Bear, as he is affectionately known, had one heck of a year in 2019. At the age of 23 the lanky 198cm (6′ 6″) Russian had a breakout year winning four titles. Two of these were Masters 1000s with victories in Cincinnati and Shanghai.
It was an ultra-consistent season for him, and at his age, he should continue to evolve as a top-flight player. My only concern for 2020 is that he has a lot of points to defend so he will have no margin for any let down after such an active 2019.
Although I have watched him play quite a bit in 2019, I do not know a lot about him, but let’s dive in and see how I read him. Thoughts are: cunning, risk-taker, measured, relentless.
Cunning: Meant positively. Like a fox or a chess player in his case (he likes chess) he thinks his way through the drawn-out points and can pull off a deceptive drop shot or hard-hit winner when it appeared he was struggling. Has deceptively good speed as Djokovic will attest after repeatedly failing to drop shot him this year.
Risk-taker: His general stock approach seems to be Djokovic like with consistent groundstrokes and depth. However, unlike Djoker, he will occasionally throw caution to the wind with a blasting winner out of nowhere or booming second service ace.
Measured: The bear has excellent rhythm, and no rally seems too long for him.
Relentless: Like a diesel engine, goes all day, and his endurance and ability to give repeat effort is outstanding.
My likes and dislikes:
Likes: Does most things well. Bear has beaten Djokovic and gotten under his skin a few times. The way he casually throws his serve toss then crushes it. Bombing second serves at Djoker in Cincinnati was a highlight.
Dislikes: Not a lot. The length of time it can take for him to win a match is a slight peeve against my time sometimes. When he wound up the New York crowd and threw in the middle finger, seemed a bit silly, but he did rectify that.
Areas for improvement: He does do most things well if not always attractively, so he could benefit with a little homework over the offseason watching Federer YouTube vids to gain some style points.