The year 2021 has seen Novak Djokovic dominate the game of Tennis. Like Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal of subsequent years, Djokovic’s dominance has been simply magnificent in a record-breaking year. The Serb has won the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon to level the tally of 20 Grand Slams set by Federer and Nadal. But, what has made Djokovic’s achievement even better in 2021 is that he is the first player in the history of the Open Era to win all four Grand Slams twice.
With the first half of the year being dominated by Djokovic, the second half has not been good. Djokovic was planning to achieve the Golden Grand Slam. This feat was achieved by only Steffi Graf in the history of the sport in 1988. But, Djokovic lost to Alexander Zverev and even missed out on a bronze medal with a loss to Pablo Carreno Busta.
In the US Open, Djokovic kept his chances of a Grand Slam title alive by reaching the final. But, his attempt at that slice of history was also halted by Daniil Medvedev. The Russian’s win not only denied Djokovic the career Grand Slam but it has ensured that this feat might take years to repeat.
With Medvedev having won the US Open, the focus will now shift to the ATP Finals tournament. This is the tournament where Medvedev heads into as the defending champion. If the Russian wins the tournament this time, then he will have knocked Djokovic out of the No.1 ranking spot.
Djokovic is on the cusp of equaling Pete Sampras’ record of most years as the world’s number one ranked individual. But, if momentum is to be believed, then Djokovic may face a massive task from the 2020 defending ATP Finals champion.
The 2020 ATP Finals was held in London without spectators due to the coronavirus pandemic. The tournament immediately saw a major casualty. Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 2019 champion, was eliminated from the first round. He became the first defending champion since 2009 to crash out in the first round itself.
Already, the tournament was throwing up some big surprises. Daniil Medvedev defeated Djokovic in straight sets. In addition, he also defeated Alexander Zverev and Diego Schwartzman in straight sets to advance to the semi-final. The semi-final saw Medvedev square off against Rafael Nadal. After losing the first set, Medvedev bounced back in style to win the next two sets and the match in grand style.
In the final, he squared off against Dominic Thiem. Medvedev lost the first set but recovered yet again to win the next two sets. The Russian was thus crowned the champion. What made this win special was that he had won against the top three seeds to win the ATP title. Not since David Nalbandian in 2007 had a player won the ATP title first without having won a Grand Slam title.
After winning the 2020 championships, Medvedev’s stock has only risen. His US Open title is only a further confirmation of his success on the grand stage. Djokovic, on the other hand, will be determined to ensure that he does not slip up in any other record, having come empty-handed from Tokyo as well as the Grand Slam.
But, apart from Medvedev and Djokovic, the 2021 ATP Finals could finally see the new generation stake their claim. In the last four years, the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Dominic Thiem, and Alexander Zverev have made big strides. With Federer and Nadal all in the last stages of their Tennis career and with Djokovic also sliding behind slightly, the new generation will be determined to play catch-up.
The exploits of the younger generation in 2021 will set the dynamic of how 2022 will shape up. Perhaps, the year 2021 was the final year that saw dominance from the Big Three in Grand Slams. It is now time for Thiem, Zverev, Tsitsipas, Matteo Berrettini, Denis Shapovalov, and Medvedev to go for the gauntlet this time. Medvedev is in pole position, having gotten the better of Djokovic in Flushing Meadows.