Vintage 2023: The Year That Was In Tennis

Let’s look back at the bests and the worsts of a memorable and often surprising year in tennis.

Published : Jan 05, 2024 12:58 IST - 103 MINS READ

Chaos in Cincinnati: In a match where experience barely prevailed over youth. Djokovic, 36, had to stave off a match point to surmount Carlos Alcaraz, 20, in a thriller that lasted 3 hours, 49 minutes.
Chaos in Cincinnati: In a match where experience barely prevailed over youth. Djokovic, 36, had to stave off a match point to surmount Carlos Alcaraz, 20, in a thriller that lasted 3 hours, 49 minutes. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Chaos in Cincinnati: In a match where experience barely prevailed over youth. Djokovic, 36, had to stave off a match point to surmount Carlos Alcaraz, 20, in a thriller that lasted 3 hours, 49 minutes. | Photo Credit: Getty Images


Revenge was on Novak Djokovic’s mind when he faced his biggest rival of the present era, World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, in the Cincinnati final, five weeks after the sensational Spaniard dethroned him at Wimbledon. In a match where experience barely prevailed over youth. Djokovic, 36, had to stave off a match point to surmount Carlos Alcaraz, 20, in a thriller that lasted 3 hours, 49 minutes in sweltering conditions that touched 90° F. This was also the longest best-of-three-set final in ATP tour history, since 1990, and finished 5-7, 7-6 (7), 7-6 (4). “This was one of the most exciting matches I’ve ever played in any tournament. It felt like a Grand Slam,” said an ecstatic Djokovic, who ripped off his shirt to celebrate, a gesture he typically reserves for a major final.  


Too good: The relentlessly aggressive Aryna Sabalenka (left) whacked an astounding 51 winners, an Open Era record, during the two-hour, 28-minute battle against Elena Rybakina (right) in the Australian Open final. 
Too good: The relentlessly aggressive Aryna Sabalenka (left) whacked an astounding 51 winners, an Open Era record, during the two-hour, 28-minute battle against Elena Rybakina (right) in the Australian Open final.  | Photo Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Too good: The relentlessly aggressive Aryna Sabalenka (left) whacked an astounding 51 winners, an Open Era record, during the two-hour, 28-minute battle against Elena Rybakina (right) in the Australian Open final.  | Photo Credit: GETTY IMAGES

The Australian Open final resembled a heavyweight title fight with two sluggers trading heavy punches for 12 rounds. Fifth-seeded Aryna Sabalenka exorcised the ghosts of AO 2022—when she averaged more than 12 double faults a match and was ousted in the fourth round—to overcome reigning Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. The relentlessly aggressive, 24-year-old Belarusian whacked an astounding 51 winners, an Open Era record, during the two-hour, 28-minute battle. After seizing her first Grand Slam crown on her fourth championship point, an ecstatic Sabalenka said, “[It] is the best day of my life right now. I’m super happy that I was able to handle all those emotions and win this one.”  


Top of the pile: By winning three of the four majors in 2023, Novak Djokovic set several records.
Top of the pile: By winning three of the four majors in 2023, Novak Djokovic set several records. | Photo Credit: AP

Top of the pile: By winning three of the four majors in 2023, Novak Djokovic set several records. | Photo Credit: AP

No contest here. By winning three of the four majors in 2023, Novak Djokovic set several records. The most popular and important one is his total of 24 Grand Slam titles, two more than Rafael Nadal and the same as Margaret Court, the women’s leader. Three other records attest to his greatness, consistency, and longevity. The 36-year-old Serb has captured 24 of 72 career majors he’s played—an astounding 33.3%—has reached the final in 36 of 72 majors played (50.0%), and the semifinals in 47 of 72 majors played (65.3%). Novak also won a record seventh ATP Finals along with Masters 1000 tournaments at Cincinnati and Paris to extend his career record to 40.  


Novak Djokovic was by far the most-talked-about tennis player—and the fifth most-talked-about athlete—in 2023, according to Sportsbook Review. ( A total of 136,159 articles were written about Djokovic. Only soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, and Lionel Messi, along with Formula 1 driver Max Verstappen had more articles published. Rafael Nadal, the only other tennis player in the top 30, ranked No. 26.  


Dream run: Besides winning her third French Open, Iga Swiatek captured the WTA Finals (the fifth most important tournament), the Qatar TotalEnergies Open, and the China Open, both 1000 events, and the Warsaw Open.
Dream run: Besides winning her third French Open, Iga Swiatek captured the WTA Finals (the fifth most important tournament), the Qatar TotalEnergies Open, and the China Open, both 1000 events, and the Warsaw Open. | Photo Credit: AP

Dream run: Besides winning her third French Open, Iga Swiatek captured the WTA Finals (the fifth most important tournament), the Qatar TotalEnergies Open, and the China Open, both 1000 events, and the Warsaw Open. | Photo Credit: AP

Four players divvied up the prestigious Grand Slam tournaments: Aryna Sabalenka (Australian Open), Iga Świątek (Roland Garros), Markéta Vondroušová (Wimbledon), and Coco Gauff (US Open). Despite this seeming parity, Świątek deserves this accolade over Sabalenka. Besides the winning her third French Open, the 22-year-old Pole captured the WTA Finals (the fifth most important tournament), the Qatar TotalEnergies Open, and the China Open, both 1000 events, and the Warsaw Open. Showing a high-level consistency, Iga reached finals at Madrid, Dubai, and Stuttgart along with the semifinals at Indian Wells, Montreal, and Cincinnati. Sabalenka, who finally overcame the nerves that plagued her shaky serve, finished a strong second. The power-hitting Belarusan captured her first major at Melbourne, made the final at the US Open, Indian Wells, and Stuttgart, and also grabbed titles at Madrid and Adelaide.  


TIME magazine honored world No. 1 Iga Swiatek among its “100 Most Influential People of 2023.” Michaela Shiffrin, an alpine skiing champion, wrote, “When Iga Swiatek plays tennis, three things come to mind: beauty, power, and truth. Throughout her rise to the top of tennis—and the top of sport—Iga has shown vulnerability and courage. She strives relentlessly to improve her game. She gives credit to those who have supported her, without discounting her own skills and work. She has advocated for mental health and supported Ukrainians in their fight to protect their home. As an athlete, and more importantly as a human, she embodies the kind of confidence that everyone should emulate—the confidence of action over mere talk. To rise to the top of tennis with the limited resources she had coming from Poland is remarkable. She has ignited a nation and given the next generation a reason to believe they can also achieve something incredible. She reminds us all that it’s OK to feel disappointment—and it’s also OK to feel proud of ourselves. When Iga walks out on the court, she puts her eye on the ball, and she doesn’t let it stray.”  


Grit and grind: Alexander Zverev overcame a horrific ankle injury that tore three ligaments and left him writhing in pain during his 2022 French Open semifinal against Rafael Nadal.
Grit and grind: Alexander Zverev overcame a horrific ankle injury that tore three ligaments and left him writhing in pain during his 2022 French Open semifinal against Rafael Nadal. | Photo Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Grit and grind: Alexander Zverev overcame a horrific ankle injury that tore three ligaments and left him writhing in pain during his 2022 French Open semifinal against Rafael Nadal. | Photo Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Alexander Zverev overcame a horrific ankle injury that tore three ligaments and left him writhing in pain during his 2022 French Open semifinal against Rafael Nadal. The mishap ended the former world No. 2’s season that year. Until the spring of 2023, Zverev, still in pain and unable to move the way he used to, won only three of his first nine matches and lost his first seven encounters with top 10 opponents. But he exorcised any demons at Roland Garros 2023 by making the semifinals for a third straight year— despite not being allowed to give himself a diabetes insulin injection on court and having to take a bathroom break for it. The 6’6” rocket server capped his impressive comeback when he qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals, where he notched big wins over Carlos Alcaraz and Andrey Rublev to finish the year ranked No. 7.  


Mixed emotions: Neither giving birth to her first child in 2022 nor the anguish of her homeland’s war against Russia’s unprovoked invasion slowed the determined comeback of Elina Svitolina.
Mixed emotions: Neither giving birth to her first child in 2022 nor the anguish of her homeland’s war against Russia’s unprovoked invasion slowed the determined comeback of Elina Svitolina. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Mixed emotions: Neither giving birth to her first child in 2022 nor the anguish of her homeland’s war against Russia’s unprovoked invasion slowed the determined comeback of Elina Svitolina. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Neither giving birth to her first child in 2022 nor the anguish of her homeland’s war against Russia’s unprovoked invasion slowed the determined comeback of Elina Svitolina. Starting the season in April ranked 1,344, the 29-year-old Ukrainian won a 500 event in Strasbourg, and, hitting harder than ever, made the Roland Garros quarterfinals and Wimbledon semifinals, pulling off a big 7-5, 6-7, 6-2 quarterfinal upset over No. 1 Iga Swiatek, to finish No. 25. Hats (or rather visors) off also to Sofia Kenin. The Russian-born American slumped badly after winning the Aussie Open and making the French Open final in 2020 but rebounded in 2023 by upsetting Coco Gauff at Wimbledon and ascending from No. 227 to No. 33.  


Bright future: With an improved net game and touch shots complementing his tremendous power, the 22-year-old Jannik Sinner led Italy to the Davis Cup title and reached the final at the Nitto ATP Finals.
Bright future: With an improved net game and touch shots complementing his tremendous power, the 22-year-old Jannik Sinner led Italy to the Davis Cup title and reached the final at the Nitto ATP Finals. | Photo Credit: AP

Bright future: With an improved net game and touch shots complementing his tremendous power, the 22-year-old Jannik Sinner led Italy to the Davis Cup title and reached the final at the Nitto ATP Finals. | Photo Credit: AP

A late-season surge gave Jannik Sinner a slight edge over Ben Shelton. With an improved net game and touch shots complementing Sinner’s tremendous power, the 22-year-old led Italy to the Davis Cup title and reached the final at the Nitto ATP Finals. Sinner climbed from No. 15 to a career-high No. 4 by capturing four titles, including his first Masters 1000 in Toronto, and making his first major semifinal at Wimbledon. In his first full pro season, Shelton, a rocket-serving American lefty, zoomed from No. 287 to No. 17, thanks mostly to reaching the US Open semifinals—with wins over 10th-seeded Frances Tiafoe and No. 14 Tommy Paul—and the Australian Open quarterfinals.  


Surprise package: Jasmine Paolini reached 250 event finals at Jasmin Open Monastir and Palermo Ladies Open, won a 125 tournament at Firenze Ladies Open, and notched excellent wins over No. 4 Elena Rybakina, No. 10 Caroline Garcia, No. 11 Daria Kasatkina, and No. 15 Madison Keys.
Surprise package: Jasmine Paolini reached 250 event finals at Jasmin Open Monastir and Palermo Ladies Open, won a 125 tournament at Firenze Ladies Open, and notched excellent wins over No. 4 Elena Rybakina, No. 10 Caroline Garcia, No. 11 Daria Kasatkina, and No. 15 Madison Keys. | Photo Credit: AFP

Surprise package: Jasmine Paolini reached 250 event finals at Jasmin Open Monastir and Palermo Ladies Open, won a 125 tournament at Firenze Ladies Open, and notched excellent wins over No. 4 Elena Rybakina, No. 10 Caroline Garcia, No. 11 Daria Kasatkina, and No. 15 Madison Keys. | Photo Credit: AFP

My vote goes to Jasmine Paolini. The undersized (5’4”) but highly consistent Italian had a modest ranking rise from No. 62 to No. 34, which didn’t reflect her excellent season. Paolini reached 250 event finals at Jasmin Open Monastir and Palermo Ladies Open, won a 125 tournament at Firenze Ladies Open, and notched excellent wins over No. 4 Elena Rybakina, No. 10 Caroline Garcia, No. 11 Daria Kasatkina, and No. 15 Madison Keys. In second place, late-blooming (29) Chinese Zhu Lin climbed from No. 84 to No. 37, captured the Thailand Open (250), made the final at Japan Open (250), and upset No. 6 Maria Sakkari and Garcia.  


Winners galore: Thiago Seyboth Wild from Brazil outhit Daniil Medvedev by 69 winners to 45, including 47-15 on the forehand during their first-round match at the French Open.Thiago Seyboth Wild - ATTACHED IN MAIL
Winners galore: Thiago Seyboth Wild from Brazil outhit Daniil Medvedev by 69 winners to 45, including 47-15 on the forehand during their first-round match at the French Open.
Winners galore: Thiago Seyboth Wild from Brazil outhit Daniil Medvedev by 69 winners to 45, including 47-15 on the forehand during their first-round match at the French Open.Thiago Seyboth Wild - ATTACHED IN MAIL Winners galore: Thiago Seyboth Wild from Brazil outhit Daniil Medvedev by 69 winners to 45, including 47-15 on the forehand during their first-round match at the French Open. | Photo Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Winners galore: Thiago Seyboth Wild from Brazil outhit Daniil Medvedev by 69 winners to 45, including 47-15 on the forehand during their first-round match at the French Open.Thiago Seyboth Wild - ATTACHED IN MAIL Winners galore: Thiago Seyboth Wild from Brazil outhit Daniil Medvedev by 69 winners to 45, including 47-15 on the forehand during their first-round match at the French Open. | Photo Credit: GETTY IMAGES

“I have watched Daniil play for my entire junior career. I’ve always dreamed of playing on this court and playing these kinds of players. In my best dreams, I’ve beaten them. So, it’s a dream come true,” said Thiago Seyboth Wild in his on-court interview after he knocked out No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev 7-6 (5), 6-7 (6), 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a first round shocker at the French Open. The 172nd-ranked qualifier from Brazil outhit Medvedev by 69 winners to 45, including 47-15 on the forehand, belting a forehand winner on match point. Seyboth Wild, hadn’t even played a tour-level main-draw match at all in 2023, instead competing on the lower-level ATP Challenger Tour, called it “the happiest day of my life.”  


Top gear: At the Dubai Open, Barbora Krejcikova stunned No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, No. 3 Jessica Pegula, and No. 1 Iga Swiatek to become only the third player to vanquish the reigning Top 3 to capture a title.
Top gear: At the Dubai Open, Barbora Krejcikova stunned No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, No. 3 Jessica Pegula, and No. 1 Iga Swiatek to become only the third player to vanquish the reigning Top 3 to capture a title. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Top gear: At the Dubai Open, Barbora Krejcikova stunned No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, No. 3 Jessica Pegula, and No. 1 Iga Swiatek to become only the third player to vanquish the reigning Top 3 to capture a title. | Photo Credit: REUTERS

Barbora Krejcikova, searching for the form that won the 2021 French Open, hadn’t defeated a Top 10 player in over a year. At the Dubai Open, the versatile No. 30-ranked Czech successively stunned No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka, No. 3 Jessica Pegula, and No. 1 Iga Swiatek to become only the third player to vanquish the reigning Top 3 to capture a title. All these upsets rated consideration, but Krejcikova’s 6-4, 6-2 clinic against Swiatek gets the award. Second-place goes to Sofia Kenin, who plummeted to No. 128 and had to qualify at Wimbledon. The determined American displayed rock-solid groundstrokes to upset No. 7 Coco Gauff 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 in the first round. Kenin, the 2020 Australian Open champion and former No. 4, said, “I know where I was, and where I should be.”  


On Sept. 11, Aryna Sabalenka became only the eighth women’s player to have held the world No. 1 ranking in both doubles and singles. She joined the exclusive club which currently includes Martina Navratilova, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, the Williams sisters, Martina Hingis, Lindsay Davenport, and Kim Clijsters.  


“Rafa on clay in general, but especially in Roland Garros, is just unreal. I honestly don’t know how this is possible because me, I feel like I’m a good tennis player, but you can always have a bad day, or your opponent has a very good day. Like in Madrid, I felt like I was not playing that bad against [Aslan] Karatsev. But I lost, and after the match I was like, ‘He played well. Okay, that’s it.’ Rafa didn’t have these matches in Roland Garros, except maybe the match with Soderling where Robin played the match of his life and managed to win. This is unbelievable. I think in tennis, at least for the moment, there is no comparison.” — World No. 3 Daniil Medvedev, asked about Rafael Nadal, who announced his plan to retire from tennis in 2024 after the King of Clay withdrew from the French Open and Wimbledon due to a lingering hip problem. Nadal has won 14 of his 22 Grand Slam titles at the French Open.  


“It’s definitely a surprise. I got on the plane with no expectations. I know that it’s very hard to adjust to Australia from the United States just with the jet lag, time change, and everything. It being my first time, never being out of the United States, I knew it would be a struggle. So, I think it maybe has helped me a little bit not having that expectation or the feeling that I have to perform, but being able to just go out there, be myself and play free. I think that’s been a big contribution to my success.” — Ben Shelton, a 6’4” lefty power hitter, after beating J.J. Wolf in five sets to become the youngest (20) American male player to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand-Slam tournament since an 18-year-old Andy Roddick at the 2001 US Open. Shelton is also the first NCAA champion to reach the following year’s Australian Open quarterfinals since Arthur Ashe in 1966.  


In his dream debut at the Masters 1000 at Madrid, China’s late-blooming (26) Zhang Zhizhen played deciding-set tiebreakers like an accomplished veteran. The heavy-hitting, 6’4” Zhang lost the opening set and then overcame No. 27 Denis Shapovalov 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (1); No. 13 Cameron Norrie 2-6, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2); and No. 10 Taylor Fritz 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (8). On upsetting Norrie for his first top-20 win, Zhang said, “Before the match I didn’t even think I was going to be here in the second week of Madrid. Now I made it!” On Zhang’s shocker over Fritz, Tennis Channel analyst Mark Petchey raved, “What style. What character. What courage.”  


Leander Paes and Vijay Amritraj became the first Asian men elected to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Paes, a superb volleyer and clever tactician from India, captured eight major championships in doubles and 10 in mixed and is one of three men in tennis history with a career Grand Slam in both. He competed in seven Summer Olympics—the record for a tennis player—winning a bronze medal in singles at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Amritraj, also from India, was elected as a Contributor. After he captured 15 singles and 14 doubles titles as a pro in the 1970s and 1980s, he became a tennis broadcaster and administrator. Amritraj also promoted humanitarian causes, most notably when he was appointed a United Nations Ambassador for peace. 


“We continue to condemn totally Russia’s illegal invasion and our wholehearted support remains with the people of Ukraine. This was an incredibly difficult decision, not taken lightly or without a great deal of consideration for those who would be impacted. It is our view that, considering all these factors, these are the most appropriate arrangements for The Championships for this year. We are thankful for the Government’s support as we and our fellow tennis stakeholder bodies have navigated this complex matter and agreed on conditions, we believe are workable. If circumstances change materially between now and the commencement of The Championships, we will consider and respond accordingly.” — All England Club chairman Ian Hewitt, explaining Wimbledon’s decision to overturn their controversial ban on Russian and Belarusian players.  


“After World War Two, German players were not allowed [to play at Wimbledon] as well as Japanese and Italian (players), and I feel like this kind of thing would show the Russian government that maybe it’s not worth it,” Poland’s Swiatek told the BBC on April 6. “We are just athletes, a little piece in the world, but sport is pretty important, and sport has always been used for propaganda ... Tennis, from the beginning, could do a bit better in showing everybody that tennis players are against the war.” Russian and Belarusian players have been competing on the tours and at the other Grand Slams as neutral athletes.  


“It was really, really tough for me because I’ve never faced that much hate in the locker room. Of course, there are a lot of haters on Instagram when you’re losing the matches, but like, in the locker room, I’ve never faced that. It was really tough for me to understand that there’s so many people who really hate me for no reason, like no reason. I mean, like I did nothing. It was really tough, but now it’s getting better. I had some, not like fights, but I had some weird conversations with, not the girls, but with members of their team. It was really... it was tough. It was [a] tough period. But now it’s getting better.” — Aryna Sabalenka, world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka and Australian Open champion, on the difficulties she’s encountered in tennis locker rooms due to her Belarussian nationality.  


Though Katie Volynets plays mostly from the baseline, she has an ideal, not to mention memorable, name for a tennis player. When the American was asked her Ukrainian name should be pronounced, she replied, “I’m going to stick to volley nets,” Katie said. Was that really how it was pronounced at home? “Now it is,” Volynets said. With a nod to the media, how about Ben Snowball, a tennis writer for Eurosport. The best player with an apt and colourful name is Storm Hunter, who just happens to be the No. 1-ranked doubles player in the world.  


Going into the French Open, just-turned-36 Novak Djokovic was the youngest active man to have won the French Open, Wimbledon, and Australian Open singles titles. And Daniil Medvedev, 27, and Carlos Alcaraz, 19, were the only players under 30 to have won a Grand Slam singles title.  


“He’s my biggest rival. When he announced that he’s going to have his last season of his career, I felt part of me is leaving with him, too, if you know what I mean. I feel that he was one of the most, I would say, impactful people that I have ever had in my career, the growth of my career, and me as a player. Definitely a great motivational factor for me to keep playing and keep competing and keep pushing each other. Who’s going to achieve more? Who’s going to do better? It made me wonder. It made me think about my career and how long I’m going to play.” — Novak Djokovic, reflecting on his great rivalry with Rafael Nadal and saying he got emotional when hearing Nadal say 2024 probably will be his final year on tour.  


“Is not easy to play against Novak, you know. Of course, a legend of our sport. I disappointed myself honestly. In a match like this, coming to this match with great feeling, feeling great physically, and, yeah, cramping at the end of the second set, beginning of the third set, it was really disappointing. If someone says that he gets into the court with no nerves playing against Novak, he lies. Of course, playing a semifinal of a Grand Slam, you have a lot of nerves, but even more with, you know, facing Novak. That’s the truth. Next time that I’m gonna face Novak, I hope to be different, but the nerves will be there.” — Carlos Alcaraz, who suffered arm, hand, and leg cramps, admitting nerves played a role in his four-set loss to Novak Djokovic in the French Open semifinals.  


Novak Djokovic, often a lightning rod for criticism during his controversial career, fired back at those questioning his serious injury that nearly sidelined him from the Australian Open. “I leave the doubting to those people—let them doubt. Only my injuries are questioned. When some other players are injured, then they are the victims, but when it is me, I am faking it,” Djokovic said in Serbian and translated for Tennis Majors. “It is very interesting… I don’t feel that I need to prove anything to anyone. I have got the MRI, ultrasound and everything else, both from two years ago and now. Whether I will publish that in my documentary or on social media, depends on how I feel. Maybe I will do it, maybe I won’t. I am not really interested at this point in what people are thinking and saying. It is fun, it is interesting to see how the narrative surrounding me continues, narrative that is different compared to other players that have been going through similar situation. But I am used to it, and it just gives me extra strength and motivation. So I thank them for that.”  


In a column, American star and equal rights advocate Jessica Pegula wrote: “The lack of women’s matches in the night sessions at this year’s French Open is disappointing. Only one of the 10-night sessions featured WTA players—that was when Aryna Sabalenka played Sloane Stephens in the fourth round on Sunday. We want to see more women in those spots, to highlight good tennis matches if we can, so it hasn’t been ideal that there has only been one primetime match for us.  

“I’m a member of the WTA players’ council and this issue has been raised a lot. Last year, when there was also only one women’s night match, we spoke to tournament organisers about it. That makes this year more disappointing because we tried to address it. We haven’t seen any improvement. We’re not sure what has happened. After the event, when we follow up with the Grand Slams and give feedback, I’m sure we will definitely express our thoughts that we were upset not to see more women’s matches on the night schedule.”  


Spain’s Association for Women in Professional Sport lambasted the Madrid Open for its uniform for ball girls, decrying it as “sexist.” The girls have worn cropped tops, pleated skirts and socks while the boys have been wearing standard shorts and T-shirts. WTA spokesperson Pilar Calvo told Publico: “It’s a way of feminising girls with respect to boys who don’t dress in the same way. Ultimately, it’s a form of sexist violence that is so widespread that people don’t even notice it.” The tournament and sponsor Mutua Madrilena organized a campaign against gender violence, but Calvo contends the message is contravened by the ball girls’ outfits.  


All-time doubles great Todd Woodbridge told Eurosport he believes rising Dane Holger Rune should be added to the “New Big Three” of young stars along with Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner. “It’s like he’s saying: ‘hold on just a minute, I am in this equation, and you need to start talking about me.’ I see him as the game’s new antagonist; I think he’s bringing really big energy to matches that are providing another story within tournaments. He’s an in-your-face player who is working his tail off.”  


In a testament to her admirable doubles skill and enduring will, 36-year-old Sania Mirza finished her outstanding career with a bang—much like her explosive forehand—by reaching the Australian Open mixed doubles final with Rohan Bopanna in her last Grand Slam event. It came 14 years after she won her first Grand Slam title there with compatriot Mahesh Bhupathi. India’s greatest women’s tennis player, Mirza captured three major titles each in doubles and mixed doubles among her 44 career titles and ranked No. 1 in the world in doubles in 2015. A role model on the court, Sania was an advocate for worthy causes off it. In 2010, The Economic Times named Mirza in its list of the “33 women who made India proud,” and she was named in TIME magazine’s 2016 list of the “100 most influential people in the world.”  


Sania Mirza, a trailblazer and role model for Indian women tennis players, achieved many firsts. Mirza became the first Indian woman to win a WTA title of any kind (2004 Hyderabad doubles with Liezel Huber at age 17), the first to capture a singles title (2005 Hyderabad), the first to reach the fourth round at a major (2005 US Open), the first to crack the singles top 50 (in 2005), the first win a WTA Finals title (doubles with Cara Black in 2014), the first (and still only) Indian to rank No. 1 in either singles or doubles (doubles in 2015), the first to win a Grand Slam women’s doubles title at Wimbledon (with Martina Hingis in 2015), and the first to win an Olympic medal (bronze in mixed doubles with Rohan Bopanna at Rio de Janeiro in 2016).  


Lindsay Brandon, the WTA’s first director of safeguarding, is leading an increased effort to protect athletes from predatory coaches—and others—on the women’s professional tennis tour. “Safeguarding is about emotional abuse. Physical abuse, as well. And it’s not just coach-athlete,” Brandon told the Associated Press. Brandon’s priorities include managing the WTA security team’s investigations of complaints and “monitoring any potential concerns,” along with improving education and creating a safeguarding code of conduct that will be published in 2024. “The earlier you can provide support and outreach to these athletes, the better,” Brandon said. “I tell people that I don’t want to just be a response resource; I want to be a support resource and a preventative resource, as well.”  


“I wouldn’t change anything in my life because I’ve done everything to the best of my knowledge and abilities in a particular moment. Yes, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but at least I was authentic, I was being myself—I’d choose that every time compared to saying whatever pleases those that abide by the standards of the establishment.” — Novak Djokovic, saying that he doesn’t think he deserved to be hated.  


“The way he played in 2022… I’ve had a chance to watch him play in person at the Indian Wells tournament against Rafael Nadal, and I was just blown away by his intensity and also how focused he was for being such a young age—and he was playing somebody that’s probably the most focused player our sport has had in Nadal. And then you know, followed him throughout the summer and then when he came to New York to play at the US Open, when he went all the way. I mean, it was just so impressive for somebody to have that mental strength, that physical strength in those long matches, the late matches at the US Open. And he just handled it with such ease. Like he is used to this, like he has done this before.” — Monica Seles, 1990s superstar, lavishing praise on Carlos Alcaraz.  


“I think it just takes away so much from what we were special for and you know, the pressures and distress that players have to find a way to go through themselves…. I guess you know, modern times come with modern ideas, and I’m afraid looks like we lost that fight.” — Former world No. 4 Ivan Ljubičić, the Croatian tennis coach for Roger Federer, was asked in the podcast, ‘The Functional Tennis Podcast, whether he was in favour of in-game coaching or not, answered by saying that he is completely against the in-match coaching—now legal at pro tournaments—rightly arguing that it damages the game immensely.  


“To be honest, I decided to stop working with a psychologist. I realized that nobody [other] than me will help. In the pre-season I spoke to my psychologist saying, ‘Listen, I feel like I have to deal with that by myself,’ because every time hoping that someone will fix my problem, it’s not fixing my problem. I just have to take this responsibility, and I just have to deal with that. I’m my psychologist! I think I know myself quite well. I know how to handle my emotions.” — Aryna Sabalenka, after reaching the Australian Open final, explained why she ditched her psychologist and hired a biomechanics expert to correct her flawed serve in the summer of 2022.  


After Novak Djokovic won the 2023 US Open, he and Rafael Nadal had grabbed 18 of the past 22 Grand Slam titles.  


“They need to cut that out, allowing players to challenge line calls that cannot be changed,” rightly stressed ESPN analyst and former No. 1 John McEnroe. The whole point of electronic line calling is to get line calls right, which should have meant the end of player challenges.  


“Tennis matches, especially at this level with so much on the line, are about few points. Unfortunately, injustice happens daily to players when we have line & chair umpires calling & no electronic review. Just saying that at this level (WTA tour) umpires are not good enough (not to say BAD!) & that I am a big big big very fan of electronic machines calling every single ball! I wish our sport would develop in this direction. Yes, for those wondering... It was match point down. 5/6 in the third set 30:40. Great battle. Hard luck. What can we do? Unfortunately, nothing. Up to the next one. Good night.” — French veteran Kristina Mladenovic called for electronic line calling at all events because umpires are simply not good enough for this level. Frustrated with the match point when a ball was called out during her early loss in Lyon to Petra Martic, she vented on social media.  


On April 28, the ATP announced a Tour-wide adoption of Electronic Line Calling Live (ELC Live) starting in 2025. The advanced officiating technology covers all court lines for “out” calls throughout matches, a role traditionally carried out by on-court line judges. The move is set to optimize accuracy and consistency across tournaments, match courts and surfaces, for players competing in both main draw and qualifying events.  


“Rivalries are so great. That’s why people show up to watch the game, watch the match, and watch the excitement. Sometimes you got to find a reason, find a reason to dig deeper and come out on top and win. So what is that? Where do you find that? What do you dig into to go down into your guts? Sometimes you got to find something that just burns you to the ground to come out on top.” — All-time great Jimmy Connors, whose rivalries with Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe captivated the sports world, talking about the Big Three rivalry and the GOAT competition on the Advantage Connors podcast.  


Matija Pecotic, a full-time real estate professional who pleaded with his boss for a day off, stunned former world No. 8 Jack Sock 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 on his ATP Tour main draw debut at the Delray Beach Open. After qualifying for his tour-level debut at age 33, the 784th-ranked Croatian hit ten aces and 30 winners. “I absolutely love this game, and I know it’s not forever and I’m 33,” said Pecotic, who works 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. “I try to maximise each day. I try to train every morning if I can, five, six times a week.”  


“You have more feeling on both sides, more touch, you can play many variations, down the line, cross over the court. You can play topspin and slice. It’s not easy but growing up like that and having the physical ability, stability and balance to play a one-handed backhand, I think it’s even better than a 2-handed backhand. It’s not easy to return with a one-handed backhand, especially on faster courts. But I’ve always played that way, so I’m happy with my backhand.” — Lorenzo Musetti, asked in Oct. 2022 by Tennis Magazin (Germany): What is the benefit of playing the backhand one-handed? Musetti’s one-handed backhand breaks down not only on serve returns—a highly important shot—but also on passing shots, against powerful groundstrokes, and in long rallies. If it were not for his vulnerable backhand, the extremely talented Italian, a great athlete and shotmaker, would rank in the top 10.  


“Federer felt a huge joy anytime he was competing out there, and it was less of a job for him. Everything came naturally, which can’t be said for many of the greats in the sport. Using the example of Connors and Sampras who were more business-like when it came to tennis, Federer was simply one who loved being on the court. A lot of players, I tell this to people all the time, some players love to win, Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras. Roger Federer loves to win obviously, that made him one of the greatest ever, but he just... I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that just loved to go out there and just hit the ball around, a great player as much as him.” — ESPN analyst Patrick McEnroe explained that the difference between Federer and some other greats like Sampras and Connors was that the Swiss player simply loved to play tennis. 


“I love trophies, so that’s probably why. I love playing finals, I love playing deeper in the tournament. That’s what I love the most about tennis. I love the game itself, I love the fight. I love the mental side of it as well, when you really have to think—what should you play, what shouldn’t you play.” — Petra Kvitova, who raised her career record to a superb 30-11 in finals, when asked how she raises her game in big matches after upset Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina 7-6(14) 6-2 to win her first Miami Open crown and ninth WTA 1000 title.  


“I love tennis more than anything in the world, I don’t play for the money or the fame, I play for the pure sport. I play for competitiveness, and I love being in front of [the crowd]. Being away from that, having that taken away from me [after a horrendous ankle injury a year ago against Rafael Nadal]. It’s been the hardest year of my life. I’m so happy to be playing these big battles again. Hopefully it’s going to be a fun second week for me because I’m here to stay.” — Alexander Zverev, talking to Mats Wilander in the on-court interview after defeating Frances Tiafoe 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-1, 7-6(5) in the French Open third round.  


“I think he’s a lot more like Roger than Rafa. Because Rafa couldn’t take the ball early like this when he was 19, and Rafa couldn’t come forward like this. Roger could always stay on the baseline and always look like he had time, and that’s how this kid looks. The interesting thing for me is watching someone who is this athletically talented with his running, jumping, explosiveness and flexibility, but also has the hand-eye coordination to be able to take the ball early on the rise, come forward and volley. He also can back up and change pace. He can do everything.” — Paul Annacone, a Tennis Channel analyst who coached Federer, in The New York Times. Neither Federer nor Nadal (nor Djokovic) was No. 1 as a teenager. For Annacone, Alcaraz is “the most complete 19-year-old men’s player” in memory, with consistency and decision-making not typically seen in young players.  


On March 20, Rafael Nadal fell out of the top 10 in rankings for the first time since April 2005—by far the longest stretch in ATP history—when he dropped from No. 9 to No. 13. Nadal’s record of 912 consecutive weeks far surpassed the 789 weeks of Jimmy Connors (1973–88) and 742 weeks of Roger Federer (2002–16). 


“He’s my biggest rival. When he announced that he’s going to have his last season of his career, I felt part of me is leaving with him, too, if you know what I mean. I feel that he was one of the most, I would say, impactful people that I have ever had in my career, the growth of my career, and me as a player. Definitely a great motivational factor for me to keep playing and keep competing and keep pushing each other. Who’s going to achieve more? Who’s going to do better? It made me wonder. It made me think about my career and how long I’m going to play.” — Novak Djokovic, reflecting on his great 2006-22 rivalry with Rafael Nadal and saying he got emotional when hearing Nadal say 2024 probably will be his final year on tour. Djokovic leads the rivalry 30-29.  


“It’s too long, in my opinion. I just feel like we can reorganise our season in a better way. It’s a little bit complicated. There’s too many interests and governing bodies in tennis that decide on the calendar. Overall tennis is in a good place, but we must use the potential and the global reach that we have. We are not using that potential to its maximum at all. We are one of the most watched global sports around the world, with over a billion people watching. We collectively must do a better job in promoting tennis. It’s a very popular, historic sport. Marketing-wise and using the potential commercially is not as close to all the other global sports.” — Novak Djokovic, telling The Times (UK) that pro tennis has not made the most of its marketing capabilities and should shorten its season, which in 2023 began on December 29, 2022, and didn’t end until November 26.  


“We have thousands of players that are competing around the world. Unfortunately, only 400 to 500 live from this sport. That’s something that I feel not many people want to talk about, but it’s super important to always remind ourselves that we are, by some statistics, the third or fourth most globally watched sport with 1.3 billion people, yet we can’t have more than 400 people living from this sport. I think we have to put that in our mind and really think about whether this sport is doing great or not. The top of the game is doing well, of course. I can’t complain for myself. But I’m speaking, I feel on behalf of all the lower-ranked players that struggle to make a living. I think this is the main goal. The PTPA of course is a player-only organisation, but I think it should be global of everyone. I’ve been trying to call on all the governing bodies and organisations in our sport to get together and collectively figure this out. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet. We have to do a better job; we have to create a better system for them to make a living. I think if you’re ranked 200 in the world, you can’t travel with a coach. You have to travel by yourself. This is not good enough.” — From The Times (UK): Novak Djokovic has long believed that more professionals in tennis should be able to break even. Of the 3,300 singles players with a world ranking, it is estimated that only 400 earn enough prize money to cover their costs.  


“I’d like to see it go back to home and away ties. If we play the Netherlands, maybe 300 people will show up.” — Retired doubles superstar Bob Bryan, the new U.S. Davis Cup captain, telling Tennis Channel why he opposes the current Davis Cup format, which abolished home and away ties—the biggest attraction of Davis Cup matches between nations since 1900 because it brought out patriotic passions.  


At the Mutua Madrid Open, Jan-Lennard Struff became the first lucky loser in ATP Masters 1000 history (since 1990) to reach a final. The 33-year-old German qualifier achieved it in a remarkable twist of fate. Before beating Aslan Karatsev 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the semifinals, Struff said, “It’s an amazing journey here. I never thought last week that when I lost the [qualifying] match against Aslan that we would meet now in the semi-finals, it’s just unreal.” Struff made the most of his good fortune by upsetting Lorenzo Sonego, Ben Shelton, Dusan Lajovic, Pedro Cachin, No. 5 Stefanos Tsitsipas, and Karatsev before Carlos Alcaraz stopped him 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in the final.  


Abdullah Shelbayh, a 20-year-old Jordanian, turned pro after rising from 1,293 to 276 in the ATP rankings within just nine months, beat four top 100 players and finished the season at No. 195. Coach James Allenby from the Rafa Nadal Academy travels with the strong-serving lefty, Princess Lara Al-Faisal supports him, and he recently signed with agent Mats Merkel of IMG. In an email interview with Arab Media, Princess Lara, who set up the Rise for Good Sports Fund to help Shelbayh and other gifted prospects pursue their sports dreams, wrote, “We have so much talent in the Arab world, but we don’t equip our talents with the right tools and experience to achieve their highest potential.” Shelbayh, one out of three Arab men ranked in the top 300 and the youngest of them, hopes to emulate Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, the most successful Arab tennis player in history.  


During the Miami Open, Jessica Pegula started a discussion about trash talking in tennis—with fellow Americans Bryan Shelton and Frances Tiafoe, along with Spaniard Paula Badosa favouring it—and cited some of the better exponents. “Caty McNally would be pretty good. I’ll throw in like, a Coco Vandeweghe—some of the American girls. Danielle Collins—she would be good. She played college tennis. She would be a good one. I think most of the American girls. Vika would be pretty good. Sloane will be low-key very good. She’ll just thrown in little things, like a little smile. It’d be so funny.”  


Barbora Krejcikova donated her prize money from the Billie Jean King Cup in Antalya, Turkey, to help earthquake relief efforts after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck parts of Turkey and Syria in February, killing more than 50,000—the vast majority in Turkey—and leaving millions homeless. “It’s very sad, and I would like to help the young tennis players that lost everything,” Krejcikova, the 2021 French Open singles champion and owner of a career Grand Slam in doubles, told ESPN News Services. “I have friends among the Turkish players who connected me with the Turkish federation. They have a project that they are planning to do, and I am honoured I can help somewhere.”  


“Roland-Garros is the first Grand Slam tournament to offer an anti-cyber bullying tool in order to protect all of our players’ social media accounts,” tweeted director Amélie Mauresmo.  


A key to Novak Djokovic’s greatness is tiebreaker superiority. He’s won 66.46% of his career tiebreakers, which ranks No. 1. And in 2023, he won 83% (27-6) of his tiebreakers, the best percentage of his career in a full season. Amazingly, the splendid Serb has never lost a deciding set tiebreak in a Masters 1000 final.  


“I’m sure they [the tours] will [go to Saudi Arabia]. I think they will. There’s a lot of money, which is very important to keep having money to help the players, but also help run the WTA, run the ATP and all that.” — What women’s and gender rights pioneer Billie Jean King, the world’s most famous gay athlete, said during WTA’s 50th-anniversary celebration in London about a potential WTA partnership with Saudi Arabia. BJK would like to engage with the Saudi leaders and help Muslim country deal with women’s rights issues. She contends that seeing female tennis players across the Middle East will inspire young girls.  


“I am heartbroken about it. It’s just wrong,” reacted Martina Navratilova, who shared a fan’s Twitter post condemning tennis players for showing support for a probable partnership with the Gulf state. Several past and present WTA players, including Chris Evert, agreed with Navratilova’s criticism of Saudi Arabia’s flouting of human rights, especially women’s rights, and laws that have banned homosexuality.  


At the Mutua Madrid Open, Mirra Andreeva, a 15-year-old rising star from Russia, upset 2021 US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez 6-3, 6-4 in the first round for her first WTA main-draw win, and stunned No.13 Beatriz Haddad Maia 7-6 (6), 6-3 in the second round. The precocious Andreeva became the third youngest player to win a main-draw match at a WTA 1000 tournament, behind Americans Coco Gauff and CiCi Bellis. Ranked No. 143, the “Siberian Supernova” then ousted No. 17 Magda Linette 6-3, 6-3 for her 16th straight win on all levels on her 16th birthday. Describing her game, Mirra said, “I can compare my game to maybe Ons Jabeur because I change the rhythm a lot, I play with topspin. I do drop shots a lot also and I change the rhythm.”  


In an interview with Glamor, Spanish standout Paula Badosa said, “For me it is very important to have a good environment because you then rely on them, it is an intense thing. Sometimes your head is not prepared for this pressure, playing in front of 20,000 people, questions from the press, and so much more. Many things accumulate and then there are social networks that magnify things. That’s why we are faced with tennis players who retire or suffer from anxiety and depression.”  


“She passed away about 10 years ago, but she was an incredibly big influence on me, on and off the court. She was a true mentor. And she worked closely with my parents, who gave her space and permission to spend a lot of time with me, also when we were not training on the court. I used to go to her home, and we did many different things that were shaping my mind as a human being, but also as a professional, as a young player who dreams of becoming a professional.” — Novak Djokovic reaped the rewards of spending time with another major figure in his life, Jelena Gencic, who he called his ‘tennis mother’, with Pilic being the ‘father’.  


“My mother is a rock. She’s an incredible woman who kept the family together in the toughest moments. My father is an incredibly driving force of the family, someone who has instilled in me such power of belief and positive thinking. He never played tennis. No one played tennis in my family, so he had to ask people who were experts, who were knowledgeable in the field, to know whether I had potential, a talent, whether he should invest money or not. So again, we were lucky to encounter these two people—coaches Jelena Gencic and Niki Pilic—early in my career, and they convinced him that he should go ahead. So of course, he and my mum had to go through a lot of difficulties, financially, emotionally, whichever way, for me to sit here. So I don’t forget about that. I actually carry it in my heart.” — Novak Djokovic, expressing his gratitude toward his parents, Srdan and Dijana, former skiers with no tennis background, who took a leap of faith with him.  


It took nine match points, but in the end, Anna Blinkova didn’t blink as she upset No. 5 seed and French favorite Caroline Garcia 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 with a 111 mph serve on her last match point in the French Open first round. “I love this court,” said Blinkova, a 31-year-old Russian. “I love this surface. This crowd gives me energy. It is really impressive.” Afterward, she wrote, “I adore Paris” on the courtside camera lens.  


Juan Pablo Varillas scored the biggest win of his career and became the first man from Peru, ranked No. 94, to reach the fourth round at Roland-Garros since Jamie Yzaga in 1994 when he upset Pole Hubert Hurkacz, the No. 13 seed, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-2.  


“Before, I was very emotional and when things didn’t go my way, I would lower the energy. I’ve been working in different angles on myself, with a psychologist trying to analyse myself more, writing more about myself, doing a lot of psychological work.” — Nicolas Jarry, a 27-year-old Chilean, credits working on his mindset as the key contributor to his hot streak on clay after he pounded 55 winners in his 6-2, 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-3 French Open win over American Marcos Giron for his 19th victory on clay this year, second only to Carlos Alcaraz, before losing to fourth seed Casper Ruud.  


“Most players have serve plus one from one side. Sinner has serve plus one wherever you return it.” — Tennis Channel analyst Jimmy Arias, contrasting Jannik Sinner, who boasts explosive power off both wings, with today’s serve-and-forehand standouts on the ATP Tour, during the Italian star’s impressive 6-3, 6-4 quarterfinal victory over Frances Tiafoe at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna.  


“He’s the greatest returner I’ve ever seen. It shows you what Karen’s up against, but it’s a decided edge for him in that department. He’s the greatest because he gets everything back, and he can be devastating on return. Before it was that he got everything back. The last four or five years, a la Andre Agassi and Jimmy Connors—the two greatest I ever saw and played against— now he can be offensive or defensive. Plus, he’s taller than those guys, so he can reach a lot more balls at 6’ 2.5.” — Eurosport expert and seven-time Grand Slam winner John McEnroe called Novak Djokovic the “greatest returner I’ve ever seen” during his French Open quarter-final win over Karen Khachanov.  


“Tatjana Maria made the semi-finals of Wimbledon [last year]. It’s a huge motivation for me maybe to do even better than she did with this amazing run. Kim Clijsters won three grand slams after a baby. I know this is possible by the example of others. Hopefully I’m going to get this chance. I’m working really hard towards this goal.” — Elina Svitolina, before losing 6-4, 6-4 to Aryna Sabalenka in the French Open quarterfinals. In October 2022, Svitolina gave birth to her first child with her French husband, former world No. 6 Gaël Monfils. Inspired by the increasing number of mothers continuing to play on the tour, she made her comeback at the start of April.  


“Well, I think it has a lot to do with where they come from. A Danish and a Norwegian in Grand Slam tennis. If you would have said that five years ago, people were going to go ‘what are you crazy?’ There’s going to be a man from Denmark and a man from Norway who have a chance to not only play in the quarters, but get to the semis and then most probably have a chance to win this tournament over their career... It’s an unbelievably important step for tennis in Norway and Denmark, especially that the small countries can bring out these two superstars.” — Mats Wilander, a seven-time major winner from Sweden, before Holger Rune’s French Open quarter-final against Casper Ruud, which is expected to be an exciting encounter between two young Scandinavians.  


“It is incredible what she is doing. But it also doesn’t surprise me as I have got to know her a little bit, with her mindset and how open she is to absorbing information from past champions, looking at male tennis players. She is just so open to learn about the tennis aspect of it all, plus the mental side of it. I think that is one of the reasons why she is going to be at the top of our sport for many years to come. She is so ready to go from the first point. An example that a lot of women can take from her is her intensity is there for every shot. She demands very high quality all of the time. She doesn’t have those ups and downs. Even if she is lacking in her game, she keeps that moment really small. It’s really tough to beat somebody who is committed to every point. She is a great mover on every surface, great on clay especially. She takes it to the player as soon as she steps on the court. She is the No 1.” — Kim Clijsters, the former world No. 1 who won four major singles titles, on what makes No. 1 Iga Swiatek so tough to beat, especially on clay, after the dedicated Pole captured her third French Open and fourth major title at age 22.  


Slice of history: Tokito Oda, a 17-year-old Japanese, became the youngest men’s wheelchair world No.1 in history by dethroning Great Britain’s Alfie Hewett 6-1, 6-4 in the French Open final.
Slice of history: Tokito Oda, a 17-year-old Japanese, became the youngest men’s wheelchair world No.1 in history by dethroning Great Britain’s Alfie Hewett 6-1, 6-4 in the French Open final. | Photo Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Slice of history: Tokito Oda, a 17-year-old Japanese, became the youngest men’s wheelchair world No.1 in history by dethroning Great Britain’s Alfie Hewett 6-1, 6-4 in the French Open final. | Photo Credit: GETTY IMAGES

Tokito Oda, a 17-year-old Japanese, became the youngest men’s wheelchair world No.1 in history by dethroning Great Britain’s Alfie Hewett 6-1, 6-4 in the French Open final. “I am feeling like it is the happiest day of my life,” Oda, a guitar-playing, martial arts fan, said. “I was really happy to get my two dreams on the one day for [being] the youngest player as the No.1 in the world and to win my first Grand Slam title.” Oda’s outstanding backhand proved vital throughout an entertaining final, with none better than a superb winner to break serve at 5-4 in the second set. Six weeks later, the charismatic Oda became the youngest gentlemen’s champion in Wimbledon history and gained popularity with his dynamic shot making and passionate celebrations. 


Standard procedure: In the first wheelchair final on Court Philippe Chatrier, World No. 1 Diede de Groot sparkled with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over perennial rival Yui Kamiji. It was her seventh successive Grand Slam wheelchair singles title and 14th overall. 
Standard procedure: In the first wheelchair final on Court Philippe Chatrier, World No. 1 Diede de Groot sparkled with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over perennial rival Yui Kamiji. It was her seventh successive Grand Slam wheelchair singles title and 14th overall.  | Photo Credit: AFP

Standard procedure: In the first wheelchair final on Court Philippe Chatrier, World No. 1 Diede de Groot sparkled with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over perennial rival Yui Kamiji. It was her seventh successive Grand Slam wheelchair singles title and 14th overall.  | Photo Credit: AFP

In the first wheelchair final on Court Philippe Chatrier, World No. 1 Diede de Groot sparkled with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over perennial rival Yui Kamiji. It was her seventh successive Grand Slam wheelchair singles title and 14th overall, second only to her legendary Dutch compatriot Esther Vergeer’s record of 21. “I think what motivates me in finding a new way is that I know that my rivals are doing the same thing for me,” said de Groot after earning her third Roland-Garros title. “I know that they are trying to keep improving themselves to basically chase me or beat me, and I have to do the same in order to stay on top. I can’t sit still, because that’s when they pass me. Yeah, I need to keep working.”  


“That moment on the court, when I was celebrating, I was like, I would literally trade any struggle in the world for this moment,” Emma Raducanu told The Sunday Times (UK) on June 18. “Since then, I’ve had a lot of setbacks, one after the other. I am resilient, my tolerance is high, but it’s not easy. And sometimes I think to myself I wish I’d never won the US Open.  

“I had to mature very quickly,” continued Raducanu, who made history as the first qualifier to win a major title, but then suffered from recurrent injuries requiring surgery on her wrists and ankle. “When I won, I was extremely naïve. What I have realised in the past two years, the tour and everything that comes with it, it’s not a very nice, trusting, and safe space. You have to be on guard because there are a lot of sharks out there. I think people in the industry, especially with me because I was 19, now 20, see me as a piggy bank. It has been difficult to navigate. I have been burnt a few times. I have learnt, keep your circle as small as possible.”  


“23 was a number that just a few years back was impossible to think about, and you made it!” was part of longtime rival Rafael Nadal’s gracious congratulatory tweet after Novak Djokovic broke his tie of 22 Grand Slam titles by winning the French Open.  


“I have a lot of time to watch videos, to learn from the best players in the world. Right now we are on grass, and I want to look up to the best players on grass and movers. Roger and Andy for me are the best players that are moving great on grass. I want to be the same like them. I’m not talking about Djokovic because Djokovic slides like on a clay court, but I try to put similar stuff in my game that Roger and Andy do on grass. Moving on grass for me is the key of everything on grass. You have to be more focused on the footwork. I can’t slide as I do on a clay or on a hard court, so you have to adapt your moves.” — Carlos Alcaraz, telling The Times (UK) that he has been teaching himself about grass-court tennis by watching YouTube videos. The study program worked as Alcaraz, playing only his fourth tournament on grass, won Wimbledon.  


The Times (UK) journalist Stuart Fraser reported the poignant story about why Andy Murray secured Nazaanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe a place in the Wimbledon royal box. When the British-Iranian dual citizen interviewed Murray on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program in December 2022, she revealed she watched him win his second Wimbledon singles title in 2016 during her six-year imprisonment for plotting to overthrow the Iranian government. Zaghari-Ratcliffe told him that she felt a sense of “escape” watching him in action at Wimbledon while she was in solitary confinement. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who had a TV at Evin prison, said, “They had no idea what they had given me because I was always a big fan of you, but also there I was in solitary confinement watching the match you actually won in the end.” Murray, very much touched by this revelation, said, “I think what you’ve told me is by far the strangest, most incredible story that I have been told about someone watching me. Nothing has come close to that, so that’s incredible.”  


Liam Broady, a wild card ranked No. 142, thrilled a partisan Centre Court crowd as he became the first British man to defeat a top-four seed at Wimbledon since 2013 with his 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 second-round upset over No. 4 Casper Ruud. “It’s a pretty terrifying, exhilarating experience, coming out on Centre Court at Wimbledon. It’s been my dream since I was five years old. When I went to bed last night, I was thinking about what to say if I won the match,” Broady told the crowd during his on-court interview. “I really don’t know what to say now.”  


Ekaterina Alexandrova, a Russian seeded No. 21, and American veteran Madison Brengle contested the first-ever three tie-break women’s match at Wimbledon. Despite 91 unforced errors, Alexandrova won 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (10-7).  


On Wimbledon’s long-overdue decision to allow female players to wear dark-colored underwear to alleviate period anxiety, Victoria Azarenka said, “I think it’s a very thoughtful addition, because there are obvious situations that can be tricky and uncomfortable.”  


“I can say that now mental-wise I just try sometimes to copy [Rafael Nadal]. I just try to remember what he would do in these moments, what he would do on the score,” said Mirra Andreeva, a 16-year-old Russia qualifier who reached the Wimbledon fourth round. Netflix cameras followed the charming, articulate Andreeva for its Break Point series and its broadcaster would have appreciated her revealing that she spends most of her spare time watching their output.  


“She’s the umpire. She’s the one who makes the decision. For me, it’s a controversial point. But, honestly, I didn’t have any intention to throw the racket. I slid. I thought that I will fall forward. Maybe it did look like I threw the racket. For me, she didn’t do a right decision. That’s why I didn’t want to shake hands with her.” — Mirra Andreeva, explaining her anger at the chair umpire after the match. The talented 16-year-old Russian received the biggest fine of the championships so far—£6,190 for throwing her racket twice during her fourth-round defeat by Madison Keys.  


“It was incredible. I remember going to watch players down there and wishing one day that I’ll be there. It’s incredible that I’m there already playing Court 3. I was really happy and had my whole family there supporting me so I really enjoyed it.” — Hannah Klugman, a precocious, 14-year-old British girl who lives near Wimbledon, competing in front of family, friends and a healthy crowd of a few hundred on No 3 Court, when she upset 18-year-old Federica Urgesi, the No. 9 seed from Italy, 6-2, 6-2 in the junior event. Two weeks earlier, Klugman performed creditably in the ladies’ qualifying event, in her 6-1, 7-6 (8-6) first-round loss to 31-year-old Reka Luca Jani, the world No. 155 from Hungary.  


After 33-year-old Grigor Dimitrov demolished 10th-seeded Frances Tiafoe 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 at Wimbledon for his best Grand Slam performance in years, he was asked on court about his next opponent, No. 6 Holger Rune. Dimitrov replied, “He’s young, talented and a dangerous player, but so am I . . . minus the young part.” The crowd loved the witticism.  


Two seemingly opposite keys helped Carlos Alcaraz beat Holger Rune—an acquaintance for years since they played doubles together as 14-year-olds—7-6(3), 6-4, 6-4 in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. “Smiling for me, as I said a few times, is the key of everything,” explains Carlos Alcaraz, about the way he often releases the tension during matches. A long, primal scream also proved effective after a service return winner clinched the opening set against Rune. “It was [letting go of] nerves, tension, everything,” Alcaraz said. “The first set was really tough for me. A lot of nerves. I couldn’t control it at all. That huge scream after the first set helped me to put out all the nerves and start to enjoy the moment, to enjoy the match.”  


Jessica Pegula, known for her outstanding serve return and solid groundstrokes, broke No. 1 Iga Swiatek’s serve an astounding 11 times in Pegula’s 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-4 semifinal upset over Swiatek at the National Bank Open Tennis event in Montreal.  


Losses can have positives, and Christopher Eubanks accentuated them after losing 6-4, 1-6, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-1 to No. 2 Daniil Medvedev in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. “This has changed how I see my career,” said Eubanks, the last American player in either singles draw. “I believe more in my ability to contend with the best players in the world—I’ve seen how I can frustrate and disrupt them. I want to continue this feeling. I’m more than OK with my effort today. It was one of the best atmospheres I’ve ever experienced. The crowd behind me was very cool and made it very memorable. It just didn’t go my way. Daniil raised his level. That’s why he is who he is. There’s only one winner. That’s tennis.”  


“I was like, ‘Honestly, I’m not going to give a shit, I’m just going to go in and hit my return.’ For me it was just one game. I just wanted to try to break her. It was very difficult for me to return her serve. Even the speed [up to 121 mph] was difficult. She missed some shots that helped me stay in the game. I was fighting for every point and just waited for a little bit of a chance some time to get the game. That’s what happened.” — Ons Jabeur, on what went through her mind when she was on the brink of defeat—trailing 7-6, 4-2—against power hitter Aryna Sabalenka in her 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3 victory. To reach her second straight Wimbledon final, she defeated four grand-slam champions in a row—Bianca Andreescu, Petra Kvitova, Elena Rybakina, and Sabalenka.  


Radio Wimbledon asked, “Does Novak’s eight-year-old son Stefan have any idea how good Daddy is?”  


“He’s got too many weapons. He knows everything there is to know about the sport. He’s got it all down to science. The opponents aren’t ready for him.” — Mats Wilander, the seven-time Grand Slam winner and now a Eurosport tennis analyst, put Novak Djokovic’s chances of beating Carlos Alcaraz and winning the four 2023 Grand Slam events at 90 percent, in The New York Times.  


“It’s going to be a great challenge, greatest challenge that I could have at the moment from any angle really: physical, mental, emotional. He’s very motivated. He’s young. He’s hungry. I’m hungry, too, so let’s have a feast.” — Novak Djokovic, eagerly looking forward to facing 20-year-old Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final.  


“I will try to feel not as much nerves as I did there, try to enjoy the moment. In France, I didn’t enjoy it at all in the first set. I’ll prepare a little bit differently. I hope not to get cramps during this final. I will be better. I have a psychologist I’ve worked with since the beginning of 2020. She’s helped me a lot. I talk with her about preparing for the important moments. This time, physically, I’ll do the same [as at Roland-Garros], but mentally I will do some mental exercise to stay calm so I’m not nervous and try to forget I’m going to play a final against Novak.” — Carlos Alcaraz, before the Wimbledon final.  


Novak Djokovic served an epic 26-minute game in the pivotal third set of the Wimbledon final. The enthralling, fluctuating game contained 13 deuces and seven break points. Carlos Alcaraz converted the seventh. The sensational Spaniard eventually prevailed 1-6, 7-6 (6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4.  


“It’s incredible. A dream come true to be able to play on these stages. It’s amazing for a boy, 20 years old, to reach these situations really fast. I’m really proud of myself and really proud of the team that I have and the work that we put in every day to be able to live this experience.” — Carlos Alcaraz, after outlasting and dethroning seven-time champion Novak Djokovic 1-6, 7-6 (6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 in the Wimbledon final.  


“I think people have been talking in the past 12 months or so about his game consisting of certain elements from Roger, Rafa and myself. I would agree with that. I think he’s got basically the best of all three worlds. He’s got this Spanish bull mentality of competitiveness and fighting spirit and incredible defence. I haven’t played a player like him ever, to be honest. Roger and Rafa have their own strengths and weaknesses. Carlos is a very complete player. Amazing adapting capabilities that I think are a key for longevity and for a successful career on all surfaces.” — Novak Djokovic, highly impressed with the 20-year-old Carlos Alcaraz as an all-round package after the Spanish shot-maker upset him in the Wimbledon final.  


“Yeah, I mean, before this match, I thought I couldn’t beat Novak. That’s obviously. But after this epic match, let’s say, yeah, I think differently about Novak in the way that probably in other tournaments, in other Grand Slams, I will remember this moment. I will think that, well, I’m ready to play five sets against him, good rallies, good sets, really long, long match, and stay there physically, mentally, in tennis, in general. Probably it changes my mind a little bit after this match.” — Carlos Alcaraz, admitting he didn’t think he could beat Novak Djokovic at a Grand Slam until he dethroned him at Wimbledon.  


“I’m not mature enough to handle these kinds of matches. So, I have to learn about it.” — Carlos Alcaraz, with a refreshingly honest admission after losing to Daniil Medvedev in four sets in the US Open semifinals.   


Dominic Thiem has experienced some excruciatingly tense matches, such as his 2020 US Open final triumph for his sole major title. But that didn’t compare to a potentially life-threatening incident during a qualifying match at the Brisbane International on Dec. 30. One of Australia’s most venomous snakes—a 50-centimeter eastern brown snake—slithered on the court to the consternation of players and spectators. Security personnel quickly arrived, and the deadly reptile was safely removed. “I really love animals, especially exotic ones,” Thiem said. “But they said it was a really poisonous snake and it was close to the ball kids, so it was a really dangerous situation. It’s something that has never happened to me and is something I’ll definitely never forget.” The 30-year-old Austrian went on to escape a different danger when he saved three match points to pull out a 2-6. 7-6 (4), 6-4 win over Australian James McCabe.  


“On Thursday [Dec. 14], we already sent him some isometry and jogging work so that his body begins to adapt to what is coming,” Carlos Alcaraz’s physiotherapist Alberto Lledo told Marca, referring to the start of an intense 35-day training regimen to ensure Alcaraz doesn’t cramp during grueling, high-pressure matches as he did during his French Open semifinal loss to Novak Djokovic. “It is key to control Carlos’s health so that we do not miss anything. Any work that is done involves injury prevention. The first two weeks the objective is to improve the basic physical qualities of both strength and cardio and give him the fuel that you need for the whole year. When you play tennis, you don’t lose your cardiovascular level, but you do lose your strength, so you have to work on it day by day, even in the competition itself, even if it’s just in the warm-up.”  


“I couldn’t ask for a better finish, right? I don’t want to talk too much and get emotional. It’s quite a story for me to finish here at Wimbledon. This is a unique tournament which I respect so much and will love forever. We played here four years ago, and now I have a baby and it’s even more special for me to come back and win the title again.” — Barbora Strycova, who ended her long career on a high note, wept as she addressed the Centre Court crowd after she Chinese Taipei’s Su-Wei Hsieh and the Czech Republic’s Barbora Strycova captured the Wimbledon doubles title. The 37-year-olds became the oldest combined age pairing ever to win a Grand Slam when they upset the No. 3 seeds Storm Hunter and Elise Mertens 7-5, 6-4 in the final.  


“He has the shot selection of [Roger] Federer. He’s got Rafa [Nadal’s] passion. He’s got Djokovic’s movement. And then he has one more thing which none of them had or have, which is the smile. The ease that he does everything with, and it looks so comfortable.” — Mats Wilander, a seven-time major champion, saying Carlos Alcaraz’s all-court game makes him a “complete package.”  


“I want to yell while I’m sitting in the stands,” Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat’s All-Star forward and a huge tennis fan, told WSJ Magazine about his amazement at Carlos Alcaraz’s athleticism and fighting spirit during the US Open. “I understand you can’t, but I want to yell, ‘Don’t worry—we’re never out for this!’ He’s going to try to get to every ball. Incredible to witness in person. He never gives up on any ball, he’ll dive, he’ll do something miraculous just to try to get the ball over the net and win a point.”  


“I don’t know how...everyone calls me Zverev, Sinner, Shapovalov, Tsitsipas. Almost everyone. At least when I’m 50 in the world, and they call me Zverev, it’s okay, he’s much more famous or even Tsitsipas. But I’m at least in the top 10 and still call me the same, nothing changed.‘ — During a Tennis Weekly Podcast episode, Andrey Rublev understandably complained about the fact he often gets confused with other players on the ATP tour, like Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.  


One of the most thoughtful reader questions in 2023 appeared in ESPN writer Jon Wertheim’s Mailbag: “Why does Wimbledon stick with line judges when even 500-level tournaments have switched to electronic line calls? Surely Wimbledon has the money to install the required cameras. Is it that they so value tradition that they’re proud of being behind the times? I would have thought that it would be embarrassing for challenges to show how poor some of the line calls were. At the very least, they could have allowed unlimited challenges to make the system more like electronic line calling. Instead, they stubbornly stuck to three challenges and required players to focus some of their energy on where the ball bounces, how many challenges they have left … instead of focusing on their game.”  


The US Open, the first Grand Slam event with electronic line-calling (in 2006) and the first with a serve clock (2018), became the first to adopt video review for double bounces. The innovation was set up for five of the Open’s 17 competition courts: Arthur Ashe Stadium, Louis Armstrong Stadium, Grandstand, Court 5, and Court 17. “It completely makes sense,” said Caroline Garcia, a 2022 US Open semifinalist, echoing the sentiments of other players. “It can be super frustrating if you think you saw a double bounce and the umpire didn’t see it, for some reason. It’s always better to know right away than to be mad at someone. You just want to know.”  


On August 19, former No. 21 Amanda Animisova informed her fans on Instagram that she was currently taking a course as a student athlete at Nova Southeastern University in Florida. In May, she announced she would be taking an indefinite hiatus tennis to address her mental health due to burnout. The caption in one of her Instagram stories read “#studentathlete.” The 21-year-old American boasts four career wins over Aryna Sabalenka and two over Naomi Osaka.  


On Aug. 24, the ATP announced a minimum wage scheme after Novak Djokovic called for his lower-ranked colleagues to be given financial protection in the sport. The new scheme will secure players a minimum wage of $75,000-$300,000 per year. Moreover, as part of ATP’s new Baseline program, they will also receive money if they are unable to play due to injury and when they first break into the top 125 in the ATP Rankings. Baseline will launch in 2024 and will be on a trial period for three years. For the first trial season, the top 100-ranked players will be guaranteed $300k, while those ranked between No. 101 and No. 175 will receive an assurance of $150k. Meanwhile, the players ranked 176th to 250th will earn at least $75k.  


“I think Coco over the last month and a half, ever since after I think Wimbledon, I think she’s not scared to hit through her forehand, which she has been in the past. I think she’s getting more depth on it and a little bit more rotation. I think that’s why she’s obviously winning more on a consistent basis. I think she’s always been a great athlete, she’s always had the backhand, the serve, the fighting spirit. I feel like right now it’s all kind of coming together for her.” — Caroline Wozniacki, accurately assessing eventual champion Coco Gauff’s improvement after the 19-year-old American defeated her 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in the US Open fourth round.  


“It’s a war. The laws in our country are getting worse and worse. I realize to be a gay person in Russia, it’s becoming impossible. And all this together makes me say what I feel and what I want to say. And I just couldn’t be silent anymore about myself, about the war. Everything was just so messed up already.” — Daria Kasatkina, telling The New York Times about her decision to criticize the conflict and to come out as gay.  


“She has bigger balls than all the Russian male players combined.” — Sergiy Stakhovsky, praising Russia’s Daria Kasatkina for her brave criticism of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, in The New York Times. Kasatkina’s denunciation of the war and public discussion of her sexuality risks her being fined and possibly being imprisoned under Russian law.  


At the US Open, Ben Shelton and Frances Tiafoe became the first African-American men to face each other in the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament.  


“Earlier in Djokovic’s career, his forehand was a liability—he missed it too much. Now, it’s become his kill shot,” noted coach Paul Annacone, who has worked with Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, in The Wall Street Journal.  


“He started singing the anthem of Hitler that was back in the day. It was Deutschland Über alles [Germany above all] and it was a bit too much. I think he was getting involved in the match for a long time, though. I don’t mind it, I love when fans are loud, I love when fans are emotional. But I think me being German and not really proud of that history, it’s not really a great thing to do and I think him sitting in one of the front rows, I think a lot of people heard it. So if I just don’t react, I think it’s bad from my side,” said Alexander Zverev after his grueling 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 US Open win over Jannik Sinner. Zverev noted he has had fans make derogatory comments before, but not involving Hitler. During a fourth-set changeover, the offending fan was identified by spectators seated near him and removed by security.  


“They bring so much energy. They’re super loud and you can feel just how much they love sports and tennis. You can really feel their support. Every time I play in this kind of atmosphere, I get the goosebumps. It’s just amazing, you know? It makes it special.” — Aryna Sabalenka, asked by What do you think the New York crowd brings that may be different from what you get at other Grand Slam tournaments?  


“I think social media, and also my episode on the Netflix show, Break Point, has really helped fans get a better understanding of who I am as a person. And then, with age, I’ve also become more relaxed. I’m not afraid to show my personality. As I’ve matured, fans have gotten a better sense of me, they’ve seen my matches. I’m trying to show myself on social media so people know who I really am and feel that connection with me.” — Aryna Sabalenka, asked by Did it take fans a while to understand all sides of you?  


“You cannot imagine. One player (is) gonna die, and they’re gonna see.” — Daniil Medvedev, at 4-3 in the third set of his 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 US Open quarterfinal victory over Andrey Rublev, with the temperature at 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 Celsius) and 55% humidity, toweled off, and looked into a courtside camera and made this plea.  


“I got into the game of tennis because I love the sport and I had no idea of the fanfare, the spotlight — and no idea that people were hanging onto every word. I was no Billie Jean King. I was not a leader. I was more of a follower; I was shy and liked to observe people. Look, Naomi Osaka went through the same thing. I mean, we start out because we love to play tennis, but the things that go along with success—some are wonderful and other things are paralyzing. You have absolutely no privacy. Everything you do in your life is documented. People are staring at you, people are coming up to you all the time. And then there’s the expectations and the pressure of winning when you’re when you are number one. Everybody knows, especially with mental health issues, that it can get a bit much. In our day, we didn’t have those issues because it wasn’t it wasn’t as overwhelming as it is now.” — Chris Evert, the 1970s-’80s superstar and current ESPN tennis analyst, doesn’t envy today’s tennis stars being in “the spotlight every second of the day.”  


“I believe in climate change. I think there are things we can do better. Would I prefer it [the protest] not happening in my match? One hundred per cent, yeah. I’m not going to sit here and lie. But it is what it is. Moments like this are history-defining moments. I prefer it not to happen in my match, but I wasn’t pissed at the protesters. I always speak about preaching what you feel and what you believe in. It was done in a peaceful way, so I can’t get too mad at it. If that’s what they felt they needed to do to get their voices heard, I can’t really get upset at it.” — Coco Gauff, on the three climate change protesters who interrupted her US Open semifinal against Karolina Muchova for 50 minutes.  


“I was all over the place. I was just, like, ‘What can I do?’ Like, she’s playing unbelievable, just, like, crushing everything. I‘m not able to do anything; I had zero control in the match. I just [kept] telling myself, I mean, ‘OK, there is going to be days like this [where] somebody’s going to just play their best tennis. You just have to keep trying, keep staying there and keep pushing it. Maybe you’ll be able to turn around this game.’” — Aryna Sabalenka, on her slow start against red-hot Madison Keys in which she trailed 6-0, 5-3 before she broke a nervous Keys’ serve at love to reverse the momentum for a stunning 0-6, 7-6 (1), 7-6 (10-5) US Open semifinal victory.  


Twenty men who had played American college tennis were in the main men’s singles draw of the US Open.  


By capturing the US Open, 36-year-old Novak Djokovic amazingly has won seven of the last 10 Grand Slam events in which he has competed since 2021 while making the final in two others.  


Researchers followed 20,000 people in Denmark for 25 years, and found that compared to a sedentary lifestyle, playing tennis lengthened life expectancy by 9.7 years, says Forbes. The study also examined tennis, badminton, soccer, jogging, cycling, calisthenics, swimming, and health club activities that included using treadmills, ellipticals, and weights. Their results showed the increased life expectancy of the sports as follows:  

• Tennis: 9.7 years gain in life expectancy.  

• Badminton: 6.2 years.  

• Soccer: 4.7 years.  

• Cycling: 3.7 years.  

• Swimming: 3.4 years  

• Jogging: 3.2 years  

• Calisthenics: 3.1 years  

• Health club activities: 1.5 years  


The three best tennis books of 2023 cover the women’s game and its remarkable champions. The first is  Trailblazers: The Unmatched Story of Women’s Tennis by Billie Jean King (who else!) with Cynthia Starr, an outstanding journalist. This coffee table history book is so well-written, authoritative, comprehensive, and important that every tournament player, coach, and tennis lover should read and reread it.  Althea: The Life of Tennis Champion Althea Gibson by Sally Jacobs, the longtime, prize-winning writer for  The Boston Globe, is a riveting, meticulously researched biography of how a school truant from Harlem overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to break the color barrier in big-time (then amateur) tennis and become the best player in the world.  Naomi Osaka: Her Journey to Finding Her Power and Her Voice, by highly regarded  New York Times tennis chronicler Ben Rothenberg tells you everything you need to know about this engaging, multicultural Gen Z champion whose advocacy of racial justice and mental health issues is as impressive as her booming shots and four Grand Slam titles.


“I like the way she behaves on the court and off the court,” said Eurosport analyst Alex Corretja, a two-time French Open finalist. “She’s a great role model. I don’t know if she’s aware of how important she is for the sport, for tennis itself. I think she’s young, she’s enjoying her rise. She’s well-mannered, well-educated, and she can bring so much to this sport. And not just to sport but to life in general. I think we should look at Coco Gauff as an example.” At 19, Gauff became the youngest US Open champion since Serena Williams—then 17 years old—in 1999.  


The 16th-seeded team of Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routfille, partners for just one month, captured the 2023 US Open women’s doubles title. Dabrowski became the first Canadian woman to win a women’s doubles title at any Grand Slam, while Routliffe became the first player representing New Zealand to win a Grand Slam since Judy Connor-Chaloner won the women’s doubles title at the Australian Open in 1979. The winners upset No. 6 seeds Leylah Fernandez and Taylor Townsend 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (8) in the quarterfinals, No. 8 Hsieh-Wang 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-4 in the semis, and No. 12 Laura Siegemund-Vera Zvonareva 7-5 (9), 6-3 in the final.  


Novak Djokovic has lost a match after holding a two-set lead only once in his career—at the 2010 French Open when he was upset 3-6, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6, 6-4 by 27th-seeded Jurgen Melzer.  


Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Britain are the first team to claim three straight US Open men’s doubles titles in the Open era, starting in 1968.  


Incredibly, Diede de Groot completed her third straight calendar Grand Slam in wheelchair tennis. The Dutch superstar beat Yui Kamiji in straight sets and has swept all four major tournaments each year since 2021.  


“Coco is an amazing kid, who is incredibly humble and very hardworking,” Gilbert said. “The thing she figured out, which was most important, was learning how to win when she was average. She had never done that before. She learnt how to problem-solve, win matches and figure out a way to win when not at your best. Sometimes that is how you become a great player. The most important thing was understanding her strengths and helping her understand her opponents’ weaknesses and strengths. To navigate her game better, we moved her back a little bit on the return. I got 100 texts about her forehand—‘Fix her forehand’—and that was never part of the equation. It didn’t need to be, she had a lot of other strengths.” — Brad Gilbert, who joined Coco Gauff’s coaching team in July, explaining how Gauff won her first major title at the US Open.  


“I know what it feels like to come from nowhere and nothing. I come from a war-torn country. It’s been difficult to get [to this point], but [that struggle] is [engrained] in my mentality and I won’t forget it... I want to leave a legacy on and off the court. I would love my peers, my colleagues, to remember me as someone who had a lot of success in tennis, but didn’t only think about himself, but also thought of other players and making sure that while he’s at the top of the game, that he’s using his influence, he’s using his status and his profile and his contact to create a better ecosystem for players and generally just for the sport.” — Novak Djokovic, talking to ESPN about his legacy, both on and off the court.  


“She had to deal with a lot of things, like racial injustice. What I do, putting out a tweet or saying a speech, is so easy compared to that. That’s why I have no problem doing the things that I do. She’s probably the sole or one of the main reasons why I use my platform the way that I do and why I feel so comfortable speaking out.” — Coco Gauff, saying her grandmother has inspired her to achieve great things in life. Yvonne Lee Odom was the first black person to integrate at her high school in Delray Beach, Florida.  


Coco Gauff’s comeback victory over favored Aryna Sabalenka in the US Open final attracted 3.4 million ESPN viewers in the U.S. It was not only the most ESPN ever had for a women’s Grand Slam final, but it surpassed the Novak Djokovic’s record-breaking triumph over Daniil Medvedev in the men’s final, which had 1.1 million fewer viewers.  


“I felt like Barbie,” quipped Aryna Sabalenka, on her pink dress at the US Open.  


“That’s how tennis is. I think that’s how sometimes how it can be in life: Many things can happen. You can be disappointed, then next day is a new day and something good can happen,” observes Russian athlete-philosopher Daniil Medvedev.  


“Every player is tough to coach. Everybody is different. But Daniil can be VERY tough.” — Daniil Medvedev’s coach, Gilles Cervara.  


“I feel a lot of joy coming back here. It’s kind of like seeing an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time,” said 2018 and 2020 US Open titlist Naomi Osaka, on her return to Flushing Meadows.  


“Yeah, I can be difficult, but who is not? I don’t know a player playing on the highest level that is easygoing and everything is, so to speak, flowers and music. It has to be challenging for everyone, for the player and for the coaching staff, otherwise there is no growth. I think that’s the way to push each other to the limits and really understand how you can develop the game, how you can become better on and off the court.” — Novak Djokovic.  


“I try to be myself all the time. I think the people love that part of me,” said Carlos Alcaraz.  


“Someone said I walked off the court in tears. I most definitely was not crying,” insisted No. 3 seed Jessica Pegula, who was upset by 17th-seeded Madison Keys, 6-1, 6-3, in the US Open fourth round.    


“My worst year at my job is still traveling the world and playing tennis. Realistically, it’s not that bad,” said Madison Keys.  


“I think being a parent makes you want to pull your hair out,” said Taylor Townsend.  


“The worst emotion you can feel in sport is shame when you play bad, and you know that all these people are watching,” revealed world No. 1 Iga Swiatek.  


“I have never seen that man cry in my life.” — Coco Gauff on her father Corey, who finally broke down after she won her first Grand Slam title at the US Open.  


“Injuries are always tough. But the toughest part is just not knowing when you’re going to compete again. The unknown is something that’s scary.” — Jennifer Brady, who returned to the US Open for the first time since reaching the semifinals in 2020.  


“You have it or you don’t have it.” — Gilles Cervara, who coaches Daniil Medvedev, with an overstatement about athleticism. What Cervera apparently doesn’t understand or appreciate is that “athleticism” encompasses several different abilities that athletes possess in various degrees and can improve in various ways.  


“Any time I have ever had a really good run at a Slam, [afterward] I basically sleep for three days. It’s really emotional, and it definitely takes a lot just to learn how to handle those emotions,” confided Madison Keys.  


“They’re the reason why I have this trophy today, to be .honest. They have allowed me to believe in this dream growing up. There weren’t too many Black tennis players dominating the sport. It was just them that I can remember. Obviously, more came because of their legacy, so it made the dream more believable. But all the things that they had to go through, they made it easier for someone like me to do this.” — Coco Gauff, on her girlhood idols Venus and Serena Williams, after the 19-year-old American won the US Open.  


“I still have faith and belief in the single-handed backhand. I’m here to kind of not have it die… The reason I do play a single-handed backhand is because of Roger [Federer]. I kind of want to be his successor, as big as this may sound. I’m not even near that yet, but he definitely gave me a reason to pursue a single-handed backhand. Also, Pete Sampras was my hero growing up. These two tennis players make this shot extra special. It kind of sits in my heart deeply because I really want to be like them. I don’t want to copy them, but I just want to acknowledge their greatness through that shot.” — Stefanos Tsitsipas, on his sweeping one-handed backhand, which he says “kind of defines me.” Unfortunately, his weak backhand is attackable, which has prevented him from winning a Grand Slam title.  


“I honestly think it’s harder on the Challenger tour than when you actually get to the level here. Not that this still isn’t hard, but to a certain extent when you’re on the Challenger tour, everyone just wants to win so freaking bad, and they’re trying to get out of there. It’s, like, you’re on the back court on a bad court, the umpire sucks, you’re getting bad calls, there’s coaching. There are all these things that don’t happen here that I think levels everybody out.” — World No. 4 Jessica Pegula.  


“I just like how it’s actually not in a lull. On the men’s side we have some great, great moments with Novak rewriting history, Alcaraz winning Wimbledon. I mean, I think [Daniil] Medvedev played fantastic again in New York. Young guys coming through as well. A generation that I didn’t play at all actually. Rune, Sinner, Alcaraz, unfortunately I missed them, you know, playing against them. But I think the future looks bright.” — Roger Federer admitted to Eurosport that he had been proved wrong after expecting a “lull” in men’s tennis. The 42-year-old Swiss, who retired in 2022 with 20 major titles, had questioned whether there would be a difficult period following his retirement coupled with Rafael Nadal’s injury hiatus.  


“I believe that numbers are numbers and statistics are statistics. In that sense, I think he [Djokovic] has better numbers than mine and that is indisputable. This is the truth. The rest are tastes, inspiration, sensations that one or the other may transmit to you, that you may like one or the other more. I think that with respect to titles, Djokovic is the best in history and there is nothing to discuss about that.” — Rafael Nadal, addressing the GOAT debate in an Oct. 4 interview with AS, translated by ESPN, in which he conceded Novak Djokovic is best ever based on his 24 Grand Slam singles titles—two more than Nadal at 22.  


The 2024 Australian Open will transform the Grand-Slam viewing experience with a new self-styled “party court.” The AO Courtside Bar, a two-story facility, standing directly beside Court 6 at Melbourne Park, will provide a close-up view of several men’s and women’s singles matches in the early rounds. Up to 400 spectators with general-admission tickets will be allowed entry to watch the action while also enjoying food, drink, and entertainment, including live DJs. “It’s the feedback we get,” tournament director Craig Tiley told The Times (UK). “The fans want to get closer to it, so we are bringing them closer to it at the same time as entertaining them. I think it will be a hit, very popular and something everyone will want to go in and get to see a great view of the tennis. We want to create an environment where the fans can get as close to the action as they possibly can.”  


“I really hope their kids play some competitive sports, so they really understand what they put me through. It’s never straight sets. It’s like a mixture of severe nausea and mini heart attacks going on all at the same time and quite frankly, Cheltenham, I’m surprised I’m still alive.” — Judy Murray, the mother-coach of Andy and Jamie Murray and captain of the British Fed Cup team from 2011 to 2016, telling The Times (UK) she hoped Andy and Jamie’s children become competitive athletes so her sons would learn the sacrifices their mother made for them. Self-pity is the wrong reason to encourage the right goal.  


“Maybe I’m addicted to the big stages. “I’ve done things backwards, I guess.” — Ben Shelton, after his 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) upset win over Jannik Sinner at Shanghai. More impressively, Shelton reached the US Open semifinals, and the Australian Open quarterfinals, and was unbeaten in Laver Cup. In stark contrast, “Big Ben” had a mediocre 17-26 match record everywhere else.  


Rising Chinese star Zheng Qinwen admitted that her season goal of reaching the top ten proved a distraction from her game. After capturing the Zhengzhou 500-level tournament on Oct. 15, Zheng said, “I remember at the beginning of the year, I said I wanted to make the top 10 by the end of the year, and I couldn’t make it. I was really believing at that moment that I could have everything faster. But I wanted too much, and I was too much focused on the results, so I could not keep myself calm, focus on the process, focus on the present, I made a lot of mistakes.” Zheng defeated seventh seed Barbora Krejcikova 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 to become just the third Chinese woman to win a singles title at the WTA 500 level or higher. The 21-year-old power hitter finished the season ranked No. 15.  


For the first time in WTA Tour history, three different Chinese women won a singles title in a season. Zheng Qinwen won tournaments at Palermo and Zhengzhou, Zhu Lin triumphed in Hua Hin, and Wang Xiyu prevailed in Guangzhou.  


Two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza hasn’t competed since January and has “no intention” of returning to the pro tour. “As of today, I have no intention,” the 30-year-old Spaniard told Women’s Health, speaking during a Zumba instructors’ event in September at Malaga. “My plan right now is to sleep, rest, be with my loved ones, make up for lost time... I don’t look beyond what I’m doing today, tomorrow and this week.” Muguruza’s last match took place at a WTA 250 event in Lyon, where the then world No. 82 lost in straight sets to teenage qualifier Linda Noskova. “Tennis has no place in my routine,” Muguruza, who became engaged to Arthur Borges in May, said. “I still follow my peers, from time to time I still play but not intensely, more for fun. It doesn’t occupy my mind, my day, or my routines. I’m really taking a real break and trying to stay away from the courts.”  


Serena Williams became the first athlete to receive Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Fashion Icon award. “Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve used fashion as an outlet to express myself,” Williams said in a statement. “Fashion gave me the confidence to step on the court and own who I was, and where I knew I was going. My dream of owning my own brand, S by Serena, has become a reality, and throughout my career, I have been blessed to collaborate with the most established designers and the most exciting up-and-coming creatives. I have had so much fun learning my style and allowing it to change as my life has evolved, but I’ve always held one thing true fashion is for everyone, no matter your size, race, or income.”  


Judy Murray talked about how to improve diversity in sport on a roundtable discussion about representation in sport called “A Seat At The Table” to be shown on TNT Sports on October 19. Denouncing the longtime and worsening ITF leadership sexism, Murray said: “I think it comes back to what we said before about all major change coming from the top. A really bad example from tennis is the ITF, which is the global development arm of tennis, which a few weeks ago announced its latest board. I read it and I’m going through it and it’s 14 men again. It was 14 men when I first noticed it back in 2010. And in between time, because of certain people campaigning, there were 12 men and two women. And the two women who were on it were both former players, great players. And this is a global board, and they came off it because they weren’t being listened to. It definitely is about more seats at the table and more diversity in the seats at the table.”  


On Oct. 23, for the first time since 1997, four American men—Taylor Fritz, Tommy Paul, Frances Tiafoe, and Ben Shelton—ranked in the top 15 in singles. The last time that happened, Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Michael Chang, and Todd Martin were the Americans.  


Adrian Mannarino, a 35-year-old Frenchman, strings his rackets at an unbelievably low 22 pounds and has the flattest backhand on the ATP Tour with a spin rate of only 1,295 rpm.  


When asked what makes Novak Djokovic so great after he won the US Open for his record-extending 24th major title, Janko Tipsarevic, a close Serbian friend and former world No. 8, replied, “He wants to be the best of all time and nothing else and is willing to do whatever it takes…Nothing else satisfies his hunger. You saw this with Kobe, LeBron, Ronaldo, and Muhammad Ali. If they are not the best, they want to commit suicide.”  


Ons Jabeur was the only player on the WTA Tour to reach a tournament final in 2023 on all three surfaces—hard, grass, and clay.  


“It’s never easy to reverse a negative spiral like the one I went through, and he helped me do it. I’ve come back from almost nowhere, from a period where I was losing all the time in the first round to a big match like this against Novak, close to my best level. Two months ago, I would certainly have lost this match in two sets. It just goes to show how far I’ve come.” — World No. 7 Holger Rune, crediting Boris Becker for pulling him out of a downward spiral that saw the 20-year-old Dane reach the Paris Masters quarterfinals, where he lost 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-4 to No. 1 Novak Djokovic (whom he upset for his first Masters 1000 title a year ago). The recent revival enabled Rune to earn a berth in the season-ending ATP Finals.  


For the first time since the WTA Rankings were introduced in 1975, three Czech women finished in the year-end Top 10—Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova, French Open finalist Karolina Muchova, and Barbora Krejcikova.  


“Maybe it’s time for new leadership. For me personally, this being a woman’s association and being involved for such a long time from the beginning, we’ve only had two women at the head of it. I think it’s time, hopefully, when we get a new leader, that it’s a woman. There are plenty of them that are qualified for the job. It’s going to be hard for Steve to stay in the job somehow because everything is pointing the other way right now. The players adjusted [to the conditions]. They had to. But to come to Cancun in the rainy season? You cannot be hoping it’s not going to rain at the premier event for the WTA Tour. You have to own the bad decisions you made and make some choices after that ... There was a sequence of bad decisions. Ultimately, Steve Simon has been the boss for eight years and here we are.” — All-time great Martina Navratilova, telling The Telegraph (UK) why the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) that a woman should replace embattled chief executive Steve Simon, who made “a whole bunch of bad decisions” over their ill-fated Finals event in Cancun, Mexico.  


“Last week, the PTPA chose to remain silent out of respect for the dedicated players who put in a year of hard work to get there, and the local organizers unfairly trapped in an impossible situation. Now that the event is behind us, we hereby invited the WTA to co-commission an independent third-party report that delves into the numerous, glaring breakdowns that occurred over the past several months. This is how we build lasting solutions: we must step beyond the confines of our insular tennis hierarchy and actively seek outside expertise to ensure these mistakes do not continue.” — The PTPA’s Statement on Nov. 8 regarding the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico…. Novak Djokovic, often critical of the ATP for not adequately looking after the best interests of its players. As a result, he and Vasek Pospisil launched the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) in 2019 to safeguard and support men’s and women’s tennis players, looking after their rights in the game, and addressing several problems in the sport.  


Two months after relinquishing the No. 1 ranking, Iga Swiatek regained it with a vengeance by overwhelming Jessica Pegula 6-1, 6-0 in the final to capture her first WTA Finals title. The 22-year-old Pole went 5-0, winning all 10 sets she played and losing a total of just 20 games—the fewest by the winner at the event for the top eight women in tennis since the round-robin format returned in 2003. “She clearly really wanted that ranking,” Pegula said. “I mean, you could tell by the way she was competing here. ... She was, like today, crushing people.”  


Althea Gibson was one of five honorees for the 2025 American Women Quarters™ Program announced by the United States Mint. This historic program features coins with reverse (tails) designs emblematic of the accomplishments and contributions of American women. As the first Black athlete to break the color barrier at the highest level in tennis, Gibson won 11 Grand Slam titles by the end of the 1950s, including multiple championships at Wimbledon, the US Open, and the French Open in both singles and doubles. She was voted the 1958 Female Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press and was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame.  


“One side of me was telling me that I cannot do it, but then I think another side of me was also ... like I had two creatures fighting each other in my mind and within myself. I’m happy that I managed to overcome this.” — Greek star Maria Sakkari, on the internal struggle she had to deal with and how her convictions overcame her doubts.  


Four-time Grand Slam singles champion Naomi Osaka started her comeback at the Brisbane International warm-up tournament ahead of the Australian Open. A two-time Australian and US Open winner, Osaka said in a statement: “I am really excited about getting back out on court and competing. I always love starting my season in Brisbane and can’t wait to return. [It] will set me up for a brilliant comeback this summer.”  


All eight players in the Nitto ATP Finals hail from Europe.  


In 12 appearances at Grand Slam tournaments from 2018 to 2023, Andy Murray won only 12 matches. Sir Andy, now 36, has fared even worse at Masters 1000 tournaments during that period, winning just 14 matches in 19 events.  


Leylah Fernandez, the 2021 US Open runner-up, won all six of her matches in singles and doubles at Seville, Spain, to lead Canada to its first Billie Jean King Cup title by defeating Italy 2-0 in the final.  


“It’s true that, like I said, Serena was the greatest champion I’ve ever had to play. But at the same time, she’s intimidating, she’s scary, I was afraid to play her. It took me a while to overcome that. But it’s true that, in matches, she had the habit of making you feel like you were smaller than her. I mean, I was smaller than her, that’s undeniable. But smaller on all levels. Her attitude, her behavior, how intimidating she is, her mental strength, all those qualities. Our rivals help us grow. She was my greatest rival, in a way. I respect her and am extremely grateful to her for that.” — Justine Henin, reminiscing on Eurosport about her rivalry with tennis GOAT Serena Williams, and revealing that before her 2003 French Open semifinal victory over Serena, she feared the physically and mentally intimidating American.  


Asked what he’d doing for a living if he weren’t a pro tennis player, 33-year-old Englishman Dan Evans told The Times (UK): “I’d probably have to get on the building site with the rest of them. My nephew now doesn’t play any sports, and he’s training to be an electrician. That’s what my dad is, that’s what my brother-in-law is. And that’s the reality. It’s probably going to be the reality for my kids. Unless they play sport, you need to get a job. Life isn’t a free ride. That’s how I was brought up. I won’t be doing a nine-to-five job after my career, put it that way, because those hours are so long. . . . If you think about what a tennis player does on a match day, it’s actually nothing. You wake up, go to breakfast, do a bit of a warm-up, stretch, physio, do a half-hour match practice, then play your match. It’s about four hours work all in really, and you have breaks in between for a drink and some food.”  


“It’s true, I’ve always maintained that we couldn’t be friends because with friends you talk about everything, the positive things that happen to you in life and in your profession, the negative aspects, your secrets,” Novak Djokovic told Marca. “With your rivals, I don’t think you can feel very comfortable revealing all this. In the last 15 years, I have seen Nadal and Federer more than my parents. This means that they have been a very important part of my life and career. I have incredible respect for them and the rivalry we have shared for so long. It was a very long journey, experienced together, and I am sure that when we hang up our racket, we will experience everything in a more relaxed way.” While Nadal and Federer formed a deep friendship, as evidenced during Federer’s retirement at the Laver Cup last year, Djokovic explained why he’s kept his distance from his longtime rivals until they all retire.  


“He’s an inspirational figure due to his determination, his talent, his quality, his mentality and his desire to win every single point. If Jannik attends, we’ll be happy. In the meantime, I’d like to congratulate him, the Italy Davis Cup team, and the captain, (Filippo) Volandri.” — AC Milan head football coach Stefano Pioli, saying his players can take inspiration from tennis star Jannik Sinner and Italy’s Davis Cup team that captured its Cup since 1976.  


“What I love about working in tennis because it’s a super honest sport. You need unbelievable mobility, strength, endurance, crazy hand-eye coordination, cognitively and emotionally strong. There are so many different aspects that for me, this makes it the most honest sport in the world.” — Florian Zitzelsberger, telling about why he loves working with tennis players. The cornerstone of Zitzelsberger’s athletic philosophy is that of General Physical Preparedness—or “GPP”—the baseline from which development can begin.  


Florian Zitzelsberger, a performance coach in tennis and co-founder of Integralis Physiotherapie, which he co-founded with fellow trainer Daniel Pohl, told how a determined Naomi Osaka can return to the top of women’s tennis. “She’s obviously a great offense player, but I think things have changed in the game over the last half-decade where defense is getting more and more important,” he said. “We’re working to make Naomi into a player who can transition more effectively from defense to offense. That way, even if she’s getting pushed into a defensive position, she can still strike an offensive shot. To reach highest performance, we start by returning stability within the kinetic chain, which is typically lost somewhat during pregnancy and birth. The kinetic chain runs through the core, stomach and belly, and for a long time, her chain wasn’t playing tennis; it was growing a baby! Once that base is attained, we work on specific movement skills, whether that’s acceleration or deceleration, change of direction. The main objective is always strengthening to make the body strong, in addition to improving conditioning and mobility.”  


“I gained a lot of weight because I had to constantly eat something, so I didn’t feel sick. The doctors tell you to walk a lot, so I walked a lot. I did a lot of stairs. I’ve never been a person that’s really good at playing for myself, if that makes sense. So, I kind of like the feeling of having the responsibility of having to take care of Shai and wanting to show her around the world. I kind of feel more like I’m playing for her.” — Four-time major champion Naomi Osaka, now 26, telling NHK about the challenges during her pregnancy, and noting her daughter Shai, whom she gave birth to in July 2023, now gives her someone to play for.  


In a Dec. 9 statement through ESPN, Chris Evert, an 18-time Grand Slam champion and current ESPN analyst, revealed she was diagnosed with cancer once again. “Since I was first diagnosed with cancer two years ago, I’ve been very open about my experience,” Evert said. “I wanted to give all of you an update. My cancer is back. While this is a diagnosis I never wanted to hear, I once again feel fortunate that it was caught early. Based on a PET CT scan, I underwent another robotic surgery this past week. Doctors found cancer cells in the same pelvic region. All cells were removed, and I have begun another round of chemotherapy.” This news comes 11 months after she shared the news she was clear of ovarian cancer, a diagnosis she received in January 2022. Evert, 68, will the miss Australian Open broadcast in January.  


John McEnroe, who was applauded decades ago for rejecting a $1 million offer for an exhibition match in apartheid South Africa, now is reviled for “sports-washing” in Tanzania. His Dec. 12 exhibition with his brother Patrick—the first ever in the Serengeti—where they also coached young players in a local Masai village, was touted as a goodwill tour. However, the Human Rights Foundation denounced the tennis-themed safari because the government of President Hassan has driven off thousands of Masai herders from their ancestral land to make way for lucrative business deals with the United Arab Emirates. “The kids the McEnroes are due to play with are being kicked off their land,” Joseph Oleshangay, a human rights lawyer who grew up close to the [Ngorongoro] crater, told The Times (UK). “Whether they realise it or not, tennis is being used to shade crimes being committed by the government.”  


When asked by’s Peter Bodo, “Do you think the current ATP/WTA model is flawed, or outdated?” Ahmad Nassar, former NFL Players’ Inc. President and now executive director of the Professional Tennis Players Association, explained: “I don’t think the current model works. This is not unique to tennis. Just look at golf, right? Golf had a similar structure, and it didn’t do the players any good [hence LIV Golf]. Tennis players have been left behind over the last 30 years. It started as a noble concept [in 1988] of, ‘Okay, this is a player-owned tour.’ But over time, the players lost control of the structure. The tours should be seen like leagues—the NBA and the MLB and the NFL. They make the rules. They make the schedule. They do all the things that event planners and governing bodies do. And then you have the players, represented collectively by one body—a player’s association that negotiates on all the things on their behalf: The schedule when it comes to, say, late night matches. Health and benefits. Prize money. The balls tournaments use and all that stuff. That’s how it works in other sports. And it’s a model that’s worked really, really well.”  


Angelique Kerber, a former No. 1 and a three-time major champion, who gave birth to her daughter Liana in February 2023, returned to pro competition playing for Germany at the year-opening United Cup. In a recent interview with Porsche, Kerber, who turns 36 on Jan. 18, said she was excited for the challenge in returning and said “everything was going to plan” in terms of her preparations.  


In a study involving 100 people diagnosed with chronic anxiety that was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, researchers from China West Normal University reported the stable rhythm of tennis balls being hit relieved stress by up to 50%. Listening to the “soothing sound” of tennis—which researchers described as “a deep bass note with a subtle crispness and variable pitch”—allowed the brain to predict the next sound, creating a sense of order and calmness. Take that pickleball!  


In a Dec. 28 interview with the French publication L’Equipe, Novak Djokovic revealed Novak Djokovic has admitted that he almost quit tennis in 2018, but the late Kobe Bryan convinced him to continue. “Kobe always helped me when I needed it the most. When I had elbow surgery, mentally I was not well. I even considered leaving tennis. He encouraged me, shared his experience, and gave advice. Kobe was a close friend, we chatted a lot about the winner’s mentality when I was struggling with injury and trying to make my comeback, work my way back to the top of the game. He was one of the people that I relied on the most. He was always there for any kind of counsel, advice, any kind of support in the friendliest way.”  


Dick Savitt, a 6’3” American who won Australian and Wimbledon titles in 1951 and ranked among the world’s top 10 players four times, died Jan. 6 at age 95. Savitt, the best Jewish player in history, graced the cover of TIME magazine’s Aug. 27, 1951, issue. “What he has got is a simple, overpowering attack; a smashing serve and deep, hard-hit ground strokes that keep his opponent scrambling in the backcourt, on the defensive,” TIME wrote.  


Owen Davidson, a 13-time Grand Slam doubles champ, died at age 79 on May 12. The power-serving Australian lefty won 11 major titles in mixed doubles and two in men’s doubles. “Davo” teamed with Billie Jean King to win eight of his major trophies. In 1967, Davidson became only the third player in tennis history to earn all four major mixed doubles titles in the same year, including three with King.  


• Will Iga Swiatek continue her supremacy on clay by winning her fourth French Open and perhaps capture another major or the Olympics to reign as No. 1 for the third straight year?  

• Can Naomi Osaka, who last played a Tour match in September 2022 and gave birth to a girl in July 2023, regain the elite form that produced four Grand Slam titles (all on hard courts) and the No. 1 ranking?  

• Will 19-year-old Coco Gauff, the most versatile major champion since Justine Henin, use the momentum from her US Open triumph to take over women’s tennis as her idol Serena Williams did in 2002?  

• What are the odds Aryna Sabalenka, who conquered her nerves to win her first Grand Slam crown at the 2023 Australian Open and made the semis at the other majors, will harness her explosive game again when the stakes and pressure are greatest?  

• Will low-key Elena Rybakina, who was unremarkable in 2023 aside from her run to the Australian Open final, winning the Rome title, and 3-0 domination of Swiatek, add consistency to her awesome power to grab more big titles to add to her 2022 Wimbledon?  

• Can Karolina Muchova, the highly athletic Czech, build on her breakthrough 2023—she nearly upset Swiatek in the Roland Garros final—by refining her shot selection to win a major, most likely Wimbledon, where she should flourish on fast grass?    


• Will age-defying, fiercely motivated, ever-improving Novak Djokovic continue to add to his 24 Grand Slam and 40 Masters titles—both records—and capture an Olympic gold medal, the only prestigious prize to elude him?  

• Can outrageously talented and versatile Carlos Alcaraz avoid cramps—which sabotaged him against Djokovic in the Roland Garros semifinals—to retain his Wimbledon title and dethrone the GOAT at one or more of the other majors?  

• Is Jannik Sinner, the mild-mannered Italian with ferocious serves and groundstrokes, ready to knock off the new Big Two—whom he defeated twice each in 2023—in best-of-5-set Grand Slam matches?  

• Can the intense Holger Rune, coached by no-nonsense Boris Becker, sustain his flashes of brilliance, such as upsetting Djokovic and Casper Rudd at Rome and Sinner and Daniil Medvedev at Monte Carlo, at the majors where he failed to go past the quarterfinals?  

• Does the counterpunching, poorly positioned Medvedev have enough offense to beat the Big Two again—at the US Open he upset Djokovic in 2021 and Alcaraz in 2023—and also stave off young, fast-rising sluggers like Sinner, Rune, and Ben Shelton?  

• Finally, will 22-time major champion Rafael Nadal, sidelined with injury for nearly all of 2023, wind up his extraordinary career—he’s announced his 21st season is his last—with a modicum of success or perhaps even a title or two on the surface that earned him the King of Clay moniker?  

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