Five talking points from the 2020 tennis season

Five talking points from the 2020 tennis season
Daniil Medvedev of Russia after defeating Dominic Thiem of Austria in the final of the ATP World Finals tennis match at the O2 arena in London Sunday. (AFP)
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Updated 24 November 2020

Five talking points from the 2020 tennis season

Five talking points from the 2020 tennis season
  • The chaos caused to tennis by the pandemic saw the governing bodies freeze world rankings from March

PARIS: The truncated 2020 tennis season came to an end on Sunday when Daniil Medvedev defeated Dominic Thiem in the championship match of the ATP Finals in London.

Here are the five things to remember from the coronavirus-impacted year:

1. Novak Djokovic started the year with an eighth Australian Open and 17th Grand Slam title and finished it by equalling Pete Sampras's record as a year-end world No. 1  for a sixth time.

In between, however, the darker side of the 33-year-old emerged.

While the sport went into coronavirus lockdown, the Serb launched his ill-fated Adria Tour in June.

With no social distancing and with players pictured dancing shirtless at a packed nightclub, Djokovic became one of a number of players to test positive for coronavirus.

Grigor Dimitrov, Borna Coric and Viktor Troicki also became ill and the project was abandoned.

"You can't be dancing on tables, money-grabbing your way around Europe or trying to make a quick buck hosting the next exhibition. That's just so selfish," said Australian firebrand Nick Kyrgios.

Djokovic then saw his hopes of an 18th Slam end with a disqualification from the US Open after inadvertently hitting a line judge with a ball.

His hopes of becoming the first man in half a century to win all four Slams twice ended in a straight sets defeat to Rafael Nadal in the French Open final.

2. Rafael Nadal had skipped the US Open, where he was defending champion, due to fears over the escalating health crisis in New York.

The decision paid off as he swept to a 13th Roland Garros and 20th career Grand Slam title in Paris in October.

The French Open had been pushed back four months due to the pandemic and Nadal had entered the tournament fearing the heavier balls and autumn conditions would conspire against him.

He need not have worried as he reached the 100-win mark at the tournament without dropping a set, making light of the 1,000 fans a day limit.

3. The global pandemic closed down tennis from March until August.

Wimbledon was canceled for the first time since World War II while Roland Garros was moved from its traditional May/June slot to September/October.

The Davis Cup and Fed Cup finals were binned as were the ATP and WTA end-of-season Asian swings.

Most events were played behind closed doors.

4. Serena Williams' quest for a record-equalling 24th Slam goes on after another season of frustration at the Slams.

The 39-year-old lost in the third round in Australia, semi-finals of the US Open and pulled out injured after the first round of the French Open.

With No. 1 Ashleigh Barty not playing at all after the resumption, something of a power vacuum emerged.

Sofia Kenin had already claimed a maiden Slam at the Australian Open while Naomi Osaka claimed a second US Open and third career major in New York.

Kenin's hopes of a second Slam in 2020 were undone by charismatic Iga Swiatek of Poland who won a shock French Open. The 19-year-old, at 54, was the lowest-ranked woman to capture the Roland Garros title in the modern era and was Poland's first ever major champion.

5. The chaos caused to tennis by the pandemic saw the governing bodies freeze world rankings from March, allowing points to extend beyond the traditional 52-week window.

Barty remained world No. 1  despite playing just three events —  winning the Adelaide tournament followed by semi-inal runs at the Australian Open and Qatar Open.

Former US Open winner Bianca Andreescu didn't play a single match in 2020 after injuring her knee at the WTA Finals in Shenzhen in October last year.

The Canadian will still finish at seven in the rankings.


Arteta eyes new signings as Arsenal shed fringe players

Arteta eyes new signings as Arsenal shed fringe players
Updated 22 January 2021

Arteta eyes new signings as Arsenal shed fringe players

Arteta eyes new signings as Arsenal shed fringe players

LONDON: Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta is focusing on potential signings in the January transfer window after trimming his squad but refused to be drawn on a loan move for Real Madrid’s Martin Odegaard

Sokratis Papastathopoulos was released from his contract this week, while Mesut Ozil is on the brink of a transfer to Turkish club Fenerbahce.

Sead Kolasinac and William Saliba have already left on loan deals as Arteta seeks to re-balance his squad.

The Arsenal boss, speaking ahead of Saturday’s FA Cup fourth-round match at Southampton, would not be drawn on reports linking the club with a loan move for Real’s attacking midfielder Odegaard.

But he said the focus would now turn to the entrance door rather than the exit at the Emirates.

“We are in that process now,” Arteta said on Thursday when asked if it was now time to start bringing players in.

“We have done the first part more or less and we are focusing now on the second phase.

“Obviously this market and the context makes it difficult, but we are looking at options and we will see what we can do.”

Arteta, whose team are FA Cup holders, said the departures had left his squad short in certain areas.

He said a left-back could be on the radar, with the decision to allow Kolasinac to join Schalke until the end of the season leaving him with only Kieran Tierney as a natural option.

“With the departure of Kola we are a little bit short with left-footed fullbacks at the moment,” he added.

Both Ozil and Sokratis were omitted from Arsenal’s Premier League and Europa League squads for the first half of the season.

Arteta had stressed several times he was unhappy with the bloated nature of the squad and feels the departures will help him achieve a better balance.

“We could not carry on with 31 players in the squad,” he said. “It is unmanageable. And when you have to leave some of the foreign players out, it makes it even  more difficult.

“To do it for a few weeks is OK, to do it for months and maintain the health, the ambition and the chemistry is really complicated.

“So one of the main objectives was to make some decisions about how we are going to offset that. We have done it.”