’s top 32 in 2022: men 5-1

Carlos Alcaraz
Mal Taam/MALTphoto

No. 5: Novak Djokovic
When the Serbian gets into a tiebreak, then the 21-Grand-Slam champion can settle in. Over the years, here and there, he can miss more than a few shots, but he does know that when the tension is there, then he can become more settled. Djokovic has had a difficult year, off the court, but now on the court, he is wonderful again. He won Wimbledon, but because he didn’t get the COVID-19 virus, he could not play the Australian Open and US Open. But in the fall, he rose again, winning Tel Aviv, Astana and the ATP Finals in Italy. He was a little bit tired, but he won all five matches, outlasting Taylor Fritz and Daniil Medvedev. In the last match, he put down Casper Ruud. Maybe Djokovic is only ranked No. 5, but if he played those two Slams, he might have been the No. 1, again given that he has won so many titles in the hardcourt. He is in incredible shape, and his backhand is certainly one of the best for all time. When he won his first Grand Slam in 2008, he looked very good but his forehand, serve and net play were very good, but he had to improve. And he did, gradually. Currently then, in 2023, he wants to pass Rafa Nadal for the all-time Slan lead. But, he has to catch him, first. Next year, these two champions may have some fantastic matches. Sit down and watch it, because eventually, they will retire. For the fans, that will break hearts.

No. 4: Stefanos Tsitsipas
There’s a chance that Tsitsipas may end the year at No. 1. But not yet. He has had a very good year, yet he was not phenomenal. In the ATP Masters Paris, the Greek was so close to beating Djokovic in three amazing sets, but the Serbian hit some incredible shots. Tsitsipas could have put it away but he became confused, right at the end, and he went down 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(4). This year, Tsitsipas won two titles in Mallorca and Monte Carlo. Yes, he put together some good wins, but also he has lost to the top 15 a good amount. That will be difficult, because in 2021, he was injured and he could not sustain it. In 2019, he won it at the ATP Finals in London, edging Dominic Thiem in three tough sets. He wants to do it again. When he finishes a match, then he can go home at a hotel, and he can think about where he is. He studies the matches, what he did, and also, did he do it the right way or was it all wrong? In the fall, Tsitsipas can be astonishing, but he stuttered, and at the 2022 ATP Finals, he did beat Medvedev, but he lost to Djokovic and Andrey Rublev. As he said in 2023, he has to be upbeat and not so despondent. If he manages that, then for sure, the mammoth hitter can win a Slam next year.

No. 3: Casper Ruud
That was an incredible year for the Norwegian, winning Buenos Aires, reaching the final in Miami, winning Geneva, reaching the final at Roland Garros, winning Gstaad, , and once again, he managed to reach the US Open, losing to Carlos Alcaraz in four tough sets. Almost each week, he was crushing the ball. Last year, he became more consistent. As his coach and father Christian Ruud, said, “We knew he had the level to play with the top guys and also beat the top-10 players. So, of course, a little bit disappointing Grand Slam last year, that was the big goal this year to at least reach some quarterfinals. … The goal was achieved a little bit, and then this US Open he plays maybe with little bit calmer because he already had one good Grand Slam result. In a way, he got that breakthrough in the Grand Slams, and hopefully we can continue to do well in the Slams. He’s fit, he’s doing well, so he suits playing five-set matches.” That is the real goal in 2023. He achieved some terrific wins. If he wants to beat Rafa Nadal and Carlos Alcaraz at the Slams, then he is going to be more dominating, every single second.

No. 2: Rafael Nadal
The Spaniard reached the final at Roland Garros 13 times, and he owned it, but each year. In the final, Nadal was already to sprint on the clay, and he poked it to take-no-prisoners. He easily won, crushing Ruud 6-3, 6-3, 6-0. He lost just six games, which is a record. He played almost seamless, while the newcomer Ruud, could not figure out a solution. He was battered. But not Nadal, who now has won 14 majors in Paris, and overall, he has 22 Grand Slams. So then, right now, he is the best player ever. Yes, and that has happened many times over the decades, but in the summer, he is the “King of Clay.” Nadal is ahead of Djokovic (who he beat at Roland Garros), who has 21 Slams, and also, Roger Federer who has 20. The 36-year-old Nadal is hurt quite a bit. His foot is very sore, so much so that he couldn’t feel it. The doctor helped him, each day, and he managed to not only smack his phenomenal forehand, but his backhand is so steady. Plus, at the net, he can just put it away and execute drop shots, too. But look, in the fall, he was not quite there. He made the effort, but when he came back, he was a bit slower. However, he always tried to play, very super furious. He has won all four Slams, on clay, the grass and the hard courts. So, there is no question that he will have another chance to win a bunch of titles, as long as his body will hold up.

No. 1: Carlos Alcaraz
Somehow, someway, the young Spaniard won the US Open. He became the youngest Slam winner and No. 1 in history. Three of the best players – Nadal, Djokovic and Federer – were not in the final. Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic all lost. Both Alcaraz and Ruud have had some amazing matches. They were quick, they can super fast, and they can switch from defense to offense immediately. Night after night, the 19-year-old Alcaraz seemed to never get tired, competing for many, many, hours. How about this? The speedy person edged Jannik Sinner 6-3, 6-7, 6-7 7-5, 6-3, and it took 5 hours and 15 minutes. Alcaraz just keeps churning. And when he is sprinting, he doesn’t really care, he just wanted to hit the lines, incredibly hard. His forehand is gigantic, and his backhand can slap it. Plus, he has all sorts of strokes. Alcaraz got hurt in the ATP Masters Paris, so he has to stop playing the rest of the year. Yes, he will win a number of titles next year, but just like his friend, Nadal, if you want to improve, then work at the net, his second serve and his return. Still, there is no limit to how dominant this youngster can be.