The 2023 ATP season was arguably one of Novak Djokovic’s greatest calendar years. With the absence of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, the Serbian world No. 1 claimed three grand slam titles and topped the year off with victory at the season-ending ATP Finals. That made him just the second player after Federer to win three grand slams and the ATP Finals in multiple ATP seasons during the Open Era (something he also achieved in 2015).
Djokovic’s dominance at the top of the game is nothing new. Since 2008 – the year of Djokovic’s first grand slam title at the Australian Open – the Serb has won 35% of all grand slams on offer (24/63).
His only stiff competition through most of the 2023 season came in the form of Carlos Alcaraz. The young Spaniard was the only player who managed to stop Djokovic realising his dream of a Grand Slam year, with Alcaraz winning a five-set thriller in the Wimbledon Final.
According to Opta’s Live Win Predictor, Djokovic was a 63% favourite to win his record-levelling eighth Wimbledon title before the start of that match. After taking the first set comfortably (6-1), his win probability increased to 74%. To put into context just how monumental Alcaraz’s comeback was, Djokovic only lost one other game in 2023 in which he had a win projection of 74% or more after the first set. Not to mention the fact that it had been over 2,000 days since he’d last lost a match at Wimbledon (2,195 days against Tomas Berdych in 2017).
Alcaraz, though, was undeterred, breaking Djokovic’s first service game of the second set. The Serb then fought back to win the next two games to push the set to a tie-break. In probably one of the best sets of tennis witnessed on Centre Court in recent memory, 20-year-old Alcaraz won the tie-break 8-6 to level the match at 1-1.
And yet the win probability at that point still favoured Djokovic (67%).
Alcaraz continued his momentum into the third set, winning it 6-1, and for the first time in the match the win probability swung his way.
Djokovic took the fourth and Alcaraz the fifth to make the Spaniard the third-youngest player in the Open Era to win his first Men’s singles title at Wimbledon after Boris Becker (in 1985) and Bjorn Borg (1976).
But coming into a game as the underdog wasn’t a regular occurrence for Alcaraz. Across the 2023 season, he won 60 matches as the pre-game favourite, more than anyone else on tour.
According to our model – which has been trained on 10+ years of historical point-by-point data from the ATP – Alcaraz also played a part in the greatest upset of 2023, which came in the third round of the Rome Masters.
The Spaniard was world No. 2 two at that time and a 96% pre-match favourite against Hungarian qualifier Fabian Marozsan (world No. 135). Even after losing the first set, Alcaraz still had a 94% chance to win the match. Marozsan won the second set in a tie-break, though, to seal the upset of the year.
Player With Most Wins as Underdog in 2023
During the 2023 ATP season, Dusan Lajovic and Christopher Eubanks were the underdog kings. Both won 14 matches when they came into the game with a lower win probability than their opponents.
Lajovic’s biggest victory was beating Djokovic at the Srpska Open – pre-match the Opta win probability model had given him just a 12% chance of doing so.
It was the only time Lajovic had beaten a world No. 1, having recorded three wins against top-five opponents in his career. He would go on to win his second ATP title and first after 2019 when he won at Umag.
Eubanks’ biggest win in his career to date came at Wimbledon when he defeated fifth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Greek was a 70% pre-game favourite, but the young American beat him in five sets. While that will go down as the biggest win in his fledgling career, statistically speaking his most unlikely victory came against Cameron Norrie in the second round. Home favourite Norrie was given a 76% likelihood of winning the game. Again, Eubanks would win the match in five sets.
Opta’s Live Win Probability model enables us to determine the key moments when a tournament or match is won and lost, and predict the likelihood of either player winning a set or game during any given scenario.