Novak Djokovic finished the 2020 season at the top of the world rankings for the 6th time since the beginning of his career, matching Sampras and surpassing Federer and Nadal (5). Between them, Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have occupied the world throne almost continuously since 2004. Only Andy Murray managed to get in the middle of these three monsters from the end of 2016 for almost 10 months. However, more than ever, the "new" generation (which is coming in late because of the Big 3's incredible longevity) seems to be in a position to take the throne if it shines in Grand Slam as it has done for more than a year. They are 3 to have reached the final of a Major recently. Let's take a look at the candidates for the world throne for 2021 .
He is the player with the best career record against the Big 3. In total, the Austrian has 16 wins and 18 losses. He even remains on a magnificent 9-3 on his last 12 duels. Proof if any were needed that he is capable of competing with the three tennis legends Federer, Nadal and Djokovic. The only shadow in the picture is that his last 3 defeats have all been in Grand Slam finals. But the Austrian seems to have reached a mental level since a year ago with two Masters finals, a final in Melbourne but above all by winning her first major at the US Open against Zverev. He is mathematically the closest player to dethroning the Big 3. Ultra-performing on hard and clay and able to link tournaments with his huge physical body, he is without a doubt the most serious opponent of the Big 3 in the quest for the Grail. He could also benefit from the ranking reform due to the pandemic. Whatever happens, he will keep his points from the 2020 Melbourne final. On the other hand, he has a lot of points to recuperate notably in Miami (1st round 2019), Monte Carlo (3rd round 2019), Madrid (semi-final 2019), Rome (1st round 2019) and Roland Garros (quarter-final 2020). He is less than 3000 points behind Djokovic. And icing on the cake, he won't have any points to defend at Wimbledon since he lost in the first round in 2019, a tournament won by Djokovic who won't be able to recover any points. What if Dominic Thiem becomes world number one in London?
Will the Tsar become the new world tennis star? The Russian finished the 2020 season with a cannonball with 10 straight victories against the top players on the circuit: Djokovic, Nadal, Thiem, Zverev, Schwartzman or Raonic and De Minaur. They were all beaten by the Russian, impressively serene despite an unorthodox style! He is one of the most serious candidates for power. He finishes the 2020 season in 4th place in the world - 3500 points behind Djokovic - without having performed in any of the three Grand Slams (1st round at Roland Garros, 2nd round at Wimbledon and 3rd round in Melbourne) apart from his final at the US Open. He therefore has a huge margin for improvement in the rankings. Especially on clay, where he struggles to shine with 13 eliminations from his entry in his last 16 tournaments played. In Masters 1000, he will have no difficulty to do better especially in Rome and Madrid (1st round).
Medevedev and Thiem seem to be one step ahead of the other potential candidates for the position of No. 1 in the world. Nevertheless, Alexander Zverev will have to be reckoned with. The German has proven this season that he knows how to better manage the key moments even if we will remember his defeat in the final of the US Open against Thiem when he led two sets to zero in a recital of self-control. His end of the season was shaken by personal problems, but he proved that he could beat everyone. He really doesn't need much to take it to the next level. David Ferrer's contribution can be really beneficial in the long run. However, he is 6,500 points behind the Serb. So he should at least win a Grand Slam. It is in Wimbledon (1st round) and Roland Garros (quarter final) where he has the most points to recover. On the other hand, he has some openings in Masters 1000 notably in Miami, Rome and Cincinnati where he lost in the 1st round. Two titles in Madrid and Canada - where he lost in the quarter-finals - could also bring him points. But it would take an exceptional season to meet this challenge.
He hasn't tasted a Grand Slam final yet. With 6,000 points behind the world's number one, the task promises to be just as difficult as for the German. But the Greek is only 22 years old - the age at which Federer and Nadal became world No. 1 for the first time. Djokovic was 23! This is proof that the Greek still has plenty of time to reach the top of the world hierarchy. Nevertheless, given his level of play, it wouldn't be a huge surprise if he managed to move up to the top of the world rankings next season either. He has the advantage that he didn't play the US Open and that he lost very early in Wimbledon (1st round) as well as in Melbourne (2nd round). He could therefore already make up a huge part of his backlog, especially if he wins a Grand Slam. As for the Masters 1000, it has few openings except in Canada (1st round) and Miami (3rd round). If, in addition to a Major, the Greek would also manage to lift his first M1000 title, then he could already be looking forward to a podium finish in 2021.
The vote of our followers on Twitter :No: 70% Yes: 30%
The eye of Rodolphe Gilbert: YES
I think there is one who is capable of taking the world's number one spot: Dominic Thiem. He has shown this year that he continues to progress and above all, he has passed a milestone this season with his victory at the US Open, his first Grand Slam title and also his superb performance at the end of the year Masters where he beat Nadal and Djokovic. It's a milestone too and it can give him a boost to continue on his momentum. There is still one uncertainty for the moment: his inability to beat Djokovic and Nadal in 5 sets matches. But the reform of the ranking could allow him to ascend to the throne between Roland Garros and Wimbledon?
The eye of Florent Serra : NO
It's not impossible but given Djokovic's consistency, I think it will still be difficult to dislodge him in the 2021 season. Medvedev showed an incredible level of play at the end of the season, as did Thiem who was very consistent in the big tournaments. They both managed to beat Djokovic and Nadal in the Master, something that happens very rarely. Nevertheless, I think Medvedev hasn't yet reached the top level on clay and therefore may still be just about a season long. Thiem might be able to do it if he stays at the level he was at at the end of the season, but I think it will be difficult to get Djokovic and Nadal into the Grand Slam. At least for this season 2021.
Click on the image below to open a new Betclic account and take advantage of their welcome offer or use the code #TBNPRONOS when creating the new account: one month free at Tennis Break News
This post is also available in: Français