Andy Schooler looks ahead to the new tennis season and picks out five players to watch out for on the ATP Tour in 2023.
As a former junior number one, Rune’s rise had been predicted for some time and it arrived towards the end of the 2022 campaign.
The Dane, who has renowned coach Patrick Mouratoglou in his corner having attended his academy since the age of 13, finished the season by going 19-2 during a run of four straight tournament finals.
The highlight was a superb victory over Novak Djokovic in the Paris Masters final, a match which showcased Rune’s tenacity, forehand aggression and backhand down the line.
Those tools could well carry him higher than his current ranking of 11th in 2023.
It should be remembered that prior to his autumn run – one which led to Rune being voted ATP newcomer of the year – the 19-year-old had endured a miserable run of just four wins in 16 matches.
That will be enough for some to suggest Rune is far from guaranteed a top-10 finish in 2023 but I very much expect him to have taken huge amounts from his last couple of months of the campaign.
Having posted a 9-5 win-loss record over top-10 opposition in 2022, expect Rune to continue his climb towards the summit of the game by making his first big impressions in the Slams.
This time last year, Draper was ranked outside the top 250; now he’s sitting at 42nd in the ATP rankings.
The Briton didn’t play much on the main tour during the first half of 2022 so clearly there’s scope for him to be collecting bigger points hauls in the coming season.
Critics will say that it’s not a given he’ll replace points won on the Challenger Tour with those on offer at ATP events, but I’d beg to differ.
Draper went 19-14 on the main tour in 2022 and very few players produce a win percentage of 58% when they first move up to the top level.
Importantly, Draper boasts weapons. He has big power in both his serve and forehand but perhaps the most notable is his mental resolve – he’s already shown an ability to play the big points very well.
If you don’t believe me, listen to GB Davis Cup captain Leon Smith, who said in March: “He’s a very, very good competitor. He finds a way and that’s a really good quality to have.
“He’s got a massive serve, his forehand I think on a number of surfaces, even the clay, is going to do a lot of damage.”
Smith did add a proviso about Draper staying fit – something he did struggle to do with a couple of significant periods spent on the sidelines last season.
However, with his body still developing, I wouldn’t be too concerned by that.
I’d expect Draper to win his first ATP title in 2023 and he certainly looks capable of improving on his current ranking.
Another youngster and another player who likes to attack.
Shelton announced his name to the world with victory over top-five star Casper Ruud at the Cincinnati Masters and the big-serving lefty looks set for more eyecatching wins in 2023.
He’s already backed up his Ruud upset, to a certain extent, winning three Challenger titles during the indoor autumn swing.
A player who loves to come forward and volley, Shelton has the game which will trouble many on the faster surfaces.
And the good news for the American is that we are seeing a gradual shift in surface speed with both the Australian Open and US Open now being played of quicker courts than they were a few years ago.
If there’s a player who can spring from around the 100 mark (he finished last season at 96 in the ranking list) into the top-50 and beyond, then Shelton looks a prime candidate.
I’ve named clay specialists on this list in previous years and for 2023 I’m choosing Cachin as a player who could make waves on the red dirt.
Unlike those mentioned above, Cachin is no young gun with grand ambitions.
At 27, he’s more of a journeyman but that journey got a lot more exciting in 2022 with the Argentine reaching seven Challenger Tour finals, winning four of them.
All were played on clay – don’t expect him to do much off his favourite surface – but his results suggest that he could well make an impact on the main tour in 2023, potentially at decent odds.
Look out for Cachin during the Golden Swing of South American claycourt events in February when he will likely hold hopes of a first ATP title.
Some of the smaller European clay events could also be on Cachin’s radar later in the year.
There are big things happening in Italian tennis – and it’s not just about the country having three players in the world’s top 25.
There’s an army of youngsters climbing up the rankings with no fewer than 12 Italians featuring between 101 and 200 in the current list. Seven of those are 21 or under.
Some will likely fall by the wayside but Nardi is one who looks destined for greater things.
He was ranked outside the top 350 at the start of 2022 but finished it more than 200 places higher after winning three Challenger titles.
Still only 19, only two teenagers sit above him in the ranking list, namely Carlos Alcaraz, who Nardi regards as a friend, and Holger Rune.
A player who has already cited being motivated by the Italian stars playing at elite level – think Matteo Berrettini, Jannik Sinner and Lorenzo Musetti – will require greater consistency in 2023 if he is to really surge into the top 100 but he’s recognised the need to reduce errors on his big shot, the forehand.
Nardi has already proven his big-match ability.
Facing Stefanos Tsitsipas in Astana towards the end of last season, Nardi took the Greek to two tie-breaks in defeat.
I’d expect him to be playing more matches against players of that ilk in 2023 and he looks capable of better things in the season ahead.