Despite the tours' five-month suspensions and a revised ranking system?that made it tougher to make major moves upward, four players—Sofia Kenin, Denis Shapovalov, Diego Schwartzman and Andrey Rublev—managed to break through into their tours' Top 10 for the first time in 2020.
Here are 10 players who could do the same in 2021:
Iga Swiatek (POL, No. 17)
Of anyone on either tour, Swiatek might be in the best position to crack the Top 10 in 2021. More than two thirds of her current ranking points—2,000 of 2,960—are from her triumph at Roland Garros, so she barely has anything to defend other than her Paris performance. She was also named the WTA’s Most Improved Player of the Year a few weeks ago; 39 of the 41 previous recipients of the award went on to make the Top 10.
Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN, No. 21)
The 20-year-old Canadian is brimming with so much confidence and?talent that it feels like only a matter of time before he crashes the Top 10. Having reached as high as No. 17 in 2019, he showed flashes of brilliance throughout 2020, making finals at Rotterdam, Marseille and Cologne. The other six men who reached three or more finals during the year all finished in the ATP’s year-end Top 10.
Jennifer Brady (USA, No. 24)
The American had a strong start to 2020, scoring five Top 20 wins and rising from No. 53 to No. 48 by the time the tour was suspended in March. But when it restarted in August, she truly hit her stride, winning her first WTA title in Lexington and reaching her first major semifinal at the US Open. The 25-year-old is less than 2,000 points from the Top 10 and has little to defend until the summer.
Jannik Sinner (ITA, No. 37)
The Italian teenager went from No. 78 on the 2019 year-end rankings to No. 37 on the 2020 year-end rankings, the biggest ranking jump in the Top 50. And there’s no reason to believe he’ll be slowing down anytime soon. Of note is that the bulk of that rise came in the last two months of the season, thanks to reaching his first Grand Slam quarterfinal at Roland Garros (which propelled him from No. 75 to No. 46) and winning his first ATP title in Sofia (which bumped him from No. 44 to No. 37).
Alex de Minaur (AUS, No. 23)
The Australian No. 1 had a huge opportunity to reach the Top 10 in early 2020, starting the year at a career-high of No. 18 and playing some of the best tennis of his life heading into the Australian Open. Unfortunately, he suffered an abdominal tear and was out for six weeks, including missing his home major. Fresh off his first major quarterfinal at the US Open, he’s primed to keep climbing in 2021.
Elise Mertens (BEL, No. 20)
If the current rankings reflected only results from 2020 (instead of including results from 2019 tournaments that carried over), Mertens might be closer to the Top 10, as opposed to No. 20. But she was the WTA’s match wins leader for the year with a 34-13 record—no other woman even got to 30. She made the quarterfinals or better eight times in 13 events, including reaching the last eight at the US Open, taking out Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin along the way.
Borna Coric (CRO, No. 24)
It seems like he’s been around forever, but the Croat only just turned 24—and he finished 2020 with some of his best tennis, reaching his first Grand Slam quarterfinal at the US Open and another final at the 500-level event in St. Petersburg. He scored Top 10 wins against Dominic Thiem and Stefanos Tsitsipas in 2020. A former No. 12, can he keep up his momentum and join them in the elite in 2021?
Elena Rybakina (KAZ, No. 19)
Not many players had a hotter start to 2020 than Rybakina—she won 21 of her first 25 matches of the year and surged from No. 36 to No. 17 by the time the tour was suspended in March. She slowed down somewhat after the restart, going 8-6 and dipping slightly to No. 19 by year's end, but if the big-serving 21-year-old can build up that momentum again, she could find herself in the Top 10 very soon.
Coco Gauff (USA, No. 48)
The 16-year-old American didn’t have the greatest finish to 2020, going 6-6 after the restart. But until the tour suspension, she was constantly moving up the WTA rankings, breaking the Top 50 for the first time in February. And given that she has a winning record at the majors (9-5) and already has two Top 10 wins (Kiki Bertens in 2019 and Naomi Osaka in 2020), she can certainly make another surge in 2021.
Nick Kyrgios (AUS, No. 45)
Don’t let the No. 45 fool you, Kyrgios is a Top 10 player waiting to happen. Right? Not only has he been as high as No. 13 before, but he was No. 23 the last time he played in March. The ultra-talented Australian also has 21 career wins over Top 10 players, a rare tally for anyone who hasn’t been in the Top 10 themself. He’s also an almost-even 16-17 against all of the current Top 10 players combined.