The 2020 season is over, here are some closing thoughts on the ATP Finals and Daniil Medvedev’s big win.
1. MEDVEDEV’S NOVEMBER TO REMEMBER
I picked Daniil Medvedev at the start of the event only because he had won the Paris Masters. The guy had a lousy year to coming into November — 0 Top 10 wins, 0 tournament finals — but as we saw in 2019, when the guy gets going he really gets going.
I thought with Novak Djokovic’s head not right, Rafael Nadal not having a great record in London, Alexander Zverev dealing with a domestic abuse issue and the lack of anyone else standing out, I figured Medvedev could sneak it out. And he did just that.
Unfortunately for Medvedev, and his 10-match win streak, there are no more events and we don’t know when the next one will be!
2. THIEM LETS ANOTHER ONE SLIP AWAY
Credit to Dominic Thiem for making these big finals, but the Austrian seems to have an issue in these top tier title matches.
He was lucky to have won in New York. Blew leads at the ATP Finals last year and in Melbourne, and Sunday was up a set and in control until a couple costly misses in that second set on break points. That took some air out and Medvedev pushed to a breaker, ran off seven points and then got another break in the third to seal it.
Good thing for Thiem is won that first Masters at the 2019 Indian Wells event over Roger Federer and got that US Open title, so the monkey is off his back. But I feel there’s something going on with him when he gets into a big-time final.
And if you look at his finals the last 18 months, all of them were tough, tight matches. I guess easy wins in big matches are just not in his DNA.
3. BIG 3 ERA ENDING?
Despite a 5th straight year coming away empty in London, I’m no where near ready to shovel dirt on the Big 3.
Roger Federer plans his return in January, and who knows. Last time he took an extended break he ended up winning another Australian Open!
Djokovic will be favored in every hard court match to start the year in Australia where he is nearly unbeatable. And I think a month or two off the court will help the Serb clear his head and come to terms with that US Open default.
And I think Nadal will still be dominant on the clay…for one last year.
4. BE THANKFUL, BE GRATEFUL
Six months ago in May, with the pandemic raging, it did not look good that any tennis would be played let alone two Slams, two Masters, the ATP Finals and a number of other events.
So even though our favorites may not have won, we should be thankful there was tennis at all.
5. THE ZVEREV ISSUE
I didn’t expect big things last week from Alexander Zverev because of his domestic abuse case which is hanging over him.
So far, the girlfriend has accused the German star of abuse. But no action has been taken.
I guess until the girlfriend brings forth charges, he’ll stay in limbo. But the ATP or German Federation should have taken a harder line and maybe told Zverev to sit out until there is a resolution. It just doesn’t look good for a star player to continue to play while there are substantial accusations in the public domain.
6. TOUR GOING ITALIAN
Funny how it works that as soon as the ATP Finals are set to move to Italy (in Turin), the Italians have a decent future in the men’s game with established Top 10 threat Jannik Sinner and another teen in 18-year-old Lorenzo Musetti, both of whom could one day play in the event during the 5-year run in Turin (I think Sinner will make the field in 2022).
But it was a great 12-year, near flawless span in London. Turin has a tough act to follow.
7. BRYANS LEAVE VOID IN TENNIS
With the American great Bryan twins officially retiring earlier in the year, the two groups in the field were appropriately named after Bob and Mike.
The exit also left the dour open. Wide open, and look what happened.
Incredibly, a team that had never won a title together before, Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic, took home the top prize at the ATP Finals. Imagine a player winning his first singles title at the Finals. That’s what happened.
It’s pure madness on the doubles tour.
8. WHO’S NEXT
So with Medvedev and Thiem battling in London, and earlier Thiem and Zverev in the US Open final, you can certainly see the makings of an even bigger surge next year for the younger guys. I think the Big 3’s 15-year stranglehold over the Top 2 rankings ends at some point in 2021, assuming the rankings start rolling like normal.
Medvedev and Thiem are the top guys. Zverev is in there. Stefanos Tsitsipas I do wonder if he’s hit a temporary ceiling — maybe needs a high profile coach — and there are guys like Andrey Rublev, Sinner and the Canadians Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime.
There’s also another lower tier in which I’ll put Karen Khachanov, Matteo Berrettini, Ugo Humbert, Reilly Opelka, Hubert Hurkacz, Borna Coric, Taylor Fritz and Alex De Minaur.
I think next year you might start to see some separation as Medvedev, Thiem, Zverev, the Canadians and Sinner keep moving up. Shapovalov and FAA are still three years younger than Medvedev, and if they learn some defensive skills like Thiem has done, watch out. Those two, to me, have the greatest upside.
The problem for the young guys and for everyone is what will happen with 2021 as this pandemic continues.
The good news is tennis was able to prove it could hold successful, safe events.
The problem is the virus isn’t going away.
We do have a vaccine(s) coming, so there is hope. But in the near-term, there’s still a lot of uncertainty with the schedule and when 2021 will exactly begin.
Let’s hope soon!
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