Many, but not all, of the ATP’s best will be back in action this weekend for the Western & Southern Open—which will be held in New York instead of Cincinnati this year—as well as the US Open. It’s been more than five months since they were last on court, at the tour-level at least. Where were the biggest names in the men's game when the tour was suspended in March? Find out below.
No. 5 Daniil Medvedev
Following a breakthrough second half of 2019, highlighted by his first major final at the US Open, the Russian had an up-and-down start to 2020. He started strong in Australia, winning four of his five matches at the ATP Cup before reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open. But he then suffered earlier-than-expected losses at two indoor events in February, losing his first match in Rotterdam to No. 104 Vasek Pospisil, 6-4, 6-3, and his second match in Marseille to No. 58 Gilles Simon, 6-4, 6-0.
But what better place for Medvedev to return than at the site of his big breakthrough a year ago, Flushing Meadows? He’s also won 20 of his last 23 matches on North American soil.
No. 4 Roger Federer
Sadly, we won’t be seeing the 20-time Grand Slam champion and former No. 1 on tour until 2021. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee in February, and a second procedure on the same knee in the spring, and then announced he would be out for the rest of the season.
Before all that, Federer managed to get one ATP event under his belt in 2020, making a dramatic run to the semifinals of the Australian Open. The Swiss' run included a five-set escape against Tennys Sandgren in the quarterfinals—saving seven match points against the American—before ultimately falling to Novak Djokovic, who went on to win a record eighth title in Melbourne.
No. 3 Dominic Thiem
The Austrian started 2020 with a bang, reaching his third career Grand Slam final at the Australian Open. Not only did he beat Rafael Nadal along the way, he nearly took out Djokovic in the final, leading the Serb two sets to one before falling in five. Though he wasn’t as strong in his other two events this year, going 1-2 in ATP Cup and falling in the quarterfinals of Rio, where he was the overwhelming favorite, his heroics in Melbourne helped him set a new career-high ranking of No. 3.
Thiem has never been past the quarterfinals of the Western & Southern Open or the US Open, but he’s definitely going to be one to watch this year. Not only has he been one of the busiest players on the exhibition tour throughout the break, but with Nadal out, he's projected to be the No. 2 seed in New York, meaning he wouldn't have to meet the No. 1 seed, Djokovic, until the final.
No. 2 Rafael Nadal
The Spaniard had a very good start to 2020, leading Spain to the final of the ATP Cup and then reaching the quarterfinals of the Australian Open, where he fell to an inspired Thiem in four grueling sets. And in his only tournament after that he was in ruthless form, cruising to the ATP 500-level title in Acapulco without dropping a set. He was barely dropping games, in fact, losing 25 in five matches.
Unfortunately, Nadal recently announced he won’t be traveling to the U.S. this summer because of coronavirus concerns, and so he won’t be defending his US Open crown. But should he play Roland Garros, he’ll of course be a heavy favorite there—the 12-time French Open winner would also be chasing his 20th Grand Slam title in Paris, which would tie Federer's all-time record.
No. 1 Novak Djokovic
No one was in better form than the 17-time Grand Slam champion when the tour was suspended. He had gotten off to a flawless, 18-0 start to the season, going 6-0 during Serbia’s triumph at the ATP Cup, 7-0 en route to his eighth Australian Open crown, then 5-0 to win Dubai for the fifth time. It was his second-best start to a season in his career, having put together an incredible 41-0 start in 2011.
Perhaps surprisingly, Djokovic has won the Western & Southern Open just once, in 2018, but he’s a three-time winner at the US Open: in 2011, 2015 and 2018. And he's going to be a big favorite at both tournaments given he’s the only member of the Big 3 traveling to New York this summer.