Coco Gauff, Sloane Stephens and Others Who Failed to Shine in 2020

Published 12/26/2020, 6:54 AM EST
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 09: Sloane Stephens of the United States poses with the championship trophy during the trophy presentation after the Women’s Singles finals match on Day Thirteen of the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 9, 2017 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. Sloane Stephens defeated Madison Keys in the second set with a score of 6-3, 6-0. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

As 2020, a tough year in more ways than one, draws to a close, there are some moments from tennis courts that will stay with us for years to come.

With Rafael Nadal’s 20th Grand Slam title and 13th French Open title; Novak Djokovic’s eighth Australian Open title, his career Major tally, Dominic Thiem’s maiden Major trophy to 17, Daniil Medvedev’s amazing run of form that saw him win the Rolex Paris Masters and ATP Finals, compatriot Andrey Rublev’s breakthrough year and Iga Swiatek’s remarkable record-equaling French Open win, there were enough takeaways for tennis fans from this year.

The stalwarts and the next line of superstars produced spectacular, and often, unbelievable tennis action to make the fans overcome the gloom around the pandemic and savor their favorite sport from the safe confines of their homes.


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However, while many across the men’s and women’s circuits excelled, there were some, who though touted as future stars, largely failed to live up to their billing.

Tennis stars who failed to make a mark

Coco Gauff

The American teen sensation, who many say is primed for big things in women’s tennis, had a largely underwhelming WTA season. Gauff made the fourth round of the Australian Open, getting the better of current World Number 3 Naomi Osaka. However, the 16-year-old American lost her fourth-round tie to country mate and eventual champion Sofia Kenin.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – JANUARY 24: Coco Gauff of the United States celebrates after winning match point during her Women’s Singles third round match against Naomi Osaka of Japan day five of the 2020 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 24, 2020 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

She couldn’t progress beyond the second round of the French Open and gave a rather disappointing account of herself in front of an adoring home crowd at the US Open, going out in the opening round to Latvian Anastasija Sevastova. However, she still has plenty of years to iron out the flaws in her game and meet the expectations that the tennis world has from her.

Sloane Stephens

There’s been plenty of hype around 27-year-old American Sloane Stephens, as she may be marked out for similar achievements as superstar Serena Williams. However, she has yet to make good on that promise, and if her 2020 performances are any indication, her game seems to have gone down a notch.

She went out in the first round of the Australian Open this year, losing in straight sets to Chinese player Zhang Shuai. She gave a marginally better account of herself at her home Grand Slam, making the third round, where she ran into Serena.

Though she took a set off the veteran American, Serena roared back to win the next two and seal her passage to the fourth round. Currently at 39 in the WTA rankings, she had a poor win/loss record of 4-11 this season. However, her six WTA singles titles speak for her talent and one hopes she will realize her true potential in the new season, starting with the Australian Open.


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John Isner

Touted as the next big star of American men’s tennis when he turned pro, the big-serving giant has fallen far short of where many thought he would be at this stage of his career.

Though Isner’s third-round exit at the Australian Open this year came under unfortunate circumstances, as he pulled out mid-match against Swiss Stan Wawrinka because of an injury, he fared even poorer at Roland-Garros, going down to compatriot Sebastian Korda in the second round. More misery came his way at the US Open as country mate Steve Johnson took him to five sets and won in 2007.

He didn’t win a single title on the men’s tour this year and, at 35, time may be running out for him to justify the big talk around him.

Germany’s Alexander Zverev in action during his group stage match against Serbia’s Novak Djokovic Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs

Alexander Zverev

For someone who already has 13 ATP Tour titles under his belt and achieved a career-high ranking of Number 3 in 2017, the 23-year-old German ought to have landed his maiden Grand Slam title by now. However, Zverev is still searching for his first. He came the closest he has at the US Open this year, reaching the title round.

However, he was pipped to the finish line in a fierce five-setter by Austrian Dominic Thiem. Though he won two hard court Tour events back home this season, he came up with a poor show at the elite Rolex Paris Masters and the season-ending ATP Finals where he went out in the group stages.

The controversy around his private life could have possibly proved a distraction, but he would be the last one to look for excuses. The tennis world would sure bet on him to make up for some of his 2020 misses next year.


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Felix Auger-Aliassime


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Considering the expectations from him, the young Canadian tennis star would be the first one to concede that he grossly under-achieved this season. Auger-Aliassime went out in the opening rounds of the Australian Open and the French Open and failed to land a single title on the men’s tour this year.

His best Slam effort this year was a fourth-round appearance of the US Open, where he lost to eventual champion Dominic Thiem. However, he has the game to justify his billing, and one hopes his moment arrives sooner than later.



Priyabrata Chowdhury

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Priyabrata Chowdhury is a tennis author for EssentiallySports. He has been a print journalist for a decade, producing news pages for leading national dailies such as the Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express. His passion for sports eventually drove him to tennis writing.