ATP 2023 review: Djokovic leads all-stars

Novak Djokovic was the dominant force once again with another history-making campaign

Novak Djokovic & Carlos Alcaraz / Roland-Garros 2023©Loïc Wacziak / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

11 months of giving it all between the confines of tennis courts around the globe, finally the 2023 season has come to a close.

Familiar faces rewrote the history books and several players burst onto the scene. Let's take a look back at an astonishing year on the ATP calendar.

No one but Nole

Last month Novak Djokovic's iconic coach Goran Ivanisevic claimed; "When real Novak Djokovic arrives on the court, then the moment is nobody that can play with him."

It's hard to argue against that statement after the all-conquering Serbian has compiled another Hall-of-Fame season.

A 56-7 match record, tour-leading seven titles, doesn't quite evoke his supreme performances in the most prestigious events.

Grand Slams No.22, 23 and 24 arrived in Melbourne, Paris and New York as well as his 40th Masters 1000 crown.

There was more – just to keep the current crop of youngsters at bay – the 36-year-old clinched his record-extending eighth ATP Year-End No. 1 trophy en route to his record seventh ATP Finals triumph in Turin.

His self-described "wolf mentality" remains intact, his desire to rip up record books certainly remains intact.

"Very special, one of the best seasons I've had in my life, no doubt," declared the Serbian.

"That was one of the key turning points I think of the season for me, winning the 23rd slam in Roland-Garros. That kind of I think gave me really wings for the rest of the year."

On his day, especially over five sets, Nole is the ultimate No.1.

Rising up the ranks

A plethora of players emerged with tennis which turned heads on tour. Ben Shelton and Arthur Fils are two players who sparkled this season with a certain swagger.

Former college tennis superstar Shelton was outside the Top 700 two years ago, but soared into the limelight on his first ever trips outside the USA.

The American – a natural athlete with explosive acceleration and booming all-court shots - gained global recognition as an Australian Open quarter-finalist in January.

He's dynamic, unpredictable and fans across all age ranges love watching him compete with a cheeky grin across his face.

More big stage tennis came to launch into the US Open semi-finals, prior to a maiden ATP title in Tokyo in October.

Over to Frenchman Fils. Like Shelton, the teenager relishes getting the crowd involved, thrives in an energetic setting.

His powerful tennis matches the personality. The 19-year-old chalked up a first ATP title on home soil in Lyon back in May and finished a breakout year with five ATP semi-finals to peak at world No.36 as the Antwerp finalist.

Fils closed his standout campaign with a runner-up spot at the Next Gen ATP Finals last month, where Serbian Novak Djokovic's protégé Hamad Medjedovic snatched away the top prize.

Three teenagers finished in the year-end Top 100, with Fils' compatriot Luca Van Assche (No.90) and Alex Michelsen (No.97) showing plenty of promise.

Charly the entertainer

If, a big 'if,' Djokovic wasn't on the scene, then Carlos Alcaraz's 2023 would have been heralded as another astonishing show.

The 20-year-old's human highlight reel exploits continued to post plenty of victories (65-12). His semi-final journeys at Roland-Garros and US Open were compelling, the world No.2 collected Masters silverware at Indian Wells and in Madrid. Speaking of Masters, his Cincinnati final 5-7, 7-6(7), 7-6(4) defeat by Djokovic was simply unforgettable, match of the season territory.

Back in July, Alcaraz had the better of Djokovic in another instant classic. The Spaniard defied his relative lack of grass court experience to lift the prestigious Queen's Club trophy, before storming to his second Grand Slam title in SW19.

The Wimbledon final witnessed Alcaraz prevail 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 to erase his painful cramping and nerves-riddled semi-final exit at the hands of Djokovic a month earlier in Roland-Garros.

Across the season, wherever he went, fans were ecstatic to see him in person. 'Charly' is box office and kept up the blockbuster performances throughout 2023.

Sinner established at the top table

Take Djokovic and Alcaraz out of the equation. Who is the next in line to make a Grand Slam move?

Jannik Sinner has to be the fox out front.

The 22-year-old has been edging closer and closer in the primetime tournaments. Semi-finals at Indian Wells (losing a thriller with Alcaraz) and a runner-up trophy in Miami (lost to Daniil Medvedev), punctuated a turbulent season on the major stage. Last 16 losses over five sets in Melbourne and New York were tough to take, as well as an early exit at Roland-Garros. A straight sets defeat by Djokovic in the Wimbledon last four represented another 'nearly moment.'

Jannik Sinner & Daniil Medvedev / Finale Miami 2023©Sindy Thomas / FFT

Back bit Sinner.

He knuckled down and lifted his first Masters 1000 title in Toronto in August, which provided the springboard for a spectacular season close.

Beijing and Vienna titles helped gain revenge over Alcaraz and Medvedev. Then the Italian became embroiled in a high-octane mini-series with Djokovic. The world No.4 inched to a round robin three-set sizzler on the ATP Finals home court in Turin.

Djokovic flipped the script to take the trophy, but Sinner had the last say in 2023, taking down Djokovic in both singles and doubles in a pivotal day during the Davis Cup Finals at the close of November.

The ice-cool Sinner defeated Djokovic from an unthinkable three consecutive match points down in a 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 scoreline. Talk about next level.

Having spearheaded Italy past Serbia, Sinner and co roared past Australia for their second Davis Cup triumph, ending a wait of 47 years for the talent-rich nation.

With Sinner, Alcaraz and Holger Rune, there is a trio of 22-and-under players in the year-end Top 10 for the first time since 2009. Tennis is in safe hands.

Daniil Medvedev must get a mention. The mercurial world No.3 was a key figure in 2023. At one stage in the spring he featured in five successive finals, taking the title on four occasions. The 27-year-old was only denied a second US Open trophy due to a dogged Djokovic.

Medvedev, in one of the surprises of the season, won a Masters 1000 title on clay – he has a mixed relationship with tennis on the red dirt. Perhaps Roland-Garros 2024 represents Medvedev's renaissance in Paris?

Daniil Medvedev, Rome 2023, final©Ray Giubilo/FFT