This season has been a year like no other with the ATP Tour being heavily disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have managed to keep the dominance of the Big Three continuing in the men’s game. Although some of their peers are starting to rapidly catch up with them.
Here is everything you need to know about men’s tennis this year.
The Grand Slam stars
The top three players in the ATP year-end rankings won all three Grand Slam tournaments between them, which took place this year.
Novak Djokovic won the eighth Australian Open title of his career after beating Roger Federer in the semifinal and Dominic Thiem in the final in January. The Serbian star became the third man in history to claim eight titles at a Grand Slam event after Rafael Nadal (13 wins at Roland Garros) and Roger Federer (8 wins at Wimbledon).
In August Djokovic made history when he won the Western and Southern Open in New York to complete his second career Golden Masters. He became the only player in history to win all nine ATP Masters 1000 titles.
Djokovic also claimed his 36th Masters 1000 title when he beat Diego Schwartzman in the final of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. Surpassing Rafael Nadal’s record of most ATP Masters 1000 trophies.
He sealed the year-end men’s world number one ranking for the sixth time in the past ten years to go level with Pete Sampras, who ended as Number 1 for six straight years between 1993 and 1998. During the Nitto ATP Finals in London Djokovic received the ATP Number 1 trophy from ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi.
Novak Djokovic: “Pete was somebody I looked up to when I was growing up, so to match his record is a dream come true. I will keep striving to be a better player, hopefully have more success and break more records in a sport I love with all my heart”.
The Spanish “King of Clay” clinched the 13th Roland Garros title and the 20th Grand Slam title of his career, equaling Federer for the most major men’s singles titles won. He didn’t drop a set en route to the Roland Garros title for the fourth time in his career. It was the 86th title of his career and his 60th clay court trophy.
Rafael Nadal: “Winning in Paris means everything to me. The most important moments of my career have been here. I love this city and this court. I played at an amazing level of tennis. For two sets and a half I played great. I can’t say another thing. It’s impossible to have this score against Djokovic without playing great. I played at my highest level when I needed, so it’s something I am very proud of”.
Nadal also won his third title in Acapulco. He advanced to his 12th Australian Open quarter-final and his 15th Rome quarter final, his fifth Paris Bercy semifinal and his first semifinal at the ATP Finals since 2015.
Djokovic and Nadal finished the 2020 season as the top 2 players for the third consecutive year and the fifth time overall. On 9 November 2020 Nadal passed Jimmy Connors for the most consecutive weeks in the top 10 on the ATP Ranking as he has spent a total of 790 consecutive weeks in the tennis elite.
Thiem achieved his best results at Grand Slam tournaments. At the Australian Open he defeated Nadal in four sets to reach the semifinals. He then beat seventh seed Alexander Zverev in four sets to qualify for his first Grand Slam final on a hard court. In the final, Thiem lost to Novak Djokovic in five sets.
Thiem lifted his first Grand Slam title in his fourth career Major final at the US Open after beating Alexander Zverev in four hours and two minutes. He became the first player to win the US Open in a five-set tie-break. He joined 1995 Roland Garros champion Thomas Muster as the second Austrian Grand Slam champion.
At the French Open The player from Wiener Neustadt reached the quarter final where he was beaten by Diego Schwartzman in a five-set match.
Thiem qualified for the ATP Finals for the fifth year in a row. He beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in a re-match of the 2019 final before defeating Nadal in two tie-break in one of the best matches of this year’s edition of the ATP Finals to secure his spot in the semifinals. He defeated Novak Djokovic in three sets but he lost to Daniil Medvedev in the final.
Alexander Zverev Secures Place In ATP Finals With Indian Wells Win
Zverev will be seeking to win the season-ending extravaganza for the second time in his career.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev has become the fourth player to officially qualify for the ATP Finals after reaching the third round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
The world No.4 defeated America’s Jenson Brooksby 6-4, 3-6, 6-1, in his second round match on Sunday which pushed him over the points threshold to secure his spot in the end-of-season event. It is the fifth year in a row he has qualified for the ATP Finals which he won back in 2018. He is one of only three German players to ever win the title after Boris Becker and Michael Stich.
This year’s tournament will take place in Turin, Italy for the first time in history after being held at The O2 Arena in London for more than a decade. Only the eight highest ranked players are eligible to play in the round-robin tournament which has on offer up to 1500 rankings points for an undefeated champion.
“My first time in Turin. I’ve been to London four times before. London is obviously very special to me because I won there, as well. I think the stadium is incredible, one of the most special events that we had,” Zverev told reporters on Sunday.
“But I also love playing in Italy. I had great success in Italy. I won my first Masters in Rome. I’m looking forward to being there. I’m looking forward to playing in front of the Italian fans. It’s going to be a great week.”
The 24-year-old approaches the final quarter of this season with four titles already won this year. He has won two Masters 1000 trophies, an ATP 500 event in Mexico and a gold medal in singles at the Tokyo Olympic Games. Zverev, who has recorded seven wins over top 10 players, also reached the semi-finals at both the French Open and US Open.
Zverev joins Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas as the players who have qualified for the ATP Finals so far. It is the third straight season the quartet has qualified for the event.
This year’s ATP Finals will get underway on November 14th. Medvedev is the defending champion.
Denis Shapovalov Advances After Pospisil Retires In Indian Wells
The battle of the two Canadians didn’t go as planned…
Vasek Pospisil faced off against his fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the second round of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and it was the world number 13 who got the win after the Vernon native pulled out due to an injury whilst trailing 0-3.
It was a rough start for Pospisil who seemed to struggle with his serve in the opening game of the match and double-faulted twice in a row to give the early break and Shapovalov had no issues consolidating the break.
Shapovalov continued to apply pressure on the Pospisil serve and after saving two breakpoints the world number 68 pulled up after a serve and stopped play, calling for the trainer. He ended up taking a medical timeout off the court and a couple of minutes later returned to court. Pospisil was broken once again and the following game after a couple of returns decided to call it quits.
” It was pretty awful…and if I’m being honest I am shaking a bit…It really sucks I hope it’s nothing serious…He’s a great guy he’s a real warrior he’s fought back from some injuries surgeries to such a great level.” Shapovalov said of his compatriot.
Shapovalov will face 19th seed Aslan Karatsev in the next round after the Russian thrashed Salvatore Caruso 6-2, 6-0.
In the other results of the day sixth seeed Casper Ruud dominated Roberto Carballes Baena 6-1, 6-2, Roberto Bautista Agut beat the Argentine Guido Pella 7-5, 6-3 and Sebastien Korda won an all American battle with Frances Tiafoe 6-0, 6-4.
Finally, Diego Schwartzman needed three sets to beat another American in Maxime Cressy winning 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.
Stefanos Tsitsipas Sidesteps Question Over Vaccination Status
The Greek also jokes that he will be having less bathroom breaks in Indian Wells due to one particular reason.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has declined to confirm if he has received a COVID-19 vaccination despite previously saying he planned to do so later this year.
The world No.3 was questioned about the vaccination during his pre-tournament press conference at Indian Wells on Wednesday. Earlier this year Tsitsipas came under fire after saying he doesn’t see a reason why somebody his age needs to be vaccinated and expressed concerns over the potential side effects. He also added that young people catching COVID-19 is a good thing as it helps build up their immunity. Prompting criticism from various people, including a spokesperson for the Greek government.
However, in recent weeks Tsitsipas has changed his stance on the issue and recently told Antenna TV that he will have his first dose by the end of this year. When asked by a reporter in Indian Wells if he has had it yet, the French Open finalist declined to answer.
“I’m sorry but I’m not able to provide any of my medical records,” he said.
Player vaccination rates in tennis are becoming a growing issue amid reports that the Australian Open may only allow fully vaccinated players to participate due to a health mandate which has been implemented by the local government. There is yet to be a formal announcement by Tennis Australia regarding their entry requirements. However, The Age newspaper reports that there is a ‘strong likelihood’ that only vaccinated players will be allowed entry by Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton.
Tsitsipas’ immediate focus is on this week’s BNP Paribas Open where he is the second seed behind Daniil Medvedev. Speaking about the conditions, the 23-year-old joked it was ‘very dry’ and therefore he will be having less bathroom breaks during matches. Referring to the recent criticism he has received from some of his peers over the timing of breaks he takes.
“It’s very dry here,” Tsitsipas said.
“That is good for me because I sweat less, which makes for less bathroom breaks, which makes for less complaints. So a very good sign so far,” he added with a smile.
The hope for Tsitsipas is that he will be able to build on his recent experience at the Laver Cup where he helped Europe secure their fourth consecutive title. The event provides players with the opportunity to work alongside each other in a team format. Something Tsitsipas relished but he is ready to get back to singles duty.
“I think team competitions are necessary for our sport and we don’t get to be united a lot,” he said. “We always kind of focus on ourselves and our things and environment and that is what you usually see on Tour. Players doing their own thing. Not much socialising.
“At the Laver Cup, we all get to have dinners together and all get to hang out with each other. Of course, though, we all have our competitiveness and if we get stuck around we might share too much with one another, that is the mentality behind it.”
Tsitsipas is yet to win a main draw match in Indian Wells. He will start his 2021 bid against either qualifier Roberto Marcora or Spain’s Pedro Martinez.
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