WATCH: Daniil Medvedev, ATP's No. 2 Player of the Year

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Daniil Medvedev

The former clown prince of tennis made an inspiring bid for the tour crown in 2021. Combining unorthodox technique with a supreme sporting IQ, Medvedev became the youngest men’s Grand Slam singles champion since Andy Murray in 2012, denied Novak Djokovic a calendar-year Slam, and finished at No. 2 in the rankings.

He surpassed rivals like Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev with hard-court virtuosity, and made marked improvements on his (once?) loathed clay. The reigning US Open champ and leader of a golden Russian generation will aim to further loosen Djokovic’s grip atop the tour, and match the heights set by countrymen Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin.

Berrettini went on a tear during the grass swing, culminating with his first major final at Wimbledon.

Berrettini went on a tear during the grass swing, culminating with his first major final at Wimbledon.

Matteo Berrettini

Like Medvedev, Berrettini leads a prolific crew of compatriots—eight of whom ended 2021 ranked inside the Top 100. But where his Russian rival made his mark on concrete, the Italian smashed cultural stereotypes with an unforgettable grass-court swing. With huge shots, he rolled through Queen’s Club to foreshadow his first major final appearance at Wimbledon.

Three of his four Grand Slam defeats were to Djokovic, and he enters 2022 on a seven-match losing streak against Top 10 players, so there are some concerns. But a Top 10 player himself for three straight seasons, Berrettini will have ample opportunity to move up further after an ab injury wrecked his Australian summer last year.

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Sinner made headlines as a teenager; how will he handle the tour in his 20s?

Sinner made headlines as a teenager; how will he handle the tour in his 20s?

Jannik Sinner

Sinner served princely energy in his first full year on tour, and the ATP’s answer to Charlemagne expanded his empire with four titles—two in October— that nearly put him in contention for a season-ending championship appearance in Turin. (Sinner would compete in two ATP Finals matches as an injury substitute, going 1–1.)

A runner-up in his breakout Masters 1000 run at the Miami Open, the 20-year-old will enter 2022 in search of a signature win; he’s 0–8 against Top 5 opposition. Blessed with easy power and an ideal 6’2” frame, look for Sinner to get physically and mentally tougher in his sophomore season, with an eye on returning to the ATP Finals via the Top 8.

Opelka stood taller than ever in 2021; how will the self-proclaimed servebot fare in 222?

Opelka stood taller than ever in 2021; how will the self-proclaimed servebot fare in 222?

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Reilly Opelka

Has American tennis found its salvation in 6’11” Opelka? The 24-year-old known for his booming serve made startling strides through 2021, displaying an eagerness to improve his ground game. While uncouth to servebots, the added versatility yielded big results at Masters events in Rome and Toronto, where Opelka reached the semifinals and final, respectively.

A charming—if sometimes prickly—social media follow and ardent art lover, he briefly became No. 1 in a country starving for its successor to Andy Roddick, only to regress through an uneven fall swing. Equal parts laid back and brashly opinionated, Opelka will need both sides of his dynamic personality to channel further success this season.

Tiafoe gave fans plenty to cheer for after an impressive season full of electric performances.

Tiafoe gave fans plenty to cheer for after an impressive season full of electric performances.

Frances Tiafoe

Move over, Hugh Jackman: Frances Tiafoe has proven to be tennis’ Greatest Showman after spellbinding performances throughout 2021, the apex unfolding at the US Open. Playing well into the night on Arthur Ashe Stadium, the 23-year-old stunned Andrey Rublev to reach the second week of his home Slam for a second consecutive year.

Tiafoe carried that energy to Europe, where he qualified for a 500 event in Vienna and scored victories over Stefanos Tsitsipas, Diego Schwartzman and Jannik Sinner en route to his first ATP final in over three years. Closing in on his career-high ranking, can the American treat Aussie fans to an encore? Supremely fit, Tiafoe thrives in best-of-five.

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Rune made major strides in 2021, among them a thrilling US Open debut against Novak Djokovic.

Rune made major strides in 2021, among them a thrilling US Open debut against Novak Djokovic.

Holger Rune

That’s not booing, that’s an army of Rune converts cheering on Denmark’s first star to emerge on the men’s side. A junior French Open champion, the 18-year-old surged up the rankings thanks to a slew of ATP Challenger titles—winning four out of five finals through November.

Qualifying for his Grand Slam main-draw debut in Flushing Meadows, Rune won over Arthur Ashe Stadium when he nabbed a set from Novak Djokovic. The Patrick Mouratoglou disciple began 2021 ranked No. 475, and ended an impressive season with a Next Gen ATP Finals debut. Armed with strong competitive instincts, how quickly will Rune amass the necessary physicality to compete with the tour’s top men?