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ATP Tour in retrospect 2021

Another year is done and dusted on the ATP Tour with some astonishing results among what was a topsy turvy season, which at times was exciting, but also hard to view on occasions.

Here are some of the noteworthy players of the season, in both a positive and negative light.

Most impressive player

Yes Novak Djokovic won three majors, but that’s the easy one to go for.

Daniil Medvedev was absolutely sensational this year, and became the first player since Lleyton Hewitt in 2005 to break the Big Four’s stranglehold on the top two positions in the rankings.

The season began as he maintained a 20 match winning streak from the back end of 2020, helping Russia to its maiden ATP Cup throughout, before a disastrous result in the final of the Australian Open, dispatched by a superior Djokovic.

He claimed the title in Marseille in February before a fairly lacklustre clay court season in which he quite enjoyed complaining, but he still managed to reach the quarterfinals at Roland Garros before another title on the grass in Mallorca.

Wimbledon was disappointing however, with the Russian surrendering a two-sets-to-one lead against eventual semifinalist Hubert Hurkacz in the fourth round.

His Olympic campaign ended in the quarterfinals with a loss to Pablo Carreno Busta, but he began his US Swing strongly with another Masters 1000 victory in Toronto before a semifinal performance in Cincinnati.

The crowning glory came at Flushing Meadows when he returned the favour to Djokovic, dismantling the World No.1’s quest for a calendar Grand Slam with a magnificent display to capture his maiden Grand Slam crown, not to mention his iconic celebration.

He finished the year unable to defend his crowns in Paris and the ATP Finals, but reached the decider in both tournaments before claiming five straight victories for his country as the Russian Tennis Federation were crowned Davis Cup champions for the third time.

Medvedev is a true character of tennis, and he went to another level this year, now the question is whether he can take Djokovic’s number one mantle away.

Most Frustrating player

Grigor Dimitrov can produce some mega performances, but they are seemingly now only a flash in the pan.

Four years ago he finished the year at No.3 and was tipped to content for Grand Slams, but has since only made three quarterfinals at a major with one semi at the 2019 US Open.

This year however there was a small opportunity in Melbourne, he had overcome an ailing Dominic Thiem in the fourth round before a showdown with surprise packet Aslan Karatsev in the quarterfinal.

Dimitrov was rampant in the opener before the Russian found his groove and the Bulgarian’s body beginning to fail him.

Up next would have been a supposedly injured Novak Djokovic, who showed no signs of any abdominal strain but that’s another story, which might have propelled Dimitrov into a chance of reaching a Grand Slam final.

It wasn’t to be and with that, Dimitrov would not have another solid week until October in which he would reach the semifinals of Indian Wells, defeating Daniil Medvedev from a set and a break down before being supremely outclassed by eventual champion Cam Norrie.

The crowd favourite would fall in his opening match of a tournament on seven occasions and now on the wrong side of 30, it is hard to see him ever reaching the lofty heights of 2017.

Surprise Packet

How can you not say Aslan Karatsev?

He was a an ATP Challenger player at best when he qualified for the Australian Open, but he ends the season inside the top 20 with two titles to his name, an Olympic silver medal, a Davis Cup title and an ATP Cup medal.

His semifinal run at Melbourne Park will go down in folklore, especially following his dominant victory over World No.9 Diego Schwartzman before strong come from behind victories against Felix Auger-Aliassime and Grigor Dimitrov before being halted by Novak Djokovic.

Karatsev would win his maiden ATP title at the 500 event in Dubai, which boasts an extensive honour role, and would extract his revenge on Djokovic in the Serbian’s backyard in Belgrade before falling to Matteo Berretinni in the final.

Nicknamed ‘The Lion’ after the famous Narnia stories, Karatsev continued his form on the doubles arena, reaching the French Open final in mixed before acquiring an Olympic silver in the same discipline.

He would claim his second ATP title in his home nation, defeating Marin Cilic 6-2 6-4 in the Moscow final.

Quick fire:

Most improved - Casper Ruud

Feel Good Story - James Duckworth

Young Gun - Tie between Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz

2022 One to Watch - Holger Rune

Listen to The First Serve with Brett Phillips, which returns in 2022 with a two hour Australian Open Preview on January 16th on 1116AM SEN Melbourne, 1629AM SEN SA / 1170am Sydney or listen live and catch up on the SEN App.

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