2020 is perhaps a year best forgotten, including as far as sport was concerned. The impact of Coronavirus on professional sport cannot be understated; fans across the world have been unable to visit the historic venues of teams and support their favourite players.
The return of tennis
Tennis has been no exception, with numerous cancellations and delays occurring over the course of the past year. That said, 2021 has brought a much-welcomed feeling of hope and anticipation that this will soon be a thing of the past. Although the Australian Open was pushed back by a couple of weeks, it was able to go ahead and provided us with some great quality tennis. Novak Djokovic overcame Medvedev in the final of the men’s tournament after a near faultless display – his 9th Australian Open title. Whilst 3rd seed Naomi Osaka came out on top in her final against the American Jennifer Brady. Although the tournament was not without its problems, it was good to see the best players in world back out on the court and it offered a welcome reminder that there is a light at the end of this rather long tunnel we’ve all been experiencing.
As we look forward to the coming year, we hope to see no further disruptions preventing, at the very least, the major tournaments from going ahead. An official statement from the AELTC (All England Lawn Tennis Club) states: “We look forward to continuing to work with them [Government] and the rest of sport with the ambition of welcoming spectators safely to our events this summer” (Wimbledon, 2021). Whilst they are proceeding with caution, it gives spectators hope that Wimbledon will host crowds this summer.
The changing tide
Not only are we as tennis fans excited by this prospect, but we also believe tennis is at a very interesting point just now, both for males and females in the game. The veterans who have reigned at the top for so long are now being challenged by the new generation of up-and-coming talent. That being said, Novak Djokovic has recently broken the all-time record for the number of weeks at the top of the ATP World Rankings; 311 weeks at the top surpasses the record previously held by Roger Federer.
The ‘Big Three’ have been dominant in the male game for the best part of two decades. However, could this be the year we begin to see a shift? Daniil Medvedev has just taken the 2nd spot in the ATP Rankings, unbelievably the first other than Djokovic, Nadal, Federer, and Murray since 2005! (ATP Tour, 2021). Other young players, such as Dominic Thiem, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are all proving themselves on the big stage. There has been criticism directed at the generation of players coming through for not challenging the Big Three more. Post Medvedev’s defeat in the Australian Open Final he said, “It’s very rare that you see this in sports. I don’t think you can say that other players were not good enough in this era, it’s just that they were unbelievable and there’s nothing for others to be ashamed of” (Tennis365, 2021). This perhaps perfectly summarises the monumental task ahead of them.
Women’s tennis is also beginning to see a similar shift with many young and talented female athletes beginning to emerge onto the scene. 5 of the top 10 WTA ranked players are below the age of 25, with 23-year-old Naomi Osaka currently occupying the second spot; 20-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu is also an exciting prospect having just broken into the top after a string of impressive performances. With that being said, Serena Williams still hunts for one more major title to secure her in history, and to equal the incredible Margaret Court with 24 grand slam titles. Can she do it? Personally, I hope she can. She has been an amazing ambassador for the sport over the years and an inspiration to a generation of young females athletes all over the word.
We are witnessing three of the most decorated and talented tennis players ever to play the game. The time will come for the young players to carry the torch; however, many of the top athletes have not shown many signs of slowing down!
What are your thoughts? Let us know @McClarronsSport!