Novak Djokovic, Ashleigh Barty, Barbora Krejcikova among best tennis of 2021 season
Novak Djokovic dominated at the Grand Slams on the ATP Tour in 2021, only missing out on a Calendar Slam in the final of the US Open, while Ashleigh Barty and Barbora Krejcikova were the standout players on the WTA Tour. But who were the players of the season and who were the best doubles teams of the year?
There are several strong contenders after a year that saw Novak Djokovic win three of the men’s Grand Slam titles and three first-time major winners on the women’s side. Ashleigh Barty was women’s world No 1 throughout the season, and won the second Grand Slam title of her career, while Barbora Krejcikova had a year to remember with success in singles and doubles.
Weighing in all the different factors over the last 12 months, we assess the top candidates for the player-of-the-season awards from the ATP Tour and WTA Tour…
Alexander Zverev won the most titles on the ATP Tour in 2021 (6). Daniil Medvedev won the most matches (63).
But can the award go to anyone other than the player who won three Grand Slams and finished as year-end No 1?
Djokovic’s year outside of the majors was pretty ordinary (two other titles, two more finals, semi-finals at the Olympics and ATP Finals), but the invincibility that he showed in five-set matches will go down in the history books. That he fell at the final hurdle in his bid for a Calendar Slam only diminishes the achievement slightly.
He also broke several records in 2021, surpassing Roger Federer for most weeks as world No 1 and Pete Sampras’ record of six-year end No 1 finishes. Djokovic also won a 37th Masters title, moving him one ahead of Rafael Nadal in the all-time standings.
“It was a great season, no doubt,” said Djokovic after losing in the semi-finals of the ATP Finals to Alexander Zverev.
“I did not play many tournaments, but still managed to end the year at No 1 for the seventh time, broke records for the year-end No 1, historic No 1, won three out of four Slams.
The year was phenomenal. Maybe could have done better in some other ATP events. But all in all really good ending of the season as well with a title in Paris and semi-finals here.
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It’s a close call for second spot between Zverev and Medvedev.
Zverev was very impressive in the second half of the season, especially in clinching gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and beating Djokovic and Medvedev on his way to winning the ATP Finals.
But Medvedev made two Grand Slam finals, one of which he won, and ended the season by helping his country win the Davis Cup. He also won three out of four matches against Zverev in 2021 so just gets the nod.
Best player on the WTA Tour
While Djokovic was the standout player on the ATP Tour for his Grand Slam dominance, there are two players on the WTA Tour in with a strong claim for the player-of-the-season award.
Barty was the best singles player of the year, winning the most titles (5) and lifting the second Grand Slam trophy of her career at Wimbledon. Were it not for an unfortunate injury she may have also won another French Open title.
Barty came into the season with questions over her position as world No 1, having hardly played in 2020, but she has proved herself as the undisputed best. She won titles on different surfaces this year and is only the fifth woman to be world No 1 at the end of three consecutive years.
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“I am proud I was able to finish the year at No. 1, especially after the challenging and unpredictable season,” said Barty, who left Australia in March and did not return until late September.
“Being away from home for so long was really tough for not only me but my whole team, everyone made sacrifices which I’m very grateful for. We went into 2021 knowing it was going to be an adventure and it definitely was, I wouldn’t change it.”
The other contender for the award is Barbora Krejcikova.
Krejcikova was largely a doubles specialist before the season but she unexpectedly proved herself to also be a force on the singles court in 2021, winning the French Open and two more singles titles. Her solo success did not come at the detriment of her doubles play as she won the French Open, Olympics and WTA Finals with Katerina Siniakova. She finishes the season ranked No 5 in the world in singles and No 2 in doubles – and seemingly surprised at her own success.
“It's actually unbelievable,” she said ahead of the US Open in the summer. “I never expected that I could be this high and play on this stage."
Match Winner Barbora Krejcikova of Czech Republic kisses the winners trophy after the Women’s final on day fourteen of the 2021 French Open at Roland Garros on June 12, 2021 in Paris,
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Krejcikova played some excellent tennis throughout the year and it will be fascinating to see whether she can continue to compete for both singles and doubles trophies in the years ahead. She played nearly 120 WTA Tour matches in 2021, while most of her rivals at the top of the singles rankings played around 70-80.
It’s a close call between Barty and Krejcikova for the player of the year, but the Australian just takes the prize for her sustained high level play throughout a year on the road.
Best doubles teams
There’s not too much debate on either the men’s or women’s side.
Krejcikova and Siniakova won the French Open, two other WTA titles, Olympic gold, and then rounded off their season by lifting the WTA Finals trophy. They might have added another major title if they had converted any of their four match points against Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Vesnina in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon.
Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic had an even more stellar season as they won nine titles together, including Wimbledon, the Olympics, and three Masters 1000 events. Like Krejcikova and Siniakova, they came close to even more glory as they made the semi-finals of the ATP Finals and reached the final of the Davis Cup with Croatia, where they likely would have won the title if Russian Tennis Federation hadn’t swept to victory in both singles matches.
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