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A Recap Of The High Points And Low Points For Every Member Of The ATP Tennis Top 10 in 2020

By Ricky Dimon

Left to right: Diego Schwartzman, Andrey Rublev, Rafael Nadal, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Novak Djokovic, Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev pose for the official 2020 ATP Championship group portrait.

It was a wild year on the ATP Tour–and the WTA Tour, and every other tour, league, or sport in the world. There were some ups, which wasn’t always a guarantee given the global coronavirus pandemic, but there were also a lot of downs.

With the 2020 tennis having come and gone in at least somewhat successful fashion, we take a look at some of those aforementioned highs and lows for the Top 10 ATP players.

1. Novak Djokovic

High: An eighth Australian Open title.

Low: The U.S. Open disqualification.

There really is no debate about these categories for Djokovic. The first half of his season was brilliant; the second half was not. His opening hot streak was highlighted by yet another triumph Down Under, where he trailed Dominic Thiem two sets to one in the final. But Djokovic raised his level when it mattered most to triumph in five and add Grand Slam title No. 17 to his haul. No. 18 appeared to be imminent at the U.S. Open, where neither Rafael Nadal nor Roger Federer was present. But that effort infamously came to a sudden halt when the world No. 1 was disqualified from his fourth-round match against Pablo Carreno Busta for accidentally hitting a lineswoman with a ball that was struck in frustration.

2. Rafael Nadal

High: A 13th French Open title.

Low: His best chance for a year-end championship title goes by the wayside.

While Djokovic emerged victorious on his traditional stomping grounds, Nadal did the same nine months later. Even though everything was different about this year’s French Open, one thing remained the same: Rafael Nadal was the last man standing. Despite playing in conditions that were not ideal of his game, no opponent came close the entire fortnight. And the world No. 2 saved one of his biggest beatdowns for last–a straight-set rout of Djokovic in the final. Still well-rested later in the fall, Nadal’s body was in good shape for both the Paris Masters and the Nitto ATP Finals. Nonetheless, he ends 2020 having still never won either event. The Spaniard lost to Alexander Zverev in the Paris semis and to Daniil Medvedev at the same stage in London–the latter where he served for a straight-set victory.

3. Dominic Thiem

High: A first Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open.

Low: Heartbreak in the Australian Open final

When Djokovic was defaulted, everything changed in New York. Someone was unexpectedly going to capture his first Grand Slam title. That ended up being Thiem, who was on the ropes against Zverev in the final. The Austrian trailed two sets to love and even after forcing a fifth he still saw his opponent serve for the match. However many times he was down, Thiem was never out. He ended up surviving in a fifth-set tiebreaker for the biggest moment of his career. It had to be especially sweet after coming so close in Melbourne. Although Thiem also came painfully close once again at the Nitto ATP Finals, that wasn’t as painful because it wasn’t a slam–and it was easier to stomach because by that point he already had the U.S. Open trophy in tow.

4. Daniil Medvedev

High: The Nitto ATP Finals title.

Low: A U.S. Open semifinal loss to Thiem.

Medvedev was arguably the U.S. Open favorite once Djokovic got the boot, as he had finished runner-up to Nadal (in a thrilling five-setter, too) the summer before and it’s a surface on which he thrives. The Russian cruised into the semis, but he could not even manage to take a single set off Thiem. On the bright side, Medvedev’s energy was conserved for Paris and London–which certainly wasn’t true in 2019. Whereas last season he went winless at those two events, this time he won both of them. Yes, the world No. 4 ended his 2020 campaign on a 10-match winning streak–five each in Paris and London. The latter, of course, marked the biggest title of his career.

5. Roger Federer

High: Saving seven match points against Tennys Sandgren at the Australian Open.

Low: An injury-plagued loss to Djokovic in the Australian Open semifinals.

Well, there is not exactly a whole lot to choose from here (unless you want to go off court and say the highlight was his Instagram Live session with Nadal, which almost never happened because of Nadal’s technological incompetence). On the court, Federer played a grand total of one tournament in 2020: the Australian Open. Of course, he packed arguably a season’s worth of drama into that one appearance. The Swiss came back from 8-4 down in the fifth-set tiebreaker to beat John Millman in the third round and then saved an absurd seven match points against Sandgren in the quarterfinals. Two days later, a hobbled Federer had little chance against Djokovic. As expected, the Serb destroyed him 7-6(1), 6-4, 6-3. It was Federer’s last match of the year, as he would soon undergo knee surgery.

6. Stefanos Tsitsipas

High: Coming back from two sets down against Jaume Munar in the French Open first round.

Low: An epic collapse against Borna Coric in the U.S. Open fourth round.
Following a tough loss to Andrey Rublev in the Hamburg final just two days earlier, Tsitsipas–and Rublev, for that matter–had to get right back in gear for the French Open. Clearly fatigued, the Greek promptly dropped his first two sets of the fortnight to Munar. Somehow, though, he dug deep to pull off a five-set comeback. That would propel Tsitsipas all the way to the semis, where he came within one set of accomplishing the same feat against Djokovic. A month earlier, the world No. 6 had been envisioning his first major title in New York. He was well on his way to at least the fourth round when he led Coric two sets to one and by 5-1 in the fourth. In the collapse of the year, however, Tsitsipas squandered the entire advantage–and six match points–to lose in a fifth-set tiebreaker.

7. Alexander Zverev

High: Coming back from two sets down against Pablo Carreno Busta in the U.S. Open semifinals.

Low: One set–and two points–away from a first Grand Slam title.

Zverev’s U.S. Open campaign was a roller-coaster ride in every way. First he was Adrian Mannarino’s third-round opponent after the Frenchman had been identified as being one of the 11 players in close contact with a Covid-19 positive Benoit Paire. Zverev ended up playing Mannarino and winning with relative ease on his eventual way to the semis. That is where he trailed Carreno Busta by two sets to love, only to storm back and prevail in five for his first-ever Grand Slam final berth. However, the tables were turned on Zverev in the title match. The German led Thiem by two sets and later served for the championship in the fifth set before falling 8-6 in the fifth-set tiebreaker.

8. Andrey Rublev

High: His 500-point title streak in the fall.

Low: Losing from match point up against Tsitsipas at the Nitto ATP Finals.

Rublev reached two slam quarterfinals, but he had already appeared in one earlier in his career so it’s hard to make those the high points. It’s even harder when you consider that he was the titles leader on the ATP Tour with five. Those, of course, were the highlights. Three of those came in 500-point tournaments, all of them basically in succession this fall. Rublev triumphed in Hamburg (d. Tsitsipas), at home in St. Petersburg (d. Coric), and one week later in Vienna (d. Sonego). As one of the hottest players in the game, the world No. 8 figured he could contend at the Nitto ATP Finals. He was still alive for a semifinal spot after losing his debut match to Nadal, but he had to beat Tsitsipas. Rublev had match point on his own serve in the third-set tiebreaker only to double-fault and then lose two points later, mathematically ending his chances.

9. Diego Schwartzman

High: An epic five-set win over Dominic Thiem in the French Open quarterfinals.

Low: An upset loss to Cameron Norrie in round one of the U.S. Open.

Schwartzman produced his best season on tour, and it was highlighted by a run to the French Open semifinals. In the quarters, the Argentine faced the Roland Garros heir apparent to Nadal in Thiem. A three-time runner-up, the Austrian was expected to be Nadal’s semifinal opponent this time around. However, he was still running on fumes following his U.S. Open triumph and it was clear that Schwartzman was in with a chance. The underdog capitalized, coming back from two sets to one down to prevail in a grueling five hours and eight minutes. Both at the time and especially in hindsight, Schwartzman’s U.S. Open result was one of the most bizarre of the year. He easily took the first two sets from Norrie only to collapse the rest of the way, squandering two match points in the process.

10. Matteo Berrettini

High: Reaching the fourth round of the U.S. Open.

Low: A third-set tiebreaker loss to Casper Ruud in the Rome quarterfinals.

There really weren’t any extreme highs for Berrettini, and he also didn’t play enough to experience any big-time lows. Due to both injury and the pandemic, the Italian logged only 15 matches in 2020. Having picked up only two wins prior to the U.S. Open, Berrettini did well to reach the second week–making it back there after going all the way to the semis at Flushing Meadows in 2019. Shortly thereafter in Rome, had a golden chance to reach his first semifinal of the season. At arguably his favorite event, Berrettini had a very winnable contest on his hands against Ruud but ended up succumbing in a third-set tiebreaker.

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.