By Luke Jensen, French Open Doubles Champion
Hey, winners! In the sideways year that was 2020, I am extremely confident 2021 can be our finest moment. I am so proud to be part of the global tennis community. I would like to extend an extraordinary high-five to the USTA for shining a light on the advantages of tennis as a social-distance activity. These smart, high-character people kept the rally going around the world during this pandemic. On the professional players’ side, I was impressed to see these world-class athletes deal with pressures beyond losing a match with all the different “bubbles” and travel restrictions.
I know the Australian Open will be a real challenge for players traveling from all parts of the planet. Will there be any chance to hit balls or work out in their time in mandated quarantine? To roll into the first major of the calendar year with a two-week lockdown will challenge even the toughest mindset.
Speaking of mental toughness, my 2020 players of the year are Sofia Kenin and Rafael Nadal. Kenin is one of my favorite pro ballers, and after winning her first major at the Australian Open last January, she never missed a beat. Competing and training during the lockdown led to a wonderful World Team Tennis season with the Philadelphia Freedoms making it to the playoffs. Kenin reached the round of 16 at the US Open and the finals of the French Open. The WTA has her ranked at #4 year-end, but that is wrong! I think COVID-19 infected the WTA computer because Barty is #1 and played only four events, losing to Kenin in the Australian Open. It gets better; 2019 US Open Champion Andrescu ends up world #7 for 2020 and she never played a single match! The amount of ranking bonus money in those contracts is crazy-good, and Kenin was robbed of #1 for the year. I’m not happy.
Meanwhile, Nadal winning his 13th French Open and 20th major overall (tying Federer for most singles majors on the men’s side) is just unbelievable. Nadal has a laser-like focus from practice swing to match point which sets him apart from anyone who ever picked up a racquet. My hope is that Federer comes back strong in 2021 and that Serena Williams — at 23 singles majors — feels the heat from Nadal and tries to widen the gap on her singles record title.
All I know is that I’m happy to be done with 2020 and ready to hit aces in 2021. In my world, I have taken a phenomenal opportunity to be Director of Professional Tennis and Elite Scouting at the most successful tennis academy in the history of tennis. Starting last December, I continue my tennis journey at the IMG Academy, founded by the Hall of Famer Nick Bollettieri. I pride myself on a growth mindset. Growing my knowledge base at the highest level and contributing to tomorrow’s grand slam champions at a place that has produced 10 singles #1’s and hall-of-fame talents such as Andre Agassi and Monica Seles is a wonderful thrill.
I hope to see you all hitting winners and having fun this year. Go for it!