The countdown to the 2023 season is underway. As we close in on the start of the new, dual-gender United Cup (December 29), TENNIS.com's writers will debate the 10 biggest questions heading into the new tennis year.


Can the WTA find a challenger for Iga Swiatek?

Peter Bodo: When Swiatek won the French Open for the first time in 2020, some suggested it was mainly because defending champion and world No. 1 Ash Barty did not play due to the outbreak of the Covid pandemic. At that point, Naomi Osaka already had two major titles—and a lock on the buzz. Serena Williams was still a threat to win any time she set foot on a court. Just months earlier, crafty American upstart Sofia Kenin had punched through at the Australian Open.

Now, Williams and Barty are out of the game, Osaka may not be far behind, and Kenin has been floundering. Nobody has come close to showing the consistency and drive of Swiatek, or the simple love of the sport that powered her to eight singles titles in 2022. In the Top 10, only Caroline Garcia came close, with four titles, while four members of the group didn’t even win once. It Swiatek’s tour to dominate.


Ed McGrogan: Arnya Sabalenka is 2-4 against Swiatek, with three of those losses clinical defeats. But barring a resurgence from Osaka, I believe she’s the tour’s best candidate for a tough task. When it’s clicking, Sabalenka’s game is simply strong enough to at least withstand Swiatek’s shotmaking symphony. I thought Iga to win the WTA Finals was the easiest bet on the board in November, but it was Sabalenka who shook off a 6-2 second-set loss and shocked Swiatek in the semis. Interestingly, all of their matches have occurred over the past 12 months. Sabalenka must become more consistent to be seen as a true rival, but if nothing else, she’s gotten some important reps.

HIGHLIGHTS: Sabalenka's semifinal win over Swiatek at the WTA Finals


David Kane: The WTA already found one at its Finals. After struggling mightily to solve Swiatek over four matches in 2022, Sabalenka found the fifth time lucky as she grounded the world No. 1 in three sets in the semifinals. Sabalenka's power game is the exact antidote to Swiatek's otherwise unbeatable mix of spins and athleticism, and if she can retain the patience and discipline she displayed in Fort Worth, tennis fans got a first look at what ought to be a very exciting rivalry.

That's an awfully big "if" considering Sabalenka's tendency towards more erratic tennis, but after reworking her serve and putting together a strong season finale, there are few match-ups I'm more excited to see in 2023.


Steve Tignor: When Barty suddenly retired in March, it seemed likely that a prolonged scramble to replace her at the top would ensue. Instead, by the end of that month, Swiatek had assumed the role of a dominant No. 1. And after her 67-9, two-Slam season, she looks like she’s in the top spot to stay.

Can anyone rise to her level in 2023? Swiatek’s mix of power and consistency overwhelmed everyone’s defenses last year; she went 13-2 against Top 10 opponents. But there were two players who began to challenge her late in the season: Ons Jabeur pushed Swiatek to the second-set limit in the US Open final, and Sabalenka beat her at the WTA Finals. Swiatek vs. Jabeur would be an appealing clash of styles and sensibilities; but Sabalenka may have a better chance of beating Swiatek at her own game.