Way-too-early tennis Grand Slam predictions for 2023
NEW YORK -- The tennis major season officially ended this weekend, with Carlos Alcaraz and Iga Swiatek each winning their first US Open titles.
It was the first of likely many Grand Slam trophies for Alcaraz, 19, and the third for the 21-year-old Swiatek. Both are now the top-ranked players in the world and widely considered the sport's brightest emerging superstars.
With four months before the next Grand Slam -- and a slew of other tournaments, the ATP and WTA Finals, and an all-too-short offseason for the players first -- it's not too early to start guessing who will emerge victorious in 2023. While there are some players -- cough, cough, Alcaraz and Swiatek -- who very well could win multiple major titles next year, we are limiting each player to just one for the sake of keeping it interesting.
When: Jan. 16-29, 2023
Where: Melbourne, Australia
2022 champions: Rafael Nadal and Ashleigh Barty (now retired)
Men's winner in 2023: Carlos Alcaraz
After Alcaraz's monumental run in New York and rapid ascension to the world No. 1 ranking, he has to be the favorite for the year's first Grand Slam, especially after proving just how good he can be on hard court.
Throughout the past two weeks, Alcaraz displayed his mind-blowing athleticism and mental toughness and proved no lead to be too insurmountable -- and no rally too challenging. While many players have struggled after winning their first major, Alcaraz has never seemed to have trouble with pressure or attention. Expect more titles for Alcaraz in 2023, starting Down Under in January.
Since she burst onto the scene at 15 in 2019, it has seemed all but inevitable that Gauff would one day become a major champion. She came close in 2022, reaching the final at Roland Garros and the quarterfinals at the US Open, and she seems poised for her ultimate breakthrough in 2023. Now in the top 10 for the first time in her career, and with her game continuing to improve, Melbourne feels like the perfect place for her maiden major title.
When: May 28-June 11, 2023
Defending champions: Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek
Men's winner in 2023: Rafael Nadal
Nadal's incredible reign on clay and at Roland Garros will eventually end at some point, but we're not quite ready to declare that era over just yet. Having won the tournament 14 times, including five of the past six years, the French Open will remain Nadal's best chance for his 23rd Grand Slam title. It will undoubtedly be tough, especially with young players like Alcaraz and 2022 runner-up Casper Ruud, and with Nadal's bad luck with injuries, but Nadal remains the favorite until proved otherwise.
Women's winner in 2023: Iga Swiatek
As she proved at the US Open and during her 37-match winning streak earlier this season, Swiatek has become a multi-surface contender. But clay remains her preferred and most dominant surface. During the 2022 clay season, she won three titles, including at the French Open, and dropped just two sets throughout that run. It's almost impossible to see anyone beating her in Paris in the near future.
When: July 3-16, 2023
Defending champions: Novak Djokovic and Elena Rybakina
Men's winner in 2023: Novak Djokovic
Much like in 2022, a lot remains uncertain for Djokovic in the coming season due to his unvaccinated status and after that whole deportation thing from Australia last year. Will he be able to enter Australia in January? Will he not? We still don't know for sure (although it's looking increasingly likely). But, all that said, Djokovic has won the past four titles at the All England Club, even with all of the chaos of his 2022, and seven overall. The man loves the grass on Centre Court, and it clearly loves him back. If there's one major title he is going to win in 2023, it has to be Wimbledon.
Unlike on the men's side, Wimbledon feels wide open for the women at this stage. But Jabeur, who reached the final at the All England Club in 2022 as well as at the US Open, will be most certainly looking to avenge her two disappointing Grand Slam runs in the new season. Her variety-filled game is well-suited for the grass, and two of her three career titles have come on the surface. Jabeur has said she believes she will win a Grand Slam in the future, and Wimbledon feels like her best opportunity next season.
When: Aug. 28-Sept. 10, 2023
Where: New York
Defending champions: Carlos Alcaraz and Iga Swiatek
Is this recency bias? Absolutely. But Tiafoe had one of the most remarkable runs at the US Open in recent memory. There was an incredible fourth-round win over Nadal and a straight-sets victory over Andrey Rublev in the quarters, and then he fought with everything he had in the semifinals against Alcaraz, forcing a deciding set even when it had earlier looked all but over. Before he left the court following the loss he told the crowd, "I'm going to come back and I will win this thing" and it's hard to doubt him. Let's tentatively mark him down as the one to stop the then-20-year drought among American men for a Grand Slam title.
Prior to the 2022 tournament, five of the previous seven US Open women's champions had been first-time major winners, but Swiatek and others atop the game have continued to show consistency, and it seems as if we'll be seeing a dominant group win the majority of titles in the coming years.
Exactly who is in that group alongside Swiatek remains to be seen, but Halep, a two-time Grand Slam winner and the victor at the 1000-level Canadian Open in August, certainly could be. She has had a resurgent stretch of late, notching a semifinal appearance at Wimbledon this summer in addition to the title in Toronto, and was a favorite entering the 2022 US Open before being handed a shocking first-round exit. Now working with Patrick Mouratoglou, Serena Williams' former coach, it wouldn't be surprising to see her hoist another major trophy in 2023. Why not in New York?