With four Grand Slams and the Olympics coming up this year, there’s plenty of prizes on offer in the tennis world. But who will be targeting which trophies – or records – in 2021?
Naomi Osaka – Olympic gold
Gold in Tokyo looks to be top of Osaka’s wishlist this year.
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She has won three Grand Slams over the last three years and earned plenty of plaudits last year for speaking out against social injustices. But this year her sights are set on winning gold in her home country, becoming the first Japanese player to do so at the Olympics.
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"Naomi has described her biggest goal in 2021 as doing well in the Tokyo Olympic Games,” her trainer Yutaka Nakamura said recently. "In the remainder of her career, Naomi can likely only compete in the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Paris in 2024, and Los Angeles in 2028."
There will be other opportunities at the Olympic Games for Osaka, but winning gold in Japan would be huge for her.
Roger Federer - Wimbledon
How sweet would a ninth Wimbledon title be for Federer?
It’s been four years since he won at SW19, with his last outing in 2019 ending in a heartbreaking defeat to Novak Djokovic in the final after he spurned two championship points. With time running out on his career, if Federer, who is currently recovering from knee surgery, is going to win another major and again move ahead of Rafael Nadal in the all-time standings then Wimbledon this year may be his last shot.
If not Wimbledon then the Olympics - one of the very few tournaments Federer is yet to win - will be high on the priority list. He claimed gold in the doubles in 2008 but was beaten in the final in 2012 by Andy Murray and didn’t play in 2016.
Novak Djokovic – No 1 record
Grand Slams are still the long-term aim for Djokovic, but there’s something else on his mind this year. If he remains as world No 1 until March 8 then he will beat Federer’s record of 310 weeks at the top of the ATP rankings. He currently leads second-placed Nadal by 2,180 points, so a strong run at the Australian Open, where he is defending champion, will be enough to carry him to the record.
Speaking in November, Djokovic revealed his determination to break the mark set by Federer, who last reached the top in June 2018.
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“Goals are clear – I want to end the year as No 1 and I want to have as big an advantage as possible for the first three months of 2021, which would allow me the historic No 1, one of the two biggest goals in my career.”
Djokovic reached the top of the rankings for the first time in July 2011 and his current streak goes back to the Australian Open last year.
Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams – No 21 and No 24
For Nadal, another Slam - the 21st of his career - would move him into first place in the all-time standings for the first time, one clear of Federer, and potentially four ahead of Djokovic.
For Williams, another Slam would move her level with Margaret Court at the top of the standings, but No 24 has proved elusive so far. The 39-year-old hasn’t won a major since the Australian Open in 2017, losing in four finals since and the semi-finals of the US Open last year. How many more chances will she get?
Andy Murray – Go deep in a tournament
Murray has won one title (in Antwerp in October 2019) in the last four years. That victory was a huge step for him after hip surgery but he wasn’t able to move further forward in 2020 due to injury issues and the disrupted season.
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The big thing for Murray is getting match practice. He couldn’t back up wins at the Western & Southern Open and US Open as he lost in straight sets in his next matches and then didn’t get much time on court for the rest of the year.
Winning trophies again is the ultimate aim, but that starts with stringing some wins together.
Dominic Thiem – Win another Slam
Thiem finally broke through in 2020, becoming the first player outside the ‘Big Three’ to win a Grand Slam since 2016. But can he do it again? Speaking after his US Open success he suggested that some of the pressure was now off him at Slams.
“I expect that it's going to be easier for me now in the biggest tournaments because, of course, I had it in the back of my head that I had a great career so far, way better career than I could ever dreamt of, but until today there was still a big part, a big goal missing. With this goal achieved, I think and I hope that I'm going to be a little bit more relaxed and play a little bit more freely at the biggest events.”
Thiem followed up his US Open win with a quarter-final defeat at the French Open and will start among the favourites in Melbourne after pushing Djokovic close in the final last year.
If he is on his best form then Thiem looks the best placed to challenge Djokovic and Nadal at majors.
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