2020 won’t be remembered as a great year for tennis (although, in fairness what has it been a great year for?).
Still, despite the setback of a global pandemic and general Covidiocy among its ranks – largely on the ATP side – the tennis world has done pretty well to get a decent-length season under its belt.
Three of the four Grand Slams took place, albeit in a slightly different order after the French Open was postponed beyond the US Open, and despite the lack of fans and largely empty stadiums, there were still some thrilling matches throughout the year.
As ever, we have carefully analysed the year that was and picked winners of our annual tennis awards…
ATP Player of the Year: Novak Djokovic
The three Grand Slams were split between three players this season but Djokovic stands above the rest.
Not only did he equal Pete Sampras’ record sixth year-end No. 1 finishes, he lifted three ATP titles outside his 17th major at the Australian Open and was on a 26-match unbeaten run before he was shockingly defaulted at the US Open.
His season finish may have been a bit limp after a French Open final defeat to Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem deserves a mention, too, but Djokovic was top of the men’s class.
WTA Player of the Year: Sofia Kenin
Likewise, the three Grand Slam ladies’ singles titles were spread among Sofia Kenin, Naomi Osaka and Iga Swiatek but, again, it’s the Australian Open champion who deserves this award.
Kenin was a surprise first-time Slam champion in Melbourne but it was arguably even more of a surprise when she then raced to the final of the French Open, having been bagelled by Victoria Azarenka in her only warm-up match on the clay.
She picked up the most prize money and points in 2020 and gets the nod to be the top WTA star of this disrupted season.
Most Improved Player: Iga Swiatek
There were a host of candidates who would have been worthy winners of this award.
Andrey Rublev bolted up the rankings after becoming the ATP Tour’s title leader and qualified for the ATP Finals, while Victoria Azarenka recaptured the form that saw her become world No. 1 a decade ago with some scintillating performances on hard courts.
But Swiatek has surely enjoyed the biggest rise. Outside the top-50 before the French Open, having never been beyond the last-16 of a major, she clinched a first Grand Slam title to make her top-20 debut.
Most Disappointing Player: Andy Murray
This may sound harsh – and isn’t particularly a reflection on him – but there was an air of optimism heading into this season for the three-time Grand Slam champion, which proved to be misplaced.
Murray had won a first ATP title since a hip resurfacing operation by beating old foe Stan Wawrinka in Antwerp in the backend of last season but that momentum was disrupted first by injury and then by the pandemic.
There were brief shoots of excitement in the middle of the year when he beat top-10 player Alexander Zverev and fought back from two sets down to beat Yoshihito Nishioka in the first round of the US Open, but further injury problems followed and he ended his season early.
Here’s hoping for a brighter 2021 for the Scot!
Match of the Year: Naomi Osaka vs Jennifer Brady
While I’d argue that Nadal vs Thiem at the ATP Finals – the tournament with arguably the biggest concentration of top-class matches – was the highest-quality match of the year, Osaka and Brady’s US Open semi-final had more twists and turns and had more on the line.
Brady was superb in her first major semi-final appearance and she and eventual champion Osaka took chunks out of each other in three sets of scintillating tennis on Arthur Ashe Stadium.
It was probably the best night of tennis of the year, too, with Serena Williams vs Victoria Azarenka another strong contender for match of the season.
Shock of the Year: Djokovic vs Line Judge
Few moments will have prompted more gasps from living rooms than Djokovic’s US Open disqualification.
On a 26-match winning run and looking seemingly invincible, Djokovic lost his temper after being broken by Pablo Carreno Busta in the first set and hit the ball to the back of the court in frustration.
Unfortunately for him, it arrowed straight into the throat of a line judge and the world No. 1 was booted out of the tournament.
In a more normal year, Swiatek’s demolition of French Open favourite Simona Halep would be right up there!
Villian of the Year: Alexander Zverev
Djokovic was a strong candidate for this after his wild spreading of pseudscientific nonsense and organising of the disastrous Adria Tour, which resulted in several high-profile tennis figures, including the Serb, going down with Covid-19 but Zverev has pipped him to the most unwanted prize of the season.
Zverev was part of the Adria Tour and rather than hopping into self-isolation for 14 days – as he’d publicly promised – he boarded a party boat in Monte Carlo in the same week.
On top of his total disregard for safety protocols in a pandemic – he wasn’t alone in the tennis world in that regard – he has faced very serious allegations of domestic abuse.
True or not, his handling of the situation has been very poor, whether it’s been boasting that nothing will get him down, reading faux statements of regret off his phone or laughing at the suggestion that his colleagues might be treating him differently because of the allegations.
Sportsmanship Award: Nick Kyrgios
The bad-boy Aussie would normally be nowhere near this prize but he has been the standout candidate for me this year.
His devastation at the wildfires devastating Australia at the start of the year was touching and he was the driving force behind fundraising for the cause.
Kyrgios also has a rare quality in modern sport where he can call out wrongs within his sport and he rightly criticised some of his more lax colleagues for their slack approach to dealing with a global pandemic.
Shot of the Year: Mikael Ymer vs Djokovic
Okay, so Nadal and Federer weren’t involved and Djokovic went out in freak circumstances, but Thiem – who had lost his previous three major finals – was a deserving winner, even if he limped over the line somewhat.
Worst Moment: Wimbledon being cancelled
Obviously, tennis pales into comparison when discussing the tragedies of this miserable year but for British sports fans, the cancellation of Wimbledon was a bitter blow.
It was the first time since the Second World War that Wimbledon didn’t go ahead and the iconic grass-court tournament was greatly missed.
Brit of the Year: Joe Salisbury
Dan Evans certainly gets a nod for the best singles player but it’s tough to look beyond Salisbury.
The doubles specialist won his first Grand Slam at the Australian Open and he and American partner were one point away from finishing the seasson as the world’s best doubles pairing.
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