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As the indoor season begins, 5 questions to be resolved as the year heads towards a thrilling finale
As the ATP and WTA calendars enter the final stages of their seasons, we look at some of the things to be resolved in the coming weeks
The stunning wins by Cameron Norrie and Paula Badosa in Indian Wells were another example of the guard changing ever so slightly in 2021, with more and more first-time winners of big events and more players making their moves to unseat the established elite of the game.
With the indoor season beginning in earnest this week, we look at some of the biggest story-lines likely to dominate the sport over the last few weeks of the year before the ATP Finals (November 14-21) and WTA Finals (November 10-17).
Will Cameron Norrie & Paula Badosa qualify for the ATP/WTA Finals?
Well, they certainly have a chance, which is something few people would have predicted at the start of 2021, especially when Paula Badosa had to do a hard quarantine in Australia and missed the Australian Open because she’d tested positive for Covid-19.
Cameron Norrie is now 10th in the ATP Race to Turin, which stages the event for the first time this year. With Rafael Nadal (currently eighth) out for the rest of the season, the 26-year-old Briton is effectively in ninth place, one place out of an automatic qualification spot. The Rolex Paris Masters offers up to 1,000 points and he’s just 160 behind Hubert Hurkacz, so it’s game on as he plays in Vienna, before heading to Paris.
With so many points still available, though, especially in Paris where the winner of the Rolex Paris Masters receives 1,000 points, things could still change and anyone from Jannik Sinner in No 11 spot down to Denis Shapovalov in 16th could force themselves into the reckoning for Turin by claiming a Masters 1000 crown.
Badosa also has a great chance to make it to the WTA Finals, which this year will be held in Guadalajara, Mexico. The Spaniard is currently in eighth place – in position to qualify – and with world No 1 Ash Barty an uncertain starter, she looks to be in an even stronger position. She also has more opportunities to add points so thinks look good.
Will Daniil Medvedev repeat his successes from 2020?
The indoor season in 2020 was where Daniil Medvedev rediscovered his mojo after a few poor results, with wins in Paris and then in the ATP Finals itself catapulting him up the rankings, laying the foundations for what has been a stellar 2021 season, including his first major title, at the US Open.
Medvedev chose, probably wisely, to miss his hometown event in Moscow to recharge his batteries and though his hopes of ending the year No 1 are almost certainly over, he has the chance to end the year on a high, on courts that suit his game. A lot will depend on how he recovers from his recent efforts, but he’s likely to be a threat in the ATP Finals again and with his new-found status, he’s a dangerous animal if he’s feeling fresh.
How will Emma Raducanu fare in her remaining tourmanents?
Emma Raducanu‘s stunning US Open victory is still fresh in the memory but the 18-year-old is still raw and fresh to the Tour, almost every destination a new experience for her. The Briton lost her first match in Indian Wells and pulled out of the Kremlin Cup in Moscow.
It is clear to see that Raducanu is going to be a superstar but it’s also highly likely that there will be some bumps in the road as she adjusts to life as a Grand Slam champion and gets used to the rigours of the Tour, not to mention the demands on her time, which will be huge.
But the teenager has a great game and a great head on her shoulders and so she’ll also relish the chance to get some more wins under her belt. She’s due to play in the Transylvania Open and then the Upper Austrian Open in Linz, and her attacking game should be well-suited to indoor tennis.
Will Ons Jabeur make more history?
Ons Jabeur became the first Arab player ever to be ranked inside the world’s top 10 when she reached the semi-finals in Indian Wells and now sits at No 8 in the WTA rankings. The Tunisian is also at No 9 in the WTA Race and so has a great opportunity to make yet more history for her country and Arab tennis by claiming a place in the eight-woman field at the WTA Finals in Guadalajara.
And even if she stays in her current ninth position, Jabeur may yet get in, if world No 1 Ash Barty decides not to risk another trip away from Australia – and the subsequent quarantine period that would follow on her return.
Which one of Medvedev, Tsitsipas, Zverev will put their head above the parapet?
Each of Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev have enjoyed some of their finest moments on the court in 2021, with Medvedev breaking through with his first Grand Slam title, Tsitsipas reaching his first slam final and Zverev showing consistency across the board and taking glory at the Olympics.
With Novak Djokovic exhausted by the effort of getting so close to the calendar-year slam, and Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer out injured, the door is open for one of them to assert their authority before the season is out, setting the foundations for a big 2022.
All three are fine players indoors, all have won the ATP Finals in the past and all of them know the value of showing the others that they are the top dog.