The best-of-five format at the Grand Slams lends itself to matches full of twists and turns as the world's best compete on the game's biggest stages. The four majors in 2023 delivered with memorable matchups full of quality and drama from start to finish.
As we continue our look back at the 2023 season, ATPTour.com counts down the five greatest Grand Slam matches of the year.
5) Wimbledon Open R1, Tsitsipas d. Thiem 3-6, 7-6(1), 6-2, 6-7(5), 7-6(10-8)
A roller-coaster match that was played over two days at Wimbledon climaxed with a dramatic final-set tie-break, the result on a knife's edge until the last ball of the three-hour, 55-minute contest.
Stefanos Tsitsipas trailed by a set overnight, with the match suspended midway through set two. But the Greek took control upon its resumption, only to see Dominic Thiem battle back. After Thiem saved a break point early in the fourth set, he won a tense tie-break and then — for a brief moment — appeared to have secured a break lead in the fifth. But an accurate overrule by the chair umpire stopped Thiem from taking a 4-3 lead, and Tsitsipas ultimately closed out a gritty victory with a forehand passing shot on his third match point.
"It was pretty stressful, I won't lie. We were out there, I don't know how many hours... for a second I thought we were doing the repeat of Isner-Mahut," Tsitsipas said after levelling the pair's Lexus ATP Head2Head at 5-5. "We both fought hard today. We put on a show. I hope everyone enjoyed it."
It was the second straight match (and the third out of four) between the opponents to require a decisive tie-break, with Tsitsipas also taking that route to wins earlier in the season in Madrid and in the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals title match.
Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
4) US Open R4, Zverev d. Sinner 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3
The longest match at the 2023 US Open ended at 1:39 a.m. with Alexander Zverev still standing after a statement win. In a four-hour, 41-minute battle of attrition played in high humidity, Jannik Sinner struggled with cramp in the second and third sets but still put forth an impressive display to drag his opponent into a fifth.
With punishing rallies to match the punishing conditions, both players were visibly struggling in between points but summoning supreme effort when the ball was in play. Sinner was firmly in the ascendancy in the fourth set, looking the fresher of the two until Zverev rebounded down the stretch. In a high-quality final set, Zverev's big swings yielded 14 winners to Sinner's seven, guiding him to a memorable triumph.
“I guess I can say I’m back, right? This is what I live for, this is what I absolutely love to do,” said Zverev, who missed the second half of 2022, including the US Open, with a serious ankle injury. “I wish I could have played a little bit shorter, that’s for sure, but last year when I wasn’t able to play, these were exactly the moments I missed. Until 1:30 a.m. in front of a packed crowd on Arthur Ashe Stadium. There’s nothing better.”
For Sinner, it was a second straight heartbreaking late-night defeat in New York. In 2022, the Italian lost a five-hour, 15-minute marathon to eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz that finished at a record-late 2:50 a.m.
Photo: Corey Sipkin/AFP via Getty Images
3) Australian Open R4, Rublev d. Rune 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(11-9)
The fifth set of this Melbourne thriller might have been the most dramatic set of tennis this season, with Andrey Rublev battling back from the brink on multiple occasions to advance to the Australian Open quarter-finals for the second time, at the expense of Holger Rune.
In the final set of the Top 10 matchup, Rublev trailed 2-5, stared down two match points at 5-6, and found himself in a 0/5 hole in the decisive tie-break. It was Rune's turn to save two match points later in the tie-break, before a net cord dribbler ended the match in Rublev's favour.
"I never in my life was able to win matches like this," said Rublev, who won 12 of 13 points to erase the 2-5 deficit in the final set. "This is the first ever time that I won something like this, especially in a very special tournament, the Australian Open, to be in the quarter-finals. So it’s something I will remember for sure all my life. I have no words, I am shaking and happy.”
While both players showcased big hitting and world-class shotmaking throughout the match, neither could sustain his best level long enough to pull away. It appeared Rublev would do just that when Rune began cramping early in the fourth set, but the Dane soldiered on and ultimately found his best form early in the fifth. But in a match full of twists and turns, there would be plenty more, with Rublev coming out on top by the slimmest of margins.
2) Australian Open R1, Murray d. Berrettini 6-3, 6-3, 4-6, 6-7(7), 7-6(10-6)
This opening-round showdown between five-time Melbourne finalist Andy Murray and returning semi-finalist Matteo Berrettini set a sky-high bar at the very start of the Grand Slam season. The four-hour, 49-minute triumph also began the emergence of "Marathon Murray" in 2023, with the three-time Grand Slam champion showing a penchant for winning long-running matches throughout the early stages of the season.
In Melbourne, Murray attacked the Berrettini backhand early and often to build a two-set lead, but the Italian found his footing to roar back. Berrettini rose to the occasion in the fourth-set tie-break, playing some of his best tennis to deny Murray when the Scot was twice two points from victory. But the 13th seed's backhand miss on match point at 5-4 in the fifth — a routine would-be winner that he may still be replaying in his head — set the stage for Murray's resurgence.
The Briton raced out to a 5/0 lead in the decisive tie-break and never looked back, ultimately notching his first Top 20 win at a Grand Slam since 2017.
"I’ve put a lot of work into the past few months with my team here to give me the opportunity to perform on stadiums like this and in matches like this against players like Matteo, and it paid off tonight," said Murray, who had never played a 10-point tie-break before.
Just how close was this match during the home stretch? After Berrettini secured his lone break of serve to lead 3-2 in the third set, there were no further breaks in Rod Laver Arena.
1) Wimbledon Final, Alcaraz d. Djokovic 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4
One month after what promised to be an epic Roland Garros semi-final petered out when Carlos Alcaraz suffered with cramp, the Spanish star met Novak Djokovic once again at the business end of a Grand Slam — this time at Wimbledon. While Alcaraz entered as the favourite on the Paris clay, the statistics said that Djokovic had the advantage in London, where he was seeking his fifth consecutive title.
The Serbian was also bidding to continue his quest for the calendar-year Grand Slam, having won both Australian Open and Roland Garros to open the season. He was well on his way to what would have been his eighth Wimbledon title after a one-sided first set, but when Alcaraz saved a set point before winning the second-set tie-break, the complexion of the match changed dramatically.
"After the first set, I thought, ‘Carlos, increase the level, everyone will be disappointed,' " recalled the 20-year-old, who was playing in just his fourth grass-court event.. He continued to raise his game in the third set, but Djokovic showed his legendary resolve to force a decider.
Immediately after fighting off a break point early in the final set with dogged defense, Alcaraz earned the decisive break in the very next game.
"Amazing, what quality at the end of the match,” Djokovic said to his opponent during the trophy ceremony. "When you had to serve it out, you came up with some big serves and big plays so you deserve it, absolutely. Congratulations."
Photo: Julian Finney/Getty Images