'They're not intimidated anymore' – Djokovic 'vulnerable' to rising stars says Wilander

Novak Djokovic is now ‘vulnerable’ against the group of rising ATP Tour stars, says Eurosport’s Mats Wilander, who believes ‘they are not intimidated anymore’.

There has been a lot of talk around a new ‘big four’ in men’s tennis with the world number one joined by US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev, who won gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and took the ATP Finals title in Turin.

Djokovic, who will be targeting a 21st Grand Slam title in 2022 to move ahead of his long-standing rivals, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, suddenly has a lot more serious competition, according to Wilander.

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“I think the biggest difference is the guys that are coming from behind or that are surrounding Novak, they now have the confidence that they can beat Novak on any surface on any given day,” Wilander told Eurosport.

I think they are not intimidated anymore unless you get to a fourth or fifth set in a Grand Slam.

“But even then, I feel like they have seen Novak most probably have the best year on Tour ever in 2021. Still, at the end of it, he looked a little bit vulnerable at the US Open, at the ATP Finals, and maybe even in the Olympics.

“So maybe the Olympics was a bad idea for Novak. That is why it seemed like he lost a little bit of confidence, lost a little bit of drive. I mean, what an unbelievable year for Novak, and he does not look a day older than 24 years old, not 34.

“The ATP Finals to him is not a Grand Slam. He is clearly aiming at winning Grand Slams, not the ATP Finals, although for his confidence, maybe it was a little bit of a defeat. But yeah, I think it’s two completely different situations.

“I think he was having fun. He is thinking about next year or the year after. It is just pacing himself to enjoy his tennis until it’s over.”

‘We’ll have to wait and see’ – Djokovic still unsure about Australian Open participation

Djokovic has still not revealed his final decision as to whether he is willing to participate at the Australian Open, given the decision taken by Tennis Australia to accept only vaccinated players.

“I think the Australian Open is obviously doing the thing that they have to do and the Australian government has decided this is what is going to happen,” Wilander said.

“I can easily see that some players are not going to get vaccinated and they are not going to go. Is it a big deal? Yeah, it is a big deal for the Australian Open, but it gives opportunities to other players. I don’t know what Novak Djokovic is going to do.

“Is the Australian Open the most important tournament in his career? Well, it is the most successful Grand Slam for him. I’m not sure if it is more important than the French Open or Wimbledon or the US Open, but it is his most successful Slam.

“It would be the most natural place for him to break the tie of 20 Grand Slams with Roger and Rafa. But at the same time, Novak Djokovic, I think, is thinking about his own health.

He’s thinking about the future. He’s thinking long-term, and so I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Novak doesn’t go.

“Is it going to hurt the tournament? Yeah, it will hurt the tournament in one way. But at the same time, we have a better chance to see a new Grand Slam champion, so I would not be that concerned.

“I think we’re still in the Covid era, and I think we have to be thankful for any tournament that is being played. Thankful for any professional tennis player that is able to show up, that is healthy, that is willing to live under quarantine rules, sometimes in a bubble.

“It’s been a rough year for players and tournaments and I still think we have to be just appreciative to take whatever we get with players and tournaments.”

‘This is not about tennis’ – Zverev hopes Djokovic will play at Australian Open

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Zverev can become world number one ‘next year’ – Becker

Boris Becker says he wants Alexander Zverev to become the greatest German tennis player of all time – and believes he can become world number one next year.

To do that, the three-time Wimbledon champion says the ATP Finals winner will need to claim his first Grand Slam title in 2022, having this year won Olympic gold.

Zverev beat Daniil Medvedev – a player he had lost to in the group stage – to win the season-ending event for the second time, and Becker was impressed with his performance throughout, saying he did not “play a bad match”.

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But he is yet to lift one of the four major trophies and Becker believes that will be rectified next season – giving him the chance to rise to the top of the world rankings, above Novak Djokovic.

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“He won’t take it (become world number one) without a Grand Slam win,” Djokovic told Eurosport Germany podcast Das Gelbe vom Ball.

The next big goal for Sascha Zverev has to be the number one. He can make it next year in my eyes. But that’s only possible if he wins one or two Grand Slam tournaments.

“You saw it this year: the clear number one was Djokovic with three Grand Slam wins, the clear number two was Medvedev with one Grand Slam win and the clear number three was Sascha.

“Certainly, an ATP Finals title is an absolute highlight in one’s career – he has won that twice – and victory at the Olympics was certainly unique, but the next big triumph has to be a victory at a Grand Slam tournament. Then you get closer to your dream.”

‘This is not about tennis’ – Zverev hopes Djokovic will play at Australian Open

Steffi Graf is easily the most successful tennis player in German history, with 107 titles including 22 at Grand Slams, but the possibility of succeeding Becker as the most prolific men’s player is still within Zverev’s sights. The 24-year-old has 19 titles so far, compared to Becker’s 49 – six of which were majors.

“On Monday I saw the prize money list, he has now overtaken me,” Becker said.

“What people forgot to mention – today you get much more prize money for the same victory than 20 or 30 years ago. You have to put it all in perspective.

I would like him to become the most successful German tennis player of all time. Then we would all have a lot to celebrate and we would have a tennis boom in Germany again.

“We would all be winners. I am his biggest fan and I hope he can do it.”

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Djokovic may need Covid jab ‘this week’ to play in Australian Open – Woodbridge

Time is running out for Novak Djokovic to confirm his place in next year’s Australian Open, with tournament bosses taking the decision to only permit players that have been vaccinated against Covid-19 and the world number one remaining unclear on whether he will be able to compete in Melbourne.

The nine-time Australian Open winner, who has publicly criticised vaccine mandates in the past, has repeatedly refused to confirm whether he has been vaccinated and said “we’ll have to wait and see” when asked if he would be competing at Melbourne Park following his ATP Finals semi-final defeat to Alexander Zverev on Saturday.

“His team have been well aware of this,” 16-time Grand Slam men’s doubles champion Todd Woodbridge said on WWOS radio.

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“The Australian Open entry list closes six weeks in advance of the tournament, so that’s December 6.

But the reality is if he wants to have preparations in Australia, he’s going to have to have had that jab probably this week.

Woodbridge added that if Djokovic wants to be seen as the greatest of all time in his sport, January’s Open is not to be missed.

“You can only be the greatest in your era, and he’s turning out to be that. I think it’s important that he goes on with it,” he said.

“It may not be the happiest of endings that he’s looking for if he doesn’t come.”

To play in Melbourne, Djokovic would need to board a charter flight between December 27 and January 3 and provide a negative Covid-19 test upon arrival.

‘We’ll have to wait and see’ – Djokovic still unsure about Australian Open participation

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley stressed that “time is running out” for the Serb if he needs to get vaccinated.

“At the end of the day, you want to give everyone the best possible chance to get in, and to do it within the parameters which we can,” he said.

“We’ve got to still process the visa, and also process the exemption.

“Time is running out, and obviously you can get one vaccination – the Johnson & Johnson shot – but if you need a double vaccination, that window between the two vaccines is really closing.”

Djokovic lost to Zverev in the semi-finals of the ATP Finals in Turin on Saturday, with the German going on to top world number two Daniil Medvedev in the final on Sunday.

After his semi-final win, Zverev said the situation is “not about tennis” and hopes that Djokovic will compete at the Australian Open, despite it being “easier to win the tournament” if he isn’t able to play.

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Opinion: Can Djokovic, Zverev and Medvedev's friendly rivalry survive?

What happens next? The confetti has barely been cleared from the courts in Turin and already it’s hard not to think about what lies in store in 2022. A new Big Three? A new Grand Slam champion? A new world No 1? A new all-time leader in the Grand Slam standings?

Almost everything seems to be on the table after Alexander Zverev beat both Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev over the weekend to win the ATP Finals for a second time. Not only will it be fascinating to see who wins the battle for more silverware next season, but it will be intriguing to see how the rivalry between the trio evolves and develops. Right now there appears a close bond between all three players.

Djokovic said after losing to Zverev in the semi-finals of the ATP Finals that “there is that respect and appreciation for each other that is more important than winning or losing”. The world No 1 described Zverev as a “friend off the court” and was also full of praise for him after he lifted the trophy on Sunday. Zverev too had kind words for Medvedev following the final, calling him the “leader of the new generation.”

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But can the friendship be maintained as the three players continue to fight for the biggest prizes in the years ahead? Djokovic acknowledged last week that it is “not easy to be very close” with your rivals and seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander warned Medvedev that perhaps his relationship with the world No 1 is not helpful for his future. “I’m not sure I necessarily like that Novak and Daniil are hanging out, and practising together,” he told Eurosport. “I think this is great for Novak in the long run.”

It’s unusual for the very best players in the world to hit together at tournaments, but Djokovic and Medvedev did so before the Paris Masters and also before the ATP Finals. “We played for two hours, one set, and it was great,” said Medvedev. “Then we talked for 15, 20 minutes, I love talking with him. I think I can say that he’s a friend.”

While there is probably little left for them to learn about each other from the practice sessions, might Medvedev reconsider the idea if he loses his next few matches against the world No 1? And can Djokovic and Zverev remain close friends as they continue to try to find ways to beat each other and eek out small advantages that could prove key on the court?

History would suggest probably not. Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are friendly now, but that is a friendship that has developed over 15 years and seems to have blossomed more as they have neared the end of their careers. Djokovic’s relationship with the pair has always seemed more professional than friendly. And Andy Murray was hesitant a few years ago when asked if Djokovic was his “friend”, even though they grew up playing together. Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras also didn’t develop a bond during their playing career. John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors clashed during their tense rivalry while McEnroe and Bjorn Borg’s relationship again seemed to improve after the Swede retired.

Perhaps, though, the matter of friendship is not atop Zverev’s mind right now. The ATP announced in October that they would be opening an investigation into allegations of domestic abuse against him, a year after they were first publicised. Zverev said he welcomed the investigation and again denied all the allegations. The announcement from the ATP came in the middle of the best run in Zverev’s career. He has finished the season by winning 32 of his last 36 matches, with three of the four losses during that stretch coming against Djokovic or Medvedev. He has won more titles this year than anyone else (six) and leads the ATP Tour with 59 match victories in 2021. The only achievements missing from Zverev’s CV are a Grand Slam title and reaching world No 1.

No man who has won the ATP Finals twice – as Zverev has now done – has so far not finished his career having won multiple majors and spent time at the top of the world rankings.

Zverev’s form since the summer, when he beat Djokovic on his way to winning Olympic gold in Tokyo, has been fantastic. He has cut out the double faults that were starting to plague his game and his serve in Turin was devastating, albeit on speedy courts that suited him nicely. If the weekend was a precursor for what’s to come in Melbourne then Zverev could not have asked for more, beating Djokovic, who had won their last meeting at the US Open over five tough sets, and ending a five-match losing streak against Medvedev in relatively comfortable fashion.

The big question for Zverev heading into 2022 is whether he can beat Djokovic or Medvedev over five sets. So far he has probably under-delivered at Grand Slams, making one final at the US Open in 2020 and three other semi-finals.

Medvedev expects Zverev to win a Grand Slam soon

And if the Australian Open started today, then Djokovic, with 20 Grand Slam titles in his back pocket, nine of them won in Melbourne, would likely still be the favourite.

It’s almost ironic in a year that he came so close to winning all four majors that Djokovic’s aura of invincibility seems to have slipped slightly. He finishes the season with seven losses, and the ones in the back half of the year against Zverev and Medvedev seem significant, at least for the hopes of the world No 2 and world No 3 as they try to close a still sizable ranking gap on the world No 1. Djokovic still has a winning record against both Medvedev (6-4) and Zverev (7-4), but recent results show that it is far from a foregone conclusion when they meet now. Even since the Australian Open earlier this year the landscape has shifted. Djokovic beat Zverev in four sets and Medvedev in three to lift the trophy in Melbourne in February. Zverev has won two of their three meetings since and Medvedev has won the more important of his subsequent two matches against Djokovic in the US Open final.

Whether either can turn the tables on Djokovic at his most successful Slam will be fascinating to see.

If Djokovic, Medvedev and Zverev are the new ‘Big Three’ then it will be interesting to see where Rafael Nadal fits into the picture when he returns. The 20-time Grand Slam champion is set to play again in December and has said that he hopes to compete in Melbourne. Will he be a contender for the title if fully healthy?

For now the focus is on Djokovic, Medvedev and Zverev, and the next step in their developing rivalry.

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'New top four are Djokovic, Medvedev, Zverev and Tsitsipas' – Mischa Zverev

The ‘new top four’ ahead of the 2022 season are Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas, according to Eurosport expert Mischa Zverev.

Zverev won the ATP Finals for the second time on Sunday as he defeated Medvedev, the defending champion, in straight sets in Turin. The German came through to win 6-4 6-4 in one hour and 15 minutes to secure a tour-best sixth trophy of the year and end a five-match losing run against his opponent.

It was the world number three’s 59th victory of a highly successful season as he posted a 32-4 record since his Olympic Gold triumph in Tokyo to suggest he will be a major force in 2022, and his brother Mischa believes he is now part of a ‘new top four’.

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“Compared to his last ATP Finals victory in 2018, he plays better, more mature, more intelligent and more complete in the overall package,” Zverev told Eurosport. “He is the best Zverev there has been so far, but he can get even better.

”He has improved his volleys a lot, he also reads the game better, he knows when to attack or retreat. The selection of his strokes has also got better and he’s moving well, very intelligently, at the moment. Against Medvedev, he found an excellent balance and correctly assessed when he needed to move forward and play calmly. There were a lot of tempo changes in the game, but it was all controlled.

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”Don’t forget Tsitsipas, he was unbelievably strong for half the year. I also believe that someone like Rublev can annoy the other players. We also have to wait and see how things go with Nadal in the coming year. Is he coming back or not? How does he play the clay court season?

From my point of view, the new top four are Djokovic, Medvedev, Sascha and Tsitsipas. That’s just my feeling; that can, of course, still change.

“It is mathematically possible to become number one without a Grand Slam title, but it is very unlikely. In the last 20 years, I think only Marcelo Rios has managed to get to the top without a Grand Slam victory.

“There are people who win a Grand Slam but have never won a Masters. You can then say that it was a lucky coup, but if you’ve already won a number of Masters and twice the ATP Finals, then that’s not lucky.

“Sascha is one of the 10 players who have become world champions [ATP Finals] more than once. This list includes players like McEnroe, Borg, Becker and Sampras.

“From a purely statistical point of view, it should be enough for a Grand Slam victory. I don’t want to rely too much on the past, but rather see how Sascha can develop further in the future.”

Medvedev expects Zverev to win a Grand Slam soon

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'It's not going to be shameful' – Medvedev doesn't want pressure of matching Big Three

Daniil Medvedev has said “it’s not going to be shameful” if the next generation of stars are not able to match the career achievements of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, or Rafael Nadal.

The Big Three have all won 20 Grand Slam singles titles in legendary careers with the trio considered amongst the greats of the game for all they have achieved.

But Medvedev does not feel that he and others now challenging Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have to emulate their incredible feats in the sport.

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“When there was [Bjorn] Borg and [John] McEnroe, when they were close, finished their careers, everybody was like, ‘tennis is over, we won’t ever have any great players, it is finished’,” the Russian said.

“We did have some: [Pete] Sampras, [Andre] Agassi, they were at the top. [When] Sampras retired, [people were saying] ‘okay, tennis is over’.

“Then we had Novak, Roger and Rafa. If you asked just before they came, everybody would say, ‘well, tennis will not be interesting anymore’.

“It’s the same here. Tennis is a great sport, so I don’t see why our generation would miss on something.

“Of course, maybe we don’t [win] 20 Grand Slams, yet nobody did before Roger, Rafa and Novak, so they were also worse than them.

It’s definitely not going to be shameful [if we win fewer Grand Slams].

Alexander Zverev won the ATP Finals for the second time as he defeated Medvedev, the defending champion, in straight sets in Turin.

Zverev: It’s obviously been a great year

The German came through to win 6-4 6-4 in one hour and 15 minutes to secure a tour-best sixth trophy of the year and end a five-match losing run against his opponent.

It was the world number three’s 59th match win of a highly successful season as he posted a 32-4 record since his Olympic Gold triumph in Tokyo to suggest he will be a major force in 2022.

The attention will now switch to the 2022 season and the Australian Open in Melbourne in January with a particular focus on whether Djokovic will defend his title.
Djokovic has still not made up his mind as to whether he is willing to participate at the Australian Open, given the decision taken by Tennis Australia to accept only vaccinated players.

‘We’ll have to wait and see’ – Djokovic still unsure about Australian Open participation

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'The hardest thing is expectation' – Roddick outlines 2022 goals for Raducanu

Andy Roddick believes the toughest challenge for Emma Raducanu in 2022 will be the “expectation” on her, as he outlined what he thinks a successful season will be for the British No 1.

Raducanu caused one of the biggest shocks in tennis history in the summer as she came through qualifying to win the US Open without dropping a set.
She has played three tournaments since then and won just two matches. Her last outing at the Linz Open saw her lose in the first round to Chinese qualifier Wang Xinyu.

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While Raducanu’s stunning success in New York has seen her touted as a future world No 1 and multiple Grand Slam winner, Roddick next wants to see more consistency on a week-to-week basis.

“The hardest thing in sport in my opinion is expectation,” the former world No 1 told Tennis Channel.

“What she did at the US Open was unbelievable but it was largely without the expectation of ‘if you don’t win this final it’s bad for you’. It was all gravy from the third round on for her, without taking anything from her.

It is a different type of pressure set now … what I want to see is those consistent weeks where she is winning three or four matches every week.

“That would be the next benchmark if I am on her team, getting the consistency dialled in so that our baseline is top 20 in the world and our upper echelon is what you did at the US Open, which we were all amazed by.”

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Raducanu will round off her 2021 season by competing at the Champions Tennis event at the Royal Albert Hall from November 25. She will head to the exhibition event with new coach Torben Beltz in her box for the first time.

Former world No 1 Jim Courier thinks Raducanu has the quality to challenge for more silverware next season.

“Who’s to say she won’t make a deep run? I could easily see a semi-final and maybe further next year, but I think the semis is a good benchmark if I am on her team to target.”

Roddick on Grand Slam race

Roddick also spoke about the battle between Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer to win the most Grand Slam titles.

All three are currently tied on 20 majors but Djokovic and Nadal could soon move ahead with Federer seemingly out of action for most of next season. The next chance to win No 21 will be at the Australian Open in January, although Djokovic is still uncertain if he will travel to Melbourne as players will need to be vaccinated to compete.

“Having seen the toll on the bodies and bodies breaking down, Novak seemingly has the longest runway and has been playing the best consistently for the last five, maybe even 10, years,” said Roddick.

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“And he only got better this year. I don’t think you can say that about Rafa or Roger at this point in their careers.

“Novak still has to be the favourite but this new wrinkle where Rafa comes in and the route to the Australian Open title doesn’t have to go through Novak … I don’t think Rafa is the favourite, regardless if Novak is there or not, but there is a serious wrinkle.

“I don’t think the days of Roger winning Grand Slams are still here. I would love to be proven wrong but that’s a serious uphill battle.”

Djokovic was beaten in the semi-finals of the ATP Finals in three sets by Alexander Zverev on Saturday.

Zverev followed up the result by winning the tournament for the second time with victory over world No 2 Daniil Medvedev in the final.

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Time for a Slam title for Zverev?

He’s only 24 but the question of whether he will finally win a major looms large for Alexander Zverev, who owns 19 career titles, including two ATP Finals crowns, five Masters 1000s and an Olympic gold medal in singles.

“I kind of have succeeded on every single level, and there’s one thing missing. I hope I can do that next year,” said Zverev on Sunday, stating clearly his intention of clinching a maiden Grand Slam trophy.

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Daniil Medvedev, who lifted his first major title at the US Open two months ago, believes Zverev has what it takes to conquer the Grand Slam stage but adds that the competition is fierce among this rising generation.

“There are a lot of great players who don’t have a Grand Slam title, if you talk about ex-players or players right now. Stefanos (Tsitsipas) was up 2-0 against Novak (Djokovic) in the Roland Garros final, played exceptional clay-court season. He could have it, as well. Sascha was serving for the match in the US Open (final in 2020),” said Medvedev.

It’s tough to say. You never know where your career is going to go. Some players start to play worse, somebody gets injured, somebody wins 20 Grand Slams. It’s the same about Sascha.

“He is a great player that is capable of beating anybody. He definitely can win a Grand Slam because it’s just obvious. But he’s not the only one. That’s where it gets tough. He was in the semis in the US Open, and lost in five sets. Who knows, maybe if he was in the final, he would beat me.

“It’s just a matter of every tournament is a different scenario, different surface. You need to win seven matches to be a Grand Slam champion. Is he capable? Yes. Is he going to do it? We never know.”

Medvedev expects Zverev to win a Grand Slam soon

Champions get their revenge

In both singles and doubles this week in Turin, the eventual champions lost to an opponent in the group stage then reversed that result in their final rematch a few days later.

German world No.3 Zverev fell to Medvedev in their round-robin clash on Tuesday before avenging that defeat in Sunday’s title decider.

It was the third meeting between the duo within the span of 15 days – Zverev also lost to Medvedev in the Paris Masters earlier this month – and it saw the German snap a five-match losing streak to his Russian rival.

In doubles, French pair Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert were defeated by Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury in their Red Group showdown on Wednesday but turned the tables on the American-British team to secure the title on Sunday.

France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut (L) kiss the trophy as they celebrate after winning against USA’s Rajeev Ram and Britain’s Joe Salisbury during their Doubles final match of the ATP Finals at the Pala Alpitour venue in Turin on November 21

Image credit: Getty Images

Medvedev explained the thought process of facing the same opponent twice in the same week and said he found the challenge intriguing, describing it almost like a chess match.

“I think at our level it’s interesting because, of course, we’re all going to try to do something different, to prepare differently, to play differently. I felt that he was doing something differently. Maybe I lost the first break of serve because of this,” said the world No.2.

I tried to change up things I have been doing. I felt that it was working good, but I just couldn’t return his serve a few times. It was enough for him to win the match.

“Talking about the psychology, I don’t know, it’s not that tough for me. It’s interesting for me. Every time you know that he’s going to try to do something new, you’re going to have to be prepared for it. Same for them. Okay, he won against me this time, next time I’m going to try to be better, try to do something better than him and win. Yeah, I like it.”

Zverev knew he had to bring his A-game to have any chance against Medvedev and he finally notched his first win over the Russian since the 2019 ATP Finals.

“You beat me five times in a row so thank you for letting me win once as well,” Zverev said during the trophy ceremony.

‘He’s Benjamin Button’

At 39 years of age, Mahut continues to deliver on the sport’s biggest occasions. His long-time partnership with fellow Frenchman Herbert remains as fruitful as ever and they close the chapter on 2021 with a second ATP Finals triumph.

During their seven-year run as partners, Mahut and Herbert completed the career doubles Grand Slam together, added a second Roland Garros crown to their resume last summer, and have become the first all-French team to win multiple titles at the ATP Finals.

“He’s Benjamin Button, he’s going the other way. He’s just playing better and better and it’s just an honour to be on the court with him. Sharing the court with him is really a privilege,” Herbert said of his ageless compatriot.

Mahut hopes to continue playing with Herbert “for a few more years” and spoke about what it takes for a 39-year-old to be this competitive at the highest level in tennis.

“It’s everyday work,” said Mahut.

I cannot stop for more than two days, I would say. It’s every day I have to do gym [work], stretch, practice. Sometimes it’s not easy. I have a family, too. Sometimes I’m tired.

“But they’re still around me, pushing me to do it. If I don’t, I know my level will drop. I still want to play. If I keep playing at my age, it’s because I still have some big goals and want to be competitive. Maybe I need to work harder than before.”

Herbert quickly interrupted his partner to add: “Nico is becoming a yoga master. He was one of the guys that had no flexibility at all. Actually he’s becoming…his goal is to be (as flexible as) Djokovic. He’s still on the path.”

Herbert gave his family a shout-out during his victory speech and said it was extra special to have his wife Julia and their one-year-old daughter Harper with him in Turin.

“It’s been a challenging year because I became a dad. Especially also with Covid, because they couldn’t travel everywhere, I had a lot of weeks alone. It’s a pretty strange feeling because when you’re away, you just miss them so much. You’re kind of depressed. When they’re here, you have to find the balance to be competitive on court,” explained Herbert.

“But I think we’ve learned a lot with Julia and also with Harper. I’m just so happy to share this moment with them.”

Mahut added: “I’m happy he became a dad this year because he understands better. Sometimes, like he said, it’s not easy to leave the family just after Christmas when we’re going to Australia. Now he understands what it takes to travel without the family. So it’s good also for me.”

Message for Peng

After wrapping up with the win over Ram and Salisbury, Mahut took the opportunity to write “Where is Peng Shuai?” on the camera lens, shedding more light on the worrying situation with the Chinese ex-doubles world No.1.

“We need to get news from her personally,” said Mahut. “Of course, I couldn’t say anything on court when I have the camera. Yeah, I was thinking about her. I hope she’s safe. We need more, definitely.”

A successful opener for Turin

Medvedev and Zverev both gave Turin a resounding stamp of approval, deeming the inaugural edition of the ATP Finals in northern Italy a great success.

An enthusiastic crowd turned up for most sessions at the Pala Alpitour, and it eased any worries people may have had about the tournament’s move from London after 12 successful years at the iconic O2 Arena.

“Obviously London the last 10 years was an incredible event, but for me personally, but I’m also holding the trophy right now, Italy has topped it,” said Zverev on court. “What does make it so special here in Italy is the fans, because the fans are absolutely insane; it’s the loudest crowd, it’s the most energetic crowd, Rome every year is one of my favourite tournaments of the year, I think this one has topped it. I can’t wait to play in Italy every single time of my career. I love Italy so much and I hope Italy loves tennis just as much.”

Mahut said he was “surprised” at how many spectators showed up to watch the doubles matches and Herbert agreed.

“There’s a good crowd here. I feel like the Italians, they love tennis. They’re big tennis fans. It’s nice to come in this country and play here,” said Herbert.

“It’s the first year. It’s still a Covid year. It’s still a special way of organising an event. I think, yeah, they’ve done a good job for a first year.”

Stats of the day

With victories over Djokovic in the semis and Medvedev in the final, Zverev is just the fourth player in tournament history to earn semi-final and final wins over the top-two players in the ATP rankings, joining Ivan Lendl (1982), Stefan Edberg (1989) and Andre Agassi (1990).

Zverev ends the year at the top of the ATP match-wins leaderboard with 59 victories amassed in 2021. Medvedev is right behind him with 58.

This is the first season where Zverev has managed to win six titles.

Zverev struck 61 aces through five matches in Turin. He landed 75 percent of his first serves in and won 97 percent of his service games (56/58).

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After 5 Straight Losses, Zverev Brings New Playbook To Battle Medvedev

You can’t run through a brick wall. But you can walk around it with great success.

Alexander Zverev hit only 47 per cent forehand groundstrokes against Daniil Medvedev in their round-robin match at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin last week. Medvedev squeaked that one out 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(6).

Zverev updated his game plan to hit 57 per cent forehands in Sunday’s final against Medvedev, defeating the Russian 6-4, 6-4 to win his second crown at the season finale. The change of strategy was a “win-win” for Zverev, as he got to hit his more potent forehand weapon more often and he forced Medvedev to rely a lot less on his proverbial brick-wall backhand.

Zverev’s forehand started on shaky ground, missing four times in the opening game of the match with two forehand groundstroke errors and two forehand return errors. He actually missed five of the first six forehands he hit to start the match. But it was Medvedev’s forehand that would miss the mark four times in the second and third games of the match, as Zverev broke early for a 2-1 lead, and he never looked back. Not overplaying Medvedev’s rock-solid backhand was a key to the stunning victory.

Total Forehands / Backhands

Round-Robin Match
Zverev = 47% forehands (201 forehands / 227 backhands)
Medvedev = 56% forehands (240 forehands / 186 backhands)

Final
Zverev = 57% forehands (94 forehands / 70 backhands)
Medvedev = 68% forehands (118 forehands / 56 backhands)

Zverev hit more backhands than forehands (53% backhands / 47% forehands) in their round robin match, but that flipped in the final, with the German dominating with 57 per cent forehands. That had a follow-on effect with Medvedev hitting 68 per cent forehands in the final – up from 56 per cent in their round-robin match.

Zverev was skillfully doing all he could to avoid, or walk around, the Medvedev backhand that has traditionally given him so many problems. Medvedev had won the past five matches against Zverev, with the Russian getting the better of the backhand-to-backhand exchanges.

Medvedev was broken early in both sets in Sunday’s final, dropping serve at 1-1 in the opening set and in the very first game of the second set. In the opening set, Medvedev started his service game with two forehand errors to drop into a 0-30 hole. He was broken three points later. With Medvedev serving at 0-0, 30-40 in the first game of second set, he missed a forehand wide to gift the break to the German.

The biggest shot from the back of the court in the final was Zverev’s forehand, which averaged 76 mph to Medvedev’s 73 mph. Both backhands were slower, averaging in the 60 mph range.

In their robin-robin match, Zverev only directed 42 per cent of his shots wide to the Deuce court to Medvedev’s forehand. That total rose to 52 per cent in the final, as Zverev far preferred to trade blows with forehands rather than trying his luck against Medvedev’s impenetrable backhand.

After a shaky start with his forehand, Zverev settled down to collect seven forehand winners while committing 14 forehand rally errors. Medvedev’s numbers were similar (eight winners / 15 errors), as the Russian tried to “red-line” with his forehand in the second set to get back in the match.

Zverev relies heavily on a strong backhand cross court as the foundation of his baseline game. But five straight losses to Medvedev meant that something strategically had to change. Zverev had to ask himself the age-old question in our sport: Is it more important to hit the ball where you want to hit it, or more important to hit it where your opponent does not want it?

Zverev’s successful adjustment to not keep banging his head against the brick wall shows he finally figured that one out.

Zverev Is Flying As High As Ever; Is World No. 1 Next?

Alexander Zverev finished his 2021 season in the best way possible Sunday evening when he claimed his second Nitto ATP Finals trophy, signalling what could be an even bigger 2022 for the German star.

The 24-year-old is flying high after defeating Daniil Medvedev in the Turin final. Zverev could now be poised to chase Novak Djokovic’s No. 1 spot in the FedEx ATP Rankings alongside Medvedev next year.

“[Things] couldn’t be much better, to be honest. I’m obviously happy with how the season went. I’m happy with the finish of the season,” Zverev said. “It was obviously a great year. To capture the title here has been incredible. Give me the trophy!”

Djokovic on Monday will have a lead of nearly 3,000 points over Medvedev and nearly 4,000 points over Zverev. But with three major titles to defend in 2022 and two rising stars in top form, the Serbian will have his hands full next year.

Since the start of the Tokyo Olympics, Zverev has played the best tennis of his career, winning 32 of his 36 matches to close his season. He earned the singles gold medal in Tokyo, his fifth ATP Masters 1000 crown in Cincinnati and his second Nitto ATP Finals trophy. Of his four losses during that stretch, three have come against Djokovic (1) and Medvedev (2).

The past two days have shown that when the German is firing, there are no holes in his game. Zverev outplayed Djokovic from the baseline in Saturday’s semi-finals and out served Medvedev in Sunday’s championship clash.

The bugaboos that have caught up to Zverev in the past seem just that — a thing of the past. Over the past few years, double faults have often crept into the right-hander’s game in abundance during pressure moments.

But at this year’s Nitto ATP Finals, he played fearless tennis and won 61 per cent of his second-serve points against the best players in the world. Entering the week, he had only won 50 per cent of points behind his second delivery on the year. Zverev knew he had to play aggressively and when he did, the results showed there is little anyone could do about it.

“You go into the match knowing that you’re playing one of the two best players in the world. I knew that I had to play my best tennis to beat him,” Zverev said after defeating Medvedev. “I did that today. I think I played a very good match. I’m happy with my level. I’m happy with the performance I had.”

Zverev lost a match in Turin this week, but that was in a final-set tie-break against Medvedev, who pushed Djokovic for year-end No. 1 this year before the 34-year-old clinched a record seventh year-end No. 1 finish during the Rolex Paris Masters.

But there is reason to believe next year could be an even tighter race for top spot. Medvedev lifted his first major trophy at the US Open, defeating Djokovic in the final, and Zverev has also proven fit for the biggest matches.

In the semi-finals of the Tokyo Olympics, he halted Djokovic’s dreams of a Golden Slam. In Turin, he faced the daunting task of playing Djokovic and Medvedev in back-to-back matches, and he passed the test with flying colours to become the fourth player in tournament history to earn semi-final and final wins over the world’s top two players. He is the first to do so since 1990.

Sunday’s victory also gave Zverev the most titles of anyone this year with six, and his 59 tour-level victories are currently best on Tour. The only thing the German has not accomplished is major glory, and the 2020 US Open finalist has his sights set on changing that next year.

“I have succeeded on every single level, and there’s one thing missing,” Zverev said. “I hope I can do that next year.”

Only time will tell if Zverev or Medvedev can hunt down Djokovic for World No. 1. But their chances are looking better than ever.