Which ATP star was the king of the comeback in 2023?
The ATP Tour has selected four candidates for the comeback of the season in 2023.
Dominik Koepfer, Gael Monfils, Jan-Lennard Struff and Alexander Zverev are in line for the honour.
Interestingly, three of the four players are German, and the fourth is a player whose life has undergone radical changes of late.
Here, we look at the seasons of the four comeback kings.
After reaching a career-high No 50 in the ATP Rankings in 2021, the German started to feel a persistent soreness in his left arm, particularly when serving. Despite finishing the year with a Round of 16 performance at the Paris Masters, where he overcame Andy Murray and Felix Auger-Aliassime in quick succession, the discomfort persisted and he was forced to take time off.
An MRI, many medical visits, and prescription drugs did little to help the former Tulane All-American, who fell as low as No 262 earlier this year.
“No doctor really knows what it is,” said Koepfer. “It’s probably instability in my shoulder and just maybe some nerve stuff, too, that’s a little stuck. Nothing really helped. I’ve literally tried everything I could. There was no surgery you could do because if there’s no diagnosis, really, you can’t really do anything to fix it.”
He steadily moved back up the rankings after winning the Challenger title at the Mexico City Open in March. In 2023, he would reach five ATP Challenger Tour finals, earn an opening-round match against reigning champion Carlos Alcaraz at the US Open, and finish the year ranked No 77.
Tour veteran Gael Monfils defeated surprise finalist Pavel Kotov 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-3 to become the oldest BNP Paribas Nordic Open victor and win his first title as a father.
“It’s the first time I’ve won a title as a father. She is very special,” said Monfils.
Since turning pro over two decades ago, the ever-athletic Frenchman has had his fair share of physical setbacks. The 2023 campaign was no different. Monfils was hampered by ailments in the earlier half of the season and arrived in Sweden ranked 140th in the ATP Rankings. His trophy run was a monument to his endurance and career-long commitment to the sport. After all, it was Monfils second championship in Stockholm, having won the ATP 250 tournament in 2011.
Jan-Lennard Struff was having a great year, having finished runner-up in the Mutua Madrid Open (when he upended Stefanos Tsitsipas and pushed Carlos Alcaraz in a three-set final as a lucky loser) and in Stuttgart. However, due to a hip ailment, the German was forced to take a break after a No-167-to-No-21 catapult.
While rehabilitating, the right-hander did not pick up a tennis racket for seven weeks, missing three months in total beginning in late June.
All of this added to the significance of his September return, and a 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 victory against Chile’s Cristian Garin in Zhuhai in his first match back. Struff returned to form last month, advancing to his third 2023 semi-final in Sofia.
Of all the players coming back, few had as much to prove as Alexander Zverev who was struck by a horrid foot injury that cut him down as he was taking part in the 2022 French Open semi-final.
Zverev fought his way back up the rankings and worked hard to secure the points to get into the ATP Finals. He would capture the 20th and 21st titles of his career in Hamburg and Chengdu on his way to booking that spot.
“After the injury last year, my first season back, to be back with the top eight players, to be back in Turin, is an achievement for me,” said Zverev.
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