2020 breakthroughs: Players who managed to crack the Top 10

2020 breakthroughs: Players who managed to crack the Top 10

In a year when it was tougher to make major moves up the rankings, four players—one woman and three men—still managed to break into one of the most exclusive elites out there.

With the revised ranking system in place since March and points not dropping off like they normally do, it’s been harder to make major moves up the rankings in 2020. But some have had breakthroughs so big that they still managed to move into one of the most exclusive elites out there.

Here are the four players—one woman and three men—who managed to break the Top 10 in 2020:

Sofia Kenin (USA)

The only one of the players on this list to sneak in her Top 10 debut before the COVID-19 pandemic caused the tours to be suspended—and subsequently the rankings systems to be revised, Kenin jumped from No. 15 to No. 7 on February 3 after winning her first Grand Slam title at the Australian Open. She’s also the only player on this list who broke the Top 5, too, setting a career-high of No. 4 on March 9, right before the tours were suspended—she finished the year at No. 4, as well.

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Denis Shapovalov (CAN)

After spending over 10 months hovering in the No. 14-No. 17 range, Shapovalov finally made his Top 10 debut on September 21, 2020—a week before Roland Garros—rising from No. 14 to No. 10 after reaching his fifth career Masters 1000 semifinal in Rome. He’s the fifth Canadian, male or female, to crack the Top 10, after Carling Bassett-Seguso (who reached No. 8), Milos Raonic (who reached No. 3), Eugenie Bouchard (a former No. 5) and Bianca Andreescu (who’s been as high as No. 4).

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Diego Schwartzman (ARG)

More than two years after reaching No. 11 on the ATP rankings, Schwartzman finally crashed the Top 10 on October 12, 2020, rising from No. 14 to No. 8 after making his first Grand Slam semifinal at Roland Garros—a few weeks earlier he also reached his first Masters 1000 final in Rome. He also got the first two Top 5 wins of his career during that stretch, beating No. 2 Rafael Nadal in Rome and No. 3 Dominic Thiem in Paris—going into the 2020 clay-court season he was 0-22 against Top 5 players.

“I’m really proud because I did many great things in many different weeks this year,” the Argentine said during the Nitto ATP Finals. “But also I have the feeling in my body that I have to improve.”

At 5’ 7”, Schwartzman is the shortest man to reach the Top 8 since No. 7 Harold Solomon in 1981, as well as the shortest man to reach a Grand Slam semifinal since Solomon at Roland Garros in 1980.

“I root for him all the time,” Solomon told ATPTour.com during Roland Garros. “It’s amazing every time he goes out there, wins matches and defeats these guys. He’s got a big fan in me.”

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Andrey Rublev (RUS)

By the end of 2019, Rublev had two 250-level titles, one Grand Slam quarterfinal and a career-high ranking of No. 22—but boy did that all change in 2020. He won back-to-back 250s in January at Doha and Adelaide and then broke the Top 20, and then—once the tour resumed in August—he took it to a whole new level, not only winning the three biggest titles of his career at 500-level events in Hamburg, St. Petersburg and Vienna, but also reaching the second and third major quarterfinals of his career at the US Open and Roland Garros. He made his Top 10 debut after his run in Paris on October 12, rising from No. 12 to No. 10, and set a career-high of No. 8 a week later on October 19.

He was the ATP’s title leader for 2020 with five, and tied Novak Djokovic for most match wins with 41.

“I’m grateful for the season,” Rublev said during the Nitto ATP Finals. “I mean, I cannot complain. I won so many tournaments that I’d never won before. I mean, this year I won more tournaments than in my career, and I won more matches than in my career. And I became Top 10 for the first time.

“Of course it could be better, but it could also be much, much, much, much worse.”

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