Djokovic is already number one… in 2023
Novak Djokovic is, according to the computer, the fifth best tennis player today, but facing 2023 he is the clear favorite to be the best of all.
The fact: as early as the Australian Open, the next big event, he could be the number one on the planet again. In January.
Huge consideration: in 2022 he played half as much as the rest. Six major tournaments out of a possible 12. And there he is, at the top five. He enters, without doubt in the discussion of whether or not he is the best of the season, in a tern that completes Rafael Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz. Nadal with Australia and Roland Garros; Alcaraz with the US Open and the year-end numer one; and the Serbian with Wimbledon and the ATP Finals. Tasty debate.
“It’s a big relief,” Djokovic said with the 2022 Masters trophy in his arms. That cup conveys a lot to him. It’s pure satisfaction: “I’m looking forward to my holidays. It was an atypical year in which I had to ask permission to go everywhere.” This Sunday in Turin, he beat Casper Ruud 7-5, 6-3. The Norwegian, by the way, closed a fantastic year that left him as world No. 3.
The award for the strangest season in history already has a clear winner, with a main actor who played an extraordinary role: Djokovic’s year included a court battle, a cancelled visa and deportation, a ban on entering countries to play tennis because he was not vaccinated against COVID-19, and a Grand Slam title without ATP points. He was also champion in every possible category in high level tennis (Grand Slam, Master 1000, 500, 250 and ATP Finals).
After that roller coaster, topped off with a phenomenal indoor tour, Djokovic is poised for a sweep in 2023. With the level demonstrated in the second half of the year, where he was unable to compete while the tennis focus was in North America, but won almost everything he played, he is emerging as the favorite to continue breaking records.
Melbourne will set the tone and will draw very important lines: the winner of 21 majors will arrive hungry and without important pressures to his favorite tournament, while the Spaniards face a complex scenario in Oceania. Nadal defends a bag of 2250 points for having won both the Australian Open and its preparatory tournament; Alcaraz will land there with an unfamiliar backpack, having finished the year at the top of the ranking. Everyone will want to bring him down.
Should Djokovic catch his tenth Australian Open and storm to the top of the rankings, it will be very difficult for him to let go, as he will have the entire U.S. and Canadian schedule to score clean points, plus at Wimbledon he will be playing to defend his title without the risk of losing a single point.
Memory is fragile, but we must not forget the recent timeline: in 2021, Djokovic was one match away from winning the Grand Slam (being champion in Melbourne, Paris, London and New York in the same year), and at that time it seemed that nothing and no one was going to stop him in his rampant collection of Slams.
Then, it seemed that the controversial circus in Australia in January would sink him, added to Nadal’s new records, but the Serb was able to withstand the adversities in 2022, and now, on the verge of his time off and his pre-season, 2023 is once again the favoritism in almost all scenarios.
And the young generation? Alcaraz aside, the newer players on the circuit have proven to be capable of fighting for big events, but have yet to emerge as a major threat on a more general level.
Names like Holger Rune, Jannik Sinner, Frances Tiafoe and Lorenzo Mussetti have the makings to surprise at some point (as the 19-year-old Dane did at Paris Bercy), but the odds of them being a consistent obstacle are still low.
Djokovic smiles. He was the undefeated champion of the tournament that brings together the bests of the year, equaled Roger Federer’s record with his sixth Masters, and won the juiciest check in the history of tennis (4.7 million dollars), although the money is just a detail at this point.
No restrictions. In 2023 Djokovic is going to play some tennis.
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