ATP Losers: Rafael Nadal and four other players who had a season to forget
The 2023 ATP Tour season is in the bag, and what a great season it has been. The winners take the plaudits, but it’s certainly been a year to forget for Rafael Nadal and a few others.
A bad season is not always someone being at fault, of course, and every player to ever pick up a racket is susceptible to a poor year.
So, which players would probably prefer to forget their 2023 season? Here are a few.
I am not sure there is anyone out there rooting for anything other than Andy Murray to succeed, and 2023 started with a huge amount of promise for him.
He produced two stunning performances at the Australian Open to beat Matteo Berrettini and Thanasi Kokkinakis and he had just reunited with Ivan Lendl, the coach with whom Murray enjoyed all his Grand Slam success.
However, the year did not go well at all. Murray still found wins tough to string together and niggling injuries tough to avoid.
He heads into 2024 having already parted with Lendl again and admitting he has not really been enjoying his tennis this year.
Let’s all hope for better in 2024.
Alex De Minaur comes back from 2-5* in the 3rd set, saving a match point, and beats former #1 and 2016 champion Andy Murray 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-5 to reach the 2nd round in Paris.
– Murray was one point away from his best win since june & had SPs in the first set as well pic.twitter.com/hZG6Rommb3
— José Morgado (@josemorgado) October 30, 2023
Think back to 2021 and it all looked like it was coming together for Matteo Berrettini. He was a Wimbledon finalist and starting to look capable of making a genuine challenge for majors.
It has all stalled for him a little since then due to various injuries, and his 2023 season was especially badly hit.
The Italian managed just 23 matches all season, winning 12 of them, and has dropped from a career high ranking of number six at the end of January 2022 to barely clinging onto a spot in the top 100 now.
He has targeted the Australian Open for a comeback and has opened up about some mental health struggles too, so 2024 looks like being another big year for him.
It’s never easy to see the true sporting greats struggle, but that is what tennis fans have had to endure in 2023 with Rafael Nadal.
Nadal and injuries have always seem to go hand in hand. Throughout his entire career, how he managed his body to endure to extreme intensity he puts into his tennis has always been a constant discussion.
In 2022 that appeared to get away from him for the first real time. A brilliant start to the year gave way to a decimated second half, and in 2023 it only got worse.
Nadal managed just four matches this year due to a hip problem, and it has proven sufficiently serious for him to announce that 2024 will be his last on the ATP Tour.
That is even if he manages to get back at all, of course. At the moment he believes he will, and the Australian Open is a target, but with Nadal you never really know.
?? Rafael Nadal continuing to improve, playing practice points ?
? abel.b.horvath IG pic.twitter.com/hl9PInxRdw
— Olly ??? (@Olly_Tennis_) November 27, 2023
When Stefanos Tsitsipas started the season by reaching the Australian Open final, there were many who thought he looked ready to take the next step in his career.
It was a second Grand Slam final for the Greek, but he has been unfortunate to run into Novak Djokovic in both.
Still, his tennis was outstanding and we all know the talent is there. He has still won more than 50 matches this season and finished the year in the top six, but he has suffered a decline in quality in the second half of the year that is tough to miss.
“Tsitsipas has gone backwards,” Greg Rusedski said at the ATP Finals. “The backhand slice has gotten worse, the block [return] has gotten worse, the second serve, he doesn’t have the placement.
“I’m sorry, he’s not the player he was at the beginning of the season. And if he doesn’t make those improvements at the beginning of 2024, he won’t be in the top 10 to start the year – he’s gonna go out early in Australia.”
Whether injury is playing a part, we don’t know. But Tsitsipas has certainly struggled to impress lately in a year that promised so much.
Felix Auger-Aliassime came into the year in the top six and leaves it ranked 29 in the world. That is almost certainly not what he had in mind.
It’s actually quite hard to put your finger on why that is, as the Canadian has all the tools necessary to be a major force on the ATP Tour.
A genuine breakthrough seemed likely as well this season, but like Tsitsipas he seems to have lost a little something along the way.
He did finish the year by winning a title in Basel, though, beating the likes of Holger Rune and Hubert Hurkacz along the way, so perhaps something is brewing for 2024.
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