Emma Raducanu has received dividing predictions while Novak Djokovic is backed to return to the top
With the 2023 season just days away and, somehow, actually starting in December 2022, Express Sport’s writers and editors have taken a punt at predicting the Grand Slam champions, world No 1s and disappointing players of next year. Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek remain favourites to carry their dominance into the new year while Emma Raducanu has divided opinion and either been tipped for title success or an underwhelming display. And it’s the first time someone dares to bet against ‘King of Clay’ Rafael Nadal at the French Open.
Who will be the Australian Open men’s and women’s singles champions and why?
Yasmin Syed: Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek. The Serb is getting his 10th Aussie Open and matching Nadal’s 22 Grand Slam titles record. After he was kicked out last year he’ll be hungrier than ever to prove himself on his return to his favourite Slam, and if his form at the end of 2022 is anything to go off then he’ll be unbeatable. And Swiatek is another obvious choice, she’s also not done winning just yet and will continue her dominance into 2023.
Stuart Ballard: Men = Novak Djokovic Women = Jessica Pegula. The redemption tour for Novak in Australia is going to be one of the highlights of 2023 and he’s going to be on a mission to make up for what happened last year. Jessica Pegula threatened at every major in 2022 and after her WTA Finals win she looks the one to beat heading into the tournament.
Alex Milne: Novak Djokovic – On his first return Down Under following one of the most extraordinary sagas in sporting history, it seems written in the stars that Djokovic will get his revenge on those who wronged him and claim his tenth title in Melbourne. Iga Swiatek – Following her incredible 2022 season, Swiatek will be desperate to add the Australian Open to her French and US triumphs, and it is hard to look past the Pole.
Mikael McKenzie: Novak Djokovic – The Serb will have a point to prove after the 2022 debacle. Iga Swiatek – Swiatek was unstoppable at the US Open and should take that form into the new season.
Neil McLeman: Novak Djokovic will win a 10th singles title in Melbourne a year on from his infamous deportation. Ash Barty won’t be defending her title so Iga Swiatek, who reached the semis last year, will continue her world domination.
Joe Krishnan: Novak Djokovic. It seems that only the threat of deportation can stop the 35-year-old winning in Australia and, with eight titles in the past 12 editions of the tournament, the Serbian should reclaim his crown. Iga Swiatek. Her 37-match winning streak in 2022 was incredible and her composure in high-pressure moments, despite only turning 21 this year, will ensure she sees off any competition to add the Australian Open to her growing collection of Slams.
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Rafael Nadal is a favourite to win his 15th French Open title
Who will be the French Open men’s and women’s singles champions and why?
YS: Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek. Rafa is always a favourite at his most successful tournament ever. With his age and injury issues, there may not be many French Opens left where he is the undeniable favourite but he definitely has at least one more year before the next generation come for his clay crown. It’s tough to go against Swiatek as is but even more so on clay, and she’ll match her idol Rafa’s feat from 2022 by winning the first two Majors of the season.
SB: Men = Carlos Alcaraz Women = Iga Swiatek. Carlos Alcaraz is only going to get stronger in 2023 and it’s the French Open where he will see his chance at dethroning Rafael Nadal. Nobody came close to touching Iga Swiatek on clay last year and she’ll fancy her chances at defending her 2022 French Open title.
AM: Rafael Nadal – Could this be Nadal’s swansong? The 36-year-old has insisted that he still has a few miles left in the tank yet, but having recently become a father for the first time and with injuries still a constant problem, it wouldn’t come as a huge surprise if he called it a day after one more Roland Garros triumph. Ons Jabeur – Having tasted the agony of defeat in two finals last year, neutrals would love to see the popular Jabeur finally get her hands on a Grand Slam. Tunisian tennis’ big moment could well come in Paris this year.
MM: Rafael Nadal – Only a fool would bet against the King of Clay here. Iga Swiatek – Most of Swiatek’s success has come on clay, winning the 2020 and 2022 titles at Roland Garros.
NM: A last dance for Rafa Nadal to win his 15th and final Roland Garros title before the next generation take over in Paris. He would also equal Serena Williams’ mark of 23 Grand Slam titles. Iga Swiatek won last year and will be unstoppable again on clay.
JK: Rafael Nadal. The king of clay will only be dethroned when he retires, and even if his levels are finally on the wane, he is still capable of dishing out a humiliating defeat to anyone at Roland Garros when he’s on it. That 112-3 record says it all. Iga Swiatek. The Pole already has two French Open titles to her name and remarkably, has only ever dropped six sets in Paris. She is primed to assert her dominance once again.
Iga Swiatek has been backed to keep dominating the WTA Tour
Who will be the Wimbledon men’s and women’s singles champions and why?
YS: Novak Djokovic and Ons Jabeur. Djokovic has become the new king of Wimbledon and he’ll prove it by equalling Roger Federer’s record of eight titles at SW19. Jabeur seems overdue a Grand Slam title given her recent form and is strong on the grass, plus she will avenge her three-set loss to Elena Rybakina from this year’s final when she was the favourite to win.
SB: Men = Matteo Berrettini Women = Ons Jabeur It should have been his year in 2022 at Wimbledon after back-to-back titles in Stuttgart and Queen’s, only for a positive Covid test to scupper his chances. Next year should be his time to finally take that Wimbledon crown. The women’s draw will be wide open once again and expect a number of top seeds to drop out early, but Ons Jabeur has the game on grass to beat anybody.
AM: Matteo Berrettini – The Italian was cruelly denied a shot at the Wimbledon title last year when he was struck down with Covid. He will, therefore, be extra motivated to avenge his 2021 final loss and take the extra step this time around. Iga Swiatek – After her surprising third round defeat to Alize Cornet last year, Swiatek will be extra focused and determined that there will be no such slip-ups on this occasion.
MM: Daniil Medvedev – If Russians are allowed to compete at Wimbledon this year then expect Medvedev to have extra motivation. Ons Jabeur – The 2022 finalist has all the tools to go one step further.
NM: Novak Djokovic will win the men’s singles title for a fifth consecutive year – no-one else can match his play on grass. He would equal Roger Federer’s record of eight Wimbledon singles titles. The women’s event is wide open with Swiatek yet to get beyond the fourth round in SW19. Losing finalist Ons Jabeur has the all-round skills to go one better this year.
JK: Matteo Berrettini. A rogue shout, but I think there’s a real chance for the Italian to break his duck. He reached the final in 2021 and gave Djokovic a run for his money before losing. A big server but so powerful on the forehand too, and that’s a double asset on grass. Ons Jabeur. At the top of her game and she reached two Grand Slam finals last year, including Wimbledon. She would have learned a lot from those matches and has the resilience to come back stronger. There’s also been six different winners in the women’s singles, so you can expect another name this year.
Who will be the US Open men’s and women’s singles champions and why?
YS: Daniil Medvedev and Jessie Pegula. Medvedev himself admitted this year was underwhelming and is motivated to get back to his Grand Slam-winning – or at least challenging – ways next year. If he finds that form again, I back him in New York. And Pegula has been one of the most consistent players reaching the latter stages of Slams in the last few years, she will finally get the Major title she deserves and do it on home soil.
SB: Men = Novak Djokovic Women = Coco Gauff. 2023 should be the year Novak Djokovic stands alone with the most Grand Slam titles and he’ll want to clinch it with his first US Open since 2018. This may be a pick with my heart over my head but Coco Gauff is already a bonafide superstar at 18 years old and next year’s US Open may be her best chance to win that first major.
AM: Daniil Medvedev – After a disrupted 2022 campaign, Medvedev has a point to prove, and will fancy his chances of a second US Open title. Jessica Pegula – On home turf, I just have a sneaky suspicion that Pegula’s time may come to finally fulfil her potential and claim glory.
MM: Carlos Alcaraz – The young Spaniard has his best chance of winning a Grand Slam at the unpredictable final Major of the season. Coco Gauff – American players performed exceptionally at the 2022 US Open and Gauff had a strong year finishing seventh in the world rankings. On home soil, Gauff has to be a contender
NM: Djokovic will again be in the mix after missing out on New York this year but the last Major of the season is often the survival of the fittest and Carlos Alcaraz will retain his title. Coco Gauff, who is still only 18, will have the chance to emulate the retired Serena Williams and win her home Grand Slam.
JK: Daniil Medvedev. Reaching four Grand Slam finals in the Djokovic/Nadal era is impressive and beating one of them is even more so. I’m convinced he is on the same level as Nadal, Djokovic and Alcaraz and his gritty demeanour will be tough to overcome. Aryna Sabalenka. Another outsider shout, but she has taken a step up in recent Slams and has made the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows in the last two years.
2023 could see the emergence of new teen stars like Linda Fruhvirtova
Who will end 2023 as No 1 in the ATP and WTA rankings and why?
YS: Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek. Djokovic has no points to defend at his best Major, the Aussie Open, or at the US Open, Indian Wells and Miami if he ends up allowed to play. He’s already No 5 without two Grand Slams and will leapfrog back to the top as soon as he can compete regularly again. Swiatek is miles ahead of her rivals in points tally and I can’t see her having a big drop-off which would change that next year.
SB: ATP No 1 = Novak Djokovic WTA No 1 = Iga Swiatek. It’s going to be hard to stop a determined Novak Djokovic from securing that year-end world No 1 after being unable to pick up rankings points in Australia and the USA due to his vaccination status in 2022. The women’s side is much tougher to pick, but I’m picking Iga Swiatek to remain on top next year.
AM: Men’s: Novak Djokovic Women’s: Iga Swiatek. Not much explanation needed here. Djokovic and Swiatek are simply still a level above their competitors, and should do enough to end the year on top.
MM: Novak Djokovic – It’s hard to bet against Djokovic, especially as he will be aiming to play every major event. Iga Swiatek – Swiatek should start the season in top form and then will be difficult to move from the No 1 spot.
NM: Djokovic and Swiatek will continue to dominate. The Pole has twice as many ranking points as world No.2 Ons Jabeur. It is very possible one of them – if not both – will complete the calendar Grand Slam of Major titles.
JK: Novak Djokovic. It would take some doing to catch Alcaraz, who is some 2,000 points ahead. But with Covid vaccine restrictions no longer preventing him from taking part in some tournaments and my prediction that he will reach the semis in all Slams, he will gradually climb back towards the top. Iga Swiatek. She has more than double the points of the next highest ranked player and isn’t likely to experience a nightmare 2023 based on her recent form.
Which male and female player outside of the top 50 will have a big breakthrough and why?
YS: Luca Nardi and Linda Fruhvirtova. Ranked at No 135, 19-year-old Nardi is one of just two teenagers in the world’s top 200, with the other being world No 1 Carlos Alcaraz. He won three Challengers in 2022 and got his first tour win, and he is from the currently-strong tennis nation of Italy. 17-year-old Linda Fruhvirtova already has a victory over former world No 1 Victoria Azarenka under her belt, and won her first title to end the season. The world No 78 should leap up the rankings the more she plays. And as a bonus, watch out for her 15-year-old sister Brenda, currently ranked at No 130.
SB: Male = Brandon Nakashima Female = Clara Tauson. I know I’m cheating with Brandon Nakashima currently 49th in the world but this 21-year-old is America’s big hope for a superstar on the ATP Tour. He should make it through to his first Grand Slam quarter-final and beyond in 2023. Clara Tauson had already broken into the top 50 in 2021 but her progress has been stalled because of injuries. She already looks back on track now and she could start the season strong.
AM: Men’s: Jaume Munar (rank 58) – The 25-year-old Spaniard has been knocking on the door for a while, and got one of the biggest wins of his career yet by stunning Casper Ruud in the Japan Open last year. I back him to reach at least a Slam quarter-final in the near future. Women’s: Elisabetta Cocciaretto (rank 65) – At just 21 years old, Cocciaretto has plenty of time to improve. The Italian reached the second round of Wimbledon last year, and could well go further this time.
MM: Aslan Karatsev – Karatsev reached the Australian Open semi-finals in 2022 but his season was disrupted because of bans on Russian players. With a full season on the tour, Karatsev could break into the top 50. Caty McNally – McNally has excelled in the doubles alongside Coco Gauff over the last couple of years. At just 21 years old, now may be the time to start pushing up the singles rankings.
NM: It is strange to talk about a US Open champion have a “big breakthrough” but Emma Raducanu, who is now ranked world No.80, has yet to win a regular WTA Tour event. That is her goal this year on her way back up the rankings. After three years of injuries and Covid lockdowns, China’s Wu Yibing won three Challenger events and reached the third round of the US Open. Still ranked world No.116, he is a potential superstar in China.
JK: Ryan Peniston. There may be some bias included as we hail from the same hometown, but his victory over Casper Ruud at Queens – followed by his run to R2 at Wimbledon – showed his potential. Expect him to crack into the top 100 at least this year. Linda Fruhvirtova. A promising first year on the WTA tour in 2022 saw her get to R2 at the US Open and R4 in Miami, not to mention winning the Chennai Open. The Czechs have another star in their ranks with the 17-year-old.
Which male and female player will have the most disappointing season and why?
YS: Nick Kyrgios and Aryna Sabalenka. I really don’t want the Kyrgios prediction to come true because 2022 has shown how great tournaments can be when he’s a proper force, but he’s spoken so much about the stress and pressure of doing so well that I’m not sure he can match this season again. Sabalenka is an unpredictable one that can have high highs and low lows, but if things get erratic in matches then she could suffer some early exits and drop down the rankings.
SB: Male = Nick Kyrgios Female = Naomi Osaka. 2022 saw Nick Kyrgios finally live up to what tennis fans had always known and hoped he would be by reaching a Grand Slam final. The question for everybody now will be whether he can build on that for next year. Everyone is waiting for Naomi Osaka to rediscover her best form, but it doesn’t look like returning anytime soon.
AM: Men’s: Andy Murray – As much as we’d all love a rip-roaring comeback, you just get the sense it may not happen for Murray. A poor performance in Australia could be the beginning of the end. Women’s: Coco Gauff – Still, incredibly, only 18, the pressure will continue to mount on Gauff until she wins that elusive first Grand Slam. The wait may well go on for another year at least.
MM: Alexander Zverev – With the emergence of the younger players on tour, coupled with Zverev’s injury woes, the German could finish the season outside of the top 20. Emma Raducanu – Raducanu will take a few years before she is ready to challenge for major honours again. And she will need a stable coaching setup.
NM: Nick Kyrgios. He won the Australian Open doubles title and reached the Wimbledon final but does the Aussie, now 27, have the desire to keep improving and reach the very top? Aryna Sabalenka. The world No.5 from Belorussia saved her disjointed season by reaching the final of the WTA Finals after the semis in New York but her lack of consistency will see her slide down the rankings.
JK: Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Greek has enormous ability but I think the longer his father remains his coach, the more it will affect his career. It’s proved to be an unnecessary distraction and he is yet to build on his ATP Finals success in 2019. Naomi Osaka. I don’t know what’s happened to her because she ruled women’s tennis for the better part of 18 months but injuries and a loss of confidence appear to have taken their toll. Expecting some early tournament exits in 2023.
Nick Kyrgios has admitted to feeling stress and pressure after a strong season
What’s your one other big tennis prediction to happen at any point in 2023?
YS: Andy Murray and Emma Raducanu both win tour titles at some point next season – they have the ability to get through at least a 250-point draw. Viva British tennis.
SB: Andy Murray to retire next. He’s inside the top 50 now but Andy Murray wants to be challenging for titles. It feels like 2023 is going to be make-or-break for the British sporting legend. He’s already teased that retirement is on his mind and if that first ATP Tour title since 2019 doesn’t come then it feels inevitable that he’s going to call it a day.
AM: A match will be forced to be abandoned due to a fan protest.
MM: Serena Williams to come back from retirement – even if just an exhibition match.
NM: Venus Williams to follow her sister Serena into retirement. The older Williams sister, now 42, has accepted a wildcard to the Australian Open and could bow out at the US Open.
JK: I’m nothing if not bold. Taylor Fritz to reach a Grand Slam final.