Another ATP Tour season filled with exciting stories, magical moments and notable achievements is in the books. Which games in 2023 marked you the most?
The top 4 of the Pepperstone ATP Rankings (Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev and Jannik Sinner) were among those who played a big role in some classic matches this year. As part of the annual season review series, we pick the best matches from the 2023 ATP Tour. On Sunday we’ll focus on the best Grand Slam matches of the year.
5) Indian Wells, R16, Medvedev v. a Zverev 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-5
Medvedev and Alexander Zverev reignited their Lexus ATP Head2Head rivalry in style after 15 months of inactivity. Medvedev held on for a thrilling three-hour, 16-minute win to extend his early-season winning streak to 17 matches, but that only told half the story of the fourth-round clash at the ATP Masters 1000 in March.
Zverev was 8-7 on the year heading into the match and was still regaining confidence in his mobility after missing the second half of 2022 with a serious right ankle injury. However, the German came out strong against a rival who had just lifted consecutive trophies in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai. It was only after Medvedev saved all 10 break points he faced in the second set, during which he also fell heavily on his right ankle, that the then world No. 6 was able to wear down the German and reach his first quarterfinals at Indian Wells. .
“When I got twisted [el tobillo]I thought I was going to get up well,” Medvedev said. “But then the pain started to grow very quickly, so I thought: ‘That’s not a good sign’… It was one of the first times in my life that the physio had taped my ankle, so I decided to give it a try. The surprising thing was that it was much easier to run than to walk, so when I walked I limped and then I ran well.”
4) Adelaide 1, Final, Djokovic v. and Korda 6-7(8), 7-6(3), 6-4
A blockbuster way to start 2023 was the final of the Adelaide International 1. Novak Djokovic had dispatched third seed Medvedev with ease in the semi-finals of the ATP 250, but was forced to fight from the edge to overcome Sebastian Korda and seal his 92nd crown at the circuit level in the first week of the season.
Korda’s fearless approach in an exciting match that included many intense baseline rallies earned him a championship point at 6-5, 30/40 in the second set. However, the American was unable to land the decisive blow to take victory in his first Lexus ATP Head2Head match against the Serbian great. Djokovic kept his cool to force a tie-break before finding a late break in the decider to clinch victory. In a nod to his stamina throughout the match, the top seed pointed a finger at his temple after completing his victory.
“I would probably say that today you were closer to victory than I was,” Djokovic told Korda during the trophy presentation. “It was decided in one or two shots. Bad luck today, but the future is bright for you, so keep going and you will be an amazing player.”
Djokovic’s praise for Korda was further backed up a few weeks later when the American reached his first major quarter-final in Melbourne. For the Serb, the victory in Adelaide set the stage for his run to his 10th Australian Open crown later that month, a triumph that tied him at the time with Rafael Nadal on 22 Grand Slam titles.
3) Miami SF, Sinner v. and Alcaraz 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2
Arguably one of the most intriguing Lexus ATP Head2Head rivalries of 2023 reached its climax at March’s Miami Open presented by Itaú, where Jannik Sinner scored a spectacular semi-final triumph against defending champion Carlos Alcaraz.
Presented with the opportunity to avenge his semi-final loss to Alcaraz in Indian Wells two weeks earlier, Sinner prevailed in a match of the highest quality to end Alcaraz’s reign as world No. 1. The Italian led early in all three sets, but had to save two break points at 3-4 in the second set to stop Alcaraz’s progress towards a straight sets victory, before putting his foot down to overcome the physically challenged Spaniard in the decisive one.
The highlight of an impressive three-hour and two-minute spectacle was a full-court exchange at 4-2 in the first set. Sinner emerged victorious in a near-contender of the year, one that showcased the impressive defensive and counterpunching skills of two of the ATP Tour’s brightest youngsters.
“It means a lot. We both returned to playing at a very, very high level of tennis. I just did the best I could,” Sinner said after his win. “In the third set I saw him struggle a little bit for a couple of games, so I tried to push… We both tried to play very aggressive tennis and today it went my way, so I’m very happy.”
2) Nitto ATP Finals, RR, Sinner v. a Djokovic 7-5, 6-7(5), 7-6(2)
Sinner credited being “really brave” in key moments as the most important factor, as he broke Djokovic’s six-match winning streak at the Nitto ATP Finals in a group stage thriller in November in Turin. Perhaps most significantly for the home favorite, it was his first win against the world No. 1 in four Lexus ATP Head2Head meetings.
“It means a lot to me,” Sinner said after the three-hour, nine-minute match. “When you win against the world No. 1, who has won 24 Grand Slams, it’s obviously one of the best results you can have in your career… I feel like it was a really tactical match and I managed to win, so I’m very happy. ”.
As expected, Sinner’s historic victory against Djokovic, which he sealed in front of a noisy home crowd, was not easy. The Serb immediately recovered a break at 2-4 in the decider before forcing the Italian to hold his nerve in a third set tie-break. Sinner, 22, did just that, scoring the first five points to take control before taking control of a match in which the players scored a combined 35 aces.
1) Cincinnati, Final, Djokovic v. a Alcaraz 5-7, 7-6(7), 7-6(4)
The duel played by the two best players on the ATP Tour in 2023 in the definition of the Western & Southern Open will remain in memory for a long time. Djokovic saved a championship point before prevailing in an epic three-hour, 49-minute battle, which he later described as “one of the hardest matches I’ve ever played in my life,” and which was the best-of-three final over long in the history of the ATP Tour (since 1990).
With Djokovic struggling physically in the Cincinnati heat, Alcaraz looked ready to charge to victory when leading by a set and a break at the ATP Masters 1000. However, the 36-year-old Djokovic raised his level in an astonishing display of resilience physical and mental toughness, saving a championship point at 5/6 of the second set tie-break before outlasting his younger opponent to win a record-extending 39th Masters 1000 crown.
“It’s incredible,” Djokovic said afterward. “From the beginning to the end we have both been through a lot: ups and downs, incredible points, bad games, heat strokes, comebacks. Overall, it is one of the toughest and most exciting matches I have ever participated in and these are the type of moments and matches that I continue to work towards day after day.”
Alcaraz, who played an important role in one of the ATP Tour’s all-time great finals, appreciated the occasion, even in defeat: “It’s incredible to play against you, share the court with you, learn from you,” said Alcaraz to his opponent during the trophy ceremony. “This match was very close, but I learned a lot from a champion like you.”