They have arrived at the big stage, but they are only just getting started: Flavio Cobolli, Arthur Fils, Alex Michelsen, Dominic Stricker and Luca Van Assche are nominees for the Newcomer of the Year in the 2023 ATP Awards, to be announced later this month.
Selected by players, the award goes to the #NextGenATP player who entered the Top 100 for the first time in 2023 and made the biggest impact on the ATP Tour this season.
|No. 95 (23 October)
|No. 36 (30 October)
|No. 94 (20 November)
|No. 88 (2 October)
|Luca Van Assche
|No. 63 (23 October)
Flavio Cobolli, 21
“I want to be in the future of tennis, I don’t want to stop,” Cobolli told ATPTour.com after making his Top 100 breakthrough in October.
The Italian earned his second career ATP Challenger Tour title in Lisbon and reached the final in Olbia two weeks later, becoming one of seven players to win at least 40 Challenger-level matches in 2023 (40-26).
"It was of course special, because this year I worked a lot," Cobolli said of his Lisbon trophy run. "I played 36 weeks, a lot. I was tired but I think that title means a lot for me and for the season. But I don't want to stop now. I want to push more for the goals of 2024."
Arthur Fils, 19
The youngest champion on the ATP Tour this year? The heavy-hitting Fils, who triumphed on home soil in May at the ATP 250 event in Lyon.
"I will remember this forever," Fils said after winning the title. Following that dream run, Fils rose into the Top 100 for the first time. He did not stop there.
Despite having zero tour-level wins entering the year, the 19-year-old reached the semi-finals at one ATP 500 and four ATP 250 tournaments in 2023. Fils peaked at World No. 36 in October after reaching the final in Antwerp, where he downed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the last four. The Frenchman closed the season with a finalist finish at the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM.
"It was a nice year for sure. I started at 250 but finished at 36, so that's pretty good," Fils said. "It still could have been better. I lost some close matches, like I did [Saturday] but it's just experience and I will try to do better next year.”
Fils’ breakthrough season started from day one. He won his first nine matches of the year, including a title run at the Oeiras Challenger. In February, he made the most of opportunities to play at home, reaching the tour-level semi-finals in Montpellier and Marseille.
Alex Michelsen, 19
If you looked at the Top 600 at the start of January, you would not find the American’s name until the final spot: 600.
Michelsen has risen more than 500 spots this year, with a surprise finalist finish in Newport highlighting his season. “I think I’m going to need a month [to process this],” said Michelsen, who did not have an ATP Tour main-draw win before that week. The teen arrived at the grass-court tournament off the back of his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title in Chicago.
Michelsen announced in August that he would forego his college eligibility, having previously committed to the University of Georgia. Instead the California native would turn pro and win his first major-main draw match at the US Open before embarking on a late-season surge, winning nine consecutive matches in November with a title run at the Knoxville Challenger followed by a runner-up finish in Champaign.
“If you told me in January, when I was ranked 600 that I would be Top 100 by November, I’d call you crazy,” Michelsen said. “I didn’t think it would happen that quickly. I had a feeling after the Newport run. I got to No. 140 and I thought I could do it by the end of the year, but I still was like, ‘Oh, Top 100 is still kind of far away.’ Now that I’ve done it, it feels great.”
Stricker advanced through US Open qualifying en route to a fourth-round appearance at the season’s final major. The Swiss stunned Stefanos Tsitsipas after firing 78 winners in a five-set, second-round thriller that lasted four hours, 10 minutes.
"I was down 3-5 and then I came back in the fourth set. I don't know how, but I did it somehow and then I kept playing very high level tennis. I am a bit speechless,” Stricker said at the time.
With two ATP Challenger Tour titles to his name in 2023 (Rovereto, Prague), it was the deep run at Flushing Meadows that propelled Stricker into the Top 100 for the first time on 11 September. The 21-year-old became the youngest Swiss to reach the milestone since 20-year-old Stan Wawrinka did so in 2005.
“I feel better on court than I did last year. I feel like my game has improved again,” Stricker told ATPTour.com in August. “I'm also getting fitter body-wise, so that helps for sure. I think off court everything got a bit more serious. I'm also working maybe a little bit harder than I did before. I think everything is more professional than it was and that helps me for sure.”
The lefty earned another Top 10 victory in October, with this triumph coming in front of Stricker’s home crowd, upsetting Casper Ruud in Basel. Stricker closed the season with a second consecutive semi-final appearance at the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM.
Luca Van Assche, 19
The final week of the 2022 season was prophetic for the Frenchman, who won his maiden ATP Challenger Tour title in Maia to close the year.
Van Assche built upon his momentum, winning two consecutive Challenger titles spanning from February to March, both equally memorable. In Pau, the teenager saved two championship points to defeat countryman Ugo Humbert in the longest Challenger final in history (three hours, 56 minutes). Van Assche then extended his winning streak to 10, triumphing at the Sanremo Challenger to make his Top 100 debut.
“Two years ago, I was like 1,000-something so I don’t think I would’ve expected to be Top 100 now,” Van Assche said in April. “Last year, I was like 400. I was not expecting this maybe a year or two ago. It was very fast. Of course I was dreaming about it. I’m very proud and I just want to be even better now.”
The Brussels-born player continued his breakthrough at the next level, earning his maiden tour-level win in Estoril and getting to the second round of his home Slam, Roland Garros, where he won the 2021 boys’ singles crown. A quarter-finalist in Hamburg and Metz, Van Assche was a semi-finalist at the Next Gen ATP Finals.
Luca Van Assche celebrates winning the longest ATP Challenger Tour final in Pau. Credit: Terega Open Pau Pyrenes