Five Takeaways From The 2021 Nitto ATP Finals

Alexander Zverev ended the ATP Tour season on a high Sunday evening when he defeated Daniil Medvedev for the Nitto ATP Finals title, completing a thrilling week in Turin.

ATPTour.com looks back at five takeaways from the week at the season finale.

1) Zverev Captures The Title
It is safe to say Zverev earned his second Nitto ATP Finals title. After losing against Medvedev in a final-set tie-break in round-robin play, he clawed into the semi-finals and never looked back.

The German eliminated World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in a gripping three-setter in the last four and then served past Medvedev 6-4, 6-4 in the championship match to claim the trophy. Zverev is the fourth player in Nitto ATP Finals history to defeat the top two players in the FedEx ATP Rankings in the semi-finals and final, joining Ivan Lendl (1982), Stefan Edberg (1989) and Andre Agassi (1990).

“It is special, and I am super thrilled and happy right now,” Zverev added. “There is no better way to end the season than winning here. I am incredibly happy and I am already looking forward to next year.”

Zverev previously captured the crown at The O2 in London three years ago, when he defeated Djokovic and Roger Federer en route to his victory. He finishes 2021 tied for his career-high FedEx ATP Ranking of World No. 3.

This was the fifth consecutive year a player outside the Big Four of Djokovic, Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray has won the Nitto ATP Finals. Zverev is the only person who has triumphed twice during that span.

<img src="https://sportblogg.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/zverev-kiss1.jpg" alt="Alexander Zverev“>
Photo Credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
2) Medvedev Falls Just Short Of Title Defence
Medvedev appeared well-positioned to successfully defend his Nitto ATP Finals title, but fell just short at the season finale.

For the second consecutive year, the Russian advanced to the championship match with an undefeated 4-0 record. But while he rallied from a set down last year against Dominic Thiem for the title, he was unable to battle back against Zverev, who did not lose serve in the final to snap the World No. 2’s nine-match winning streak at the event.

Medvedev did not become the first repeat Nitto ATP Finals champion since Djokovic’s four-peat from 2012-15, but that will not stop him from pushing to win the biggest events.

“I will try to do my best, try to win more titles, try to be in the finals of big tournaments,” Medvedev said.

<img src="https://sportblogg.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/medvedev-nitto-atp-finals-2021-tuesday.jpg" alt="Daniil Medvedev“>
Photo Credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
3) Herbert/Mahut Triumph Again
Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut lost their second Red Group match against Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury in a Match Tie-break. But the third seeds got their revenge on Sunday when they stormed past the American-British duo in straight sets to lift the Nitto ATP Finals trophy for the second time.

Herbert and Mahut became the eighth team — and the first all-French pair — to win the season finale on multiple occasions. This was their sixth appearance as a duo at the year-end championships.

“It is an amazing feeling winning here for a second time,” Mahut said. “We lost to them in the round robin, when they played amazing, and today we knew we had to play our best level. I think we played our best match of the week. Finishing the season like this is a great achievement.”

Team Herbert, Mahut
Photo Credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
4) Successful Move To Turin
The Nitto ATP Finals made its debut in Turin this year after a 12-year stay in London. The city embraced the event from the moment the players arrived until the last ball when fans cheered Zverev’s victory.

“What does make it so special in Italy is the fans, because the fans are absolutely insane. It’s the loudest crowd, it’s the most energetic crowd,” Zverev said. “Rome every year is one of my favourite tournaments of the year. I think this one has topped it and I can’t wait to play in Italy every single time in my career. I love Italy so much and I hope Italy loves tennis just as much.”

There was signage throughout the city promoting the event as well as a fan village in the Piazza San Carlo, where there were various activations to bring fans closer to the season finale. The players also surprised the fans on the Friday before the tournament when they walked through the city to take the event’s official photo.

Turin is the 15th different city to host the Nitto ATP Finals. It was initially held in Tokyo in 1970.

<img src="https://sportblogg.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/official-photo-nitto-atp-finals-2021.jpg" alt="Nitto ATP Finals“>
Photo Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for ATP
5) Sinner’s Shining Moment
One of the most emotional moments of the event came during round-robin play. When home favourite Matteo Berrettini withdrew due to a left oblique injury before his second match, first alternate Jannik Sinner, another Italian, stepped in with just a few hours’ notice before he had to face Miami Open presented by Itau champion Hubert Hurkacz.

With the full support of the crowd inside the Pala Alpitour, Sinner played a flawless match to beat the Pole 6-2, 6-2. Before doing his on-court interview, the home favourite had to step away from the microphone several times because of the booming standing ovation the crowd was giving him.

“The atmosphere is amazing, everyone cheering here for me and for Italy,” Sinner said. “Playing in Italy is special because you stick together and you want to win together, and I had this feeling today. When the whole stadium is playing [with you] against one guy, it’s not easy.”

<img src="https://sportblogg.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/sinner-t3-1.jpg" alt="Jannik Sinner“>
Photo Credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

Medvedev yawns on court during ‘dead’ match – ATP Finals diary

When a dead rubber messes with your head

The pointlessness of a dead rubber in tennis was not lost on Daniil Medvedev as the defending champion (purposely) yawned on court while Jannik Sinner was launching a comeback, stretching him into an unnecessary three-setter, and rallying the roaring home crowd behind him.

Entering the match, Medvedev was already guaranteed top spot in the Red Group, while Alexander Zverev’s victory over Hubert Hurkacz earlier in the day ended Sinner’s chances of advancing to the semi-finals.

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That meant the night session match between Medvedev and Sinner had no bearing on how the tournament progressed, but it did award the winner 200 ranking points along with $173,000.

Points and prize money are not nothing, but this match would have been ‘alive’ and way more intriguing to follow if organisers had switched the order of play, scheduling Medvedev-Sinner in the day session and Zverev-Hurkacz for the night session.

But that would have robbed the Italian crowd from watching their home favourite Sinner in the prime time slot of 9pm on a Thursday night.

Alas, ticket sales prevailed over common tennis sense and the result was a fun dead rubber that was played in a buoyant atmosphere, with a maximum allowed capacity crowd, and a fired-up Sinner fighting for his first career victory against a top-five player.

The 20-year-old Italian ultimately succumbed 6-0 6-7(5) 7-6(8), despite holding two match points against the Russian world No.2.

Medvedev’s up-and-down performance – which oscillated between brilliance and indifference – was indicative of just how illogical the situation was and he walked us through his thought process after he picked up his eighth consecutive ATP Finals match-win.

“Mentally it’s really tough before the match when you know the match is dead,” said Medvedev, who faces either Casper Ruud or Andrey Rublev in the semi-finals.

“At the same time, I didn’t want to lose my rhythm. It’s always a matter of first set I think, you never know what’s going to happen. I won it, quite easy, so I was like, ‘Okay, let’s continue this way’,” added the Russian, who delivered a first-set bagel to Sinner in 25 minutes.

“Then the second set was probably about an hour or so. And then it’s the third set but you’re like, ‘I’m not going to just not play the third set’. Because I like to win, I don’t like to lose, so it was a very tough match and very tough to talk about it, but I’m happy I won.”

Things you don’t see every day

In a match that had ‘weird’ written all over it, Medvedev did his fair share of strange things en route to victory.

Besides the mock-yawning, playing at lightning-fast pace in the decider (he was taking just 12 seconds between points from the allotted 25), blasting huge second serves and serving-and-volleying while match point down, Medvedev actually challenged his own serve at one point during the contest, even though it was called in.

Serving at 1-2, deuce, in the second set, Medvedev hit a serve that was deemed in and Sinner responded with a punishing return winner. The Russian challenged his own serve, hoping it was a fault and he’d get another shot at winning that point. But the crowd roared as Hawk-Eye revealed his serve was in and Sinner broke for 3-1 moments later.

Scoring points with the crowd

Although he usually thrives on antagonising the crowd, especially when they’ve turned on him first, Medvedev earned some credit with spectators at the Pala Alpitour when he gave Sinner a point late in the third set, after the umpire had called for it to be replayed.

Granted, Medvedev was keen to get off court as quickly as possible, which may have contributed to his decision to end the argument between Sinner and the umpire and avoid replaying a point when he was already down 40-0 in the Italian’s service game; but it was still a classy touch that earned huge applause from the crowd.

A little extra support surely can’t hurt when he’s back on court for the semi-finals on Saturday.

Horia’s perfect ending

He may have missed out on a place in the semi-finals in Turin but retiring Romanian Horia Tecau made sure he ended his ATP career with a victory as he and his partner Kevin Krawietz downed Horacio Zeballos and Marcel Granollers 6-3 6-7(1) [10-6] on Thursday.

“I’m very happy, to be honest, in this moment,” said the 36-year-old Tecau.

Couldn’t have had a better script to live this moment

“I’m very grateful to be here at the end of the year in a great team on the biggest stage and to play against friends that I have known for 15 years or more and come out with a win. Yeah, I will leave the sport with that feeling.”

A two-time Grand Slam men’s doubles champion and Olympic silver medallist, Tecau is a popular player in the locker room and finished his career by making a seventh appearance at the ATP Finals – a tournament he won alongside Jean-Julien Rojer in 2015.

Reflecting on the legacy he hopes to leave behind in the sport, Tecau said: “When I was a junior, I met great coaches along the way that always installed this feeling of give it 100 percent and be respectful, playing to win, have good attitude on the court, treat everyone with respect all around, the players, the staff, the fans, everyone.

“That’s also something that I have seen with other players before me. I was a big fan of Stefan Edberg, I was a big fan of Rafter, big fan of Roger. I got to see Roger and meet him and see how he handles himself. Not in the press conferences or on the court but also off the court.

“Yeah, big role models in this sport. It’s also something that I wanted to have and carry throughout my career. I would say that’s the legacy that I want to leave behind. And for the tennis fans and kids especially that like the game and have dreams to see that, you know, you can have a good career and be successful and fulfil your dreams by having good values, good attitude and that. You don’t necessarily need to be, you know, closed and very selfish and, you know, not pay attention to others. I feel I did that, and I lived my career like that.”

Later on court, the ATP held a small ceremony to celebrate the retirement of Victor Troicki, Martin Klizan, Steve Darcis, Julian Knowle and Paolo Lorenzi, who have all hung up their racquets this season.

Stats of the day

Sinner is now 0-9 against top-five opponents.

Zverev’s triumph over Hurkacz earned him a tour-leading 57th match-win of the season.

Zverev is into the semi-finals of the season-ending championships for the third time in five appearances.

Medvedev is now 14-5 in deciding sets played in 2021.

With Djokovic, Medvedev and Zverev all through to the last-four stage, this is the first time since 1994 that three former champions have all advanced to the semi-finals of the ATP Finals.

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Sinner On Turin Experience: 'I Grew As A Player, But Also As A Person'

Jannik Sinner was disappointed, but philosophical on Thursday night after his 6-0, 6-7(5), 7-6(8) loss to Daniil Medvedev at the Nitto ATP Finals.

The 20-year-old was roared on by a passionate crowd at the Pala Alpitour in Turin, where the fans were desperate to see another victory for the Italian No. 2, who had replaced the injured Matteo Berrettini in the field.

“It was a great year for sure,” said Sinner. “[There were] a lot of highlights and playing here especially, it was a great feeling. I grew as a player, but also as a person, which for me is very important.

“I think it was a great season and whether someone [would have] expected it or not, I don’t know. But when you are, I think I started the year [at No.] 37 and finishing [in the] Top 10 [of the FedEx ATP Rankings], it’s great. For me, it’s a big pleasure to be one of these incredible players.

“On the other hand, I know what I have to improve, my team knows that as well, so it’s going to be interesting next year. But I don’t want to rush, that’s for me the main goal. I’m 20, next year I’m 21, there’s still many, many years that I can play on the Tour.”

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Medvedev Saves 2 MPs, Maintains Perfect Turin Record

Sinner led 4-2 in the decider and held two match points in the third-set tie-break, but was ultimately defeated by World No. 2 Medvedev, who remains unbeaten at the Nitto ATP Finals since losing all three matches he played on his debut in 2019.

Sinner’s debut at the season-ending finale has been more successful – he beat Hubert Hurkacz on Tuesday, becoming the youngest player to win his first match at the Nitto ATP Finals since Lleyton Hewitt in 2000.

The Italian, who has guaranteed that he will finish the year inside the Top 10 with his Nitto ATP Finals win over Hurkacz, said he was proud of the way he had bounced back from losing the first set 6-0.

“The first set, obviously, I was a little nervous,” said Sinner. “There were moments where he was not missing any balls and I tried to find a solution somehow. Then after I took a little bit more time, [I] tried to understand how to play against him. I found a solution a little bit.”

“Obviously, there were some moments when I was a little bit unlucky, but he is World No. 2 and he played an unbelievable match. Today, also, I tried my best. The atmosphere helped me a lot, so. I think it was a great match. Obviously, it was not the way I want to end it, but I think I can be proud that after a first set like this, I found a solution, which was the best thing to do.”

FOLLOW THIS WEEK’S ACTION

Sinner says the experience in Turin will give him a lot of confidence for 2022.

“It can give me a lot of confidence for the next year, in one way. In another way, I know I have still to improve many things,” Sinner said. “Now we have time to do that, especially physically, and then we will see next year what’s coming.”

Daniil Medvedev v Jannik Sinner – LIVE

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Singles | Round Robin

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Live

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D.Medvedev

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Medvedev avoids Sinner scare to maintain winning run ahead of semi-final

Daniil Medvedev saved two match points to beat Jannik Sinner 6-0, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (8) at the ATP Finals as the Russian prepared for a semi-final meeting with either Andrey Rublev or Casper Ruud.

Sascha Zverev’s victory over Hubert Hurkacz earlier in the day meant this was a dead rubber match with Medvedev certain of his semi-final place with Sinner already out after coming in as first-choice alternate for the injured Matteo Berrettini.

Sinner thrilled the Italian crowd in his Red Group victory over Hurkacz on Tuesday, but there was to be no repeat performance from the 20-year-old as Medvedev produced a slightly erratic display that was still good enough for the win.

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The world number two opted to serve first and that decision paid off as he broke Sinner in the first game of the match following a loose game from the home court favourite.

Medvedev kept his foot on the accelerator and grabbed a double break as Sinner struggled to hit through him for a commanding 3-0 advantage after just 11 minutes of play in Turin.

A triple break gave Medvedev a 5-0 lead which he served out comfortably for a bagel in the opening set, illustrating the scale of the challenge for Sinner against the reigning US Open champion.

Much to the home crowd’s delight, Sinner won his first game after 33 minutes to get on the board early in the second set, but he used this to build some momentum and break Medvedev for a 3-1 lead.

However, Medvedev stemmed the flow of errors immediately and clawed back the break in the next game. Sinner regrouped and held his next three service games to secure a tie-break where he took the second set.

A double fault on break point gave Sinner a 3-2 lead in the deciding set as Medvedev checked out with a series of reckless second serves. However, the Russian broke back for 4-4 as the third set ended in a tie-break which Medvedev clinched after saving two match points.

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Behind The Scenes Of Sinner's Emotional Win In Turin

Jannik Sinner sat in player dining on Tuesday afternoon for lunch at the Nitto ATP Finals with recently retired Italian Paolo Lorenzi. According to the 39-year-old, his countryman was talking about anything but tennis.

“He was just saying, ‘Maybe I have to do better next year. If I’m in the top eight I don’t have to wait for someone else’,” Lorenzi recalled. “That is the key to his level so young.”

Although he did not show it during the meal, Sinner knew there was a chance he would be competing that evening. Matteo Berrettini had hurt his left oblique on Sunday and his status was uncertain.

“He was nervous because I think he understood he could play,” Riccardo Piatti, Sinner’s coach, said. “He was waiting for Matteo’s decision.”

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Sinner Soaks In Turin Debut: ‘I Feel Good On These Courts’

Both Sinner and Piatti were back at the hotel waiting for news when Berrettini texted Sinner at around 5 p.m. This year’s Wimbledon finalist told his younger countryman he would be withdrawing, moving the 20-year-old into the field.

“Matteo sent Jannik a message saying to warm up and have fun,” Piatti said. “When Jannik told me that, I said, ‘Listen, Matteo told you the most important thing. You need to go on court and have fun.’ Enjoy the moment, I told him.

“All year, everybody practises, plays and tries to win to be in this type of atmosphere. When you’re there, you need to enjoy that. That is why it was so nice for Jannik, I think.”

Sinner’s team quickly arranged a 6:30 p.m. practice session and went to the Pala Alpitour to get ready. But mentally, the 2019 Intesa Sanpaolo Next Gen ATP Finals champion was already in a good place.

“All the team and Jannik, we were already focussed. I told him to prepare to play,” Piatti said. “I was thinking he was going to play [and I told him that] because if he was thinking whether he was going to play or not, [that would not be good]. That’s why I think he was ready.”

<img src="https://sportblogg.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/sinner-bebe-nitto-atp-finals-2021.jpg" alt="Jannik Sinner“>
Jannik Sinner celebrates his first Nitto ATP Finals win with Bebe Vio. Photo Credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour.
Sinner was smiling all evening as he shone under the spotlight. The Turin crowd was fully behind its man as the Italian defeated Hubert Hurkacz 6-2, 6-2 in an impressive display. After his victory, Sinner stepped to the microphone for his on-court interview and received a standing ovation. He had to step away from the mic a few times to acknowledge the fans before the crowd quieted down enough to speak.

“Of course the atmosphere is amazing playing here, cheering for me and for Italy. We try. I think playing in Italy is special because you stick together, you want to win together, and I had this feeling today,” Sinner said later on during his press conference. “When the whole stadium is playing against one guy, it’s not easy. A lot of credit to the crowd. I’m very happy.”

“I’m Italian and have been at the [Nitto ATP Finals] with my players six times,” Piatti said. “For me to be here in Italy, in Torino, with an Italian player whom I started working with when he was 13, 14 years old, was a great feeling. The atmosphere in the stadium was unbelievably nice.”

The home favourite did several broadcast interviews in the nearby flash zone, with plenty of photographers and camera operators around to document the emotions of the moment. Sinner’s locker room is the first in a long hallway, and when he arrived there he met Beatrice ‘Bebe’ Vio, an Italian paralympic fencing champion.

They spoke for a few minutes before taking pictures, and Sinner then spent some time in his locker room, where Piatti was finally able to talk to him.

“I said, ‘I’m very proud of you.’ But it’s not just for yesterday,” Piatti said. “When we started the year, the goal was to be in the Top 10 and be in the [Nitto ATP Finals] in Turin. He was in the Masters, beat Hurkacz and now he will finish in the Top 10. I’m very proud of him.”

<img src="https://sportblogg.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/sinner-gaudenzi-team-top-10.jpg" alt="Jannik Sinner“>
Photo Credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour.
Sinner then walked to his press conference to speak to the world’s media before heading back to the hotel for the evening.

“For me it was difficult to sleep, but I think he slept well,” Piatti said. “We went around 12 o’clock on site today. He saw the physio, we ate there. The Italian chairman of the ATP, Andrea Gaudenzi, gave him a trophy for being in the Top 10. That was very good because it was an Italian chairman giving it to an Italian player. I don’t think that’s happened many times!

“Then we practised for one-and-a-half hours at Stampa Sporting Torino [practice courts] and are now back at the hotel.”

Sinner is preparing to face World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev on Thursday evening. If Alexander Zverev defeats Hurkacz earlier in the day, Sinner will be eliminated from semi-final contention. According to Piatti, “He needs to live with that problem.” If Hurkacz triumphs and the Italian upsets Medvedev, the home favourite will reach the knockout stage of the season finale.

But regardless of what happens, it is impressive enough that Sinner made Turin as an alternate and took advantage of his opportunity when Berrettini withdrew. The atmosphere inside the Pala Alpitour on Tuesday is one he will never forget.

“It’s something that I was dreaming for him. I already had that moment with the other players I coached, so I knew young players want and enjoy that moment,” Piatti said. “I’m very proud of what he is doing.”

'That was unexpected' – Djokovic shocked by Kyrgios support – ATP Finals diary

Djokovic shocked at Kyrgios support

Djokovic was asked in a press conference about Nick Kyrgios’ recent comments made on his No Boundaries podcast, in which he supported the Serb’s views against mandating the Covid-19 vaccine.

Kyrgios said he was double-vaccinated but doesn’t think anyone should be forced to take the jab, noting that athletes like Djokovic and Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving have sacrificed a lot for their sports, and deserve to have autonomy over such decisions.

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“That was unexpected, knowing what was coming from him towards me in the last couple of years,” Djokovic said laughing. “But this time I must agree with him that the freedom of choice is essential for everyone, whether it’s me or somebody else.

“Doesn’t really matter whether it’s vaccination or anything else in life. You should have the freedom to choose, to decide what you want to do. In this particular case, what you want to put in your body.”

What Djokovic probably doesn’t know, is that Kyrgios had posted a video retracting most of what he said on the podcast, and backed the idea of banning unvaccinated players from competing at the Australian Open.

That didn’t last long!

Djokovic: ‘It’s shocking that Peng is missing’

A man with a plan

Novak Djokovic is a true student of the game and it’s always fascinating how much he knows about all the players on tour, even the ones he has never faced or practised with.

He’d be in a tournament in Dubai, and can discuss, in detail, a match that happened overnight in Acapulco. You’d mention to him the name of a player ranked outside the top 200 and he’d tell you a few random facts about him. He scouts the young up-and-comers, so they don’t take him by surprise, and thoroughly does his homework before stepping on court to play someone.

So it’s no surprise that when Djokovic took on Andrey Rublev for the first time on Wednesday, he knew exactly what to do to throw the Russian world No.5 off his game.
Rublev, who had a near flawless performance against Stefanos Tsitsipas in his ATP Finals opener on Monday, broke Djokovic in the first game of the match then went ahead and lost the plot.

The powerful 24-year-old looked unsettled throughout, rushing through his decision-making and committing 26 unforced errors in a 6-3 6-2 defeat to the top seed.

At one point, Rublev apologised for a net cord before realising the ball actually landed on his side of the net. It was that kind of day for the No.5 seed.

After the match, Djokovic acknowledged that Rublev hits the biggest ball on tour and that he takes time away from his opponents by hugging the baseline and firing lightning-fast groundstrokes, but noted how he had a plan to deal with that going into the contest.

“He’s the kind of player if something goes wrong, it’s difficult for him, he makes a lot of unforced errors. So I wanted to put him out of the comfort zone, take away the time from him, mix up the pace; just a great performance overall,” Djokovic said after the match.

Shortly after, Rublev walked into the press conference room and pretty much confirmed that Djokovic’s plan worked perfectly to the Serb’s advantage.

“It felt maybe a bit like rushing, like you’re playing one of the best players and you feel, ‘Okay, now I have a chance to finish the point or to take a lead during the rally and play there aggressively’. You think too much sometimes,” explained Rublev.

“In the end, ‘Okay, this is the chance, I have to go’. You go. And in the end, instead of making it, like usually you do in other matches, you are missing them. Or maybe you’re hitting not that good or not that smart that he catches you, and in the end he makes you pass shots and stuff like that. I think always over-thinking, like stress, rushing.”

The confusion was precisely what Djokovic wanted to happen.

Djokovic has another first-time opponent coming up next in the form of Cameron Norrie, who replaced Stefanos Tsitsipas in the draw as the second alternate.

“Great, great, why not? I always like playing new players, particularly in one of the greatest tournaments in the world here in Turin,” said the world No.1 enthusiastically about the prospect of facing Norrie. He’s probably already drawn up the game plan for their Friday clash.

‘Federer deserves a proper farewell’

As Novak Djokovic continues his quest for a record-tying sixth ATP Finals trophy, the man he is trying to equal, Roger Federer, is still sidelined with a knee injury and revealed he is unlikely to return to the tour before mid-2022.

Federer cast doubt on his participation in Wimbledon next year, and is unsure if he’ll ever compete in a Grand Slam again – although he’ll keep trying to make that happen.

“Obviously Roger is an icon of our sport and people around the world love him,” said Djokovic on Wednesday, reacting to the Swiss’ latest news.

“So for the sake of our sport, I sincerely hope that we can see him play at least another time. I’m sure he doesn’t want to end his career this way. I think he’s going to definitely try to give it a last push, a last try.

“I think for everything that he has achieved and created for this sport, he deserves to play and he deserves to have a proper farewell, I mean, if his injury is not allowing him to play more frequently on the tour.”

‘Huge cheer straight away’ – Federer gets standing ovation at Laver Cup

Ruud passes mental test

No.8 seed Casper Ruud woke up on Wednesday thinking he was going to face world No.4 Tsitsipas that evening but ended up taking on second alternate Norrie, who replaced the injured Greek in the Green Group.

For Ruud, it wasn’t just a matter of preparing to face a lefty instead of a righty; the Norwegian explained how tricky it was mentally to go from being an underdog against Tsitsipas to a slight favourite against Norrie, who lost their previous meeting 6-0, 6-2 in San Diego a few months ago.

Ruud managed to get the win anyway, overcoming Norrie 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.

“It’s a big match for me, it’s the first time I’m here so to get a win is a very good thing for me,” said the 22-year-old Ruud.

“It all changed today for me because I woke up prepared to play Stefanos, knowing that I was the underdog, that I can play freely and then you hear that he’s pulling out.

“So then kind of everything changed, I was feeling the pressure a little more, this was an opportunity for me to get my first win. The last time I beat Norrie, the scoreline was too easy because we both know how good he is and then the week after he went on and won Indian Wells.

“It didn’t, in a way, feel right to win 6-0, 6-2 because I know how tough of a player he is and that day everything went my way, so I knew that today was going to be different; not every day is like that. I was prepared for a tough match and a tough match it was.”

Clutch moment of the day

Facing a second match point while trailing Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert 9-10 in the match tie-break of their evening doubles encounter, Rajeev Ram fired a beauty of a backhand return winner that painted the line to keep his team’s chances alive.

Four points later, the American unleashed another massive backhand return to secure himself and his partner Joe Salisbury a 6-7(7), 6-0, [13-11] victory over the Frenchmen.

Stats of the day

Rublev has fallen behind to 0-3 win-loss against world No.1s following his defeat to Djokovic on Wednesday. Incidentally, he also won just five games in each of his losses to then-No.1 Andy Murray at the 2017 Australian Open and then-No. 1 Rafael Nadal at the 2017 US Open.

Djokovic qualified for his 10th ATP Finals semi-finals, tying Pete Sampras in third place on the list of most last-four appearances in tournament history.

With his three-set win over Norrie, Ruud is now an impressive 13-3 in deciding sets this season.

Subbing in for Tsitsipas, Norrie became the fourth Brit to compete in the ATP Finals in singles on Wednesday.

This is just the third time in tournament history, and first since 1998, that two alternates have replaced players in the draw mid-tournament.

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'I'm heartbroken' – Emotional Tsitsipas on 'very difficult' withdrawal from ATP Finals

Stefanos Tsitsipas was forced to withdraw from the ATP Finals in Turin on Wednesday, citing an elbow injury, and he has spoken of the emotions he is going through as a result.

The Greek world number four having to pull out paved the way for Britain’s Cameron Norrie to make his first appearance at the year-end tournament in his place as the second alternate.
Norrie, who capped a stunning breakthrough year by winning the Indian Wells title last month, lost out to Casper Ruud in Green Group later on Wednesday and will next face world number one Novak Djokovic on Friday.

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The 26-year-old Brit became the second alternate to have to rush to Turin after home favourite Jannik Sinner replaced his Italian compatriot Matteo Berrettini on Tuesday.

Rafael Nadal was ahead of Norrie in the race to Turin rankings but the Spaniard ended his season in August to deal with a foot injury.

“I’ve taken the very difficult decision to retire from the 2021 ATP World Tour Finals due to my elbow injury, which has been bothering me for a couple of weeks now,” Tsitsipas explained in Turin.

“It’s a very difficult decision from my side and I was working really hard this year to get to play the finals and be part of this amazing event, but unfortunately I won’t be able to continue.

Stefanos Tsitsipas hat sein Auftaktmatch bei den ATP Finals verloren

Image credit: Getty Images

“I’ll be travelling today to see a specialist regarding my elbow, who is going to help me get ready for the new season, the upcoming season in Australia and feel 100 per cent again ready to compete with my highest.

“I think it was important to take that decision and not continue playing with pain and giving the opportunity to someone else who is in better physical condition than I am to potentially maybe make the semi-finals this year.

“I’m not in a state to be out on the court and I much more prefer to give that opportunity to someone else.

I’m heartbroken and I really hope I can get back to playing at 100 per cent again and be in front of my fans and perform at my best.

Highlights: Rublev beats former champion Tsitsipas at ATP Finals

Tsitsipas was considered a fitness doubt in the lead up to the tournament after he was forced to withdraw from the Paris Masters with an elbow problem.

The Greek star decided not to respond to a question posed regarding his fitness in Turin after he suffered a defeat in his opening match against Andrey Rublev.

– – –

Stream the 2021 Davis Cup and the 2022 Australian Open live and on demand on discovery+

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Zverev Closing In On Turin SF Berth, How Sinner Can Qualify

Third seed Alexander Zverev is one win away from returning to the Nitto ATP Finals semi-finals, but there’s a lot more at stake on Thursday as Hubert Hurkacz and Jannik Sinner are also bidding to extend their stay in Turin.

The German will take on seventh seed Hurkacz with the fate of the Red Group hanging on the line. With defending champion Daniil Medvedev already safely through to the semi-finals, there’s one spot left in the final four – and Zverev, Hurkacz and Sinner can all make a play on it. 

For Olympic gold medalist Zverev, the mission is simple: win and he’s in. The 2018 champion has yet to post a statement victory in Turin, and his win-loss record sits at 1-1 after his opening matches. He won via retirement against an injured Matteo Berrettini, and narrowly lost in three sets to Medvedev, but he still favours his chances in the event.

FOLLOW THIS WEEK’S ACTION

“This is not like any other tournament. I am in the tournament still, I still have a chance to win the tournament and this is what I’m thinking to myself,” Zverev said on Tuesday. “Of course, I wanted to win [against Medvedev], there’s no doubt about it, I lost 8/6 in a third-set tie-break. But the tournament isn’t done yet.”

It’s a position he has been in before: Zverev owns the longest streak of consecutive appearances at the Nitto ATP Finals among active players and is the second-most experienced competitor in the eight-man field behind Novak Djokovic

During his title-winning run in 2018, Zverev similarly arrived at his last round-robin match with a 1-1 record after winning over Marin Cilic and losing to Djokovic. Back then, the German found a way to overpower John Isner in straight sets to send him into the semi-finals. 

How To Watch The 2021 Nitto ATP Finals

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He’ll be hoping for more of the same against Hurkacz on Thursday. Zverev owns a 1-0 lead in the ATP Head2Head against Hurkacz, but a lot has changed since that three-set match in Madrid in 2019. 

“I’m ready to play Hubi on Thursday, and I think that will be the deciding match for me,” Zverev said. “I’m excited, I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s all in my hands, kind of.”

After a career-best season, Hurkacz might be making his final stand in Turin at the Pala Alpitour hoping to turn around his 0-2 group stage record – and blow the door wide open for himself, and possibly Sinner, to qualify for the semi-finals. 

If the Pole can defeat Zverev, he can go through if Medvedev defeats Sinner, although the Italian can advance if Zverev and he defeats Medvedev. Hurkacz is still seeking the first win of his Turin debut after falling to Medvedev in three sets and then suffering a one-sided loss against alternate Sinner.

After rocking the Pala Alpitour with an unforgettable Nitto ATP Finals debut, 20-year-old Sinner is looking to keep the run going as he attempts to become the first alternate to reach the semi-finals in the event’s 52-year-history. 

He will be facing steep uphill climb against defending champion Medvedev. Sinner is 0-8 in matches against the Top 5 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, including an 0-2 ATP Head2Head against Medvedev – both matches took place on the indoor hard courts of Marseille.  

“Of course, you want to go on to the semi-finals, you’re trying to do your best, but on the other hand, these are the best eight players in the world. And with me, nine,” Sinner said. “Everyone is tough to beat here, so let’s see what’s coming.”

Regardless of the result against Sinner, Medvedev is already through to the semi-finals. The Russian is seeking to become the first player to win back-to-back Nitto ATP Finals titles since Djokovic won four straight between 2012 and 2015. 

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In doubles, fourth seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos are one win away from the semi-finals as they take on eighth seeds Kevin Krawietz and Horia Tecau. Top seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic will face sixth seeds Ivan Dodig and FIlip Polasek – both teams come into the match with a 1-1 record in the Green Group. 

ORDER OF PLAY – THURSDAY, 18 NOVEMBER 2021
CENTRE COURT start 11:30 am

[4] M. Granollers (ESP) / H. Zeballos (ARG) vs [8] K. Krawietz (GER) / H. Tecau (ROU)

Not Before 2:00 pm
[3] A. Zverev (GER) vs [7] H. Hurkacz (POL)

Not Before 6:30 pm
[1] N. Mektic (CRO) / M. Pavic (CRO) vs [6] I. Dodig (CRO) / F. Polasek (SLO)

Not Before 9:00 pm
[2] D. Medvedev (RUS) vs [Alt/9] J. Sinner (ITA)

See below semi-final qualification scenarios in play for both groups at the Nitto ATP Finals

Singles Red Group qualification scenarios as of Thursday, 18 November:
Following Berrettini’s withdrawal, Medvedev has qualified for the semi-finals and won the group.

Zverev qualifies on Thursday if he defeats Hurkacz (any score).
Hurkacz qualifies on Thursday if he defeats Zverev and Medvedev defeats Sinner.
Sinner qualifies on Thursday if he defeats Medvedev and Hurkacz defeats Zverev.

Singles Green Group qualification scenarios as of Thursday, 18 November:
After defeating Rublev in straight sets, Djokovic has qualified for the semi-finals and won the group.

'You're an idol' – Sinner and Medvedev send messages via camera lens – ATP Finals diary

Nerves and emotions

The camera lens, and the messages scribbled on it at the end of a contest, has been a great source of insight into what a player is feeling immediately after a match. While some players opt to simply sign their names, many choose to be more expressive and come up with spur-of-the-moment revealing lines.

Alternate Jannik Sinner’s first thoughts after making a stunning ATP Finals debut on Tuesday was to send a message to his fellow Italian Matteo Berrettini, whom he replaced in the draw due to injury.

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“Matteo sei un idolo,” wrote the 20-year-old Sinner after his 6-2, 6-2 win over Hubert Hurkacz. Matteo, you’re an idol. He also drew a heart.

“He has been unlucky many, many times already in his career and I wish him all the best. I’m going to play for him this tournament because he deserves more than me to be here so I give my best,” added Sinner in his on-court interview.

Earlier in the day, Daniil Medvedev wrote, “Not tight, but hands are shaking”, on the camera lens after his third-set tiebreak victory over Alexander Zverev.

The Russian was down in the deciding breaker but somehow turned things around. It all looked so clutch on TV but Medvedev made sure to let us know he was indeed quite nervous.

Round-robin mind games

Losing a match and sticking around at a tournament is not something tennis players are accustomed to; nor is winning a match yet still getting eliminated.

The round-robin format in place at the ATP Finals comes with its own set of unique challenges, particularly in the mental department.

With two victories under his belt, combined with the withdrawal of Berrettini, No.2 seed Medvedev is already guaranteed to reach the semi-finals as the winner of the Red Group, irrespective of his result against Sinner on Thursday.

That match could essentially become a dead rubber if Zverev defeats Hurkacz earlier in the day.

Asked to describe his mental approach to a situation like that, Medvedev said: “I just know that in order to keep the momentum going, it’s better to try to win the match.

“Of course, maybe if I lose the first set 20-18 on the tie-break, and I know I’m first in the group, then I don’t know what happens, I will be honest, but still, I think when you lose the match, you lose the momentum, so it’s always better to win.

“So I’m just going to get ready for Jannik. I think it’s going to be our third meeting. It’s always, you know, you lose in the head-to-head it’s a loss, so I don’t like to lose. So I’m going to be 100 per cent.”

Daniil Medvedev (ATP Finals)

Image credit: Getty Images

For Sinner, he has to grapple with the fact that his fate is not solely in his own hands. The 20-year-old was ruthless in his victory over his good friend Hurkacz when he stepped in for an injured Berrettini on Tuesday.

Another unique aspect of the round-robin equation is that an alternate can be subbed in at any point during the group stage if a player is forced to withdraw ahead of a match.

In an effort to find a way to get ready for his second match, while dealing with an abdominal injury, Berrettini requested to play during Tuesday’s evening session and waited until 5pm before he made the decision to withdraw. That meant Hurkacz found out he was going to face Sinner just four hours before the match.

“I found out like in the middle of my warm-up,” revealed Hurkacz. “I was kind of preparing for both players.”

Was it difficult making a plan for two different opponents?

“Well, it turned out a bit difficult,” a disappointed Hurkacz said with a smile.

Zverev lost a tight one to Medvedev on Tuesday, but the 2018 champion immediately locked into confidence mode and can rely on his previous experiences at the ATP Finals to reset for his next match.

“In my personal opinion, I think we both have a very good chance of passing the group,” Zverev said of himself and Medvedev. “This is not like any other tournament. I am in the tournament still. I still have a chance to win the tournament. This is what I’m thinking to myself.

“Of course, I want to win. There is no doubt about it. I lost 8-6 in the third-set tie-breaker, but the tournament isn’t done yet.”

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Big day for video review

A relatively new addition to tennis – and available at the ATP Finals for just the second time – video review was called upon not once, but twice, on Tuesday in Turin.

In the opening doubles match of the day, umpire Aurelie Tourte had yet another eventful officiating day in the chair.

Tourte denied Nikola Mektic the opportunity to challenge a call that deemed his opponent’s serve was in because he waited until he saw his own return land in the net before gesturing he wanted to challenge.

That decision did not go down well with Mektic and his partner Mate Pavic.

“Can we check the video review to see if he asked for the challenge right away?” said an exasperated Pavic, who sat on the sidelines until the review was shown.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Mektic/Pavic are requesting a video review on when Mr. Mektic raised his hand to ask for the challenge,” announced Tourte. Words rarely uttered on a tennis court.

It turned out Tourte made the right call and her decision was not overturned. The Croatians weren’t too convinced.

Later in the day, Medvedev asked for a video review for a foot fault called on his second serve early in the second set tie-break.

It was really close but umpire Mohamed Lahyani did not reverse the line judge’s call after replaying the video twice, and it resulted in Medvedev losing the point by virtue of a double fault.

As technology continues to play a bigger role in tennis officiating, the players are split in their views on the subject. Hawk-Eye Live replaced line judges at several tournaments over the past couple of seasons – not at these ATP Finals though – and while many prefer to eliminate the factor of human error when it comes to line calls, Medvedev is not so sure.

“When we had it last year due to Covid, I was kind of more in favour for the electronic system, but now that we have line judges back, I feel there is also a charm in it to use Hawk-Eye (and then challenge), to look at the mark; today I was really bad on the calls, but still, it’s a game also,” said the Russian.

“It’s tough to comment on this opinion. I think both sides are good.”

Another alternate on the way?

With Berrettini out of the competition and rumours that Stefanos Tsitsipas ended his Tuesday practice prematurely due to his elbow injury – he said “no comment” when asked about his elbow in press on Monday – the chances of second alternate Cameron Norrie getting called upon before the conclusion of the group stage are getting higher by the minute.

World feed commentators Lee Goodall and Colin Fleming said on air on Tuesday night that a third alternate, Aslan Karatsev, was on his way to Turin.

The last time two alternates competed in an ATP Finals was 1998 when Albert Costa and Greg Rusedski replaced Marcelo Rios and Andre Agassi. There has never been an occurrence where three alternates got in on the action at the same edition of the season-ending championships. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that in Turin.

Stefanos Tsitsipas hat sein Auftaktmatch bei den ATP Finals verloren

Image credit: Getty Images

Tecau set for Thursday farewell

Having announced the ATP Finals would be his swansong, Romanian doubles star Horia Tecau will make his last official appearance on Thursday, after he and his partner Kevin Krawietz were assured elimination from the tournament with two round-robin defeats.

The two-time Grand Slam doubles champion and Olympic silver medallist was not prepared to discuss his retirement just yet when quizzed on the matter on Tuesday.

“I’m not ready to talk about it yet. I want to play one more match, I want to give it my all, and then I’ll be ready to answer and speak about what has been a long and very fulfilling career for me,” said the 36-year-old from Constanta.

Stats of the day

With his win over Hurkacz, Sinner is guaranteed to finish the season ranked inside the top 10, marking the first time in ATP history that two Italians (Berrettini and Sinner) will end the year in that elite ranking bracket.

Medvedev’s win on Tuesday didn’t just extend his ATP Finals winning streak to seven in a row, it saw him join Zverev at the top of the 2021 match-wins leaderboard by posting his 56th victory of the year.

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