By U.B. Acharya
One may ask “How come year ending review is written a good 36 days before the end of the year?” The reason is that unlike cricket season which extend to 52 weeks every year, tennis season is for about 47 weeks only with no tennis tournament for 5 weeks from November end to 31st December every year. This is very sensible because it gives the players a much needed rest and also some time to spend with their families.
While in normal years, apart from four Majors or mistakenly called as Grand Slams, one ATP Finals (actually the last tournament of the year) and nine Masters 1000 events, more than 50 ATP 500 and ATP 250 events are held. In addition, literally 100s of Challengers and Features tournaments are held all over the world. However, due to pandemic situation, one Masters 1000 and many of the ATP 500 and ATP 250 tournaments were cancelled. Among the casualties, the only ATP event in India, Pune ATP 250 tournament, had to be cancelled. Fortunately, all the four Majors were completed albeit with no spectators or very limited spectators.
Now regarding the Majors, while Serbian Novak “Nole” Djokovic won the first three events, the fourth was won by the Russian Daniil Medvedev (more about this later). Also, the year ending ATP Finals was claimed by German Alexander “Shasha” Zverev. Among the eight Masters 1000 events, two were won by Zverev, one each by Hubert Hurkacz (Poland), Stefanos Tsitsipas (Greece), Rafael Nadal (Spain), Medvedev, Djokovic and Cameron Norrie (UK).
The Olympics event which should have been held in 2020 had to be postponed and was held in 2021. This event was also won by Zverev.
After winning the third round in Wimbledon when a reporter asked Djokovic about his fighting spirit, he attributed several reasons — his perilous youth in the war-ravaged Serbia, his inspirational first coach Jelena Gencic, his no-stone unturned perfectionism, his legendary rivals Roger Federer and Nadal, his savvy touring team, his beloved family and yes, “Wolves”.
As an explanation to the last word he said “A part of it comes from my upbringing in the mountains. I spent a lot of time with wolves. So this is wolf energy right here and I am not kidding, actually!” There is no doubt that it is true. He has won three matches when he was match point down against Federer but he managed to hit unbelievable winners. Also he has won matches after being two sets down.
Djokovic started the year with a bang but ended with a wimp. He won the first three majors against youngsters (namely Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Italian Matteo Berrettini) in style. While Australian Open and Wimbledon were easy, French Open was a real struggle. In the semi finals, he overcame 13 times champion Nadal and in the finals, after losing two sets, he won in five against Tsitsipas. In the Olympics and in the ATP Finals, he lost in semifinals to Zverev and in the all-important US Open, he lost in the finals to Medvedev in straight sets. With tears in his eyes, he said that the pressure got too much and he could not execute his normal game! One must realise that he was playing against World No. 2 and after all, he is also a human being with emotions!
In the beginning of the year, he had openly expressed his desire to overtake Federer (310 weeks) in number weeks as No. 1. He achieved this during March and still is No. 1. By the end of the year, he would have got 348 weeks. By being year ending No. 1 ranked player, he has achieved this honour seven times thus beating legendary Pete Sampras (US) who has achieved this six times.
His second objective was to match the number of Majors with Federer and Nadal (both have 20 Majors). By winning the Wimbledon this year, he achieved that target. What he did not express but wanted badly was to win the Grand Slam. That was not to be.