FEATURE: Roger Federer, Andy Murray, and eight more players in need of a big bounce-back year in 2021

Next season in tennis promises much, with the likes of Roger Federer and Andy Murray attempting to haul themselves back to the top. 

Federer and Murray are not alone though in needing a real bounce-back year, though. Here, we take a look at those who need it the most.

Matteo Berrettini

Matteo Berrettini dejected

By Berrettini’s own admission, he really struggled in 2020 with both fatigue and form.

The Italian came into the season on the back of a breakout year in 2019, reaching the ATP Finals and breaking the top ten for the first time.

He wasn’t able to back that up. The reasons for that might be understandable, but that doesn’t alter the need for a bounce-back.

Gael Monfils

Before the coronavirus crisis hit tennis, Monfils was flying. He won an ATP500 title in Rotterdam and an ATP250 title in Montpellier.

Add into that a semi-final in Dubai, and the Frenchman looked set for another fine season.

He has struggled since the resumption of the tour, though, mainly down to a neck injury that left him ‘hardly able to serve.’

Given his physical style of play, getting his recovery right will be a vital factor in whether or not he can rediscover his previous form.

Nick Kygrios

Nick Kyrgios Australian Open

Kyrgios divides opinion to the point where you wonder whether some fans would actually begrudge him a bounce-back year.

His absence has been down to concerns over the coronavirus, although he has also admitted to suffering from some unrelated mental health problems.

A happy and engaged Kyrgios though is brilliant for tennis. If you don’t love him, you probably love to hate him.

He is richly talented and, one way or another, tends to get people talking about tennis. That said, he is 25 now so can no longer be classed as a younger player, and if he doesn’t start delivery on his ability soon, he probably never will.

Ashleigh Barty

Barty is another player from Australia who decided not to put herself at risk of coronavirus, which is a wholly understandable position to take.

However, due to the temporary rankings system, she is in the unprecedented position of retaining her world number one spot without actually playing for nearly a year.

That’s going to leave her with a lot to prove, and she will need to hit the ground running if she is going to keep herself from falling down the rankings in 2020.

Kevin Anderson

Anderson was quite cruelly chopped down by injury right when he was at his career peak, and it hasn’t been an easy ride back for the South African.

His first attempt to comeback following knee surgery was at the start of 2020, but he broke down and had to have surgery in February.

He did return towards the end of the season and showed some promising signs especially at the Vienna Open, but at 35-years-old, it may not be an easy road back.

Andy Murray

Andy Murray fistpump

Speaking of players cruelly hit by injuries at their peak, how could we not mention Andy Murray? The British star was the word number one when he succumbed to his hip injury in 2017 and it has taken him three years to even get himself in a position to try to return.

The good news is he is back playing, at least semi-regularly, and pain-free. The bad news is that he is looking a bit of a pale shadow of his former self right now.

All great sporting comebacks start somewhere, though, and if Murray can get back to anywhere close to where he once was, it’ll practically be a miracle.

He has committed to a new fitness and diet routine though, and if anyone can overcome this it is surely Andy Murray. If we don’t see at least the first signs of it in 2021, though, it’s hard to see it happening at all.

Kei Nishikori

There aren’t many more universally likable players on the ATP Tour than Kei Nishikori, and he has been largely absent for far too long for our liking.

The Japanese star will be desperate to be fit and firing for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, but he appears to be some way off of that after battling elbow and shoulder injuries.

As with the likes of Anderson and Murray, Nishikori’s best days are probably behind him in terms of him being a top five force, but there is still a top-quality player in there somewhere if he can rediscover it.

Bianca Andreescu

Bianca Andreescu celebrates

It has all gone just a little bit flat for Andreescu since she won the US Open with the Canadian ace struggling for fitness ever since.

She actually hasn’t played at all this year after picking up an injury at the 2019 WTA Finals in Shenzhen and is another big beneficiary of the protected rankings system that the coronavirus crisis has necessitated.

She is back on court now though and planning for a big 2021, and given the progress of Iga Swiatek, Sofia Kenin, and other WTA stars in her age-group, she definitely needs to re-establish her authority in 2021.

Roger Federer

Federer’s comeback in 2021 will be absolutely fascinating as it combines just about every thread from every other player we have mentioned here.

The Swiss star is battling age and multiple surgeries to try to re-establish his authority and regain some of his former glories at the very top of the game, although Federer has also been helped greatly by the current rankings system.

We are still talking about Roger Federer here, though. He could turn up at the Australian Open with one leg chopped off, wearing an eye-patch, and using a wooden plank for a racket and there would still be queues around Melbourne Park desperate to see him and utterly convinced he would be competitive against the very best.

Still, the fact remains that how 2021 goes for Federer may just decide whether or not we get to see any more of him at all beyond it.

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