April 12, 2020

The Best of 2020 -- The Winners

Okay, we've come to the end of my list highlighting some of the outstanding performances we saw on the tennis courts before play was cut short just about a month ago. We've seen some breakthroughs, some trailblazers, and some new faces, and today I pay tribute to a couple players -- one veteran and one rising star -- who have really taken the game by storm this year.

But before I reveal the winners, here are some headlines that have crossed since my last post.

  • Former USTA president Katrina Adams revealed she tested positive for COVID-19
  • The Rogers Cup officially put off its men's and women's events until next year
  • We got a first look at some of the players who'll take part in the Mutua Madrid Open's groundbreaking virtual tournament
  • The ATP and WTA teamed up to launch Tennis United, hosted by Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Vasek Pospisil
  • Roger Federer ignited a wall-tennis frenzy with his #TennisAtHome challenge

The Men: Gael Monfils

Age: 33
Current Ranking: #9
Title(s): Rotterdam, Montpellier (just this year!)

The showy Frenchman is no stranger to the spotlight and has been one of the real workhorses of our game for over a decade -- he first broke into the top ten in 2009! And while he's had some ups and downs, even falling into the triple digits for some time back in 2013, he's really seemed to find new life in recent months. After a fourth round exit at the Australian Open, he stormed his way to the title in Montpellier, kept his momentum going for another in Rotterdam where he didn't drop a set, and even pushed Novak Djokovic in the Dubai semifinals before his win streak finally ended at twelve.

Believe it or not, this is the first time he's ever won more than two titles in a season, and while it's looking increasingly likely that he snuck those in just under the gun, his somewhat uncharacteristic consistency could well be something he carries with him when play gets back underway. Call it what you will -- a renewed inspiration for the game, a little extra push from his equally talented girlfriend -- but it sure seems like the best of Monfils may still be to come.

The Women: Elena Rybakina

Age: 20
Current Ranking: #17
Title(s): Hobart

I've extolled the outstanding performance we've seen from the young Kazakh before, but it bears repeating. After starting the year ranked outside the top 30, she was on court week after week (after week) this season to slice that number to bits. She kicked off 2020 making two finals in a row, earning a title in Hobart, and after Melbourne -- really the only event where she hasn't gone deep -- she made the finals in St. Petersburg and Dubai too, scoring wins over Karolina Pliskova and Sofia Kenin along the way. She finally ran out of steam in Doha, pulling out before her third round against Ashleigh Barty, but given her jam-packed schedule that's really no surprise.

To that point, I had been worried she was in danger of burning out, but hopefully this forced hiatus will give her the opportunity to regroup, recharge, and come back on court in a few months swinging big. And when she does, I don't think it'll be long before she starts shaving a couple more spots off her ranking.

Thanks for hanging out with me for by "Best of 2020" list! And while you're at it, check out who else made the cut here!

And while this list may be over, #TennisAtHome isn't! Here's today's moment:

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