The Grand Slam race rolls on in 2023.
The past three years have seen Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer both lead the all-time standings, and Novak Djokovic draw level for the first time following his three victories in 2021. Nadal is the current leader with 22 Grand Slam titles, one ahead of Djokovic, and two clear of Federer, who is now retired.
The next opportunity to win a Grand Slam will be the 2023 Australian Open, when Nadal will be defending champion and Djokovic will be aiming for a 10th title in Melbourne.
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We look at how the Grand Slam race took another twist this season and what lies ahead in the next 12 months.
How the Grand Slam race changed in 2022
It was all so symmetrical at the start of the year: 20, 20 and 20.
For the first time, Nadal, Djokovic and Federer all had the same number of Grand Slam titles. Djokovic’s dream 2021 season, when he won three majors and lost in the final of the US Open, brought him level, having been 15 behind Federer after the 2010 Australian Open. It was expected that Djokovic would become the leader for the first time this season, but his vaccination status meant he couldn’t play the Australian Open or the US Open, and was arguably slightly undercooked for the French.
Instead it was Nadal who pulled away, sensationally winning in Australia after five months out, then securing a record-extending 14th French Open title after beating Djokovic in the quarter-finals. A calendar Slam was on the cards for Nadal until he had to withdraw from the Wimbledon semi-finals due to injury. Djokovic made the most of his class on grass to win again at SW19 and move one behind Nadal, who couldn’t add another at the US Open as he lost in the fourth round.
Meanwhile, Federer’s chances of winning any more Grand Slam titles officially came to an end as he retired at the Laver Cup. Federer’s last major win was the 2018 Australian Open. He came agonisingly close to winning a 21st when he had two match points against Djokovic in the 2019 Wimbledon final.
What’s next in 2023?
From three, it’s now down to two to see who can finish with the most Grand Slam titles.
Nadal leads the way on 22 and will be hoping to add another at the Australian Open, which starts on January 16. It is not known, though, how healthy Nadal will be given he finished the season still working his way back from injury.
"Each season is a new season and every time I start a new season there's uncertainty, there are doubts, but I'm preparing for it the best that I can," he said this week.
Nadal lost four singles matches in a row before beating Casper Ruud in his last group match at the Nitto ATP Finals. In Turin he spoke defiantly about his comeback.
“I don't think I forget how to play tennis, how to be strong enough mentally," he said. "I just need to recover all these positive feelings and all this confidence and all this strong mentality that I need to be at the level that I want to be. And I don't know if I am going to reach that level again. But what I don't have any doubt about, that I'm going to die for it.”
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If Nadal misses out on the Australian Open he will likely still be favourite for the French Open, where he will be gunning for a 15th title. Nadal has only ever lost three matches at the Grand Slam since his first appearance in 2005.
Right now, though, the momentum looks to be with Djokovic, just as it did this time last year.
Djokovic was in excellent form over the last couple of months of the 2022 season, winning 18 of 19 matches and finishing with victory at the Nitto ATP Finals. He has won the last three times he has played the Australian Open and is expected to be the strong favourite again in Melbourne as he returns after this year's visa controversy.
Wimbledon too has been a happy hunting ground for Djokovic; he will be bidding for a fifth victory in a row next summer. At the French Open he will likely be a leading contender, having won in 2021 and made the final in 2020.
At the US Open there hasn’t been a Big Three winner since Nadal in 2019. Will that run end next year?
‘So many players can win a Slam’
It’s not just Nadal and Djokovic warring for Grand Slam titles next season.
World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz will be keen to get his hands on another major after lifting his first at the US Open. Former world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev has spoken about wanting to follow Alcaraz’s lead and hit the heights at another Grand Slam, while Casper Ruud might be looking to make it third time lucky after two losses in major finals in 2022. Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev will also be looking to break their Grand Slam ducks.
Seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander thinks it’s as wide open as it has been in some time.
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Wilander told Eurosport: "This is probably one of the more interesting years in men's tennis in a very, very long time with Carlos Alcaraz at 19 years old, No. 1 in the world, and Rafa Nadal at 36 years old at No. 2. Then you have Novak Djokovic hungrier than ever. There are also so many players in the middle who can win Grand Slams. I have never experienced a year when there are more players that I think can win a Grand Slam than 2023."
But Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios sees it a different way.
“Well, Rafa will win the French Open, Djokovic will probably win Wimbledon - unless I stop him - so I don’t know,” he said at the Diriyah Tennis Cup last week.
“Djokovic is so dominant that unless someone really elevates their level at the Australian Open or US Open, I can’t see him losing.
“Medvedev could maybe beat him. Look I’d love to win one - but, realistically, he’s so dominant.”
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Stream the 2023 Australian Open live on discovery+ and eurosport.co.uk
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