The Pepperstone ATP Rankings offer an ideal reference for measuring upsets on the men’s tour. In many of the matches selected here, the bells were enormous.
In our overview of the 2023 season, ATPTour.com relives five of the most unexpected results of the year.
5) R1 Toronto: Diallo v. a Evans 7-6(4), 7-5
Canadian Gabriel Diallo, then 21 years old, signed his first ATP Tour victory at home, beating one of the fittest tennis players on the circuit.
Two days before, Daniel Evans lifted the Washington title by linking 10 consecutive sets. However, in Toronto he found immense difficulty keeping Diallo under control.
After winning a tight first set, the Canadian came to dominate, breaking the lead up to three times in the second set. A double fault buried her first attempt to close out the match on his serve. Despite seeing how Evans tightened the score from 3-5 to 5-5, Diallo recovered to win the next two games.
“I can’t put into words how I feel right now,” the then world No. 141 said after a dramatic victory. “I hope everyone on this planet can feel what I feel right now, this level of happiness.”
Photograph: Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images
4) R2 Madrid: Arnaldi v. a Ruud 6-3, 6-4
Former Next Gen Matteo Arnaldi completed his first Top 10 victory in style, beating then-world No. 4 Casper Ruud on the Norwegian’s favorite surface. After lifting a match point to sign his first ATP Masters 1000 victory against Benoit Paire in the first round in Madrid, Matteo unleashed his blows to achieve a special victory on several levels.
In addition to achieving the biggest victory of his career considering the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, the result propelled the Italian into the Top 100 for the first time. Arnaldi continued to climb the rankings in the following months, closing the year as world No. 44.
What was the most surprising thing about Arnaldi’s surprise in Madrid? After a great performance on the clay of Barcelona the previous week, he did not feel comfortable at the altitude of the Spanish capital.
“At first I didn’t like the ball bouncing so high, I struggled with the adaptation,” he explained. “But today, I don’t know the reason, maybe it was because of the stadium, maybe because he had the pressure, but I played the best game of my life.”
3) CF Banja Luka: Lajovic v. and Djokovic 6-4, 7-6(6)
This Serbian duel, played in front of a ‘local’ crowd in neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina, was a key moment for Dusan Lajovic at 32 years old. After winning just a total of four games in his two previous matches against Novak Djokovic, Lajovic surprised his compatriot in this clay court ATP 250.
Lajovic canceled 15 of the 16 break points faced and saved three set points in the second set tiebreak, taking the victory after capturing the last five points of the match from 3/6 in the tiebreaker. His aggressive style of play made Djokovic pay for a weak day on serve, finding his best tennis in key moments against a player who built his legendary career by shining on the important points.
“I’m overwhelmed, it’s the biggest victory of my career,” said Lajovic after adding his first victory against a world No. 1. “I have mixed emotions because I am playing at home and against Nole, a good friend and a hero for our country. Beating him is something I would not have even imagined, but it has happened.”
Lajovic made the most of his victory by winning the title in Banja Luka, beating Miomir Kecmanovic in a Serbian semi-final and second seed Andrey Rublev in the final.
2) R1 Delray Beach: Pecotic v. a Sock 4-6, 6-2, 6-2
Matija Pecotic already embodied one of the most curious stories of the season before facing No. 8 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. The 33-year-old Croatian, who maintains a full-time job in finance, managed to advance to his first ATP Tour final draw at the local tournament in South Florida. And it seemed likely that the adventure would end against local favorite Jack Sock.
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However, with his boss in the stands, the then world No. 784 attracted more headlines, overcoming a lukewarm start to beat the American by a margin in the final two sets. He hit 30 winners, including 10 acesto defeat Sock, turning the match after starting with a 0-4 and canceling a breaking point at the beginning of the second set.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect to win. But I didn’t go into the game thinking I was going to lose,” said Pecotic, who represented Croatia in the inaugural United Cup at the start of the season. “I came to the conclusion that if I could get into the game, imposing the two or three patterns of play that I had prepared, I would have a chance. And then we would see… if I was going to succumb to the pressure or not close the game service at some point. It didn’t happen and I got the victory.”
1) R3 Roma: Marozsan v. and Alcaraz 6-3, 7-6(4)
Fabian Marozsan produced the biggest surprise of the season with a firm victory against Carlos Alcaraz. In his first ATP Tour main draw, after passing the qualifying phase, the Hungarian puncher competed with enormous quality to hand his rival his third defeat of the season.
Marozsan defeated Alcaraz using his own game, combining depth and hardness in his blows with opportunities left to create doubts for the Spaniard. When Alcaraz seemed to begin to have the answer, building a 4/1 lead in the second set tiebreak, Marozsan regained the initiative with his imposing baseline game winning the last six points of the match.
“I couldn’t imagine this, last night I dreamed about it,” acknowledged Marozsan, who hit 30 winners over Alcaraz’s 15. “It has come true, I feel very happy. I have tried to do something special, maybe win some games or even a set. But I have defeated the [No. 2 del mundo]”.
Then world No. 135, the Hungarian became the first player not belonging to the Top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings capable of beating Alcaraz since 2021, and the eighth tennis player outside the Top 100 to defeat a No. 1 or No. 2 in the world since 2015.
Later in the season, he achieved further ATP Masters 1000 success by reaching the quarterfinals in Shanghai, defeating Alex de Minaur and Casper Ruud along the way. In late October, he reached a career-high No. 61 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings.