ATP Barcelona: Almagro beats Nadal for the first time - UBITENNIS
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ATP Barcelona: Almagro beats Nadal for the first time

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TENNIS – Nicholas Almagro upset his compatriot Rafa Nadal with a 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 win at the ATP Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell to reach the semifinal. Nadal, eight-time winner in 10 appearances in Barcelona, suffered his first defeat in eleven head-to-head matches. Diego Sampaolo

With his third round win over Ivan Dodig on Thursday, Nadal won his 42nd match in a row in Barcelona. He also scored his 683rd career win on the ATP tour tying Arthur Ashe in 11th place in the match.win list.

Nicolas Almagro won just two sets against Nadal who led 10-0 in the previous head-to-head matches.

Both players traded breaks in the opening two games of the first set but Almagro made 15 costly unforced errors. Nadal was looking to cruise to his 11th win against his compatriot after winning the first set with 6-2 (his 44th consecutive set in this tournament) but Almagro rallied from a 1-3 deficit in the tie-break to clinch it with 7-5 after 1 hour and 16 minutes. Almagro saved all five break points in the second set. The last time Nadal dropped a set in Barcelona dates back to the 2008 final against David Ferrer.

The third set featured four breaks of serve. Almagro rallied from 1-3 in the decider fighting back from a break down by winning three consecutive games with a break for 4-3 in the seventh game. Nadal managed to break straight back in a hard-fought eighth game to draw level to 4-4. Almagro earned a triple break point in the ninth game and converted the first chance to love to lead 5-4.

Almagro rallied from a 15-40 deficit in the tenth game when he was serving for the set. Almagro earned a second match point with a forehand swing volley. He hit a forehand winer down the line to clinch his first win against Nadal after two hours and 48 minutes.

I had a lot of chances in the second set when I had the match under control but I didn’t take them. As the match went on, I was less clam but I still had openings in the third set at 3-1 and 4-4 which I didn’t take. This is tennis and you just have to keep going”, admitted Nadal.

Almagro scored a back-to-back win against a Spanish player after beating Fernando Verdasco on Thursday. Almagro took a re-match against Verdasco who beat him earlier this month on clay in Houston

Nadal suffered his first defeat in Barcelona since 2003 when he lost against Alex Corretja on his debut in this tournament back in 2003 as a 15-year-old player. The Mallorcan star lost in the quarter final stage for the second consecutive week after losing to David Ferrer in the quarter final in Monte-Carlo.

Almagro set up a semifinal clash against Colombia’s Santiago Giraldo who won the first set 6-4 before German Phillip Kohlschreiber withdrew because of an injury problem after the seventh game of the second set as Giraldo was leading 4-3. Giraldo, who saved five match points to beat young Austrian Dominic Thiem 4-6 6-4 7-5 on Thursday, has reached his third semifinal this year after Vina del Mar and Houston.

Kei Nishikori reached the semifinal at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell after beating Marin Cilic 6-1 6-3, his first tournament since suffering from a groin injury which forced him to withdraw from the Miami semifinals.

Nishikori dominated the match hitting 18 winners against Cilic who was probably tired after battling past Tommy Robredo in a hard-fought match on Thursday when he prevailed after two hours and 47 minutes with the scoreline of 7-5 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (7-5) after saving five of six break points.

Nishikori, who qualified for the Barcelona quarter final for the second time in three years with a 6-0 6-4 win over Andrey Golubev, has reached his fourth semifinal this year. He reached his previous best result in 2012 when he lost in the quarter final against Fernando Verdasco. This year the Japanese star won one title in Memphis and reached two semifinals in Brisbane and Miami.

Nishikori set up a semifinal match against Ernests Gulbis who cruised past Teymuraz Gabashvili in straight sets with 6-1 6-4. Gulbis saved all the five break points he faced against Gabashvili.

Gabashvili, a Russian player of Georgian origin, upset last week’s Monte-Carlo semifinalist David Ferrer in the second round scoring his first top-10 win since his third round win over Andy Roddick in the third round of the 2010 Roland Garros.

Gulbis has reached his third semifinal this year. The Latvian won his fifth career title at the Open 13 in Marseille beating Jo Wilfred Tsonga last February and lost to Tomas Berdych in the Rotterdam semifinal. He has achieved his best result in the Spanish clay tournament improving the quarter final reached in 2010 when he lost to Fernando Verdasco. The Latvian reached his career high last February when he moved up to World Number 18 when he won in Marseille where he scored two consecutive wins against top-10 players Richard Gasquet and Jo Wilfred Tsonga. He reached the quarter finals in Indian Wells but dropped to World Number 23 after losing the opening match in both Miami and Monte-Carlo.

ATP

The Year-End Rankings: The Rise Of Alcaraz And The Eternals, Djokovic and Nadal

Image via ATP Twitter

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By Roberto Ferri

Let’s start our last article on the ATP rankings by quoting the words which are said to be the last of emperor Augustus: “The play is over, applaud”.

 

We cannot but applaud Novak Djokovic, six-time ATP Finals winner just like Roger Federer. And we applaud the season, which, for good or ill, has been unique. Just consider the most striking events: Carlos Alcaraz rising to No. 1, Roger Federer’s retirement, all the issues involving Djokovic and the Wimbledon affair.  

The top positions of the ranking have been significantly impacted by Djokovic’s absence from two Majors (Australian Open and US Open), four Masters 1000 (Indian Wells, Miami Open, Canadian Open, Cincinnati) and by ATP’s decision to not award points for Wimbledon.

If we compare the ATP rankings published after the ATP Finals in 2021 and 2022, this fact is clearly noticeable. 

22 NOVEMBER 2021

PositionPlayerCountryPts 
1DjokovicSerbia11540
2MedvedevRussia8640
3ZverevGermany7840
4TsitsipasGreece6540
5RublevRussia5150
6NadalSpain4875
7BerrettiniItaly4568
8RuudNorway4160
9HurkaczPoland3706
10SinnerItaly3350
11Auger-AliassimeCanada3308
12NorrieGB2945
13SchwartzmanArgentina2625
14ShapovalovCanada2475
15ThiemAustria2425
16FedererSwitzerland2385
17GarinChile2353
18KaratsevRussia2351
19Bautista AgutSpain2260
20Carreno BustaSpain2230

14 NOVEMBER 2022:

PositionPlayerCountryPts
1AlcarazSpain6820
2NadalSpain6020
3RuudNorway5820
4TsitsipasGreece5550
5DjokovicSerbia4820
6Auger-AliassimeCanada4195
7MedvedevRussia4065
8RublevRussia3930
9FritzUSA3355
10HurkaczPoland2905
11RuneDenmark2888
12ZverevGermany2700
13Carreno BustaSpain2495
14NorrieGB2445
15SinnerItaly2410
16BerrettiniItaly2375
17ShapovalovCanada2105
18CilicCroatia2075
19TiafoeUSA2000
20KhachanovRussia1990

Novak Djokovic ended 2021 with 4720 points more than Carlos Alcaraz; also Medvedev and Tsitsipas earned more points than the Spaniard, who would not have reached 7000 points even counting the 135 points he wasn’t awarded at Wimbledon.

A few comments on the 2022 rankings:

  • Casper Ruud, the ATP Finals finalist, concludes his excellent year in third place, overtaking Stefanos Tsitsipas with an impressive final rush.
  • Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal are the only top 10 players born in the 80s; the other 8 were born in the second half of the 90s.
  • Cameron Norrie and Pablo Carreno Busta are the survivors of the lost generation, born between 1990 and 1995 and that was most overpowered by the Big Four dominance. 
  • Only North America, beyond Europe, is represented at the very highest: Auger Aliassime, Fritz, Shapovalov and Tiafoe.
  • Holger Rune has gained 92 positions since the start of the year. Carlos Alcaraz “just” 31.
  • A final note: Kei Nishikori ends 2022 without a ranking. Does this suggest he’s going to retire?

BEST RANKING

Owing to earned and dropped points, as well as results in the Challenger events, five players in the top 100 have achieved their career highest this week:

Emil Ruusuvuori – 40

Quentin Halys – 64

Christopher O’Connell – 79

Roman Safiullin – 89

Nuno Borges – 91

A special applause for the 20-year old Ben Shelton, a bright prospect for USA tennis, who has made his debut in the top 100. Thanks to his victory in the Champaign-Urbana Challenger he’s now ranked 97.

Is that all? Not yet! Just a quiz for everybody: which was the last year which saw the first two places in the rankings occupied at the end of the season by two players of the same nationality?

That’s really all for now. We’ll be back in 2023.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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ATP Finals Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Faces Casper Ruud in the Championship Match

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Novak Djokovic on Saturday in Turin (twitter.com/atptour)

The biggest ATP non-Major final of 2022 takes place on Sunday in Turin, Italy.

 

2022 has been a bizarre year in the career of Novak Djokovic.  It started with his deportation from Australia, forcing the unvaccinated Djokovic to miss the first Major of the year.  That would be one of six prominent events that Novak would miss this season due to COVID-19 entry rules (Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Montreal, Cincinnati, US Open).  Yet Djokovic was still able to accumulate a record of 41-7, and win his 21st Slam at Wimbledon.  He is now 17-1 at indoor ATP events this fall, and will end the year as the World No.5  With a win on Sunday, he would tie Roger Federer for most all-time ATP Finals titles.

2022 has been a groundbreaking year in the career of Casper Ruud.  He had already established himself as a top 10 player, but prior to this season, was predominantly thought of as a clay court specialist, with five of his six ATP titles coming on that surface.  Yet that all changed this season, starting in Miami when he reached his first Masters 1000 finals.  Casper would go on to also reach his first two Major finals, in Paris in New York.  He is now 51-21, and into his fourth big final of the year.


Sunday’s action in Turin starts at 4:00pm local time with the doubles championship match, featuring Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (4) vs. Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (2).  Both teams are an undefeated 4-0 this past week.  This is Ram and Salisbury’s second consecutive year in the final, having lost a year ago to Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.  Mektic won this title two years ago alongside Wesley Koolhof, while this is Pavic’s first appearance in the final of this event.  These teams have not met since the semifinals of this tournament last year, when Ram and Salisbury prevailed.


Casper Ruud (3) Novak Djokovic (7) – Not Before 7:00pm

Ruud is 3-1 this past week, with his only loss coming in a dead rubber against Rafael Nadal.  Prior to his three top 10 victories across the last seven days, Casper only had two all season (Zverev, Auger-Aliassime).  And he is yet to win a title above 250-level in his career, with the aforementioned three losses this year in big finals.  Ruud was a semifinalist here a year ago in his ATP Finals debut.

Djokovic is an undefeated 4-0 this week, which includes an arduous effort to defeat Daniil Medvedev on Friday in a dead rubber.  Novak is now 10-3 against top 10 opposition in 2022, having taken nine of his last 10 against the top 10.  He is 4-2 in finals this year, though he lost his most recent one, two weeks in Bercy, to Holger Rune.  Djokovic is an eight-time finalist here, though he hasn’t won this title since 2015.

Djokovic has played a lot more tennis across the last two days than Ruud.  On Friday, Novak spent over three hours on court, while Ruud had the day off.  But Djokovic still looked plenty fresh for his semifinal on Saturday against Taylor Fritz, and was able to prevent the American from extending that tight contest to a third set.  Novak is 3-0 against Casper, which includes a straight-set victory at this same event a year ago.  And considering Ruud’s poor record in significant finals, Djokovic is a considerable favorite to win his sixth title at the ATP Finals on Sunday.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP Finals: Fritz Close But No… Final, Djokovic Advances

Novak Djokovic beats Taylor Fritz in two tie-breaks and is just one win away from his sixth title at Nitto ATP Finals

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Novak Djokovic - 2022 Nitto ATP Finals Turin (photo Twitter @atptour)

[7] N. Djokovic b. [8] T. Fritz 7-6(5) 7-6(5)

 

Even when physically not at his best, Novak Djokovic can still count on his incredible ability to play the most effective tennis in the most important moment. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if the opponent misses an easy shot while attempting to close out the set, but the pressure Djokovic puts on whomever is on the other side of the net makes even the easiest shot look a little bit harder.

The former world no. 1 has put together a clinical display of efficiency during the first semifinal of the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin edging Taylor Fritz by two points in the tie-breaker of each set to reach his eighth finals in the end-of-year Championship.

It was not the best Djokovic, and it was not the best match: lots of errors on both sides, and a huge opportunity for Fritz to take the match to the distance when he served at 5-4 in the second set and then missed an easy backhand sitter to go a set-point up at 40-30, blaming an idiot spectator who indeed shouted in the middle of the point, when he really should have been able to put away that point blindfolded.

Fritz did not start the match in the best possible way: 10 unforced errors during the first five games, a break conceded at love at 2-2 and Djokovic appeared destined for a relatively quiet afternoon. But it was not going to be that easy: errors started flowing also on the Serbian side, and Fritz was able to equalize at 3-3. A tie-break was then needed to decide the winner of the first set, and the deciding point was a laser forehand down the line by Djokovic who swept point and set at 6-5 and headed off to the toilet for a comfort break after taking a one-set advantage.

But the break did not do him much good: unforced errors kept coming from the baseline, and Fritz blitzed 2-0 up with a break. At 4-3, the American wowed the Italian crowd with a magical backhand stop-volley to recover a service game where he found himself down 0-30, but when it was time to serve out the set, he missed that easy backhand we described earlier to give Djokovic another chance to close out a match in two sets.

And another chance is the last thing Djokovic should be gifted, although on a day like today, with Christmas time upon us, gift trading became the thing of the match. Two great points at 4-4 in the tie-break warmed the 12,000-strong crowd at Pala Alpitour to what could have possibly been a great end of the set, but Djokovic first earned a match point to be played on his serve with a good action from the baseline closed by a volley and then squandered it all with a very unusual unforced error on a routine backhand. But on his second match point, just a minute later, Fritz badly missed an inside-out forehand putting an end to the match and gifting Djokovic a chance to win his sixth title at the Nitto ATP Finals, the first in Turin.

On Sunday he will face either Casper Ruud or Andrey Rublev: he has never lost to Ruud in three previous matches (3-0) and the only time he did not beat Rublev (2-1) was last spring in Belgrade in the final of the tournament organized by his family.

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