Roger Federer is gone; Rafael Nadal and Novak and Djokovic are still on stage. But what kind of picture awaits us in the future?
In the last years of men’s tennis, the issue of “flag change” is frequently mentioned. But let’s be honest; it is still not possible to talk about a complete flag change in the season where Rafael Nadal won two Grand Slams and Novak Djokovic one. Considering that Novak couldn’t come to New York to play the US Open due to being unvaccinated, and the only slam champion outside of the big three came out here, the giants blew again in the major tournaments. Of course, 2022, when he bid farewell to Roger Federer, one of the great legends of tennis, still marked a change of face. We are talking about a season in which Carlos Alcaraz was crowned with his first slam championship and the title of world number 1, and young people like Casper Ruud, Felix Auger Alissime and Holger Rune broke their chains. Moreover, now the focus of Nadal and Djokovic has completely shifted to slams and the table is even more open for the remaining weeks of the tour.
If two Grand Slam trophy Rafael Nadal has a competitor for the title of player of the season, it’s none other than his compatriot and successor, Carlos Alcaraz. It’s impossible not to be hung up on the future of Carlitos, who went all the way to his first Masters tournament victories in Miami and Madrid, went all the way to the end despite the pressure of favoring the US Open, and did all of this within the season he turned 19 from 18. Even though his performance curve has dropped after becoming the youngest ATP world No. 1 in history, it’s hard to criticize him as he didn’t play well in overtime after the slam season was over. So much so that he left behind a mentally and physically exhausting period and passed the first ATP Finals of his career due to his injury. Alcaraz’s realistic test will begin with the 2023 Australian Open.
Facing Nadal at Roland Garros… The match, which has been every tennis player’s nightmare since 2005, occurred for Casper Ruud in the first slam final of his career. It’s not surprising that he didn’t perform well against the legend he idolized and trained many times at his academy. However, in general, parentheses should be opened to Ruud’s 2022. Because the Norwegian racket is a few years older than its counterparts, which is the subject of this article, and has already proven itself, at least on clay courts. In the past season, he gave a serious message about what he can do on hard ground. Although he lost to Carlos Alcaraz in the Miami Masters and US Open finals, it is possible to see Ruud in the top 10 for many years with his stability and ability to play well without choosing a tournament. It is a matter of serious concern whether he will reach the stability of winning in big tournaments.
When would Felix Auger Aliassime’s misfortune in the finals be broken? The Canadian racquet, who lost all of his first eight finals, won the Rotterdam tournament in February 2022, making this question history. Except for the quarter-finals at the Australian Open and the glorious but defeated Nadal match at the French Open, their Grand Slam performances were not at the expected level. But after the US Open, something happened to Felix and he evolved into the most fit player in the world in the last part of the season. The sequence, which included 16 games in a row and three tournament championships, carried him to the 6th place of the classification, almost dominating the closed hard courts. He even beat world number 1 Alcaraz twice during this time. Felix is one of the favorites, despite making his first appearance at this week’s ATP Finals in Turin. The future looks bright for the young star whose hero Federer was born on August 8 and who has a legend like Toni Nadal in his corner.
The name most inspired by Alcaraz’s incredible debut may be his peer Holger Rune. The Danish tennis player, born in 2003, has already entered the radar with his performances before and during the French Open; he even won his first tournament championship in Munich. Although he lost his way in the summer months of the season, losing to Ruud in the quarterfinals of the soil slam, Rune went to a whole new level in the autumn, just like Felix. It seems like a critical threshold here for him to start working with veteran coach Patrick Mouratoglou. Indeed, after Serena Williams, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Simona Halep, it was necessary to have solid potential to attract his attention, and Rune undoubtedly is. Rune’s Paris Masters victory was the pinnacle of her short career, who stormed the indoor hard court, lost two finals and won two titles. His passing over Felix in the semi-finals and Djokovic, the six-time champion in the final, was one of the most special stories of the year. Rune has years to mature, although he has had occasional problems with his rivals in his short time in the spotlight. And he has an amazing talent that he can put on top of it…
Italian super talents Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Musetti are not to be ignored in terms of skill, although they may not have had as splendid seasons as their aforementioned rivals. Especially Sinner, who played a good Wimbledon and US Open, should be separated from his compatriot. Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe, who have made big breakthroughs even though they are not very young, Denis Shapovalov, who recovered a bit at the end of the season, and Daniil Medvedev-Sascha Zverev-Stefanos Tsitsipas trio, who have now turned into experienced rackets, have the chance to stand up to the big ones in 2023. The flag change issue will remain in limbo before these names begin to consistently knock Novak and Rafa out of the slam titles. Because even Medvedev and Alcaraz, who have proven their age relatively, need to do much more. Men’s tennis will continue to be the game of the titans until then.