Just like that, the first three months of the 2023 tennis season have come and gone.
As the majority of ATP and WTA players prepare for their annual transition from hardcourts to clay, it is time to look back on what we have learned from an enthralling and (mostly) unpredictable start to the 2023 season. Not so easy for Iga
Iga Swiatek captivated the tennis world in 2022, dismantling almost every opponent she came across on the way to eight titles, including at Roland Garros and the US Open, as well as a 37-match winning streak.
Having established herself as the undisputed world number one, many foresaw the beginning of an era of Swiatek dominance which would continue in 2023.
However, the reality has proven to be less straightforward for the Polish superstar.
Aryna Sabalenka finally conquered her demons in January, showcasing her long-admired on-court prowess combined with a newly developed mental fortitude to claim the Australian Open crown.
Meanwhile, Elena Rybakina and Barbora Krejcikova have combined for a 3-0 record against Swiatek in 2023 on the way to winning their own pieces of major silverware.
The gap between Swiatek and the rest appears to have rapidly shrunk this season, setting us up for an enthralling rest of the year. Djokovic is still the king…for now
The ascension of the new generation to the top of the men’s game has been forecast for years, but Novak Djokovic once again reasserted his status as top dog to begin 2023.
A simply breathtaking first few weeks saw the Serb claim his tenth Australian Open crown in a tournament where nobody looked close to his level throughout, despite ongoing concerns surrounding a hamstring injury.
The clay season is unlikely to be as straightforward for Djokovic, who has also been absent from Indian Wells and Miami due to his unvaccinated status, but nothing can take away from his blistering start to the year. Grand Slam champs back for more
The WTA has no shortage of Grand Slam champions floating around the tour, and a number of them have begun 2023 in ominous form.
Alongside the successes of Rybakina and Krejcikova, Petra Kvitova won Miami, whilst Victoria Azarenka reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open.
Bianca Andreescu (prior to her injury) and Jelena Ostapenko have shown signs they could be getting back to their best, and Sofia Kenin looks to finally be on her way back up the rankings.
These are players who have proven they can beat anyone at their best, and the prospect of each of them returning to somewhere near their peaks has added an extra layer of excitement to each tournament so far. Medvedev back to his best
Former US Open champion Daniil Medvedev had an underwhelming 2022, finishing the year ranked seventh (having finished 2021 ranked second) and winning just two titles.
Worryingly for Medvedev, 2023 started in a similar manner, having fallen short against Djokovic in the semi-finals of Adelaide 1 before a shocking straight-sets loss to Sebastian Korda in the third round of the Australian Open.
However, since then Medvedev has been nothing short of sensational.
Four titles from five finals becoming the first man to beat Djokovic this year, and a 19-match winning streak sum up a blistering resurrection for the former world number one.
Medvedev will now depart his beloved hardcourts (245-81 career) for the clay court season, which has always been his greatest challenger (18-23 career) but there is little doubt he will once again be a threat during the backend of the year on the hardcourts again. Post-Barty hangover?
Over a year has passed since Ash Barty announced her shock retirement from tennis. Barty’s decision had wide-reaching effects on the sport, but perhaps the most concerning of these has come to the fore at the start of 2023.
The lack of top-level depth in Aussie women’s tennis became glaringly apparently when Ajla Tomljanovic withdrew just days before Australian Open main draw play began, which combined with Daria Saville’s ongoing absence due to injury, left only five Aussie women in the main draw of the singles, all of whom were ranked outside the top 150.
Although Olivia Gadecki and Kim Birrell have gone on to have excellent starts to the season, the combination of injuries and Barty’s retirement have left Aussie tennis fans without a WTA top 100 representative across the first few months of the year. The comeback conundrum
Andy Murray’s start to the season has been perhaps the most memorable of his career. An extraordinary run at the Australian Open saw him reach the third round by beating 13th seed Matteo Berrettini in the first round over five sets, before playing the longest match of his career to beat Thanasi Kokkinakis in the second round, also in five sets.
Murray followed that up with a similarly dramatic run to the final at the Qatar Open, bringing to an end arguably the best month of Murray’s career since returning from hip surgery.
Conversely, Dominic Thiem has endured one of the toughest periods of his career so far in 2023.
Similarly on the comeback trail, albeit in a very different scenario to the one facing Murray, Thiem has won only one match so far this season.
His poor record comes despite making the decision to return to his favoured clay courts during February, picking up his sole win in Buenos Aires.
The two situations reflect the unpredictability of injury comebacks, as tennis fans embrace the drama of Murray’s performances, which jarringly contrast with Thiem’s heartbreaking struggle to return to his best. The Czech tennis factory rolls on
The Czech Republic has long been known to produce a disproportionate amount of tennis talent, especially on the women’s side.
Yet somehow that reputation has been strengthened even further in the first three months of 2023.
Whilst Kvitova won the Miami crown, Krejcikova is arguably leading the way having won both the singles title in Dubai and the doubles title at the Australian Open with fellow Czech player Katerina Siniakova.
But perhaps most impressively is the suite of less heralded players making their marks this year.
Linda Noskova alongside Linda and Brenda Fruhvirtova have proven to be teen sensations, whilst Karolina Muchova and Marketa Vondrousova have each enjoyed a kind of renaissance with several highly impressive wins on their respective journeys back from injury. Doubles the way for Aussie men
The success of Jason Kubler and Rinky Hijikata at this year’s Australian Open has been the feel-good tennis story from an Australian perspective in 2023.
The likeable duo defied all the odds to lift the men’s doubles crown, picking up from where Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis left off as a local pairing willed to victory by the vocal home support.
Matt Ebden has also enjoyed his share of success, winning titles both in Qatar and Indian Wells alongside the evergreen Rohan Bopanna.
It seems that the doubles court is once again the way to go for Aussie men hunting success in 2023.