Not too many players moved into the Top 20 this year, which is understandable considering the rankings freeze. Veterans Roberto Bautista Agut and Stan Wawrinka both fell slightly, but each player had a solid season to prove that they still belong in the top-20 in their 30s. Fabio Fognini struggled throughout 2020, and he will be grateful for the rankings adjustment.
16. Pablo Carreno Busta
Win/loss record (tour-level matches): 20-12
2019 rank: #27 (+11)
Pablo Carreno Busta was one of the stars of 2020, especially for casual fans, as he played his best tennis on the biggest stages. He began the year ranked 30th and had a decent third round showing at the Australian Open. Carreno Busta had a great run in Rotterdam, reaching the semifinal and scoring a win over countryman Roberto Bautista Agut in the process. He had won enough to improve his ranking to #25 before the break, but his peak of the season was yet to come.
He had a breakthrough performance at the US Open, reaching the semifinal for the second time in his career. Many considered him lucky to beat world #1 Novak Djokovic by default in the fourth round, but he broke Djokovic’s serve at 5-5 after defending multiple set points the previous game, leading frustration that caused the disqualification. To further prove he deserved his spot, the Spaniard topped Denis Shapovalov in a thrilling five-set quarterfinal.
He showed his abilities on all surfaces by reaching the quarterfinal at the French Open, equaling his career-best result at the tournament. He finished the year on a high note with a quarterfinal at the Paris Masters, losing to Rafael Nadal for the third time in 2020 at a Masters or Grand Slam event. Carreno Busta showed he can played with the top players after an excellent second half of 2020, and will rocket up the rankings if he continues his form. In fact, he would already be ranked higher if not for the frozen rankings.
17. Fabio Fognini
Win/loss record (tour-level matches): 6-10
2019 rank: #12 (-5)
Fognini is a bit tough to judge in his recent results due to limited play, but the Italian had a terrible season by any measure. After mixed results down under to start 2020, Fognini made the Round of 16 at the Australian Open, winning two five-set battles in the process. This tournament would end up accounting for half of his wins for the entire season. After three losses in a row on hard courts, Fognini seemed to be perfectly suited to make a run in the final months of the year as the season turned to clay, the Italian’s favorite surface.
The clay courts did not do him any favors, though. He lost three of his first four matches in straight sets. Fognini ended his year at Roland Garros, where the former French Open quarterfinalist lost to World #88 Mikhail Kukushkin in a disappointing end to a tough year. Fognini has said his focus is on 2021 and he is motivated, but he will have to play very different tennis to remain a top player.
18. Stan Wawrinka
Win/loss record (tour-level matches): 15-8
2019 rank: #16 (-2)
Wawrinka had been dealing with some injuries and entering his age-35 season, many felt his time on tour was limited. The Swiss proved throughout 2020 that he will not be stepping down anytime soon. Wawrinka started 2020 strong with a quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open, highlighted by a five-set victory over Daniil Medvedev.
Wawrinka opted out of traveling to the United States for virus concerns, but picked up a Challenger title in Prague, his first title of any kind since 2017. He was upset in the third round at Roland Garros by the exciting young Frenchman Hugo Gaston, but recovered to finish strong at the Paris Masters, making the quarterfinal and defeating Andrey Rublev along the way. The Swiss continued to be the player he has been much of his career. He does not dominate throughout the year, but he proved dangerous each time he took the court, and is poised to come into 2021 strong.
19. Grigor Dimitrov
Win/loss record (tour-level matches): 18-11
2019 rank: #20 (+1)
Dimitrov was hoping to build on a successful 2019, which saw him reach the US Open semifinals for the first time. He is another player who had an average start to the season then played his best after the break. Ironically, his best tennis came after recovering from COVID-19 in June. The Bulgarian did not advance past the second round of his first three tournaments, but had an encouraging result in Acapulco, reaching the semifinal and topping Stan Wawrinka along the way. He did not have a chance to build off that result as tennis shut down. Dimitrov found himself in the news during the break in the worst way, part of the controversial Adria Tour. He was even accused of being the person who brought the virus to the other players.
Dimitrov was able to regroup, and finish the year strong just as he had in 2019. Two more second round losses in Cincinnati and the US Open seemed bad portents, but his fortune completely changed when the tour moved back to Europe. He reached the quarterfinals at the Rome Masters and the round of 16 at the French Open. He finished strong on the indoor hard courts with a semifinal appearance in Antwerp and a quarterfinal in Vienna, including a win over Stefanos Tsitsipas, his sole victory over a Top 15 player in 2020. Dimitrov has a lot of good results to build in in the latter half of the year, but he will need to compete with the game’s top players more consistently if he wants to get back to the Top 10.
20. Karen Khachanov
Win/loss record (tour-level matches): 20-15
2019 rank: #17 (-3)
Khachanov had an average year for a player of his talent, with a 20-15 record while failing to reach an individual semifinal or final. The Russian began the year ranked #17 and finished at #20, aided by the frozen rankings. While lacking in deep runs, Khachanov was consistent, winning at least two matches at every Grand Slam. The season’s highlights included playing a large role in Russia’s semifinal appearance at the ATP Cup, reaching the fourth round at Roland Garros, and topping Pablo Carreno Busta in “Cincinnati” a week before the Spaniard would reach the US Open semifinal. Khachanov will look to forget most of 2020 and get back to his form in 2018-19. At age 24 he is poised to prove he belongs in the Top 20.
Main Photo from Getty.