Novak Djokovic: 2020 Season Review

In what was an unprecedented 2020 season, there was at least one sense of normality, Novak Djokovic continued to show the tennis world why he will be considered as one of the greatest players to play this sport. Securing a record 6th Year end number one spot at the top of the ATP rankings, Djokovic’s consistent performances on the ATP Tour continued despite the long delay due to Covid in the middle of the season. However, as with all players, even the World Number 1 had his fair share of controversies both on and off the court.

Dominant Down Under and Pre-Lockdown

The start of the 2020 season, saw events such as the Sydney International and Hopman Cup replaced by the inaugural ATP Cup. Having suffered a hugely disappointing defeat in the quarterfinals of the Davis Cup a few months earlier, with Djokovic and Troicki having a match-point in the deciding doubles rubber, Djokovic and Serbia came with a point to prove.

Serbia topped their group, with Djokovic getting his 2020 season off to the ideal start, with singles victories over Kevin Anderson, Gael Monfils and Christian Garin, all in straight sets. However, in the quarterfinals against Canada, Djokovic faced his first real challenge of the season, losing his first set of the season in the first set of his match against Denis Shapovalov 4-6. However, Djokovic immediately upped his level in the second set winning it 6-1. The third set was settled by a final set tiebreak, with Djokovic prevailing 7-4, thus securing Serbia’s place in the semi-finals against Russia. Djokovic came through in one of the matches of the year against Danil Medvedev , clinching Serbia’s place in the final win a 6-1 5-7 6-4 victory. The final saw Serbia matched up against Davis Cup winners Spain. Trailing 1-0 in the Tie, Djokovic needed to defeat Rafael Nadal in their singles match in order to force a deciding doubles rubber. The World Number 1 did just that, with a 6-2 7-6 win. Djokovic then partnered Troicki against Feliciano Lopez and Pablo Carreno Busta in the deciding doubles rubber. This time the pair won in straight sets. Much like Nadal had lead Spain to the Davis Cup title the previous November, Djokovic lead Serbia to the inaugural ATP Cup title.

The ATP Cup gave Djokovic perfect preparation leading into his defense of his Australian Open title. After dropping the third set of his first round to Jan-Lennard Struff, Djokovic didn’t drop another set on route to the final, recording impressive victories over Diego Schwartzman and Milos Raonic. In the first set of his semi-final against Roger Federer, the Swiss got off to a fast start and a 4-1 lead, and it looked like the world number 1 was in for a long night on the Rod Laver Arena. However, Djokovic managed to weather the early storm, with the Swiss failing to secure a double break. Djokovic took the first set in the tiebreak and didn’t look back recording a straight sets win.

The final against Dominic Thiem proved to be his most testing since the epic 5hr 53 minute 2012 final with Nadal. Taking the first set 6-4 and securing a break in the second, Djokovic looked well on course for his eighth Australian Open title. However, with Umpire Damien Dumosois given him a time violation, Djokovic lost his focus and Thiem pounced taking the next two sets 6-4 6-2 and securing a break in the fourth. On the ropes, Djokovic went to a desperate tactic at a last resort. He successfully served and volleyed. This proved to rejuvenate his charge and from there, Djokovic began to showcase his ability to fight back from the brink and used his experience to win a thrilling match 6-4 in the fifth. Undoubtedly the high point of his 2020 season, Djokovic again proved himself as the greatest hard-court player of his generation.

After success Australia, Djokovic played only one more tournament before the lock-down, winning the ATP 500 event in Dubai, saving match-point against Gael Monfils in the semi-final before going on to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final. At this point it was not inconceivable to many that Djokovic could have his best season or even go unbeatable. Unfortunately, the week Indian Wells was meant to be played, the rising threat of Covid-19 put a temporary stop to tennis and all sports throughout the world.

The Adria Tour and conflicts with Journalists

The events of the Adria Tour have been so well covered, that it is hardly necessary to go into detail about what happened. It was certainly not Novak Djokovic’s finest hour, however what many seem to forget was that it was well-intentioned as a way to kick start the tennis season again. Djokovic, in setting up the tournament complied with government guidelines and limited fans were allowed into the venues. However, it was also not the finest moments for many members of the tennis media, who took a disliking to the event almost immediately and seemed to forgot that the Covid infections where the tournament was being held were of a far less number than their own countries. When pictures surfaced of players in close proximity of each other in a nightclub surfaced, quite rightly many were outraged and covid-infections put a stop to the tour.

The US Swing

The ATP Tour officially restarted in August, with the Western and Southern Open being played within a bubble at the Billie-Jean King Tennis Center. The World Number 1 picked up right from where he left off, making the semi-finals with relative ease. However, in the semis, Roberto Bautista-Agut provided a much tougher test. This was to be expected as the Spaniard has beaten the Serb three times on hard courts, including most recently in Miami last year. The match was one of the best of the season, with both men exchanging in lung-bursting rallies from the back of the court. At 2-5 down in the final set, much like so many times when he has looked down and out in his career, Djokovic fought back to take the match into a tiebreak. Djokovic then went on to play a perfect tiebreak, winning 7-0, thus securing his place in the final against Milos Raonic. The Canadian had been playing some of his best tennis that week, looking dominant on serve, only dropping one set en route to the final, a run that included impressive straight sets wins over in form Dan Evans and Stefanos Tsitsipas. Raonic started the final well, taking advantage of a slow start from the world number 1, quickly taking the first set 6-1. However, Djokovic upped his level and won the next two sets 6-3 6-4 securing a second Western and Southern Open title.

The US Open started routinely for Djokovic and despite a tough second round match with Kyle Edmund with the Brit playing lights out tennis for the opening hour, taking the first set in a tiebreak, one of only two tiebreaks Djokovic lost all year, Edmund could not sustain his level, with Djokovic winning in four sets. A third win of the year against Jan-Lennard Struff followed, setting up a fourth round match with Pablo-Carreno Busta, who had shown form the previous week at the Western and Southern Open winning the doubles title with Alex De-Minaur.

Djokovic failed to take opportunities in the opening set, leading to a build up of frustration. Everyone knows what happened next, with Djokovic accidentally firing the ball into a lines woman’s throat, resulting in disqualification from the tournament. Undoubtedly the worst day of his career, Djokovic was correctly disqualified, however some of the press reactions were ridiculous, with one pundit suggesting anger management classes. Djokovic, already a figure certain parts of the tennis media love to vilify, was

Main Photo: