In little over two months, from September to the start of November, an exceptional level of performance had helped to seal a remarkable year for local tennis star Alejandro Davidovich. But it hasn't been easy.
This was his first year as a top-100 player and his first on the ATP Tour, without competing in Challengers. Having started the year 85th on the rankings, this meant having to enter five of his 13 tournaments in the qualifying stages. What's more, with the pandemic stopping play between March and August, all players had to adjust to completely new circumstances.
There is no better endorsement of Davidovich's progression than to end the season with his career-best ranking of 52nd. His absence in Sofia this week and the continuation of the ATP Challenger Tour may, however, see him fall a few positions.
In the recent Masters 1,000 event in Paris, his last-16 finish saw him leap 11 places from 63rd - a far cry from when he was facing dropping out of the top 100 altogether after a disappointing Cincinnati Masters in August.
Fifth best Spaniard
At 21 years of age, the future belongs to Davidovich, who is far from reaching his peak. That said, he is already the fifth best Spanish player, after recently overtaking veterans Fernando Verdasco (64th), Feliciano López (62nd) and Pablo Andújar (59th). Only Albert Ramos (46th), Pablo Carreño (16th), Roberto Bautista (13th) and Rafa Nadal (2nd) are ahead of him. Likewise, there are only three players younger than him who are ahead in the rankings: Canadian Auger Alliasime (21st), Serbian Miomir Kecmanović (43rd) and Italian Jannik Sinner (44th).
Whether in the singles or the doubles, the chances of going to the Olympic Games, if they go ahead, are increasing for the boy from Rincón de la Victoria. The 'Olympic ranking', which closes on 8 June following Roland Garros, is slightly different to the ATP rankings and measures results in recent months.
There is a maximum of four places for singles and two more (a couple) for doubles per country and it cannot be overlooked that Davidovich has already won a doubles tournament in Chile with Roberto Carballés, and has also played with Verdasco.
A new player after lockdown
More than five months of lockdown affected tennis players in many different ways. The harshness of the measures in Spain meant he had to work especially hard to get back to peak condition.
Training with world number one Novak Djokovic in Marbella certainly helped; after dropping out in the qualifiers in the Cincinnati Masters held this year in New York, Davidovich reached the last 16 in the US Open, his greatest achievement of the year; he passed a triple screen in the Rome qualifier against a top 100 team; he was semi-finalist and quarter-finalist in the two Cologne tournaments, and reached the last 16 in the Paris Masters. His level rapidly increased in the latter stages of the year.
Improvement on fast surfaces
One of the keys to Davidovich's continued success in the ranking is his improvement on fast surfaces, which has made him a more complete player.
Until now, and in spite of being crowned junior champion at Wimbledon, his best play has always been on clay. However, in this final stretch of the year Davidovich has shown himself to be equally competitive on hard courts or in indoor tournaments.
Better than his ranking suggests
Davidovich is currently 40th on the ATP Race (which measures only the points gained in 2020), a ranking that will vary little during the rest of the year.
Since September, his record has been 16 wins and six losses. All except one (Dušan Lajović) were against players in the top ten: three against Diego Schwartzman, one against and Alexander Zverev and another against Andréi Rublev.
In this time he also beat including a victory over Karén Jachánov (18th) so his level of tennis during these months has been better than his 52 ranking would suggest.
So where is there room for improvement next year? Firstly, he can show greater maturity, above all on a mental level.
He has improved a lot in this regard this year. He showed a cool head to overcome complicated five-set Grand Slam matches against Norbert Gomboš and Hubert Hurkacz and went for the kill against Khachanov. However, there have also been some slip-ups.
The first was defeat to Hernán Casanova (366th) in Buenos Aires; the second, the "psychological warfare" against Thiago Seyboth Wild and his home crowd in Rio. However, above all else was the thrashing by Schwartzman in Köln after going 6-2 5-2 ahead and nerves getting the better of him.
If he can continue to improve this side of his game, 2021 promises to be an even better year.