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  5. Yearender 2021: Nadal found worthy Roland Garros rival, Djokovic missed out on history...

Yearender 2021: Nadal found worthy Roland Garros rival, Djokovic missed out on history...

After a COVID-marred year, that shook the tennis world and saw some major reshuffles, handpicks the top 10 moments from 2021.

Written by: India TV Sports Desk New Delhi Published on: December 25, 2021 14:23 IST
Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic
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Novak Djokovic outlasted clay court King Rafael Nadal in French Open final over four sets.

As the tennis world readjusts to the changing times over COVID-19 restrictions, brings for you the top 10 moments from 2021 in its year-ender series. Do take a look.

1. Djokovic tamed King of Clay Nadal in French Open semi-finals

What could arguably be called the match of the year, Novak Djokovic rolled back years when he subdued King of Clay Rafael Nadal at his bastion 3-6, 6-3, 7-6, 6-2  for the first time since 2015, when the 34-year-old Serb dismantled his Spanish rival in a scintillating straight-set win. Nadal, who reached the semi-finals this year in hunt of his record 14th Roland Garros title, did show glimpses of weakness leading to the virtual-final clash.

The 35-year-old tennis legend dropped a set to Diego Schwartzmann in the last round but very few -- mostly Novak fan base -- anticipated a mauling over the next three sets after Nadal, who just lost twice in the last 107 games at the Major, took the first set with comfort. The match was down to Djokovic's brutal hitting, incredible court coverage, courage under pressure and calmness even in the most trying of circumstances as he took down Nadal in 3 hours 28 minutes.

However, after such a dominant show, the final wasn't a mere formality for the Serbian World No.1 as he rallied for a five-set win over Stefanos Tsitsipas after meekly surrendering the first two sets 6–7, 2–6, 6–3, 6–2, 6–4. 

2. Djokovic missed out on unique calendar slam, along with Olympic gold

India Tv - Novak Djokovic us open 2021 final

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Novak Djokovic broke in tears at the post-match presentation ceremony of the US Open 2021 final.

Once Djokovic won the French Open after winning the Australian Open with some comfort, the star seemed aligned for the Serbian to go all the way in the season and win all the Grand Slam in the calendar year on the offer, along with the rarest of feat in Olympic gold in the same year as well in Tokyo. Any doubts remaining over the possibility of the rare feat were erased when he took the bite of the grass in Wimbledon in June after sweeping away every opponent that came his way. 

However, the dream came down crashing in a span of 45 days as Djokovic lost to Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev in the Tokyo Olympics semi-final (6-1, 3-6, 1-6) and US Open final (4-6, 4-6, 4-6) respectively. What was more disheartening was the way the 20-time Grand Slam champion lost both games. it was visible that the Serbian was evidently exhausted in a prolonged calendar marred by COVID-19 outbreaks and gave fans the peak that even tennis great like Djokovic eke out every inch of his strength and still not go all the way in the season.

3. Zverev's Olympic gold medal on debut

Alexander Zverev is yet to learn the art of going all the way in a Grand Slam as the 2020 US Open runner-up title remains his biggest achievement. However, in three-set events, the 24-year-old German is often in his element and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics gold medal pays testimony to that. ON his way to gold, The five-time ATP Masters 1000 title winner just dropped one set in Tokyo while halting Djokovic's historic run. Final turned out to be a piece of cake for Zverev as he defeated ROC’s Karen Khachanov 6-3, 6-1 in 79 minutes. 

The German, however, wasn't done for the year as he ended the year as he capped it off with ATP Finals title in Turin.

4. Medvedev's enters big leagues with US Open title

India Tv - Daniil Medvedev defeated Djokovic in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, to win his maiden Grand Slam at th

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Daniil Medvedev defeated Djokovic in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-4, to win his maiden Grand Slam at the US Open.

The Big Four of tennis finally had a new member in the club when Russia's upcoming tennis star Daniil Medvedev finally prevailed Djokovic 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in US Open final to claim his maiden Grand Slam title. The victory couldn't have tasted sweeter as the 25-year-old Russian lost to the World No. 1 Serbian in the Australian Open final in the year. What struck a chord with many was the confidence of the Russian, who made his intentions clear upon arrival in the Flushing Meadows saying he is not here to watch Djokovic win another Grand Slam. 

5. Qualifier Raducanu owns Flushing Meadows in style

India Tv - Emma Raducanu

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Emma Raducanu became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam.

Emma Raducanu was a name unheard of in the English tennis circle and could be easily mistaken for a young Romanian girl trying to find her way in the professional tennis circuit. However, the 19-year-old girl soon caught everyone's imagination by reaching the round of 16 of the Wimbledon after making the main draw through qualifiers. While she was praised for her dream run, very few, actually none, anticipated her going all the way to the US Open title three months later in New York after finding her way to the main draw again through qualifiers.

By the time she reached the final after subduing the likes of Belinda Bencic, Maria Sakkari, Shelby Rogers, Raducanu was regarded as the favourite to win the title when she came across fellow teenager Leylah Fernandez. And what could be regarded as the beginning of a rivalry for the years to come, Raducanu made light work of her Canadian competitor 6-4, 6-3.

6. Naomi Osaka's mental health struggles

Tennis, as a matter of fact, any other sport, has been very demanding of a player, who is expected to be ready for face the media right after suffering, at times heart breaking, loss. While professional athletes have often decided not to make a big deal out of it and expected to deal with the ire of the fans and media alike with thick skin, it's often forgotten they are humans as well.

And four-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka's decision to pull out from Roland Garros, a tournament where she has historically struggled, over mental health issues after a tussle with the organisers on her press-conference boycott left the world in the split. 

"The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and I have had a really hard time coping with that," wrote Osaka in a long Instagram post, forcing world to take notice of player's mental health more seriously than ever.

7. Ageing Roger Federer's never-ending fight with injuries 

Nothing fears a tennis fan more than the thought of Swiss great Roger Federer finally deciding to call it quits. Afterall, over his two-decade-old career the player has shown that tennis is not always about brute force, power and ruggedness as Federer played tennis that made open-era great Serena Williams call him a 'ballerina' in adoration.

However, at the age of 40, his body is not willing to be in sync with his mind anymore as the 20-time Grand Slam winner played just 13 games in the season, including a quarter-final defeat at Wimbledon in July, before he had to undergo surgery on his recurring knee injury for the third time. While Federer confirmed the worse is behind him and is on his way preparing to be back on the court but with him turning 41 next year, retirement will always be in everyone's mind, including Federer.

8. Serena Williams's Wimbledon heartbreak

India Tv - serena williams

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Serena Williams slipped and injured herself during first round of Wimbledon 2021; forcing her to pull out of the tournament.

Serena Williams's hunt for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title has been due for a while as the 40-year-old US star has been way past her prime and has found it hard to deal with the raw talent that has been on the offer in the WTA professional circuit.

However, being on the wrong side of 40s, much alike Roger Federer, now meant her body is slowly giving up and that was evident during her bid for the 8th Wimbledon title. Sixth game into the first set of the opening round match, Serena slipped and injured herself and could only return to the court serving in pain to World No. 88 Aliaksandra Sasnovich.  To make things worse, Serena has missed all the Major events since then including the next month's Australian Open. 

9. Peng Shuai disappearance saga

India Tv - Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai disappeared briefly after claiming on social media that she was assau

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Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai disappeared briefly after claiming on social media that she was assaulted by a top Chinese government official.

The disappearance of Chinese professional tennis player Peng Shuai caused a lot of panic and left the Chinese government in a bad light as her disappearance from public proximity coincided with her accusing a former top government official of sexual assault. Concerns over her whereabouts only intensified as doubts were raised over an email purportedly sent by the two-time Grand Slam winner; claiming she was safe and that the allegation was false. 

Shuai soon appeared in public and gave interviews confirming her well being but it did little to please WTA, who was relentless in her search pursuit. The female tennis governing body soon banned the Asian country from hosting any WTA events and attracted the ire of the Chinese government, who called the decision absurd.

10. Djokovic, Australian Open in loggerhead over COVID-19 vaccination norms

Consider heavy favourites to win the Australian Open, subsequently a record 21st Grand Slam title, Novak Djokovic is running out of time to confirm if he is COVID-19 vaccinated for the 'Happy Slam'.

Australia's stringent travelling policies compel players to take COVID vaccination while Djokovic in the past has confirmed he is not really comfortable about taking a vaccine as the long-term consequences of it are not known yet.

Off late, Djokovic has kept mum on his vaccination status citing privacy matters, his father, Srdjan, said his son would love to play in the tournament but would not be forced into anything.

“They have to decide whether they will let Novak in,” the tennis star’s father said. “If they decide (not to let him play), they have to stand behind their decision. He has won the Australian Open nine times, he now wants to play, but they have to permit him to play. Novak will do what he thinks is the best for him, nobody will impose an opinion on him.”


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