The tennis landscape is beginning to change. Roger Federer and Serena Williams, legendary performers over the last two decades, are encountering physical issues and slipping from view as new characters emerge.
The women’s game continues to be chaotic and unpredictable, while Novak Djokovic remains an immovable object at the top of his field.
2021 will be a year remembered for an astonishing breakthrough and an emotional near miss. Here are the top five moments from a drama-filled season.
5. Carlos Alcaraz stuns Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Big Apple
Alcaraz created a flurry of intrigue by emerging victorious at the Croatia Open in July. The 18-year-old became the youngest champion on the ATP Tour since Kei Nishikori in 2008 - and he was soon making a stir in the city that never sleeps.
Rarely does a youngster enthral and enthuse an ambivalent audience, but Alcaraz mesmerised spectators with his fearless ball-striking and resolute defending during a topsy-turvy five-set win over Tsitsipas.
His spellbinding performance offered a tantalising glimpse into an exciting future. Despite his US Open exploits ending at the quarter-final stage, it’s clear Spain has another budding superstar in its ranks.
4. Ashleigh Barty Wins Wimbledon
Barty provides a welcome alternative in an era dominated by aggressive and uncompromising hitting. Low-bouncing grass courts offer the Australian the perfect canvas to display her artistry - and she bamboozled rivals in SW19 with her repertoire of shots.
The 25-year-old utilised her slice to devastating effect and used variety to unsettle opponents. Centre Court became her playground, and she edged a fierce contest with Karolina Pliskova to become a double major champion.
The final was a contrast in styles, which added to the spectacle, but the world number one eventually found a way to blunt the Czech’s weapons and ensure a rare victory for precision over brawn.
3. A record-equalling 20th slam for Djokovic
Djokovic sauntered to his sixth Wimbledon crown to pull level alongside Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in slam triumphs. His relentless pursuit for parity in the major count had finally paid dividends, and his emotional reaction after downing Matteo Berrettini reinforced the scale of a magnificent achievement.
Twenty slam victories and counting for Serbia’s favourite son - and his appetite for further glory remains undimmed. The 34-year-old had vigorously chased the impressive haul set by Federer and Nadal, and he will likely surpass the pair and become the figure future generations seek to emulate.
2. Daniil Medvedev denies Djokovic calendar slam
Djokovic’s bid for a calendar slam, and sporting immortality, ended in underwhelming circumstances at the US Open. He was seeking to become the first male since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four majors in the same year, but Medvedev crushed his dreams at the final hurdle.
The world No.1 was inhibited and flustered throughout his toil inside Arthur Ashe Stadium. The weight of expectation hindered his fluency, and not even a partisan crowd could inspire the usually unflappable Serb.
Medvedev ended Djokovic’s stranglehold to become the first Russian male in 16 years to taste Grand Slam success.
1. Emma Raducanu makes history in New York
Raducanu’s spectacular US Open triumph is the standout moment from a pulsating year of action.
The 18-year-old’s astonishing run, which began in qualifying, enthralled and gripped the nation. The Brit displayed her talent, tenacity and ruthlessness as she challenged the world’s elite and emerged the victor, without even the concession of a set.
Raducanu’s unwavering confidence defied her lack of experience, but it wasn’t misplaced. She flourished in the spotlight and ensured the ultimate underdog story had a glorious finale.
The teenager arrived in the Big Apple without a single WTA victory to her name and ranked No.150 in the world. A fortnight later, she departed with extra hand luggage and memories that will never fade.
Bromley’s finest will have a dedicated chapter in the history books.
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