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Meet The 2021 Comeback Nominees: Kokkinakis, McDonald, Murray & Sock

  • Posted: Dec 06, 2021

The Comeback Player of the Year award in the 2021 ATP Awards goes to the player who has overcome injury to re-establish himself as one of the top players on Tour. This year’s nominees are Thanasi Kokkinakis, Mackenzie McDonald, Andy Murray and Jack Sock. The winner, as selected by the players, will be announced later this month. 

Player Career-High
Before Comeback
Lowest Ranking
In 2021
Highest Ranking
In 2021 (Difference) 
 Thanasi Kokkinakis  No. 69  No. 267  No. 171 (+96)
 Mackenzie McDonald  No. 57  No. 194  No. 54 (+140)
 Andy Murray  No. 1  No. 172  No. 102 (+70)
 Jack Sock  No. 8  No. 273  No. 146 (+127)

Thanasi Kokkinakis
The Australian has struggled with injuries throughout his career, and in 2020 he did not play a match due to a right shoulder injury. But this year, Kokkinakis has showed that he is on the way back to his best.

The former World No. 69 earned his first Australian Open main draw win since 2015 against Soonwoo Kwon and then played some of his best tennis to push Stefanos Tsitsipas to five sets in the second round. He maintained that form in Miami, qualifying and advancing to the second round.

Kokkinakis won his fourth ATP Challenger Tour title in Biella, Italy and made another Challenger final in Sibiu, Romania, helping him climb as high as No. 171 in the FedEx ATP Rankings this year.

“Every injury is a massive setback,” Kokkinakis said in Miami. “It’s [about] just trying to build yourself up again and keep going and that sort of stuff takes a toll and a lot of people don’t realise that unless they’ve been in that sort of position, so I’m fortunate to be playing again and try not to take it for granted.”

Thanasi Kokkinakis is making his third appearance at the Miami Open presented by Itaú.
Photo Credit: Mike Lawrence/ATP Tour
Mackenzie McDonald
The American underwent right hamstring surgery in June 2019, a difficult blow for a player who uses his movement to his advantage. But 2021 was the 26-year-old’s best season yet.

McDonald advanced to the fourth round of the Australian Open — his best performance at a major since Wimbledon in 2018 — and never looked back. The former UCLA Bruin’s most impressive result came at the Citi Open in Washington, where at the ATP 500 he eliminated defending champion Nick Kyrgios and former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori en route to the final.

“It means a lot [that I got my level back] because it was a really tough time and I don’t think many people really know [what it is like]. Or at least for me, you don’t really think about that until it happens to you,” McDonald said during the Australian Open. “That was a major injury, a major surgery, and it was honestly really scary because [I did] not walk for as long as I did and everything that I went through was a big wake-up. So I’m really happy to be back here.”

Mackenzie McDonald
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/Citi Open
Andy Murray
The former World No. 1 continued his long road back from 2019 hip surgery this year and showed plenty of signs of progress.

In his first appearance at The Championships since 2017, Murray made the third round. He also tested Tsitsipas at the US Open, where the Greek needed five sets to triumph. The Scot’s biggest victories of the year came later on, when he defeated Nitto ATP Finals competitors Hubert Hurkacz in Vienna and Jannik Sinner in Stockholm. He also beat Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champion Carlos Alcaraz in the second round at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, where he lost a tight two-setter against Alexander Zverev in the third round.

More impressive than his victories has been his determination. Although he did not make a tour-level semi-final, Murray is confident all his hard work will pay off.

“I’m not going to keep losing in the second and third round of tournaments. I will get better and I will improve and I will break through in one week, or two weeks, or a few months,” Murray said in October in Vienna. “It will happen.”

Andy Murray
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
Jack Sock
The American has admittedly hit low points in recent years, losing his FedEx ATP Ranking entirely after undergoing surgery to repair two ligaments in his thumb in February 2019. But Sock did well in 2021 to build back towards the top.

The former World No. 8 battled Rafael Nadal to the brink at the Citi Open, where he fell just short against the legendary Spaniard in a final-set tie-break. That was a sign of things to come for Sock, who played lights-out tennis in the first set of his US Open clash against Alexander Zverev before an upper right leg injury forced him to retire from that match.

“Everyone knows that road back is basically starting over. I didn’t even have a number next to my name for a ranking. There was definitely a real conversation whether we were going to do this or not,” Sock said during the US Open. “I’m happy with what I’ve done in my career. I would say I’ve had a very successful career to this point, but we did feel there was still some, if not a lot left in the tank and a lot of good tennis still ahead of me.

“Maybe some of my best tennis is still ahead of me, so I’m just trying to prove that one week at a time, one match at a time.”

Jack Sock
Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images

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Djokovic Celebrates 350th Week At World No. 1

  • Posted: Dec 06, 2021

Novak Djokovic today celebrates his 350th week atop the FedEx ATP Rankings, extending his record for the most weeks in top spot.

It was a historic season for the Serbian star, who finished year-end No. 1 for the record-breaking seventh time, moving ahead of his idol, Pete Sampras (6). On 8 March he broke a tie with Roger Federer (310 weeks) for the most weeks at World No. 1 since the inception of the FedEx ATP Rankings in 1973. Djokovic has not looked back since.

“It really excites me to walk the path of legends and giants of this sport,” Djokovic said at the time. “To know that I have earned my place among them by following my childhood dream is a beautiful confirmation that when you do things out of love and passion, everything is possible.”

Djokovic finished 2021 with a 55-7 record, claiming major titles at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon, while also lifting trophies at the Belgrade Open and the Rolex Paris Masters. His current stint at World No. 1 began nearly two years ago, on 3 February 2020.

The 34-year-old will have a chance to make more history next year. Djokovic can surpass WTA legend Stefanie Graf’s record for most weeks at World No. 1 in men’s or women’s tennis. The German held top spot for 377 weeks.

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Rivalries Of 2021: Djokovic vs. Medvedev

  • Posted: Dec 06, 2021

This week ATP Tour begins its annual season-in-review series, looking back at 2021’s best matches, biggest upsets, most dramatic comebacks and more. This week we look at the most compelling rivalries of the year, beginning with Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev. The players ended the year at No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in the FedEx ATP Rankings following a season in which they shared three high-stakes showdowns.

Throughout his career, Novak Djokovic has enjoyed epic rivalries with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. But with a new generation of stars on the rise, the Serbian is facing new threats, none bigger than from Daniil Medvedev.

The Russian ended the 2020 season by capturing the Nitto ATP Finals title, defeating Djokovic in the round-robin stage, which saw the Monte-Carlo resident enter the 2021 season having won three of his past four meetings against the World No. 1. By the start of the season Medvedev had narrowed his ATP Head2Head series deficit against Djokovic to 3-4.

Set on turning the tables, Djokovic faced Medvedev three times in 2021 in a determined mood. All meetings came in finals and both players adjusted tactics after earlier defeats to turn the tables on their rival.

Australian Open, Final, Djokovic d. Medvedev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2
Djokovic has made Melbourne a second home throughout his career, having dominated the first major of the season. The 34-year-old faced Medvedev in the championship match aiming to join 13-time Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal as only the second man to win nine or more titles at the same major event.

But unlike in previous years, the Serbian’s route to the final had been anything but smooth. After battling past Taylor Fritz in five sets and Milos Raonic and Alexander Zverev in four, many gave Medvedev a big chance, with the World No. 2 dispatching Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas without dropping a set. Medvedev was also on a 20-match winning streak, having helped guide Russia to the ATP Cup title earlier in February to continue his red-hot end-of-season form from 2020.

However, Djokovic reminded everyone why he is the king in Australia, producing a masterclass against Medvedev in the final to capture his 18th major title. The top seed marched to a 3-0 lead within 10 minutes and never looked back, returning with depth and accuracy to secure his victory.

With Djokovic and Medvedev both possessing rock solid backhands from the baseline, the World No. 1 targeted the Russian’s forehand throughout, extracting 33 errors from that wing as he dictated the forehand exchanges.

“Everyone talks about the new generation coming and taking over us, but realistically that isn’t happening still,” Djokovic said. “We can talk about it all day but with all my respect to the other guys, they still have a lot of work to do. I’m not going to stand here and hand it over to them. I’m going to make them work their ass off for that.”

Photo Credit: Mackenzie Sweetnam/Getty Images

US Open, Final, Medvedev d. Djokovic 6-4, 6-4, 6-4
After meeting in the first major final of the season, the pair did not face each other again until the final major championship match of the year at the US Open. In that time, Djokovic had captured the trophy at Roland Garros and Wimbledon and was trying to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four majors in one season.

The Serbian, who triumphed at Flushing Meadows in 2011, 2015 and 2018, was also aiming to break a tie with Federer and Nadal for the most major titles in history (20 each). Medvedev, meanwhile, was seeking his maiden Slam title and had swept through the draw for the loss of just one set.

With history beckoning and all eyes on Djokovic, Medvedev spoiled the party, stunning the World No. 1 in straight sets. The Russian, who lost to Nadal in the US Open final in 2019, controlled the match from the start as he changed up the tactics from his Australian Open defeat.

Medvedev successfully overloaded the Ad court with a foray of backhand-to-backhand exchanges, where he could neutralise and frustrate Djokovic with his ultra-flat backhand that proved difficult to attack. The Serbian ended up hitting 39 more backhands than forehands in the match, something which helped Medvedev win the longer rallies. The 25-year-old hit 16 winners compared to Djokovic’s six and committed five fewer errors (33-38), serving out the clash at the second time of asking to secure his biggest career win.

“He had a lot of pressure,” Medvedev said. “I had a lot of pressure, too… I knew I cannot give him easy serves because that’s what he likes. So that was the plan. Because of the confidence in a lot of tight moments, I managed to do it well.”

“I would like to say that tonight, even though I have not won the match, my heart is filled with joy and I’m the happiest man alive because you guys made me feel very special,” Djokovic told the crowd. “You guys touched my soul. I’ve never felt like this in New York… I love you guys. Thank you so much for the support and everything you have done tonight for me. I love you and I’ll see you soon.”

Rolex Paris Masters, Final, Djokovic d. Medvedev 4-6, 6-3, 6-3
One day after clinching a record seventh year-end No. 1 finish in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Djokovic looked to create more history against Medvedev and put his US Open final defeat behind him as he changed up the chessboard to gain revenge.

Medvedev came into the match off the back of a straight-sets semi-final win against Alexander Zverev, while Djokovic had edged Hubert Hurkacz in the last four. It meant it was the first time the Paris final had featured the top two players in the FedEx ATP Rankings since 1990.

In an entertaining match, Djokovic served and volleyed 22 times, winning 27 of 36 points at the net and striking 38 winners, dominating Medvedev in rallies under five shots (54 to 34) as he disrupted Medvedev’s rhythm from the baseline.

Djokovic’s first volley was cleverly hit short in the court with angle, which worked with Medvedev standing very deep in the court to return serve.

It was Djokovic’s 48th match win of a standout season and he broke a tie with Nadal for the most ATP Masters 1000 titles, lifting his 37th crown.

“I went back and reviewed the final of the US Open to see what I did wrong and what I did right,” Djokovic said. “I tried to read the patterns of his serve and the ball toss, maybe. I tried to look for the small details because it was a match of small margins. He started better, broke my serve in the first game and I came back. He served the first set out pretty comfortably, but I felt as if I was there.”

Djokovic vs. Medvedev In 2021






Australian Open




7-5, 6-2, 6-2

US Open

Hard              Final


6-4, 6-4, 6-4

Rolex Paris Masters             




4-6, 6-3, 6-3

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