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ATP Year in Review: Top 5, Including Djokovic, Nadal, and Federer

The 2020 ATP Tennis season was unique for many reasons. Whilst the Covid-19 outbreak brought disruption to the tour, the one thing that remained constant were the players at the top of the ATP Rankings. Here is a review of the 2020 season for each ATP Player ranked from 1-5.

1. Novak Djokovic

The World number 1 enjoyed another fantastic year on the ATP Tour. Djokovic’s 2020 season began with impressive singles victories over Gael Monfils, Kevin Anderson, Danil Medvedev, Denis Shapovalov and Rafael Nadal in the inaugural ATP Cup, leading Serbia to victory over Spain in the final. At the Australian Open, the Serb continued his dominance at Melbourne Park, recovering from a slow start to defeat Roger Federer in the semi-finals, before seeing off an inspired Dominic Thiem to lift his eighth Australian Open title. A title in Dubai followed, and Djokovic was looking unbeatable.

During and after he pandemic, he World number 1 found himself embroiled in controversy, both on and off the court. The shut down of the Adria Tour due to positive covid tests lead to criticism from many in the media. However, when tennis resumed Djokovic continued his impressive form, winning the Western and Southern Open title, with his epic three set win over Roberto Bautista-Agut being one of the matches of the year. However, at the US Open, in the fourth round, Djokovic endured one of the low points of his career, being disqualified from the tournament, after accidentally hitting a tennis ball into a line judge during the first set of his match with Pablo Carreno Busta. However, Djokovic picked himself up quickly, winning the masters 100o title in Rome and reaching the final at Roland Garros, suffering his first defeat of the year to Rafael Nadal, who was in imperious form. Djokovic will perhaps be dissapointed with how his 2020 season ended, suffering a shock defeat to Lorenzo Sonego in Vienna, before going on to lose a thrilling three set match with Dominic Thiem in the semi-finals of the ATP Finals at the O2. However, overall the 2020 season was a successful one for Djokovic and despite disappointment in New York and London, the world number 1 looks likely to stay at the very top of the game for the foreseeable future

2. Rafael Nadal

The World Number 2 had a good 2020 season, which saw the Spaniard lift his thirteenth Roland Garros title. At the start of the year, Nadal won four out of his six ATP Cup singles matches, losing to David Goffin and Novak Djokovic in straight sets. However, he did recover from a set down to beat Alex De-Minaur in the semi-finals and won his other three matches in straight sets. At the Australian Open, the Spaniard won his first three rounds with relative ease in straight sets, before beating Nick Kyrgios in the fourth round, dropping the second set before going on to win the third and fourth sets in tiebreaks. However, Nadal lost a tight four set match against Dominic Thiem in the quarterfinals, losing the first, second and fourth sets all on tiebreaks. Before covid shut down the ATP Tour, Nadal won the title in Acapulco without dropping a set and included wins over Grigor Dimitrov and Taylor Fritz.

Nadal decided against traveling to the US after the tour resumed, instead deciding to focus his efforts on preparing for the clay court season. Nadal returned to court in Rome, and it was as if he had never been away losing only two games in his opening round win over Pablo Carreno Busta.  After a straight sets win over Dusan Lajovic in the third round, Nadal suffered a shock straight sets defeat to Diego Schwartzman, where his first serve percentage let him down, but Schwartzman played one of the best matches of his career. However at Roland Garros, it was business as usual for the king of clay, where across the whole two weeks he did not drop a set on route to winning the title, a run that culminated in an exemplary performance in the final against Novak Djokovic, where he won the first set 6-0. Nadal ended his season with the Paris Masters and Nitto ATP Finals. With Djokovic not playing in the former, many wondered whether this was the Spaniards best chance of winning his first indoor title since 2007. However, Nadal never looked at ease on the surface, narrowly coming through through three setters against fellow Spaniards Feliciano Lopez and Pablo Carreno Busta as well as a tricky third round match against Jordan Thompson en route to the semi-finals where he was beaten in straight sets by Alexander Zverev. At the Nitto ATP Finals, Nadal qualified for the semi-finals with victories over Rublev and Tsitsipas, but was beaten in two tight sets by Dominic Thiem. The semi-final match against Medvedev saw Nadal squander a dominant position, as Medvedev came back to win in three sets. Overall, a solid season for Nadal, that solidified that he is still very much the man to beat at Roland Garros.

Dominic Thiem

The Austrian enjoyed the best season of his career to date, as he won his first grand-slam title in New York after reaching his first hard court grand slam final of his career at the Australian Open in January. However, his season did not get off to the best of starts, as he lost two of his three singles matches at the ATP Cup, losing to Hubert Hurkacz and Borna Coric in three sets. However, at the Australian Open, Thiem had a great run to the final, recording an important first victory against Rafa Nadal at a grand slam in the quarterfinals, before going onto beat Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals. In the final against Djokovic, Thiem was dominated in the first set, before rallying back to gain a two sets to one lead. Despite losing in five sets, Thiem made a breakthrough at a hard court grand slam, something that would stand him in good stead for the rest of the season. Going into the Rio Open, Thiem was number 1 seed, and favourite for the tournament. However, he struggled to find his form, culminating in a disappointing defeat in the quarterfinals to Gianluca Mager. After lockdown, Thiem suffered a bitterly disappointing defeat to Filip Krajinovic, winning only three games.

In New York, Thiem was given a tough draw, however he began to find his form. Coming through Marin Cilic in four sets in the third round, the Austrian went on to claim impressive straight set wins over Felix Auger Aliassime, Alex De Minaur and Danil Medvedev to reach his second grand slam final of the season. In the final against Zverev, Thiem made a tentative start, dropping the opening two sets. However, much like in Australia, Thiem fought back to take it to a deciding set. Both players showed nerves, however Thiem proved to be mentally tougher than the German and came through in the final set tiebreak. Where many players would have given up, Thiem did not give in and deservedly won his first grand slam title. As a result of a grueling US Open, Thiem did not play in Rome and at Roland Garros Thiem reached the quarterfinals, before losing in five sets to an inspired Diego Schwartzman, perhaps suffering from the fatigue of New York. In Vienna, the Austrian, suffering from a foot injury, lost in the quarterfinals to Andrey Rublev. At the Nitto ATP Finals, Thiem won two of his three group matches, including a straight sets win over Nadal. In the semi-finals Thiem defeated Djokovic in an epic three set semi-final to set up a final with Danil Medvedev. The final played out in a similar way to the final of the previous year, with Thiem taking the first set, before going on to lose the match. The defeat was undoubtedly a disappointing end to what has been a very successful season for Thiem, with the promise of more success to come in 2021.

Danil Medvedev

Often unfairly overlooked by many in the past, Danil Medvedev enjoyed a good start to the 2020 season, winning four of his five singles matches at the ATP Cup, losing only to Novak Djokovic in one of the best matches of the year. However, at the Australian open, having come through a potential banana skin in his open round victory against Francis Tiafoe, the Russian lost in the fourth round to Stan Wawrinka, having been two sets to one up. Disappointing defeats to Pospisil and Simon in Rotterdam and Marseille followed with Medvedev struggling to find the form he showed at the end of the 2019 season.

Post-lockdown, Medvedev reached the quarterfinals in at the Western-and Southern Open, losing to Roberto Bautista-Agut.  A run to the semi-finals of the US Open final followed, with the Russian showing glimpses of his best form in victories over Tiafoe and Medvedev, however he was beaten in straight sets by Thiem in the semi-finals. A disappointing clay court season saw Medvedev lose in the opening rounds of Munich and Roland Garros, however on the indoor courts at the end of the year, Medvedev began to play his best tennis, winning both the Paris Masters and the Nitto ATP Finals. The final in Paris proved that Medvedev is one of the best tactical players in the game, being able to change his tactics mid-match to win the last two sets of the final. Wins over Djokovivc, Nadal and Thiem in London showed that despite his different technique, Medvedev has the talent and tactics to beat the worlds best. An up-and-down season overall, but Medvedev has the game to win a grand-slam, however improvements on the clay should be his focus during the off season.

Roger Federer

Only playing at the Australian Open in 2020, Roger Federer reached the semi-finals, getting off to a great start against Novak Djokovic by going an early break up before succumbing to the world number 1 in straight sets. Federer’s shutdown on the 2020 season and the 2021 Australian Open poses more questions than answers. The standard of play is constantly improving, and with players like Thiem, Medvedev and Zverev gaining more confidence, it’ll be harder for Federer than ever before to win the big events. Lets hope he fully recovers from injury and gets back to competing at the highest level.

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