Barcelona Open: Nishikori and Giraldo into the final - UBITENNIS
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Barcelona Open: Nishikori and Giraldo into the final

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TENNIS – Kei Nishikori beat Ernests Gulbis in the first semifinal of the Barcelona Open, ATP 500 Tournament, with 6-2 6-4 in one hour and 26 minutes setting up a final match against Colombian Santiago Giraldo who upset Rafa Nadal’s conqueror Nicolas Almagro, also in straight sets, with 7-5 6-3. Diego Sampaolo

Four players from four different countries qualified for the semifinals at the Barcelona Open Banc Sabadell: Kei Nishikori from Japan, Ernests Gulbis from Latvia, Nicholas Almagro from Spain and Santiago Giraldo from Colombia. Spain has been represented by only one player for the first time since 2002.

In the first semifinal Nishikori defeated Ernests Gulbis 6-2 6-4 in their first ever head-to-head match. The Florida-based player did not face a break point chance in the whole match to reach the seventh final in his career (with a record of 4-2 in his previous finals). Gulbis saved seven break points in the second set before dropping her serve.

Nishikori broke serve in the fifth game of the opening set with a forehand winner down the line and backed up the break at 30 for a 4-2 lead after 21 minutes. The Japanese player won 14 of the last 16 points to wrap up the first set in 27 minutes.

Gulbis fended off two of the three break points he faced with a service winner and a ace to hold serve for2-1. In the fifth game Nishikori earned three break points but Gulbis saved them. The next game featured a spectacular 22-shot rally. Gulbis hit a backhand drop-shot into the net to face a fourth break point. The Latvian saved it with an ace before holding serve with another ace for 3-2 before taking a medical time-out to treat a lower back strain. Nishikori broke serve for the third time for 5-4 as Gulbis made a forehand error.

Nishikori made a couple of double faults at deuce in the final game but he closed out the match on the third match point after one hour and 25 minutes.

The Japanese player reached the semifinal for the fourth time this season and his first final in four appearances in Barcelona. Before this week he achieved his best result in 2012 when he lost to Fernando Verdasco in the quarter final.

Nishikori has made history as he has become the first Japanese player to reach the Barcelona final He will be looking to win the second title this year and the fifth in his career.

I was very happy to see lots of Japanese people congratulating me after the match. I love coming to play in Spain. I am playing great and I am particularly pleased with my serve and my forehand”, said Nishikori.

Tomorrow he will be looking to win the second title of the year two months after winning in Memphis when he beat Ivo Karlovic to lift the fourth title of his career. He notably beat Roger Federer in the quarter final in Miami before being forced to withdraw by a groin injury.

The last eleven Barcelona titles have been won by a Spanish player but tomorrow the final will not feature any home players for the first time since 2003 as last year’s Barcelona runner-up Nicholas Almagro was upset by Santiago Giraldo one day after his upset win over eight-time Barcelona champion Rafa Nadal in the re-match of the 2013 final.

Giraldo has become the first player from Colombia to reach the Barcelona final. Giraldo beat Almagro in straight sets 7-5 6-3. Giraldo fended off six of seven break points he faced before closing out the match with an ace,

In the first set Giraldo broke Almagro’s last serving game with a forehand winner. Almagro bounced back breaking early in the second set but Giraldo broke straight back before taking full control of the match.

The Colombian player won for the first time in his six head-to-head matches against Almagro.

Giraldo dropped serve in the third game of the second set but he broke straight back before winning five of the next six games to score his first win in six head-to-head matches against Almagro.

Giraldo hit six aces and 19 winners to score his second win against a top-20 player after beating Fabio Fognini, who withdrew in the second set when he was down 0-6 0-4.

Giraldo has qualified for his second career final after losing to Tommy Robredo in Santiago in 2011. He played in his sixth ATP semifinal after Santiago 2011, Auckland 2011, Acapulco 2012, Vina del Mar 2014 and Houston 2014. In Barcelona Giraldo fended off five match points en route to his three-set win against young Austrian Dominic Thiem with 4-6 6-4 7-5. He qualified for the semifinal after German Phillip Kohlschreiber withdrew because of a leg injury while she was down 4-6 3-4.

In his previous two appearances in the Catalan tournament Giraldo reached the third round losing against Rafa Nadal in 2011 and Andy Murray in 2012. This year he won his 100th match on the ATP Tour in Vina del Mar where he reached the semifinal losing to Leandro Mayer. In April he reached the Houston semifinal where he lost against eventual winner Fernando Verdasco, who beat Almagro in the final.

Nishikori and Giraldo met five times in their career. The Japanese player leads 4-1 and won their last head-to-head match in Indian Wells last March with 6-1 6-3.

The last non-Spanish winner in Barcelona was Gaston Gaudio in 2002. The last non Spanish final in Barcelona dates back to 1996 when Thomas Muster beat Marcelo Rios in four sets.

Bucharest Nastase Tiriac Trophy ATP 250

Grigor Dimitrov qualified for the final of the ATP 250 Tournament in Bucharest when Gael Monfils was forced to withdraw with an ankle injury after 26 minutes when he was trailing 1-5 in the first set. The Frenchman rallied from 0-5 and 2.6 in the tie-break of the second set and saved six match points to beat his compatriot Pierre Henry Mathieu 3-6 7-6 (10-8) 6-2 after a two-hour and 21 minute battle.

The Bulgarian player will face last year’s Bucharest champion Lukas Rosol who fought back from a set down and a 0-2 deficit at the start of the second set to overcome Robin Haase with 3-6 6-3 6-2 in one hour and 47 minutes.

It is disappointing for Gael. As much as I am happy, it is an undeserved win and unfortunately it had to end this way. I hope he will be OK for the coming weeks”, said Dimitrov.

Dimitrov will face Rosol for the first time in his career.

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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