What 2023 has in store for us: Nadal’s body, Djoko’s resurgence and Felix’s dreams
In a sport as attached to its traditions as tennis, 2022 will undoubtedly have been the most atypical of seasons. A campaign where we will have seen very little Novak Djokovic, who is not inoculated against COVID-19. A year when the Russians and the Belarusians will have been deprived of their flag and even of a participation in Wimbledon. From start to finish, the final season will have been shrouded in vagueness. The next year should this time offer us answers… and a return to normal.
The reconquest of Djokovic
Novak Djokovic played little in 2022, which caused him to plummet in the rankings, before returning to fifth place thanks to his victory in the ATP finals in Turin. The 35-year-old Serbian was the undisputed number 1 in the world before his decision not to get a COVID-19 vaccine deprived him of countless opportunities to add to his incredible record.
He had to skip the Australian Open and the US Open, as well as the Masters in Indian Wells, Miami, Montreal, Cincinnati… But when he played – “Djoko” proved it in Turin – he is still the best in the world. If travel restrictions continue to ease, he could quickly reclaim his throne, currently held by Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz. Djokovic will also be in Melbourne this time, thanks to a visa.
Félix’s first Grand Slam?
Four ATP titles – the first of his career – the Davis Cup, the Laver Cup, the ATP Cup and sixth place. In 2022, Felix Auger-Aliassime had its best season. For the first time in his life, the Quebecer claims to have achieved all his goals. But the ones they’re aiming for next year are even bigger. Titles in the Masters 1000 series, the most prestigious category before the Grand Slams. Yes, also, a major trophy.
Can Felix really aim so high, so early? Last season, his best Grand Slam push was that famous quarter-final in Melbourne in January, where he found himself just a point away from beating Russian Daniil Medvedev and reaching the semi-finals. But with its prodigious fall, « FAA » is overflowing with confidence. He says he is ready to move on to the next stage, the most difficult of all.
The Russians, Wimbledon and the war
Since last February, the Russians have been playing without a flag next to their name. This sanction of the ATP and the WTA follows the invasion of Ukraine by their country. Belarusians suffered the same fate. At Wimbledon, the punishment was even harsher: the Russians – including several headliners, such as Medvedev and Andrey Rublev – and the Belarusians were banned from the most prestigious of Grand Slam tournaments by the English federation, the LTA.
A dispute ensued with the two major circuits, which decided not to distribute points to the participants… The dispute did not stop there: in December, both the ATP and the WTA imposed to the LTA, the organization that manages English tennis and its tournaments, fines of more than $1 million. All accompanied by a threat to withdraw the English events from the calendar. The LTA is now considering allowing athletes from both countries to compete in the next Wimbledon.
Will Nadal’s body still hold?
At 35, Rafael Nadal was the man from the start of the season. Between January and March, the Spaniard won three titles in a row, including a totally unexpected one at the Australian Open. Then, despite a seriously injured foot, which had to be put to sleep for the whole fortnight, “the ogre of ochre” won a phenomenal 14th title at Roland-Garros.
At that time, given the seriousness of the injury, it was relevant to wonder about a possible retirement. But no: “Rafa” was there at Wimbledon. This time, it was his abs that gave out before the semi-final.
Newly dad (of a boy named … Rafael), Nadal played a few events at the end of the campaign, during which he compiled a sad record of four wins against five losses. The world number 2 says he is ready to redouble his efforts to come back in force in 2023. But will the body follow?
Can Canadian women regain their credentials?
These Canadians climbed the ranks of the rankings at breakneck speed, but injuries made them come back down just as quickly. 2019 U.S. Open champion Bianca Andreescu is currently 46th. And Leylah Fernandez, US Open runner-up in 2021, dropped to 40th place after losing in the second round this year. Both players have much bigger aims. They also have a lot of time ahead of them. Andreescu is 22, Leylah is 20. Also to follow: can Rebecca Marino continue her progress, she whose very good 2022 season led to 64th place? It is a good proof of the resilience that drives the player, whose career had been put on hold for a few seasons to take care of her mental health. And Eugenie Bouchard, recovering from her shoulder surgery, can she aspire to return to success at 28? The former top 5, now 326th, traveled the world this fall to redo her ranking.