On Thursday, ATPTour.com discussed the first five of 10 key storylines for the 2021 ATP Tour season. These included Novak Djokovic’s bid to make FedEx ATP Rankings history and Rafael Nadal’s charge to return to World No. 1.
From the rise of Jannik Sinner to Roger Federer’s return, discover the five remaining storylines to look out for in 2021.
6) How High Will Sinner Climb?
Following his run to the 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals title in Milan, Jannik Sinner raised his game to new heights in 2020. The Italian soared from No. 78 in the FedEx ATP Rankings at the start of the year to finish the season at No. 37. The youngest player in the Top 100 earned three Top 10 wins in 2020 and became the first player since Rafael Nadal in 2005 to reach the Roland Garros quarter-finals on his tournament debut. In his quarter-final in Paris, Sinner pushed Nadal in the opening two sets before falling 7-6(4), 6-4, 6-1.
If his 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals triumph was a sign of things to come in 2020, Sinner has already signalled his intent for 2021. The 19-year-old ended his 2020 campaign with his maiden ATP Tour title at the Sofia Open. The Italian will be motivated by opportunities to finish the year on home soil, with both the Nitto ATP Finals (Turin) and the Next Gen ATP Finals (Milan) to be held in Italy. Sinner will open his 2020 campaign at the Antalya Open, to be held from 7-13 January.
7) Roger’s Return
When Roger Federer returns to the court, the 39-year-old will be making his first appearance since his run to the 2020 Australian Open semi-finals. The Swiss, who recently won the ATPTour.com Fans’ Favourite Award for the 18th straight year, will continue his bid to overtake Jimmy Connors in two key areas in 2021.
The American legend currently owns a record 109 crowns and 1,274 wins at tour level, while Federer holds 103 titles and 1,242 victories. In his last full season on the ATP Tour in 2019, Federer captured four trophies and earned 53 wins.
8) Murray Hopes For More Magic
Following injury and the ATP Tour suspension due to COVID-19, Andy Murray made just four appearances on the ATP Tour in 2020. The former World No. 1 recently received a main draw wild card for the Australian Open, which will be held from 8-21 February.
Murray will be making his 14th appearance at the opening Grand Slam event of the year. The 33-year-old has finished as a runner-up at Melbourne Park on five occasions and is tied with Andre Agassi and former coach Ivan Lendl in fifth position on the tournament wins list (48). Murray will look to add to his impressive resume in 2021, which includes 46 titles and 676 wins at tour-level.
9) Who Will Be 2021’s Andrey Rublev?
Andrey Rublev enjoyed a breakthrough 2020 season, as he earned a tour-leading five titles and 41 match wins. The Russian claimed 15 consecutive wins at ATP 500-level and reached back-to-back Grand Slam quarter-finals at the US Open and Roland Garros to book his place at the Nitto ATP Finals for the first time. Who will follow in the footsteps of Rublev and become the breakthrough star of 2021?
Aside from rising star Sinner, four of the many young talents entering 2021 with big expectations are Denis Shapovalov, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Casper Ruud and Ugo Humbert. Rome semi-finalist Shapovalov will aim to build on his 2020 campaign and re-enter the Top 10 in the FedEx Rankings, while countryman Auger-Aliassime will continue his pursuit of a maiden ATP Tour trophy. Auger-Aliassime has finished as a runner-up at six ATP Tour events since February 2019.
Casper Ruud made history in 2020 when he became the first Norwegian player to capture an ATP Tour trophy at the Argentina Open. The Oslo native compiled a tour-leading 17 victories on the dirt in 2020 and will be a leading contender at clay events in 2021.
Ugo Humbert will also be confident of adding to his trophy collection in 2021. The Frenchman was the youngest player to win multiple ATP Tour crowns in 2020, following title runs in Auckland and Antwerp. Humbert proved his capabilities with two Top 10 wins during the year and finished the 2020 season with a run to his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final at the Rolex Paris Masters. Other players to watch include Alex de Minaur, Taylor Fritz, Hubert Hurkacz and Reilly Opelka.
Felix Auger-Aliassime travelled to the Rafa Nadal Academy by Movistar in December to prepare for the 2021 ATP Tour season.
10) New Year, New Teams
One of the key features of the 2021 ATP Tour season will be the large number of changes to doubles pairings. Many of the top doubles stars will start the new year with a fresh partner, including 2020 year-end World No. 1 FedEx ATP Doubles Team Ranking holders Mate Pavic and Bruno Soares and Nitto ATP Finals champions Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic.
Pavic and Mektic will form an all-Croatian partnership in 2021, Soares will reunite with Jamie Murray and Koolhof will join forces with Lukasz Kubot. Other new partnerships include Marcelo Melo and Jean-Julien Rojer, Ken Skupski and Neal Skupski, Edouard Roger-Vasselin and Henri Kontinen and Raven Klaasen and Ben McLachlan.