Tennis rivalries 2023 – a look back at the best of the best

We’ve been treated to some rather awesome head-to-head sagas this season, also known as tennis rivalries 2023. Of course, tennis fans love to see the game’s top players face off against one another on numerous occasions. This often leads to drama, heightened levels of play, and high-level entertainment for spectators. 

And now, with the 2023 season drawing to a close, it seems the perfect time to analyze the subject of tennis rivalries 2023. To clarify, by rivalry, I mean two players who competed on multiple occasions against each other – often in the biggest matches of the entire season. 

I’m sure you have your own ideas about the most entertaining tennis rivalries 2023 already. However, this article will focus on, and recap the best rivalries we were all lucky enough to watch unfold during the 2023 season. 

Best tennis rivalries 2023
Photo by Icon sport

I’ve built this list based on numbers and statistics, rather than using my own opinion, which can often lead to bias! 

So, if you’re ready to read all about the greatest tennis rivalries 2023, head to the next section now.

Tennis rivalries 2023 – welcome to the show

As referenced in the introduction above, for any match-up to be considered a ‘rivalry’, it has to meet some specific criteria. Firstly, the two players involved must have contested multiple matches against each other in 2023. Secondly, they must have competed against each other in high-profile tournaments. 

Of course, if their matches turned into absolute classics, this is when they truly deserve to be honoured in this rundown of the best tennis rivalries of 2023. And of the many rivalries that developed over the course of the 2023 season, I’ve filtered things down to the top five. 

This way, we can take a fond look back at the most entertaining rivalries of them all.

Novak Djokovic vs Jannik Sinner – best ATP tennis rivalries 2023

The beauty of this first rivalry is that it only really evolved into one of the best at the very end of the season. Therefore, the rivalry between Djokovic and Sinner is still very fresh in the mind. So – how does this rivalry look at the end of the season?

Well, these two guys played each other on four occasions in the 2023 season. Amazingly, three of these four were played in November alone. As for the first of these four meetings in 2023, this came in the semi-finals of Wimbledon – a match that Djokovic won in straight sets.

Yet in the group stages of the ATP Finals, Sinner put on an incredible show to beat Djokovic for the very first time in front of his home crowd. During the match, Djokovic was booed, and he orchestrated this hostility when 6-5 down in the deciding set – giving us one of the funniest moments of the season.

However, Djokovic took his revenge in the final just a few days later, dismantling the Italian for the title. But there was one more twist to come when Sinner would beat Djokovic in the Davis Cup, saving multiple match points in the process. 

This meant that the rivalry between these two for the season finished 2-2.

Aryna Sabalenka vs Iga Swiatek – best WTA tennis rivalries 2023

Now that I’ve showcased what I believe to be the best rivalry from the ATP Tour for 2023, it’s time to focus on the best rivalry from the WTA Tour for 2023. As you can see, the rivalry I’ve picked out here is Sabalenka vs Swiatek.

These three only played each other three times, but for me, it has to go down as the most entertaining of all tennis rivalries 2023. Not only was Sabalenka chasing the number 1 ranking all season long, which made this rivalry spicy, but every time they met, it felt like they were going to war.

Tennis rivalries 2023
Photo by Icon sport

As for the matches they competed in, two of the three were finals, while the other was a semi-final. So, starting with the two finals, Swiatek grabbed the title in Stuttgart early in the season, while Sabalenka avenged this loss in the final of the Madrid Open – a three-set thriller.

Fast forward to their third meeting, which was the semi-final of the WTA Finals, this was the best of them all, in my opinion. Prior to the tournament, it seemed that Sabalenka had the year-end number-one ranking in the bag. 

The only player who could snatch it from her was Swiatek, who produced some incredible tennis to beat Sabalenka in the semis and then win the tournament. What an ending to the 2023 season, and what a way to top off one of the most entertaining tennis rivalries 2023.

Legendary tennis rivalries 2023 – Novak Djokovic vs Carlos Alcaraz

Come on – was this rivalry not going to make it onto the list? This has been a truly captivating rivalry ever since they first played each other early in the 2022 season. With that said, their rivalry reached new heights in 2023, as the two played each other on four separate occasions.

In line with the legendary status of these two guys, all four matches were played at the semi-final stage or later in the respective events too. This all started with their semi-final showdown at Roland Garros, a match that Djokovic won by overcoming the young Spaniard in a physically gruelling battle.

However, their next encounter was arguably the match of the season. Amazingly, Alcaraz took the Wimbledon throne from Djokovic in a five-set thriller, and many dubbed this victory to be the official ‘changing of the guard’. Then again, we all forgot that Djokovic has built his career on rising to the top when people have doubted him.

‘The Master’ then went on to humble ‘The Apprentice’ in their next two matches of 2023. Personally, I believe that Djokovic’s victory over Alcaraz in the Cincinnati final was one of the most incredible victories of the Serbian’s career. 

After being down and out, he overcame his physical struggles and saved a match point to take down Carlos Alcaraz 7-6 in the third. And he obviously carried this mental battle through to their fourth and final meeting of the season at the ATP Finals.

This is when Djokovic went into a totally different gear – destroying Alcaraz to finish the season with a 3-1 head-to-head record against him.

Jessica Pegula vs Coco Gauff – one of the most unexpected tennis rivalries 2023

Moving back to the WTA Tour again, this was a rivalry that I didn’t see coming to fruition in 2023. Of course, at the beginning of the season, many tennis fans were aware of the kind of tennis that Jessica Pegula was playing. But at that time, Coco Gauff was skating under the radar.

Sure, they were two of the top-ranked Americans, but they hadn’t been involved in any ‘classics’ at that point. However, who would have predicted that this would become one of the top-rated tennis rivalries in 2023? Ultimately, they played each other in three high-level matches during the 2023 season – all at the quarter-finals stage or later.

It was Coco Gauff who won the first of these three matches. She beat Pegula on the grass in Eastbourne, and this was actually her first career win over Pegula. From that point on, Coco Gauff went on a tear on the WTA Tour, playing some phenomenal tennis and winning her first Grand Slam at the 2023 US Open.

But Pegula was defiant in this particular rivalry, holding her own to beat Coco Gauff in both the Montreal quarter-finals and the WTA Finals semis. However, it was the 7-5 in the third victory in Montreal which was the best of the bunch – a truly epic encounter.

Tennis rivalries 2023 – honourable mentions

At this point, we’ve relived the most remarkable tennis rivalries 2023 in terms of the most high-profile ones. However, there are several other rivalries that deserve attention. After all, these rivalries led to some sensational drama, awesome tennis, and they were each captivating for different reasons.

So to top things off today, let me share my honourable mentions for the best tennis rivalries of 2023:

  • Daniil Medvedev vs Alexander Zverev (5-1)
  • Iga Swiatek vs Elena Rybakina (0-3)
  • Elena Rybakina vs Aryna Sabalenka (2-2)
  • Daniil Medvedev vs Jannik Sinner (2-3)
  • Novak Djokovic vs Holger Rune (2-1)
  • Jannik Sinner vs Carlos Alcaraz (2-1)
  • Andy Murray vs Alex de Minaur (0-4)

I could continue, but I don’t want to take up too much of your time with this recap of the incredible tennis rivalries 2023 that we witnessed. With that said, if you look back through the list shared above, you may just remember some of the awesome matches that these individuals participated in against one another.

Whether it was Medvedev and Zverev taking shots at one another in interviews, De Minaur beating Murray multiple times after being down match points, or anything else – it’s undeniable that 2023 was a season to remember in terms of outstanding rivalries. 

And now, all eyes turn to the 2024 Australian Open, which will set the tone for some more great rivalries in 2024!

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