Hunter’s Newcombe Medal nomination caps unforgettable year
Storm Hunter, Australia’s first year-end doubles world No.1 in 17 years, is one of six Newcombe Medal nominees in 2023.
“It’s honestly crazy, and to finish year-end No.1, it’s kind of amazing,” said Storm Hunter, the first Australian player to end a season atop the doubles rankings since 2006.
“To be honest, I don’t really believe it. It’s still kind of weird to say out loud, and I get a little bit emotional when I start to think about it, just because of my journey.”
Five years after her 2018 season was decimated by a shoulder injury – one of many physical health problems she would endure – Hunter developed into one of the fiercest forces in the tandem game in 2023.
She won 44 matches and reached five tournament finals, winning two – results helping her achieve her rankings milestone and which later saw her nominated for the 2023 Newcombe Medal.
She will join fellow nominees Alex de Minaur, Matt Ebden, Rinky Hijikata, Alexei Popyrin and Matt Purcell at the Australian Tennis Awards gala event in Melbourne on 11 December.
Partnering Belgium’s Elise Mertens, Hunter won WTA 1000 titles in Rome and Guadalajara and also reached the Wimbledon final.
She and Mertens had never played together before 2023 but enjoyed immediate success, storming into the Australian Open quarterfinals in their very first event.
It set the tone for a magnificent season, during which they won 31 of 42 matches and qualified for the season-ending WTA Finals, where they went 3-0 in the group stage before narrowly losing their semifinal.
Hunter’s performance at the WTA Finals confirmed she would end the year at doubles world No.1, emulating Sam Stosur in 2006.
“Sam is someone that I’ve looked up to for such a long time; I was in her box when I was a junior player at Roland Garros, when she played in the semifinal there. She’s always been an inspiration and a role model,” Hunter said.
“She was one of the first people that reached out and congratulated me which was really special, considering she was the last Australian to reach the year-end No.1.
“It’s kind of an amazing achievement and to have the recognition from her as well is very special.”
Hunter was able to pip world No.2 Mertens in the rankings thanks to her success with other partners; she reached the Adelaide final with Katerina Siniakova and the Birmingham final alongside Alycia Parks.
Elsewhere, she continued to build on her impressive record representing Australia, winning both her doubles rubbers in the Billie Jean King Cup Finals in Seville.
When you factor in her singles win over Kazakh Anna Danilina, she went 3-0 in the competition in 2023, and now owns an excellent 10-4 record overall.
Singles is the next frontier for Hunter, who is targeting more individual success in 2024.
In 2023, she qualified for Roland Garros and Wimbledon as well as upsetting world No.22 Donna Vekic in Hamburg.
“I think for my singles the sky is the limit,” said Hunter, who is still targeting a Grand Slam title in women’s doubles.
“I really believe I can play at that level. I’ve been lucky enough to be practising singles with top-10 players on a weekly basis at the events, which is really cool and a great opportunity.
“Hopefully I can kind of translate a little bit of the doubles success into my singles, as well.”
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