How refreshing it’s been to see such a wide range of personalities and playing styles emerge on the ATP Tour. Though there were a few surprises during the Sunshine Swing–Grigor Dimitrov’s Miami Open effort most of all–at the late stages, the familiar yet still young contenders were the ones vying for the titles. As the men make their way to Europe, here are four storylines worthy of attention.

If you're young, Sunshine Swing results matter

A title run at Indian Wells helped Carlos Alcaraz shake off a mild case of the doldrums. “Indian Wells was really important for me,” he said during Miami. “You know, in the personal part, yeah, thanks to that tournament I started to feel better, you know, off the court as well, on the court obviously.”

Jannik’s Sinner semifinal effort in the desert, followed by victory in Miami, eloquently reinforced the breakthrough triumph he had at the Australian Open in January.

“I think the biggest change I have had is physical,” Sinner said following the Miami final. “We worked a lot physical in the gym, and this helps you also on the court when, in your mind, you know that you can play for hours and hours and then you can maintain a certain level.”

For Daniil Medvedev, a runner-up showing at Indian Wells, followed by a semi in Miami, revealed yet again that he’s consistently a major factor. All three of these contenders will build off that success as clay court season gets underway.


If you're old, they don't matter at all ... maybe

Prior to the Sunshine Swing, hopes were high that titans Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal would give full accounts of themselves. For Djokovic, there loomed the possibility of a grand return to Indian Wells and Miami after a five-year absence. For Nadal, pragmatic thinking figured he’d at least be able to give his all at Indian Wells.

It didn’t go that way. At Indian Wells, Djokovic won a match, lost his next one, and then withdrew from Miami. Nadal, alas, withdrew from Indian Wells. Over the course of the last two months, the two have collectively played two matches (both contested by Djokovic in Indian Wells).

And yet, as the long clay-court season nears, how significantly do those results factor into each man’s possibilities at Roland Garros and beyond? Scarcely. Far more important is getting in just enough match play (3-5 matches) for each to compete effectively in Paris.

Djokovic's return to the Sunshine Swing was cut short in a shock third-round Indian Wells loss; he withdrew from Miami.

Djokovic's return to the Sunshine Swing was cut short in a shock third-round Indian Wells loss; he withdrew from Miami.


Volleys have value

It’s a proven fact that coming to net has always been a highly effective tactic. But in the 21st century, getting there has not been nearly as easy as it once was. Of late, though, many players are making their way forward in ways both classic and distinctly contemporary.

On his way to the semis of Indian Wells, Tommy Paul authored a volleyer’s textbook for the 2020s, coming in on selected returns and serves, as well as frequently looking to terminate rallies with forward movement. Alcaraz has long demonstrated the value of net-rushing. Sinner’s increased comfort in the front part of the court has been noticeable and a significant part of his progress. Dimitrov’s resurgent run in Miami was a rich display of volleying versality. And even Medvedev, a reluctant volleyer for many years, has started to come in more and taken steps to improve his volley technique.

Let’s see how this plays out during the clay season.


The shape of tours to come

The volume of the dialogue around the shape and structure of professional tennis figures to only increase in the coming months. Will Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund indeed take major steps to bring the ATP and WTA together? Or will Saudi Arabia’s role in pro tennis take another form? What about the Grand Slam-led “Premier Tour” concept?

As matches and tournaments happen week after week, what kind of meetings will occur between ATP CEO Andrea Gaudenzi, Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley, USTA CEO Lew Sherr, Wimbledon CEO Sally Bolton, FFT CEO Caroline Flaissier, and many other organizations?

Surely, amid so much dialogue and dissent, commerce and controversy, a new structure will emerge.