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Djokovic, Alcaraz, Sinner Showdowns Among Best ATP Matches Of 2023

Djokovic and Alcaraz’s marathon Cincinnati final tops list
December 09, 2023
Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic after their epic championship match in Cincinnati in August.
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Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic after their epic championship match in Cincinnati in August. By ATP Staff

Another ATP Tour season full of gripping storylines, magic moments and standout achievements is in the books… but which matches from 2023 will live longest in fans' memories?

The Top 4 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings — Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev and Jannik Sinner — were among those to play their part in some classic encounters this year. As part of of ATPTour.com’s annual season-in-review series, we count down the best matches on the ATP Tour this season. On Sunday, we will focus on the best Grand Slam matches of the year.

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5) Indian Wells R16, Medvedev d Zverev 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 7-5
Medvedev and Alexander Zverev reactivated their Lexus ATP Head2Head rivalry after 15 months away in style at the BNP Paribas Open in March. Medvedev clung on for a thrilling three, hour, 16-minute triumph in Indian Wells to extend his early-season winning streak to 17 matches, but that only told half the story of the fourth-round clash at the ATP Masters 1000.

Zverev was 8-7 for the year heading into the match and was still rebuilding confidence in his movement after missing the second half of 2022 with a serious right ankle injury. Yet the German came out strong against an opponent who was fresh from lifting consecutive trophies in Rotterdam, Doha and Dubai. It was only after Medvedev saved all 10 break points he faced in the second set, during which he also rolled heavily over his right ankle, that the then-World No. 6 was able to wear down the German and reach his first Indian Wells quarter-final.

"When I twisted [my ankle], I thought I was going to stand up just fine," Medvedev said. "But then the pain started growing very fast, so I was like 'That is not a good sign'… It was one of the first times in my life that the physio had taped my ankle, so I decided to give it a try. What was surprising was it was much easier to run than walk. So when I was walking I was limping and then I was running fine.”

4) Adelaide 1 F, Djokovic d Korda 6-7(8), 7-6(3), 6-4
A blockbuster way to kick-start 2023 at the Adelaide International 1. Novak Djokovic had dispatched third seed Medvedev with ease in the semi-finals at the ATP 250 but was forced to battle back from the very brink to overhaul Sebastian Korda and seal his 92nd tour-level crown in the opening week of the season.

Korda’s fearless approach to an engrossing encounter that featured plenty of intense baseline exchanges earned him a championship point at 6-5, 30/40 on Djokovic's serve in the second set. Yet the American was unable to find the decisive blow to clinch victory in his maiden Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting with the Serbian great. Djokovic kept his cool to force a tie-break before finding a late break of Korda's serve in the decider to clinch victory. In a nod to his resilience throughout the match, the top seed tapped his temple with his finger after completing his win.

“I'd probably say that you were closer to victory today than I was," Djokovic said to Korda during the trophy presentation. "It was decided in one or two shots, one or two points. Tough luck today, but the future is bright for you, so just keep going, and you're an amazing player.”

Djokovic’s plaudits of Korda were further backed up a few weeks later, when the American reached his maiden major quarter-final in Melbourne. For the Serbian, victory in Adelaide laid the foundations for his run to a 10th Australian Open crown later that month, a triumph which drew him level with Rafael Nadal on 22 Grand Slam titles.

3) Miami SF, Sinner d Alcaraz 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2
One of the most intriguing Lexus ATP Head2Head rivalries of 2023 arguably hit its high point at March’s Miami Open presented by Itau, where Jannik Sinner notched a statement semi-final triumph against defending champion Carlos Alcaraz.

Presented with the chance to avenge his semi-final loss to Alcaraz in Indian Wells from two weeks prior, Sinner prevailed in a match of the highest quality to end Alcaraz’s reign as World No. 1. The Italian led early in all three sets but had to save two break points at 3-4 in the second set to stall Alcaraz’s charge towards a straight-sets victory, before he put his foot down to storm past the physically struggling Spaniard in the decider.

The highlight of a stunning three-hour, two-minute spectacle was an all-court exchange at 4-2 in the opening set. Sinner emerged victorious in a contender for point of the year, one that showcased the breathtaking defensive and counter-punching skills of two of the ATP Tour’s brightest young starts.

"It means a lot. We both played a very, very high level of tennis again. I just tried my best," said Sinner after his win. "In the third set I saw him struggle a little bit for a couple of games, so I tried to push there... We both tried to play very aggressive tennis and today it went my way, so I'm very happy."

2) Nitto ATP Finals RR, Sinner d Djokovic 7-5, 6-7(5), 7-6(2)
Sinner attributed being ‘really brave’ at key moments as the all-important factor as he snapped Djokovic’s six-match winning-streak at the Nitto ATP Finals in a group-stage thriller in November in Turin. Perhaps more significantly for the home favourite, it was his first victory against the World No. 1 in four Lexus ATP Head2Head meetings.

"It means a lot to me," said Sinner, who delivered a serving performance to match the Serbian and crushed the ball with his trademark power from the baseline throughout the three-hour, nine-minute encounter. "When you win against the World No. 1, who has won 24 Grand Slams, it's obviously in the top [of my career results] ... I felt like it was a really tactical match and I managed to win, so I'm very happy."

Predictably, Sinner’s milestone win against Djokovic, which he sealed in front of a raucous home crowd, did not come easy. The Serbian had reclaimed a break immediately at 2-4 in the decider before forcing the Italian to hold his nerve in a third-set tie-break. The 22-year-old Sinner did just that, reeling off the first five points to assume control before clinching a match in which the players sent down 35 aces combined.

1) Cincinnati F, Djokovic d Alcaraz 5-7, 7-6(7), 7-6(4)
An instant classic played out by the ATP Tour’s best two players in 2023, Djokovic and Alcaraz’s Western & Southern Open clash will live long in the memory. Djokovic saved championship point before prevailing in a three-hour, 49-minute epic, one he later described as “one of the toughest matches I’ve ever played in my life”, and which was the longest best-of-three final in ATP Tour history (since 1990).

With Djokovic struggling physically in the Cincinnati heat, Alcaraz seemed set to charge to victory when he led by a set and a break at the ATP Masters 1000. Yet the 36-year-old Djokovic raised his level in a staggering display of physical resilience and mental fortitude, saving a championship point at 5/6 in the second-set tie-break before overhauling his younger opponent to earn a record-extending 39th Masters 1000 crown.

“It's unbelievable,” said Djokovic afterwards. “From the beginning until the end we've both been through so much. So many ups and downs, highs and lows, incredible points, poor games, heat strokes, coming back. Just overall, one of the toughest and most exciting matches I was ever part of and these are the kinds of moments and matches that I continue to work for day in day out.”

Alcaraz, who played his own significant part in one of the ATP Tour’s all-time great finals, was able to appreciate the occasion, even in defeat: ”It's amazing playing against you, sharing the court with you, learning from you,” Alcaraz told his opponent during the trophy ceremony. “This match was really close, but I learned a lot from a champion like you.”

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