A look back on 2020 – A year we hope is never repeated

Dec 4, 2020, 11:14:30 AM | by Craig Gabriel

Tennis ball
On the first day of the year, there was excitement in the air as we looked ahead to what should have been a tennis year of thrills and excitement. Things were on a high coming off 2019 but suddenly the bright lights began to dim and went off. It was as if darkness had descended and you wondered if the brightness of a new day would begin. But let’s look back and go with the highs and lows.

JANUARY

The season started in sensational fashion with the inaugural ATP Cup played across Australia in Perth, Brisbane and Sydney where ethe finals also happened. The final went down to the deciding doubles and Serbia, led by Novak Djokovic won the championship beating Spain, led by Rafa Nadal 2-1. In Adelaide, Ash Barty won her first title on home soil and was the first Aussie woman to win at home since 1995.

The Australian Open began in trying and challenging conditions as smoke from bushfires blanketed Melbourne, then rain caused issues but once nature had its say, the event was an incredible success as record crowds at Melbourne Park created an atmosphere second to none.

The women’s final was unexpected as American Sofia Kenin claimed the title beating Garbine Muguruza 46 64 62. Kenin beat Barty in the semis and Muguruza stopped Simona Halep.

In the men’s, Djokovic created history winning a record eighth title beating Dominic Thiem in a stunning and gripping final – from start to finish it was edge of the seat stuff 64 46 26 63 64. The semis were a great generational mix as Thiem beat Alexander Zverev and Djokovic beat Roger Federer.

Djokovic

FEBRUARY

Gael Monfils won back-to-back titles for the first time in his career. Novak Djokovic won Dubai beating Stefanos Tsitsipas while Simona Halep won the Dubai womens. In Doha Aryna Sabalenka claimed that event, Rafa Nadal scored Acapulco.

MARCH

It was the start of things to come. The BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells became the first event to be cancelled with the acceleration of COVID-19. I was heading to the airport to go to Indian Wells and I was told to turn around and go back home. The Miami Open was the next to be cancelled and a domino effect began.

The French Federation created waves by taking a giant step by rescheduling the French Open without consultation but as we will see later the bold move had quite an outcome.

Rublev

APRIL

The period of limbo appeared to have no end in sight and on 1st April (ironically April Fool’s Day) Wimbledon made the announcement that The Championships were cancelled. It was reminiscent of the grounds announcements when the rain doesn’t stop and they say, “ladies and gentlemen, play has been abandoned”. This was the day that the mental impact really hit home. It was the first time since 1945 there was no Wimbledon as it became the first major in the open-era to be cancelled.

MAY – JULY

And the tennis world remained quiet.

AUGUST

There was a flickering of light in tennis. The Cincinnati Masters happened but it was played in New York to keep players in a bubble through to the end of the US Open. Players could only move between the site and designated hotels and both events were played behind closed doors.

Novak Djokovic won “Cincinnati” for the second time defeating Milos Raonic and became the only man to win all nine ATP Masters 1000’s twice, having already been the only one to win all of them once.

The women’s title went to Vika Azarenka over Naomi Osaka when the Japanese player withdrew from the final due to a leg injury.

Osaka

SEPTEMBER

It was a strange and eerie US Open but without doubt exploded to life when Novak Djokovic was defaulted in the fourth round while playing Pablo Carreno Busta. Djokovic hit an out of play ball in frustration late in the first set and it struck a lineswoman in the throat. She was in shock and pain and fortunately there was no lingering injury. After deliberation, officials took the decision to default the world No.1. It was the right decision as you are responsible for your actions on court.

The women’s’ title went to Naomi Osaka over Vika Azarenka 16 63 63. This was a fantastic match and one that could have gone either way. The men’s title went to Domi Thiem in a stunning match against Alexander Zverev who was in his first major final. Fingernails were chewed to the cuticles as match points crossed the net before Thiem came back from two sets to love down to win his first major 26 46 64 63 76(6). Glorious tennis!

The Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome happened and Djokovic picked up the spoils for a record setting 36th ATP Masters.

Nadal

OCTOBER

It was time for Roland Garros and the unveiling of the refurbished Court Philippe Chatrier. Strange to see the French Open as the last major of the year when it’s normally the second. It was a tough event as players withstood cold, win and rain. It was an event of upsets as big names fell by the way.

In the end the women’s event saw a new name on the scene being crowned – Iga Swiatek became the first Polish player to win a major and the first to reach the Roland Garros final since 1939 when she beat Sofia Kenin 64 61. It was Iga’s first career title as well.

As for the men’s it was the emperor of clay who reigned supreme yet again – Rafa Nadal won his 13th French Open. In what was a ruthless display and a performance that exhausted every possible superlative, he beat Djokovic (in fact humbled him) 60 62 75. It was a record equalling major for Nadal, his 20th, tying him with Roger Federer.
Andrey Rublev deserves a special mention winning his fifth title of the year in Vienna. No other player matched his tally of titles for 2020.

Swiatek

NOVEMBER

And we arrived at the last playing month of the year and Daniil Medvedev was the Man of the Month. He secured the Rolex Paris Masters beating Alexander Zverev, who had beating Rafa Nadal, 57 64 61 and then backed it up by winning the last event of the year, the season-ending ATP Finals in London.

Medvedev claimed that title for the first time in what was his second year in the eight man event. After going winless in 2019, he went undefeated in 2020, the first to do so since Grigor Dimitrov in 2017. Daniil defeated Dominic Thiem denying the Austrian the title for the second year in a row, 46 76 64.

Medvedev

It was an incredible week for Medvedev who became the first player to beat the top 3 at the season ending event – he beat Novak Djokovic in the round robin, beat Nadal for the first time in the semis and Thiem in the final. Russians book-ended the title the tournament was played in London – in 2009 it was Nikolay Davydenko.

And so the curtain came down a tennis season like no other and hopefully the likes of which will not be repeated. What a year!