The Laver Cup and the Real Contenders for the 2023 Slams

What does Team World's Laver Cup mean for the 2023 Grand Slams?

I know I’m not the only one that was surprised by Team World’s win over Team Europe at this year’s Laver Cup. Initially, the rosters seemed completely lopsided… with the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Sir Andy Murray, and Novak Djokovic on one side. Sure, Nadal and Federer were only at the tournament for one day, but, if you would have told me that the team with the infamous ‘Big Four’ would fall victim to a team composed of players with zero Grand Slams, let alone no Grand Slam finalists… I would have called you crazy, no doubt. Yet here we are: Team World has gotten the result.

On the third and most vital day of the Laver Cup, in front of a raucous crowd at the O2 Arena, we saw an incredible comeback by Frances Tiafoe to oust Stefanos Tsitsipas 1-6 7-6 (10-7), and Felix Auger-Aliassime overpower Novak Djokovic 7-6 6-3, in what was a thrilling display of the Canadian’s potential, even if Djokovic was battling a wrist problem. It was the first time Team World was victorious in the event. One thing that really stood out to me was the age difference. The average age of Team Europe was 32.3 years, compared to Team World’s average age of 25.3. 

So what could Team Europe’s loss and Federer’s retirement mean for the future of the event? Simple. Bring on the young guns. Every tennis fan knows that Europe has no shortage of talent. Heck, even Russia and the likes of Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev belong to Team Europe. At some point while watching the Laver Cup, I’m sure everyone thought about the absence of the US Open winner Carlos Alcaraz, or wondered why Jannik Sinner wasn’t present.

Team Europe did have some some excellent young talents in Matteo Berrettini, Casper Ruud, and Tsitsipas and there is probably a case to be made that least two of the ‘Big Four’ wouldn’t have played on merit. It’s certainly exciting to think about what the future holds for both teams, and you can’t help but think Team Europe will be able to avenge this year’s defeat. But what did this year’s Laver Cup tell us about next season?

2023 Grand Slam Contenders

I expect all four major titles this year to belong to one of these five names. These players have proven themselves time and time again, and are the true threat in 2023. 

Novak Djokovic – I know how special this Alcaraz kid is and that he is only going to get better. However, I feel as if every tennis fan knows that Djokovic is still the guy to beat. Obviously, Djokovic couldn’t play in the 2022 Australian Open or at the U.S Open. He wasn’t even awarded any ranking points for his Wimbledon triumph. You can never count Djokovic out, especially on grass or hard court and it looks, he’ll be able to play in the Australian Open this year. I expect him to take full advantage. He is still #1 in my book.

Rafael Nadal – It pains myself and any tennis fan to see Nadal’s lingering injuries. It comes with age, of course. Yet, Nadal has shown why he is one of the greatest to ever do it. Nadal was remarkably good at the Australian Open, once again showcasing his ability to win on hard courts, even as he gets deeper into his career. Astonishingly, he wasn’t even favored to win this year’s French Open… yes, that’s right… it was Djokovic who was the bookmaker’s favourite. Nadal, the greatest show on clay, set about proving them wrong. Nadal may well have two or three more years of contending for Slams before he will call it quits, leaving behind one of the greatest careers in the history of sport.

Carlos Alcaraz – How much talent can someone possibly have? The 19 year-old phenom has proven time and time again that he can be dominant on any surface. Like most Spaniards, Alcaraz did not take long to establish himself as a force on the clay. But to take home a maiden Masters 1000 and Grand Slam in the span of six months? Absurd. His potential is untapped, and there will almost certainly come a point where will be expected to win multiple Slams every year. Alcaraz is here to stay, so let’s enjoy the next 20 years, shall we?

Daniil Medvedev – Medvedev’s unorthodox style and ability to get to any ball is incredible for someone who stands at 6’6. It’s safe to say Medvedev hasn’t been particularly impressive since losing to Nadal from two sets to the good in the Australian Open final. He’s not alone in that, with 2022 proving a tough year for Russian players on the ATP and WTA tours. Still, on any hard court, Medvedev remains a threat and will always be one of the favorites to win in a best of five scenario given his weapons and his incredible fitness.

Casper Ruud – As much as Nick Kyrgios doesn’t want to hear this… Ruud is a legitimate top five talent. He made the final of the French Open, where he was well-beaten by Nadal. Ruud also went on to make the final of the US Open, where he was bested by the young-gun Alcaraz, but he had his chances in that match. The run in Flushing Meadows solidified him as a true multi-surface threat. His consistency is undeniable and Ruud is a force to be reckoned with.

2023 Grand Slam Pretenders

Calling these players pretenders doesn’t mean that these guys aren’t incredible tennis players, just that they probably won’t win a Grand Slam in 2023. But don’t count them out completely.

Jannick Sinner – OK, clearly we all know how good this kid is. But it doesn’t feel right doing putting him on the contenders list, considering he hasn’t yet made it to a Major final. Sinner has incredible firepower off both wings, and I truly look forward to his rivalry with Alcaraz (which we got a taste of in the US Open) for years to come. I’m just not sure he can win the big matches, yet.

Stefanos Tsitsipas – Oh, where do I even start? When I think of Tsitsipas, I think of the 2-0 set lead he had against Novak Djokovic in the 2021 French Open final. That pretty much sums up why I don’t consider him a “contender.” Having said that, the Greek has all the tools to be a Slam champion… one day. Right now, the struggle is all between the ears for him, and when he gains a little more mental toughness, the ATP Tour better watch out.

Matteo Berrettini – I love Berrettini’s attitude and that he never gives up. I’m not particularly in love with his game, though. Berrettini possesses a thunderous first serve and forehand, but I don’t think it’s big enough to just carry him in key moments. From the baseline, I simply can’t see him taking down a backboard like Medvedev or Djokovic, though he has troubled both in the past. His movement isn’t elite by any means, and I just can’t see him playing at a high enough level to win a Slam in 2023.

Hubert Hurkacz – When it comes to Masters 1000 events, Hurkacz can compete with the best of them. Something about the best two of three, perhaps? The Pole has elite tools, with phenomenal movement, a huge serve, and great variety. So what is holding back the Pole? It’s hard to say. His best result at a Slam this year was on clay, his worst surface, making it to the fourth round at Roland Garros before falling to Ruud. Until Hurkacz can put it all together, a major title is not in the cards.

Nick Kyrgios – The most hated and loved player in all of tennis? I personally love the antics of Nick Kyrgios. Just not the part where he loses because of them. The Australian is one of the most talented player in the world, and everyone knows it… but unfortunately, he does as well. The only thing that holds Kyrgios back from the elusive Slam title, is himself. Will he finally piece it together?

Alexander Zverev – It was extremely sad to see Zverev hurt his ankle in what was a thrilling bout against Nadal at Roland Garros. He may have made the “Contender” list, but given the variables and how hard it is to recover from injury (see Dominic Thiem) I just don’t know if he’ll be able to win his maiden Slam in 2023.

Honorable Mentions

Frances Tiafoe

Andrey Rublev

Taylor Fritz

Cameron Norrie

Felix Auger-Aliassime

Main photo:
Embed from Getty Images