The ATP tour has finally come to a conclusion. There are a few Challenger tournaments remaining, but the bulk of the top players are having a well-earned break, before it all kicks off again in just a handful of weeks.
Last week I had a look at the women’s top ten, and tried to forecast how that would change 12 months from now. The WTA had an average of just over 4 changes per year in the top ten. For the men, since the turn of the century, that figure drops to around 3.6. But for the sake of this experiment, I’m also going to round that up to 4.
Who will still be in the upper reaches of the ranking table, and who may drop down into double figures?
Unfortunately Carlos wasn’t able to compete in the ATP Finals, yet still managed to close the year out as the youngest world number 1 in history. A phenomenal performance. I do think he’s going to find it harder next year to back up, yet I would be absolutely stunned if he wasn’t somewhere near the top come this time next year. Or the year after….or the years after that…
At age 36, I’m not sure anyone expected Rafa to have quite the year he has. The first half of the year was quite stunning, and unfortunately, that early workload took its toll toward the end of the year, meaning Nadal couldn’t quite finish the season off as he would no doubt have liked. I find it hard to get a read on Nadal for 2023. I have no qualms, if he steps on court, he will give it everything. But will his body hold up long enough? Will he have the motivation to travel so much, now he has become a father? Nadal will be an interesting watch for next season.
In the top 10 all year, Casper was just a win away from becoming world number 1. He acquired 3 titles this year, and reached the year end final, but amazingly, he is yet to win a trophy above the ATP250 level. Nonetheless, anyone worthy enough to reach two Slam finals, the year-end finals, and a Masters final in one year, will amend that stat soon. With zero points to defend at the Australian Open, if he can make a deep run in Melbourne, I expect him to be entrenched in the top 5 most of the year.
A solid, but somewhat unspectacular year from the Russian, who has struggled to regain the heights of his 2021/early 2022 form. I can’t help but think the loss to Nadal at the Australian Open, may have left a few mental scars for a portion of the season. If he can have a good pre-season, and hit the ground running in Melbourne, he could set himself up for another great year. However, with 1500 points to defend in the opening month of the year, he could find himself departing the top ten sooner rather than later.
A rather mixed bag for Stefanos in 2022. After losing in the semis to Medvedev at Melbourne Park, he didn’t really fire a shot in the remaining slams (4th round French, 3rd Wimbledon, 1st US Open). Yet the Masters tournaments were where he was able to string some wins together. Taking home the Monte-Carlo title, reaching the final of Rome and Cincinnati, and the semis of Madrid and Paris, should give him a great springboard with which to head into the new season. With the new generation of kids starting to make their move, it’s time for Stefanos to lift his level in the majors. I don’t see him leaving the top ten next year.
Didn’t play in half the majors this year, played the equal least tournaments (with Nadal) of anyone in the top 100, and still managed to finish in the top 5. Was obviously fresher than most heading into the year-end finals, and it showed. There is a widespread belief that, regardless of what the rankings show, Novak is still clearly the best player in the world. I can’t help but think 2023 is going to be where he flexes his muscles to the younger brigade, and ascends the rankings mountain once again.
Another of the top ten who didn’t have a stellar season, but had weeks where he showed just what a talent he is. Reaching the semis of the ATP Finals, the QF’s of the French and US, and taking home 4 titles over the year (including a 6-0 third set over Djokovic in the Belgrade final), is the good side of Andrey. The bad side, is that only twice did he get past the third round of a Masters tournament. I find it quite difficult to predict whether his trajectory is up, down, or sideways for 2023. I’m leaning more towards sideways. But the old saying goes…if you’re not moving forwards, you’re moving backwards…
A bit of a breakout year for FAA. He started the year on fire, making the QF’s of the Australian Open, and holding a 2 sets to 0 lead over Medvedev to make semis. From there, he appeared to gain the belief that he deserved to be mixing it with the best. It is well known that Felix fell short in his first 8 finals, before breaking through in Rotterdam. But it was the end of the year that he got hot, winning 3 tournaments in a row (Florence/Antwerp/Basel), cementing his spot in the top ten. At age 22, it feels like he’s announced himself, and I see an exciting 2023 ahead for Felix.
A late entry to the top ten, and we saw how much it meant to him once he finally achieved that goal in Tokyo. A deserved result for a player who won his maiden Masters title in Indian Wells, as well as Eastbourne on the grass. The majors were a mixed bag, with good results in Melbourne and London, but he would be looking to improve on his Paris and New York efforts. I see no reason why he couldn’t continue to improve next year, but at the bottom end of the top ten, points are tight, so it could go either way.
Snuck back into the top ten at the very last minute, as Rune dropped out. Quite an unassuming season from Hubert. He did win Halle, and made the final of Toronto, but rarely seemed to be a threat for the most part of the year. He’s sitting on the fence of the top ten, and I’m on the fence as to where he’ll be in 12 months time. Good enough to go deep in Masters events, but has shown very little at the majors. If he can turn that around, we could see him push higher.
So just like the women, if we assume 4 of these men will drop out, who would be the four most likely to fill the breach?
Holger Rune (11th):
Holger was a very late entry to the top ten, and made an even later departure, courtesy of a few Challenger points from last season dropping off. Holger was on a lot of watch-lists this year, and the way he stormed home in the last few months, it’s no wonder. His confidence is sky high after winning the Paris Masters, and he has to be every chance of rising at least one position higher in 12 months.
Nick Kyrgios (22nd):
We know his talent, and we know he can beat anyone on his day. The question will always be whether he plays enough tournaments to pick up the points required.
Alexander Zverev (12th):
Injury ruined his 2022 season, just he was edging closer to the world number 1 position. It’s hard to know what to expect from him next year, as it all depends on his recovery. If he can come back early in the year, and build some match form before the clay court season, he is good enough to finish next year in the top ten again.
Jannik Sinner (15th):
For me, it was slightly surprising to see him down at 15, as it felt like he had a big year. On reflection, he probably just needs to turn some of those QF appearances, into semis or finals next year. Definitely got the ability.
Cameron Norrie (14th):
A great season highlighted by a semi-final run at Wimbledon, and the Cincinatti Masters. If Wimbledon points counted this year, Cameron would’ve likely slipped inside the top ten, which is a phenomenal season from the Brit. No points to defend in Melbourne, so a deep run there would get him as a high seed for most tournaments he plays, giving him a greater chance to accumulate points. Has to be a chance.
Francis Tiafoe (19th):
Hasn’t won a title since 2018, but put together a nice season towards the back-end, the highlight being a US Open semi-final berth. It’s probably time for Francis to make his move, and to do that, he needs to take advantage of the early hardcourt season, and back it up with some better clay court results.
Lorenzo Musetti (23rd):
The 20 year old Italian is starting to make serious moves now. Winning his first two titles this year has seen his ranking jump from around 60 at the start of the season, to on the cusp of top 20. Has almost zero points to defend at the majors, bowing out in the first round of the Aussie (De Minaur), French (Tsitsipas), and Wimbledon (Fritz). With a Slam seeding his now, he should avoid the tricky first round matches, and work his way into the events. That would see his top ten chances boosted dramatically.
Jack Draper (42nd):
Currently still a fair way off the top ten, however, this time last year, he was a fair way off the top 200 (265 at end of year). A stellar rise for the young man from England, and all signs suggest he’s got the temperament and talent to keep rising. Wins over Auger-Aliassime, Tsitsipas, Fritz, and a tough 3 setter against Alcaraz, bode well for the future. Didn’t participate in the Aussie or French last year, so expect to see his ranking push higher in the first few months. How high will it be this time next year? Who knows…?
So what have I come up with for the 2023 end of year top 10? Again, it’s a bit of a lottery, but here goes…
Bring on the Aussie summer.