Top 10 Power Rankings: From Leylah Fernandez to Emma Raducanu, Daniil Medvedev and Novak Djokovic
2021 wasn’t all about the tennis. After all, Rafael Nadal did say it’s “showbiz “. Here are the power rankings as Leylah Fernandez, Emma Raducanu, Daniil Medvedev and Novak Djokovic all feature. Disclaimer: they are not scientific.
10 Anett Kontaveit
Talk about a season of two halves. From the end of the summer onwards, the Estonian came into her own after splitting up from coach Nigel Sears. Having always struggled against the top players, the new belief resulted in four tournament wins and victories over the likes of Belinda Bencic, Petra Kvitova, Paula Badosa, Maria Sakkari and Simona Halep in the Transylvanian Open final. At the WTA Tour Finals, she defeated Barbora Krejcikova and Karolina Pliskova. The mentality has completely switched to seeing the win rather than accepting the loss.
9 Cameron Norrie
The 26-year-old came into his own in 2021, not content to just shuffle in the background to get plaudits as an Andy Murray lite. His run through to the Queen’s final, where he took Matteo Berrettini all the way, was a real eye-opener and the Brit refused to lie down against Roger Federer in the fourth round at Wimbledon.
It was in October that Norrie really got into top gear by blitzing Diego Schwartzmann and Grigor Dimitrov at the Indian Wells Masters 1000 to reach the final, which he duly won against Nikoloz Basilashvili. There’s no doubt who the British No 1 is now and he’s earned it. Will he excite crowds? Andy is still around stealing his thunder a bit…
8 Roger Federer
Oh. That was a tough watch. An annus horribilis of hobbling and not much hitting. Roger is Roger so he doesn’t need any new fans, although if you are discovering him late there might not be much content for the next six months or more. Federer skipped the Australian Open after knee surgery and was surpassed by Djokovic for the most weeks spent at No 1 two months later. After making his major return at Roland Garros, he survived a hell of a first-round scare at Wimbledon and eventually succumbed painfully in the quarters against Hubert Hurkacz. Being bagelled was an insult too far for the Centre Court king as the indecision and lack of surety on his “home” lawn drew gasps. You know he’s going to come back. Isn’t he?
7 Rafael Nadal
Well, it didn’t start well. Nadal lost at Melbourne in the quarter-finals to Stefanos Tsitsipas after being two sets up, only the second time in his career he has suffered that indignity. He pocketed his normal Italian Open (the tenth of his career) but then ran into a Novak Djokovic playing a sky-high level of clay court tennis at the French Open.
Shattered after a heavy clay-court season, he pulled out of Wimbledon and the Olympics citing the schedule but came clean that it was a left foot injury. Nadal dropped to sixth in the rankings but has entered for the Australian Open. Whether he is match hardened by then is debatable.
6 Leylah Fernandez
The Canadian teenager was no plucky runner-up in the US Open final. She refused to yield as quietly as all of Emma Raducanu’s opponents, even contesting the stoppage for the Briton’s medical timeout which came at a critical point. The 19-year-old had a much harder passage to Flushing Meadows’ final day, defeating Naomi Osaka, Angelique Kerber, Elina Svitolina and Aryna Sabalenka. That takes some doing and ultimately might have worn her out.
There’s no doubt she is a crowd favourite. Her speech after the crushing disappointment of losing a major final was a window into this impressive woman’s soul. It will get her to the business end of more Grand Slams.
5 Naomi Osaka
“Basically I feel like I’m kind of at this point where I’m trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play my next tennis match.” These were the words of Naomi Osaka after she lost to Leylah Fernandez at the US Open, a match that turned out to be her last of the year.
Osaka claimed the Australian Open title making it four out of four victories in Grand Slam finals, but 2021 showed that she is not afraid of questioning the status quo of things off the court. When the former world No 1 let it be known that she was going to skip the press conferences at Roland Garros, some journalists and commentators splurged out their acerbic thoughts while the organisers scrambled.
Osaka just pulled out. She didn’t play Wimbledon either. The 24-year-old is struggling with her mental health in public and dares to question how things are done. This period is harder than hitting a tennis ball and for that she has achieved more than counting trophies.
4 Alexander Zverev
The German has been one of those next gen players hanging around street corners for scraps while the Fab Four were having their tag team event. Now, he is blossoming on and off the court. His performance in the ATP Tour Final to subdue Medvedev was seriously impressive but the semi-final win over Djokovic on the way to the Olympic Gold showed great heart too. The season has almost ended at the wrong time for a man with a current golden arm. Not long to wait for a shot at his first major. He gets full marks for a deadpan sense of humour too.
3 Daniil Medvedev
Medvedev is a strange one and that is said in the best possible taste. You cannot box the fella into a simple adjective. He is a man who follows his own path. His antics, most recently at the Davis Cup, don’t always fall the right side of the line for purists, but 2021 was a watershed.
Medvedev’s highlight of the Davis Cup Finals so far?
— Davis Cup (@DavisCup) December 4, 2021
To beat an admittedly flat Djokovic in straight sets at the US Open was impressive after his rather erratic showing against the same opponent in Melbourne. That’s three major finals now in the last two years and there’s more to come for the world number two. He’s worth a watch, even if it is just for a Ronaldo impression.
2 Novak Djokovic
For the time being, the perfect major symmetry continues like one big tease. Nadal 20. Federer 20. Djokovic 20. Three of those biggies came the latter’s way in 2021. The Serb dealt solidly with Matteo Berrettini’s challenge at an unremarkable Wimbledon final, but the Serb’s biggest win was at Roland Garros, brushing aside Nadal in an epic four sets in the semi and then coming back from two down to defeat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.
His rout of a very tempestuous Daniil Medvedev in Australia was reversed at Flushing Meadows though. He also loses a few brownie points for his temper tantrum at Tokyo. Even so, Djokovic is now the familiar face in a new order of things and will hope to finally get the praise he deserves when major 21 is in the bank.
1 New entry… Emma Raducanu
The honeymoon period is still going (although broadcast media have started to say stuff like “Raducanu lost to the world No 113 (don’t they have names)?” She crept up on us at Wimbledon although her exit under an anxiety cloud made some middle-aged men roll their eyes. Still, her easy manner in dealing with the fallout just made her more likeable. Unless you are Piers Morgan.
The storming of Flushing Meadows was utterly breathtaking. Remember, the (then) 18-year-old had to fight through qualifiers. Three weeks and not a set lost. Her fearlessness and authority were noticeable, especially when the crowd wasn’t onside. Raducanu is ballsy but accessible in an “I’ve just done my A-Levels” look. She did the banter match at the Royal Albert Hall in good spirits and hopefully, she can retain the smile of an assassin without losing the afterglow of enjoyment. The hard work begins now. Don’t knock her down if 2022 proves to be uphill.
Bubbling under: Andy Murray
A brief return to the adoring Wimbledon crowd was welcome, as were a couple of recent victories over Hurkacz and Jannik Sinner, but Murray will have to break back into the pack next year after a year beset by injuries. He’s on borrowed time but there’s still a chink of light.
Never mind the elder generation, Sinner represents the baby gen and has already made strides from the cot. At 20, he’s the youngest current player to make the top ten. He even became the youngest to win five ATP finals since a 19-year-old called Novak Djokovic. No pressure.
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