The 2020 season has yet to start, but there are already plenty of intriguing storylines in place to emphatically kick off the new decade.
The Big 3 have maintained their dominance at the top of the ATP Rankings, but a growing crop of talented young players look to end their reign. Elite players who struggled with injuries have declared themselves fully fit, while those in the current #NextGenATP class look to establish themselves as players to watch. The groundbreaking ATP Cup will provide an unforgettable beginning to the season and could provide a glimpse into who will qualify for the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals.
ATPTour.com breaks down 15 key players and storylines to watch in 2020.
1. Can Rafa Be Stopped?
Rafael Nadal finished as year-end No. 1 for the fifth time after a memorable 2019 in which he won Roland Garros (d. Thiem) and the US Open (d. Medvedev), in addition to ATP Masters 1000 crowns in Rome (d. Djokovic) and Montreal (d. Medvedev).
Nadal will look to kick off the new year with his first Melbourne crown since 2009. He’s finished runner-up in four (2012, 2014, 2017, 2019) of his past seven appearances.
2. Djokovic’s Quest For No. 1
Novak Djokovic produced another outstanding year by picking up big titles on every surface. He captured a record-breaking seventh Australian Open crown (d. Nadal), saved two championship points to prevail in a historic fifth-set tie-break at Wimbledon (d. Federer) and earned a pair of Masters 1000 crowns in Madrid (d. Tsitsipas) and Paris (d. Shapovalov).
The 32-year-old seeks to take back the top spot from Nadal. Another title Down Under would send a sharp statement that Djokovic is eager to dominate in the new decade.
3. Roger That
Roger Federer continues to prove that age is just a number. He captured his 100th ATP Tour crown in Dubai (d. Tsitsipas) and followed up a month later with another Masters 1000 trophy in Miami (d. Isner). His tenth titles in Halle (d. Goffin) and Basel (d. De Minaur) soon followed, but his year will also be remembered for the championship points he let slip against Djokovic at The All England Club.
The 38-year-old Swiss is within striking distance of breaking the record for most singles match wins in the Open Era. Federer has 1,237 wins and only trails Jimmy Connors (1,274).
4. Thiem’s Top 3 Pursuit
Dominic Thiem enjoyed another big year on clay by prevailing in Barcelona (d. Medvedev) and Kitzbühel (d. Ramos-Vinolas), in addition to scoring his second runner-up finish at Roland Garros (l. to Nadal), but proved once again that he can excel on other surfaces. He won his first Masters 1000 crown in Indian Wells (d. Federer), took titles in Beijing (d. Tsitsipas) and Vienna (d. Schwartzman), and reached the championship match at the Nitto ATP Finals (l. to Tsitsipas).
Thiem will look for more consistency in Grand Slams as he aims to break into the Top 3. He was forced to retire from his second-round match in Melbourne due to injury and bowed out in the opening round at Wimbledon and the US Open.
5. Medvedev’s Momentum
Daniil Medvedev’s inspired form in the second half of this year firmly established him as one of the most dangerous players on Tour. Medvedev reached the title match in six consecutive tournaments appearances, clinching his first two Masters 1000 crowns in Cincinnati (d. Goffin) and Shanghai (d. Zverev), as well as winning his first title on home soil in St. Petersburg (d. Coric). He also advanced to his maiden Grand Slam final in New York (l. to Nadal).
With less than 900 ATP Rankings points to defend in the first three months of next year, another big run could push him inside the Top 3.
6. Superb Stefanos
One year after prevailing at the Next Gen ATP Finals, Stefanos Tsitsipas wrapped up this season by graduating to champion at the Nitto ATP Finals (d. Thiem). His outstanding year, which saw him win 54 tour-level matches and also take titles in Marseille (d. Kukushkin) and Estoril (d. Cuevas), saw him named as Greece’s Best Male Athlete of 2019.
After defeating Federer en route to his maiden Grand Slam semi-final this year in Melbourne, he’ll look to further raise the stakes with his first Grand Slam crown.
7. Zverev’s Momentum
Alexander Zverev readily admitted that his 2019 season was a mixed bag, but finished on a strong note with a Masters 1000 final in Shanghai (l. to Medvedev) and semi-final showing at the season-ending championships in London. Zverev also saved a championship point to prevail in Lyon (d. Jarry).
If he can carry his late season form into 2020, he’ll be a contender in any event he plays.
8. Grande Matteo
Matteo Berrettini cracked the Top 10 and earned his debut appearance at The O2 after a breakout year that included titles in Budapest (d. Krajinovic) and Stuttgart (d. Auger-Aliassime). The powerful Italian also scored his maiden Grand Slam semi-final at the US Open and first Masters 1000 semi-final in Shanghai. He was fittingly selected by his peers as Most Improved Player of the Year in the 2019 ATP Awards.
Berrettini’s all-surface success showed how dangerous he is, but a win against one of the Big 3 would further solidify that he’s someone to keep a close eye on.
9. Del Potro Returns
Persistent right knee issues limited Juan Martin Del Potro to five tournaments this year and shut down his season in June after he underwent surgery for a fractured right kneecap. However, the 31-year-old isn’t new to comebacks and typically doesn’t take long to find his form. His powerful baseline game is still potent and will make him an opponent that no one wants to see across the net.
10. The Veteran Brigade
Roberto Bautista Agut and Fabio Fognini were rewarded for years of persistence by cracking the Top 10 for the first time, while Gael Monfils returned to the Top 10 after a two-year absence. The trio hopes to back up their strong results with another outstanding season and their success on all surfaces will give them plenty of opportunities to shine. Three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka also can’t be counted out.
11. Healthy & Dangerous
Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic can deliver great tennis when they’re fit, but both endured frustrating struggles with injuries this year. Nishikori ended his season after the US Open due to a right elbow injury that required surgery, while knee issues forced Raonic to miss the clay-court season and a back injury forced him out of the US Open.
Both men spent their off-season getting back to full strength and are still highly dangerous opponents. If they can stay healthy, expect their ATP Rankings to quickly rise.
12. ATP Cup Kicks Off The New Year
The 2020 season begins in grand fashion with the inaugural ATP Cup, held throughout Australia from 3-12 January. Twenty-four teams will compete in Brisbane, Sydney and Perth as they vie for the ATP Cup trophy. Singles players can earn a maximum of 750 ATP Rankings points, which could have a significant impact on who ends up qualifying for the Nitto ATP Finals.
13. #NextGenATP Stars Ready To Soar
Tsitsipas’ triumph at The O2 while still part of the #NextGenATP class showed that the future is now. Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime are eager to follow in the Greek’s footsteps after producing career-best seasons, while two-time Milan finalist Alex de Minaur looks to build on winning his first three ATP Tour titles in 2019. Reigning Milan champion and 2019 Newcomer of the Year Jannik Sinner gained plenty of new fans with his rapid rise and looks to continue his upward momentum.
14. Double Your Pleasure
Another thrilling year of doubles has set the stage for an exciting 2020 season. Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah look to continue their Grand Slam dominance after prevailing at Wimbledon (d. Mahut/Roger-Vasselin) and the US Open (d. Granollers/Zeballos), while Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Nicolas Mahut added a bookend to their Australian Open title (d. Kontinen/Peers) with their first Nitto ATP Finals crown (d. Klaasen/Venus).
Roland Garros champions Kevin Krawietz/Andreas Mies (d. Chardy/Martin), Raven Klaasen/Michael Venus and Lukasz Kubot/Marcelo Melo are among the other top teams who hope to have a big impact in the new year.
15. Swan Songs
A trio of doubles legends have confirmed that 2020 will be their final season. Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan, who have won 16 Grand Slam doubles titles together, will conclude their epic partnership at the US Open. Eight-time Grand Slam doubles champion Leander Paes said that he will play select events throughout the year before retiring after 29 years on Tour.