Nadal, Djokovic maintain hold at the top

The 2019 season seemed ripe for a breakthrough by one of the youngsters on the ATP Tour but there was no such luck as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic maintained a hold at the top.

The pair ended the 2018 season as the top two ranked players on the tour, but there are always question marks over how long the Big Three can keep their chokehold at the top.

Nadal allayed fears over his fitness as he reached the final of the Australian Open but it was Djokovic who got the first edge of the season as he won the tie 6–3, 6–2, 6–3.

But Nadal played another incredible, record-breaking clay season as he reached the semifinals of the first three clay tournaments of the season before winning the Rome Masters title ahead of Roland Garros.

Nadal dropped one set on the road to the Roland Garros final, in which he defeated Dominic Thiem to extend his Roland Garros record to 12 titles – one more than Margaret Court’s record of 11 Australian Open titles.

Meanwhile, Roger Federer had another excellent crack at the grass season but he came agonisingly close to the ultimate glory as he failed to close out two match points in the Wimbledon final, which opened the door for Novak Djokovic to stage a comeback and take the title.

The final grand slam of the year is one Nadal has most struggled with as it falls towards the end of the season when his injuries usually play up. But in 2019, Nadal stamped his authority on the season as he captured his fourth US Open title, dropping only one set on his way to lifting the trophy. It was Nadal second-most successful season ever.

Nadal, Djokovic and Federer finished the season ranked as the top three players in that order. Off the court, Nadal and Federer joined Djokovic on the ATP Players Council halfway through the year in a bid to help smooth over the troubles the committee faced following a few fractious meetings that led to mass resignations and threatened to destabilise the players’ influence on the tour.

While Nadal, Djokovic and Federer maintained their dominance at the top, there was a band of youngsters who closed the gap slightly throughout the season.

Dominic Thiem had another memorable season as he claimed his first Masters title when he beat Roger Federer in the final at Indian Wells. He also won the ATP 500 event in Barcelona and reached the final at Roland Garros, where he was defeated by Nadal. He finished the year ranked fourth.

Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev also staked their claim on the tour this year. Medvedev captured two ATP 1000 events as he won back-to-back titles in Cincinnati and Shanghai. He also reached the semifinal in Montreal and was the losing finalist in the US Open against Nadal.

Tsitsipas defeated Thiem in the ATP Finals final for his third title of the year and fourth of his career.

While the youngsters battled to make their mark in the men’s game, the opposite was true in the women’s game as Serena Williams struggled to assert herself this season.

Much had been made of Serena Williams’ next attempt at capturing her 24th grand slam title – which would take her level with Margaret Court as one of the most successful tennis players of all time – but Williams suffered her earliest defeat at the Australian Open since 2014 so she went back to the drawing board.

The Australian Open was eventually won by Naomi Osaka, who reaffirmed her breakthrough after she beat Williams in controversial circumstances at the previous US Open.

Williams was struck down by a viral illness for the next couple of months that hampered her training schedule. She exited Roland Garros early and turned her focus to Wimbledon. She reached the final at Wimbledon but capitulated in under an hour against Simona Halep.

Injury struck Williams next as she was forced to withdraw from the Canadian Open due to back spasms.

With a last grand slam title of the year on offer, Williams turned all her attention to the US Open. She went all the way to the final but suffered another humiliating defeat as Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu won her first grand slam title.

Williams ended the year ranked 10th in the world while Ashleigh Barty – the eventual Roland Garros champion – claimed the No 1 ranking at the end of the year. – supersport.com

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