Tennis review of 2020: New stars, Naomi Osaka's activism and Novak Djokovic's huge disqualification
We take a look back through 2020 in tennis after what was an unprecedented year for the sport. Novak Djokovic and Sofia Kenin won the Australian Open, Djokovic was disqualified from the US Open as Dominic Thiem triumphed. Naomi Osaka won for a second time at Flushing Meadows but her most impressive actions came off the court. Meanwhile, Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek were crowned at Roland Garros.
The simmering beef between Nick Kyrgios and Rafael Nadal simmered some more at the Australian Open, where Nadal said he does not like it when Kyrgios does “the other stuff” – referring to the Australian's on-court antics - ahead of their last-16 showdown.
The Australian, of course, had begun the year with a mighty show of philanthropy by raising money for the victims of the Australian bushfires, saying the following ahead of the Australian Open:
I’m kicking off the support for those affected by the fires. I’ll be donating $200 [£106] per ace that I hit across all the events I play this summer.
However, Nadal was perhaps reacting to Kyrgios’s on-court antics after the Australian sparked headlines when he mocked him by imitating the Spaniard's pre-service routine after being hit with a time violation during his second-round match against Gilles Simon.
Kyrgios imitates Nadal – and even the umpire laughs!
This is exactly what Nadal would say:
When he plays good tennis and he shows passion for this game, he is a positive player for our tour and I want my tour bigger, not smaller. When he's ready to play his best tennis and play with passion, (he) is one of these guys. When he's doing the other stuff, of course I don't like.
Anyway, Nadal went on to win their showdown in four sets.
Serena slams own 'unprofessional' display against Qiang Wang
The Chinese No 27 seed produced the biggest shock result of the tournament after knocking the American out with a 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 7-5 victory in the third round on Rod Laver Arena. The victory came just four months after Wang lost 6-1 6-0 to Williams at the US Open.
Brutal, honest, emotional - Watch Serena discuss her exit, and Wozniacki's retirement
“She served well. I didn’t return like Serena. Honestly, if we’re just honest with ourselves, it’s all on my shoulders, I lost that match,” she told reporters.
It is what it is. It is not about the tournament, I can’t play like that. I literally can’t do that again, that’s unprofessional. It’s not cool.
“I’m definitely going to be training tomorrow to make sure I don’t do this again.”
Ice-cool Kenin fights back against Muguruza for first Grand Slam title
That loss meant the wait for a 24th Grand Slam went on for Serena Williams, but Sofia Kenin picked up her first, fighting back from a set down to beat Garbine Muguruza 4-6 6-2 6-2 in the final. 14th seed Kenin had been the form player coming into Melbourne, and only dropped one set – to Coco Gauff – coming into the final against unseeded Muguruza. However, having lost the first set, the 21-year-old produced two sets of the highest calibre of tennis to claim a first Grand Slam title, taking the second of the championship points on offer, courtesy of a double fault from Muguruza.
Highlights: Kenin downs Muguruza to win Australian Open
Djokovic has meltdown but continues his Melburnian dominance
Elsewhere, Novak Djokovic continued his dominance of the season-opening slam as he defeated Dominic Thiem in an epic encounter.
The pre-tournament favourite, Djokovic had surprised no-one with his business-like march through the draw, dropping just one set on his way to an eighth final.
And it looked like it would be a procession to a 17th Grand Slam title as he cruised to the first set. However, Thiem fought back, sealing sets two and three to put himself within touching distance of a stunning upset and a first Grand Slam final.
An agitated Djokovic took aim at umpire Damien Dumusois at the changeover at the end of the second set, and then went on to lose the third set, but regrouped to regain his composure and send the final into a deciding fifth set.
‘You made yourself famous, well done’ – Djokovic rages at umpire during Australian Open final
And the 32-year-old secured the decisive break in the third game of the set before holding off a spirited Thiem to win his eighth title at Melbourne Park.
The coronavirus pandemic shutdown
The season was, of course, to come to a premature halt by the coronavirus pandemic, with all officially-sanctioned tennis ceasing in the first week of March. Novak Djokovic won the Dubai Tennis Championships and Rafael Nadal clinched the Mexican Open title in late February on the ATP side, and Heather Watson won in Mexico and Simona Halep in Dubai ahead of a shutdown that would last four and a half months. Wimbledon would, of course, be cancelled, but there would be the odd exhibition.
The Adria Tour - Djokovic tests positive for Covid-19, 'extremely sorry'
The Adria Tour was not a success. It was an exhibition tour held in June 2020 in Belgrade, Serbia and Zadar, Croatia. It was criticised for a lack of social distancing and ended with Djokovic testing positive for Covid-19 after several other players on the tour contracted the disease.
Djokovic's brother, Djordje, told Serbia's Prva Television that the fallout the event received since it's second leg in Croatia "was the worst possible scenario".
Around 100 people were tested and I was hard-hit by news that some of them came back positive. We wish all of them a speedy and painless recovery.
The 2020 Western & Southern Open
Tennis would kick back into action in August with a few tune up events ahead of the US Open. The Cincinnati Masters – or to give it its accurate name, the 2020 Western & Southern Open as it was not held in Cincinnati, Ohio – saw Novak Djokovic win on the men’s side beating Milos Raonic and Victoria Azarenka taking the spoils on the women’s side after Naomi Osaka withdrew injured.
Osaka pulls out of S&W Open to protest 'genocide of Black people'
The most important moment at the S&W Open came when Osaka used her platform and withdrew from her semi-final against Elise Mertens to protest the "continued genocide of black people'" by police.
Osaka’s withdrawal followed protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, in the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin. The tournament then decided to postpone the day's play.
"As a Black woman I feel as though there are much more important matters at hand that need immediate attention, rather than watching me play tennis," the world number 10 wrote on social media.
I don't expect anything drastic to happen with me not playing, but if I can get a conversation started in a majority white sport I consider that a step in the right direction. Watching the continued genocide of Black people at the hands of the police is honestly making me sick to my stomach.
Osaka would return to play and win the re-arranged semi-final but would withdraw from the final injured.
Inspired Osaka wins second US Open title and third Slam
The story of Osaka's masks at US Open to highlight racial injustice
Throughout the tournament she continued to highlight racial injustice, wearing masks ahead of each of her matches bearing the names of Black Americans, who were victims of racial injustice and either killed at the hands citizens or by the police.
"I feel like they [the victims’ families] are so strong. I’m not sure what I would be able to do if I was in their position, but I feel like I’m a vessel at this point, in order to spread awareness. It’s not going to dull the pain, but hopefully I can help with anything they need," Osaka told ESPN.
The Serb, who had previously been suffering with a shoulder injury, was visibly frustrated after being broken in the first set as the Spaniard took a 6-5 lead. He struck a ball away in frustration - and although he was not facing the assailed lineswoman, the ball hit her and she was bent double, coughing and needing medical attention.
There then followed a lengthy consultation with the tournament referee, with Djokovic seemingly attempting to convince the referee and chair umpire to let him continue in his campaign but to no avail.
Here is the incident:
Thiem completes astonishing comeback to win maiden Grand Slam
Zverev roared into a two-set lead with the Austrian not able to establish himself at all, but that was just the beginning of the drama. Thiem won the next two sets to prompt a decider, only for both players to fail to serve out for the title in agonising fashion.
For the first time ever, a men's singles final had to be decided in a fifth set tie-break, and Thiem came through to take it 8-6 amid unbearable tension to triumph and finally clinch his maiden Slam title.
Highlights: 'Unbelievable' Nadal beats Djokovic to win 13th French Open
However, it was arguably Jannik Sinner and Iga Swiatek who laid down markers for the upcoming season with some stunning tennis. Sinner stunned Zverev in the quarter-finals, and nearly repeated the trick against Nadal in the semi-final, going down in four sets after a 1.30am finish.
Highlights: 'A star is born' – Sinner stuns Zverev to reach quarter-finals
However, it was Swiatek whose star shown brightest at Roland Garros.
Sublime Swiatek wins French Open in stunning triumph
Swiatek became the first Polish player to win a Grand Slam singles title as she beat Sofia Kenin 6-4 6-1. The 19-year-old put in a breathtaking performance as she downed the American in a convincing victory to become the latest teenage champion in Paris.
Ranked at number 54 in the world coming into the year's third and final Slam, Swiatek showed she was a serious threat by losing just three games against top seed Simona Halep in a huge fourth-round shock.
"It's crazy for me because I watch every year how Rafa lifts this trophy so it's crazy that I'm in the same place," Swiatek said during her on-court interview.
Highlights: Swiatek's best moments after winning French Open
The new tennis superstar from Warsaw remarkably did not drop a single set throughout the tournament and became the youngest winner at Roland Garros since Monica Seles lifted the Suzanne Lenglen Cup in 1992.
Tennis in 2020: Naomi Osaka, Iga Swiatek lead the way in unique season