2020 saw a smaller tennis season on account of the Covid-19 pandemic. Still, we were fortunate enough to have 3 of the 4 Grand Slams, with Wimbledon being the exception. Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal added to their Australian Open and French Open tallies respectively, with Nadal tying with Federer for the most Grand Slams. Dominic Thiem won his long-time-coming first Grand Slam at the US Open. In this article, we will look at the top 5 grand slam matches of 2020.
5. Federer vs Millman (3rd round Australian Open: 4-6 7-6(7-2) 6-4 4-6 7-6(10-8))
This match is present in the list more for the drama than the actual consequence of the result. Millman had not beaten Federer before. He had beaten the Swiss in the 2018 US Open, a match characterized by the Swiss struggling due to the excessive heat. Milman’s game, characterized by long drawn out rallies and superhuman retrieving, acts as a counterbalance to Roger’s game. Millman started the match strongly as he won the first set, Roger then came back to win the next two. Millman, who later revealed that he was suffering from a torn calf took the fourth set and then led 8-4 to in the first-ever super tiebreaker to be held at the Rod Laver Arena. This is when Roger stepped up his game to win the next six points and win the super tiebreak 10-8. Roger would eventually win another classic against Tennys Sandgren, saving seven match points, before eventu1ally losing out to Novak Djokovic in the semis, which turned out to be his last match for the season. Millman would eventually win his first-ever ATP world tour title at the Astana open in 2020
4. Djokovic vs Thiem (Final Australian Open: 6-4 4-6 2-6 6-3 6-4)
Many people thought that Thiem’s time had come to win his first Grand Slam at the Australian Open 2020. The Austrian had beaten Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals in a tough four setter. He was playing arguably the best tennis of his life. But, it is difficult to bet against the 7 times Australia Open Champion in a final. Djokovic looked on his way to victory after he won the first set. Thiem ramped his game up in the 2nd set and absolutely crushed Djokovic in the third set, winning it 6-2. Thiem had a breakpoint at 1-1 in the third set. He missed it and as it happens so many times when you don’t take your opportunities against Djokovic, he punishes you. Djokovic comfortably won the fourth and the fifth sets to win his 8th Australian Open.
3. Schwartzman vs Thiem (Quarterfinal French Open: 7-6(6-1) 5-7 6-7(6-8) 7-6(7-5) 6-2)
Schwartzman is an inspiring figure. At 5’7” inch, he is by far the smallest player amongst the top players. Despite having a service that is mostly only good for starting the points, Schwartzman has an excellent record while returning, winning 57.1 % of return points while returning 2 nd serves in the past 52 weeks. Schwartzman prefers surfaces wherein the serve provides the least advantage, clay being his best surface. In the Rome Masters, Schwartzman stunned Nadal in the semi-finals in straight sets. Dominic Thiem had won the US open 2020 coming into the tournament, though he had given the warm-up tournaments on clay a skip. Thiem’s form coming into the match hadn’t been inspiring. He had played a tough 5 setter against unseeded French player Hugo Gaston, a match characterized with Gaston hitting a plethora of drop shots. The tiredness was obviously a factor for Thiem going in the match against Schwartzman. The Argentine cherished longer rallies and Thiem was caught running short for his breath after the longer rallies. Schwartzman could have won the match in 3 sets. But in the 4th set, he was just a couple of points away from losing the match in the tiebreak. Eventually, he won the set and cruised to win the match in which there were 19 breaks of serves. It was a disappointing end to the clay-court season for Thiem, he had made it to at least the semi-finals in the last four editions of the French Open. Schwartzman would go on to lose to the eventual champion Nadal in straight sets, the Spaniard avenging his Rome masters defeat.
2. Djokovic vs Tsitsipas (Semifinal French Open: 6-3 6-2 5-7 4-6 6-1)
Tsitsipas is an interesting character. He has a Youtube channel on which he posted regularly and has a decent following. He could as well be a youtube vlogger if he were not a tennis player. The thing about Tsitsipas is that he has a never say die attitude, an attitude that helped him first when he defeated Federer in the 2019 Australian Open. Djokovic had some neck and elbow issues in his previous match against Carreno Busta, but the world no. 1 was the heavy favourite as it was Tsitsipas’s first French Open semi-final. The match can be divided into three halves. In the first and the first half of the second set, you could have easily argued that Tsitsipas was the better player but his poor break point conversion rate allowed Djokovic to win the sets. The third and the fourth sets were very close and one could have easily made the case that Djokovic was the better player but Tsitsipas won the sets on account of Djokovic’s poor breakpoint conversion rate. The final set was the most disappointing part of the match as Tsitsipas looked physically drained and Djokovic won the set easily. The match was a classic because of its ups and downs and the curious lack of emotion from Djokovic, in contrast to the energy displayed by his younger Greek opponent.
1. Thiem vs Zverev (Final U.S Open: 2-6 4-6 6-4 6-3 7-6(8-6))
The US open is getting in the habit of having the most amazing finals. In 2019, it was the match between the establishment i.e, Rafael Nadal and the upstart i.e. Danil Medvedev. Rafa won the first two sets before Medvedev won the next two before Rafael Nadal held off to win the match. 2020 final, though not having the establishment vs challenger storyline, was a similar match with a different ending. Alexander Zverev had a disappointing 2019, and his grand slam record up was not something to be proud of before 2020. Thiem, on the other hand, had reached 3 finals, the latest being Australian Open, a tournament in which he had beaten Zverev in 4 sets. Zverev had an epic semi-final in which he defeated Carreno Busta after losing the first two sets. Thiem had a relatively easier path to the finals, the only set he dropped was to the 2014 US Open champion Marin Cilic in the 3rd round. Thiem seemed a heavy favourite going into the final but Zverev started very strongly and he won the first two sets quite comfortably. Thiem came back quite strongly to win the next two sets. The real drama happened in the final set when Zverev failed to serve out the match at 5-3. Then it was Thiem’s chance to serve for the match at 6-5. He too couldn’t serve it out. The match went to a tiebreak and Thiem eventually won 8-6 in the tiebreak. The match was exceptionally close and Thiem won just 4 more points than Zverev to win his Maiden Grand Slam.