. I think I’m more professional in everything and that’s making a difference.”
The Swiss achieved another Top 10 victory in October, beating Casper Ruud in front of his fans on the Basel deck. Stricker closed the season by returning to the semifinals of the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM for the second consecutive year.
Luca van Assche (19)
The final week of the 2022 season was prescient for the Frenchman, who won his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Maia to close the year.
Van Assche continued that momentum, memorably lifting two consecutive Challenger trophies between February and March. In Pau, the Frenchman saved two championship points to beat his compatriot Ugo Humbert in the longest Challenger final in history (three hours and 56 minutes). Van Assche extended his streak to 10 wins, triumphing at the San Remo Challenger to secure his Top 100 debut.
“Two years ago I was No. 1000, or something like that, and I didn’t expect to see myself in the Top 100 at this point,” Van Assche said in April. “Last season I was around No. 400. One or two years ago I couldn’t imagine something like that, although you always dream about it. I feel very proud and want to improve even more.”
The Brussels-born Frenchman maintained his momentum to reach the next level, scoring his first ATP Tour victory in Estoril and reaching the second round of Roland Garros, where he lifted the junior singles title in 2021. Quarterfinalist in Hamburg and Metz, Van Assche climbed to the semi-finals at the Next Gen ATP Finals.
Luca Van Assche celebrates his victory in the longest final in the history of the ATP Challenger Tour in Pau. Photography: Terega Open Pau Pyrenes