The tennis grand slam season may be over, but the calendar is far from finished, with several storylines to keep an eye on over the next couple of months.
Post-US Open action typically revolves around Asia, but since tournaments in China and Japan have been canceled due to the pandemic, the upcoming schedule on both the women’s and men’s tours is a unique and possibly confusing mash-up of big and small events taking place at any location prepared to host them.
If you are experiencing tennis withdrawal symptoms since the US Open and are not sure what to follow, here is a guide to help you through the next few weeks.
WTA Finals back on the calendar
The WTA Finals were canceled last year, but the tournament has found a new and temporary home in Guadalajara, Mexico, for this season and will return to its original host city of Shenzhen in China from 2022.
The top eight women in the race will qualify for the prestigious season finale, which will be a held in a later-than-usual slot on the schedule, from Nov. 10-17.
Three players — Ashleigh Barty, Aryna Sabalenka and Barbora Krejcikova — have already booked their tickets to Guadalajara, and the fight for the five remaining spots might go down to the wire, with just 1,000 points separating the players ranked between 7 and 24 in the race.
Tunisian Ons Jabeur is looking to become the first Arab in history to qualify for the WTA Finals. Ranked No.9 in the race, the 27-year-old will ignite her campaign to secure a place in Guadalajara when she takes to the court at the WTA 500 tournament in Chicago this week. She is also entered in Indian Wells and Moscow.
Others in the running for qualification spots include Karolina Pliskova, Maria Sakkari, Iga Swiatek, Naomi Osaka, Garbine Muguruza and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
ATP Finals set for Turin debut
After 12 successful years at London’s O2 Arena between 2009 and 2020, the ATP Finals will move to Turin, which will host the men’s season-closer from 2021 to 2025.
With the exception of last year when the event was held behind closed doors due to the pandemic, the ATP Finals witnessed near sellout crowds for every single session during its tenure in London, and it will be interesting to see whether Turin will be able to attract similar attention for the top-eight showpiece.
A trio of ATP Finals champions has already qualified for Turin, in the form of Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, with five places yet to be scooped up. Rafael Nadal is No.7 in the race but the Spaniard has ended his season prematurely to rehab his ailing foot.
Italian Matteo Berrettini is looking to qualify on home soil, while Casper Ruud, Hubert Hurkacz and Felix Auger-Aliassime are hoping to make their ATP Finals debut.
Tennis returns to Indian Wells
Arguably everyone’s favorite destination on the tennis calendar, Indian Wells is back on the schedule following a lengthy absence. The tournament was the first to get the axe in March last year when the world went into lockdown, and it was moved from its regular spring slot to Oct. 6-17 this season, much to the delight of both players and fans.
Notable absentees from the field include Naomi Osaka, Serena Williams and defending champion Dominic Thiem.
With 1,000 points on the line in the California desert, Indian Wells might prove crucial in the race to Turin and Guadalajara.
Medvedev’s bid for the top ranking
It is a long shot, and will require Daniil Medvedev to win the majority of his matches until the end of the season, but the Russian has a chance of becoming the first player outside the “Big Four” to be ranked No.1 on the ATP tour since Andy Roddick in 2003.
Medvedev is currently just over 1,500 points behind Novak Djokovic in the rankings and the reigning US Open champion can unseat the Serb if he successfully defends his Paris Masters and ATP Finals titles, while also enjoying a strong run at Indian Wells.
The world No.2 has the option to add the St. Petersburg tournament to his schedule (starts Oct. 25) should he feel he has a legitimate chance of ending the season at the summit of the rankings.
Djokovic has around 500 points to defend for the rest of the season, and has more opportunities to add to his tally, compared with Medvedev.
Legends on the comeback trail
Four-time major champion Kim Clijsters kicked off her comeback attempt in Dubai in February 2020, shortly before the tour was suspended due to the pandemic. The Belgian had spent nearly eight years off tour before returning to competition last season, but ended up just playing three matches in total in 2020.
The 38-year-old will resume her comeback this week in Chicago, where she opens her campaign against Hsieh Su-Wei, with the winner of that clash taking on Ons Jabeur in round two.
Meanwhile, on the men’s side, former world No.1 Andy Murray continues his search for form and is edging closer to a place in the top 100, thanks to his recent quarterfinal run in Metz.
The Scot, who has undergone multiple hip surgeries, is playing in San Diego this week, where he faces Kei Nishikori in his opening round.
“I’ve not played this many tournaments in a while and my body feels good. I’m gaining confidence and seeing the points develop and how I want to play them again. The results are coming and my tennis is getting better,” Murray said after reaching his first quarterfinal in two years.
National duty beckons
Both the Billie Jean King Cup Finals (formerly Fed Cup) and the Davis Cup finals have been confirmed on the calendar, with the former taking place in Prague from Nov. 1-6 and the latter being staged across three cities — Madrid, Turin and Innsbruck — from Nov. 25 to Dec. 5.
The BJK Cup Finals will follow the single-venue format for the first time, as 12 teams, split among four round-robin groups, will gather in the Czech capital.
Considering how hectic and long this season has been, especially factoring in the Olympics, it is hard to imagine too many teams turning up to these events with full-strength squads.
Winter action in the Gulf
Before we bid farewell to 2021, tennis will come to the UAE in various forms over the next couple of months.
Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena will host a fun Tie Break Tens event on Oct. 22, featuring Gael Monfils and Dan Evans among others.
The Habtoor Tennis Challenge, a popular $100,000 women’s ITF tournament, is scheduled for Nov. 22-28 in Dubai, while the Mubadala World Tennis Championship returns to Abu Dhabi from Dec. 16-18.