Tennis in 2021? It’s the prognosticator’s nightmare. A saraband of improbable results. Will the last major tournament of the year, before the best fight off at the Turin Masters in mid-November, join the infernal round? For the Rolex Paris at Bercy which begins this Saturday, October 30, the bets are in any case open. More than ever.
→ READ. US Open: first title for Medvedev and shattered dream for Djokovic
It must be said that the previous meeting of the leaders, at the beginning of October in Indian Wells (United States), set the bar very high. Favorites cut down very quickly by second knives, and here comes the final coronation Cameron Norrie, 26, almost completely surprised by the windfall. Nobody would have bet on the Briton, who nevertheless had a very good year, with an amazing progression in the ATP ranking (from 74e at the 14e square).
Storm warning on the circuit
This type of surprise is fairly new to the men’s circuit. Until then, it was among these ladies that a great upheaval reigned. In fact started in 2016 with the decline on the courts of the star Serena Williams, and largely confirmed this season. The statistics are staggering: the 25 major tournaments of 2021 (Grand Slams, Masters 1000 and 500) have crowned 18 different players.
Even the Grand Slams have turned the experts upside down. With initially the victory at Roland Garros of the very unexpected Czech Barbora Krejcikova, 25 years old and a reputation of great player… of doubles (two titles in 2018 at Roland Garros and Wimbledon). Disillusioned comment from one of her opponents, who fell in the semi-final, the Greek Maria Sakkari: “The table has changed so much, it doesn’t matter who is the best ranked, it doesn’t mean anything anymore”. The proof at the US Open a few months later, with, to everyone’s amazement, the triumph of a player from the qualifications: the Briton Emma Raducanu, 18, who like a tornado blows her world by not losing a single set.
Can the storm also win the men’s circuit? The end of the long reign of the “Big Three” – Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic – with above all a lesser presence on the list of the first two, has already resulted in a sharing of the cake in recent years. The 26 major tournaments of the season rewarded 13 then 14 different players in 2017 and 2018 (double that in 2015), record years for the variety of winners. The year 2021 seems to confirm this trend, with 12 champions rewarded in only 19 tournaments, while awaiting the results from Vienna this weekend, then from Paris.
The Covid is obviously not for nothing in the affair. The long hiatus in 2020 has redistributed the cards. Daniil Medvedev thus warned on the eve of the US Open 2020: “I’m sure these 6 months without tennis will affect a lot of players. We are going to see results which can be very surprising ”. In fact, before Cameron Norrie at Indian Wells, the Polish Hubert Hurkacz caused a sensation in April 2021 in Miami by removing the Master 1000, after having defeated two of the favorites, the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas and the Russian Andrey Rublev.
A new generation without real bosses
And this is another explanation for the reigning anarchy: the famous “new generation” is struggling for the time being to install real bosses. Austrian Dominic Thiem stressed how much he was “Fell into a hole” after his victory at the US Open 2020, morale at half mast and painful wrist. Daniil Medvedev, his successor in the American tournament, can he better negotiate the success?
Coach Toni Nadal recently suggested that the new generation is above all concerned with consistency: “The problem is their low level: for example, a Medvedev, when he plays badly, he plays worse than a Novak or a Rafael playing badly”, swore the uncle of the Spanish champion. Not sufficiently armed, the young suitors, to make the law like their elders? “I don’t think any of them will manage to win 20 Grand Slams like the three monsters did”, has just let go of the Briton Andy Murray on the sidelines of the Antwerp tournament.
Expert advice. Who begins to worry. Deploring for a long time a circuit padlocked by the “Big Three”, the community wonders conversely about a tennis without landmarks and great actors to stage. The women’s circuit as such does not inspire much enthusiasm. The appeal of novelty does not compensate for the fact that the general public is hardly able to name a current champion any more, as none stand out. “Very strong uncertainty is not good for tennis”, just commented in the Corriere della Sera ex-Italian champion Flavia Pennetta, winner of the 2015 US Open. The charisma, too, is lacking, and suddenly women’s tennis is difficult to sell ”, insists the Italian. A risk that also weighs on the future of men’s tennis?
Novak Djokovic, absent from the Australian Open?
The State of Victoria, which is due to host the Australian Open from January 17, 2022 in its capital Melbourne, assures that it does not want to request an exemption allowing entry into the territory to players not vaccinated against the Covid. “We will not ask for an exemption. Therefore, the question is fundamentally resolved ”, insisted State Prime Minister Daniel Andrews on Wednesday, October 27. Which should not do the business of the winner of the last three editions, Novak Djokovic. The Serb has repeatedly declared himself hostile to vaccines and still refuses to provide information on his current vaccination status. The world number 1 is not the only one concerned. According to the governing bodies of tennis (ATP and WTA), 65% of players and 60% of female players are now vaccinated.