2021 was another dramatic year in world tennis as it was for the planet as a whole with the coronavirus continuing to make its mark on life and society. However, despite disruptions and schedule changes and some tournament cancellations along with the frustrations of travelling and strict guidelines that had to be followed the tennis circuit still managed to function. We look back on 2021 in this two-part series.
Normally the season starts in Australia but with schedule changes some smaller events kicked things off with Hubert Hurkacz and Alex de Minaur winning titles in Delray Beach and Antalya respectively. The women had a couple of events in Australia taken out by Ash Barty and Elise Mertens while Aryna Sabalenka claimed Abu Dhabi.
Things really kicked off this month, especially for the men and with everything, as was the case with the women, staged simultaneously in Melbourne to keep things in a sort of bubble. Russia won the second ATP Cup while Dan Evans and Jannik Sinner claimed other titles.
It was time for the first big one and the Australian Open experienced its ups and downs. Local fans were allowed to attend in limited numbers but midway through Melbourne went into a five-day lockdown, so fans only returned to matches the last four days and history was made on Rod Laver Arena.
Novak Djokovic won the men’s crown for a record ninth time. It was an overwhelming performance as he defeated Daniil Medvedev 75 62 62. Both provided tennis with a hint of what was to come. In the women’s Naomi Osaka won the title but gave no hint of what was to come. She defeated surprise finalist Jennifer Brady 64 63.
Ash Barty had the nation behind her but dramatically lost to Karolina Muchova when the Czech took an untimely bathroom break and as for Serena Williams, she lost to Osaka but on leaving the court had a look around. Later when asked if could mean her last Aussie Open, she broke down and left her media conference.
Roger Federer made his return in Doha and played his first match in 13 months and lost his second match to Nikoloz Basilashvili. Daniil Medvedev won Marseilles and went to No.2 in the world and became the first non-Big 4 man to be No2 since July 2005. Petra Kvitova won Doha and Garbine Muguruza claimed Dubai.
After the Miami Open being cancelled the year before, it was on in 2021 albeit a bit later than usual and Ash Barty won the title for the second consecutive time beating an injured Bianca Andreescu, who rolled her ankle 63 40. Barty joined Serena Williams and Stefanie Graf as back-to-back winners in Miami. The men’s title went to Hubert Hurkacz – a first time Masters 1000 winner and he defeated Jannik Sinner, only the fourth teen to win the event, 76 64.
Barty went on to win Stuttgart as she won nine games in a row en route to beating Aryna Sabalenka. Rafa Nadal saved match point to topple Stefanos Tsitsipas in Barcelona. The Greek had already won Monte Carlo.
Madrid was a big one for Alexander Zverev as he came back to beat Matteo Berrettini in the final having beaten Rafa Nadal and Dominic Thiem in the quarters and semis. Aryna Sabalenka accounted for Ash Barty in the women’s final.
The Internazionali D’Italia in BNL Rome was blistering final for Iga Swiatek who did more than demolish Karolina Pliskova in the final, it was 60 60. Nadal git back on track and accounted for Novak Djokovic while young Italian Lorenzo Sonego reached the semis beating Andrey Rublev and Thiem.
Roland Garros was in full swing, and it was quite an event. Crowd numbers were limited but they gradually increased. In a gripping men’s final Novak Djokovic came back from two sets to love down to beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 67 26 63 62 64. It gave Djokovic, who beat Rafa Nadal in the semis and became the only person to beat him twice at the French, his 19th major while Tsitsipas was the first Greek to reach the final of a major.
Attention was on Roger Federer who beat Dominik Koepfer then withdrew before playing Matteo Berrettini.
The women’s was a huge surprise as Barbora Krejcikova beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 61 26 64. The Czech also won the doubles with Katerina Siniakova.
Tournaments switched to grass, and titles went to Alex De Minaur, Daniil Medvedev, Marin Cilic, Angie Kerber and Ons Jabeur became the first Arab woman to win a tour level title.
END OF PART 1
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