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Tennis • Ricky’s Picks For The Four Men’s Singles Grand Slams In 2021

Dominic Thiem defeated Rafael Nadal en route to the 2020 Australian Open final.

By Ricky Dimon

The 2021 tennis season is quickly approaching, which means it is time to make predictions for the year’s four Grand Slams (and, yes, we have to hope and assume that there will be four in 2021 after we got to enjoy only three in 2020). Will Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal dominate, or will outsiders be able to build on Dominic Thiem’s 2020 breakthrough? Here are Ricky’s picks.

Eight-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic will play for his 18th Grand Slam title in Melbourne.

Australian Open – Dominic Thiem. The Australian Open should be the absolutely ideal setting for Thiem: a relatively slow, high-bouncing hard court. In 2020, the Austrian was even better on hard courts than he was on clay. His hard-court performances included, of course, his Grand Slam breakthrough at the U.S. Open. Now that he finally has one of the biggest titles in tennis under his belt, the world No. 3 will not be done in by nerves like he was in the 2020 Aussie Open final (lost in five sets to Novak Djokovic—a match that he arguably should have won). Nobody works harder than Thiem, too, so he is always ready to go in Melbourne on the heels of a productive offseason. It’s hard (admittedly borderline insane) to bet against Djokovic Down Under, but Thiem came close last year and he is only getting better and better.

Runner-up (if on opposite side) – Novak Djokovic

The king of clay will not abdicate his throne: look for Rafa Nadal to win his 14th French Open crown in 2021.

French Open – Rafael Nadal. Betting against Djokovic at the AO is tough; betting against Nadal at the FO is impossible. Until the Spaniard actually loses another match at Roland Garros, you just can’t do it. He had every reason to lose there in 2020, with little clay-court preparation in advance of the rescheduled major and—even more notably—unfavorable conditions in the fall instead of in late spring. Nonetheless, Nadal rolled to a 13th French Open title and capped it off by obliterating Djokovic in the final. That dominance not only earned him a record-tying 20th slam title, but it also sent a message to the rest of the field that he will continue to be unbeatable on the terre battue of Paris for at least another year. It’s only a matter of time before Thiem has the Coupe des Mousquetaires in his hands, but it won’t be in 2021.

Runner-up (if on opposite side) – Dominic Thiem

Reigning Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic will rule SW19 again in 2021.

Wimbledon – Novak Djokovic. Right now it’s hard to see Djokovic losing in London. Roger Federer is way too big of a question mark for 2021, Andy Murray is no longer a slam-winning threat, Nadal has not won Wimbledon since 2013, other challengers are not at their best on grass (Thiem, Daniil Medvedev, and Alexander Zverev), and Stefanos Tsitsipas has never been to a major final. Are any of those guys going to beat the world No. 1 in SW19? Doubtful. Djokovic is obviously way too good to go a whole year without winning one slam, and he should win at least one in 2021 (he won one in 2020 and may have won three if not for Wimbledon’s cancellation and his U.S. Open default). One contender to watch is Milos Raonic, whose all-court game in 2020—when healthy—was impressive. Although the 2016 Wimbledon runner-up has little chance of getting through an entire season injury free, he can make serious noise on grass if he is healthy during the summer months.

Runner-up (if on opposite side) – Milos Raonic

ATP Finals champion Daniil Medvedev will break through for his first Grand Slam title in New York.

U.S. Open – Daniil Medvedev. Medevedev was the best player in the world or much of the second half of 2019 and he was one of the best players in the world at the tail end of 2020. The one tournament he played well at in each of those years was the U.S. Open, finishing runner-up to Nadal in a five-set thriller before reaching the semifinals this past fall (lost to Thiem, the eventual champion). An undefeated run through the Paris Masters and Nitto ATP Finals sets up the fourth-ranked Russian perfectly for success in 2021. A Master of Masters 1000s and now of the year-end championship, as well, Medevedev is due to take the next step in his career by joining Thiem as a new Grand Slam champion. Tsitsipas will have similar designs, but it’s Medvedev who is currently closer to making it happen.

Runner-up (if on opposite side) – Stefanos Tsitsipas

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