1. The Big Three Will Continue to Captivate
As tournaments seek to reestablish themselves, and as fans gradually get the chance to watch them first-hand, gratitude will be a prevalent attitude. And how better to express that appreciation than to celebrate the trio that’s dominated the men’s game for 15 years?
Roger Federer will end his 13-month exile from competition in March, playing a pair of events in Doha and Dubai. Just imagine the volume of the cheers he will receive. Ditto for Rafael Nadal, who due to the February start of the Australian Open, is now a full month closer than usual to the start of his beloved clay season. Then there’s Djokovic, adding more and more chapters to his epic history Djokovic’s ninth Australian Open title, capped off with a comprehensive win over Daniil Medvedev in the final, was also his 18th major. And on March 8, Djokovic will start his 311th week ranked number one in the world—breaking the record held by Federer.
The Big Three have now won 57 of the last 68 majors, and 58 of the last 70. Throughout 2021, these three greats will continue to show that the 30s are the new 20s.
2. The Russians Are Coming (Again)
More than a decade after the glory years of Hall of Famers Yevgeny Kafelnikov and Marat Safin, several Russians are once again among the tour's elite. Medvedev’s run to the Australian Open final was his second runner-up showing at a major in the last 18 months. Aslan Karatsev, ranked 114 two weeks ago, took the world by a storm when he reached the semis as a qualifier in his Slam debut. Andrey Rublev made it to the last eight and in 2020 won a tour-leading five singles titles. Also in the mix is one-time top tenner Karen Khachanov.
These men each have their own distinct playing style, ranging from Medvedev’s eclectic penchant for disruption to Rublev’s bazooka-like forehand. And they’re all quite young, Karatsev the elder at 27.
3. Celebrate the Guru with Great Hands—But No Volleys
Who best helps a professional tennis player thrive? Who makes sure that player is ready to compete as rigorously as possible? In times of trouble, who does he turn to most?
Those questions have often been considered the territory of the coach—a particularly alluring storyline when the coach happens to be a legendary ex-player. Then there are others who aid the cause, ranging from psychologists to strategists to family members to agents. But there have also long been unsung, lesser-known members of the support group: physiotherapists and trainers. Amid the demands of playing tennis during a pandemic, of juggling disparate training blocks, uncertain downtime and floating tournament schedules, these gurus who keep a player’s body as finely tuned as a Maserati—such as Ulises Badio with Novak Djokovic and Pierre Paganini with Roger Federer—have become more important than ever.