Perhaps no player had a more bipolar 2020, on and off court, than Novak Djokovic.
Heavy criticism, and from outside the sports sector, of public statements and actions regarding the global COVID-19 crisis and the then-idea of a vaccine. Accountability in an abbreviated Adria Tour due to infections. Incriminating footage of huggy, singalong stage-dancing on his part and that of other stars. And a US Open incident not to forget but to actively learn from, so as to do better. All those instances cast a cloud over one who won his astounding eighth Australian Open title in January, his 17th overall.
Before all that, on January 11, Djokovic and Daniil Medevedev staged a backcourt bout ranking among the best of the year. They did so in the ATP Cup semifinals, within the rowdy-crowd confines of Ken Rosewall Arena.
As it turned out, and as a forerunner to his passive-aggression in New York, the world No. 1 was reduced not just to angrily breaking his racquet behind the baseline at one point, but also to returning to it with a towel to sweep away—from the court itself, toward the back wall—those shards of the instrument he had demolished.
Give Djokovic credit for that, perhaps, as we rarely, if ever, see a player—let alone one of the sport's shining lights—clean up after himself.
Djokovic would win the match in three sets, and in some ways, win the year. He finished the season No. 1 for a record-tying sixth time. Surely in 2021 his eyes will be on those prizes of 1) besting Pete Sampras in that particular arena, and 2) closing in on Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal's 20-major face-off.