TENNIS ATP Rome – Novak Djokovic triumphed at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome for the third time in his career after beating seven-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal in three sets with 4-6 6-3 6-3 in two hours and 20 minutes. Diego Sampaolo
The Serbian super-star, who will turn 27 on 22 May, earned his third Rome Trophy after the wins in 2008 against Stan Wawrinka and in 2011 against Rafa Nadal. It was an anticipated birthday present for the World Number 2 player who has earned 1000 points increasing his chance to return to the World Number 1 spot.
Djokovic clinched his third Master 1000 Trophy of the year after Indian Wells and Miami.
Nadal played his ninth final in the Foro Italico and his 40th final at Master 1000 level.
Djokovic and Nadal met for the 41st time in their career. Nadal led 22-18 in their previous head-to-head matches.
The two players contested their second head-to-head match in a Master 1000 final. They met last March in Miami where Djokovic won in straight sets with a double 6-3.
In the third game of the opening set Djokovic committed three unforced errors and faced a triple break point at 1-1 0-40. Nadal converted his third break point with a drop shot.
Nadal got a double break to pull away to 4-1
Djokovic made seven unforced errors with his backhand in the first five games. He broke straight back in the sixth game to close the gap to 2-4 and went up 0-40 on Nadal’s serve but the Mallorcan star saved the break point.
Nadal earned a set point at 5-4 with a service winner and wrapped up the first set after 46 minutes as Djokovic sent a return wide. Nadal won 75 percent of second serve points.
Djokovic fought back in the second set turning around the match. He got a break in the second game to go up 2-0 with a cross-court forehand passing shot. and backed it up in the next game to pull away to 3-0.
Nadal earned his first break point of the second set after Djokovic made forehand errors when he was serving at 3-1. The Spaniard converted on the break point to close the gap to 2-3.
Djokovic broke straight back for 4-2 and held serve in the next game to love to extend his lead to 5-2. Djokovic hit an ace to close out the second set with 6-3 to force the match to the decider
In the second set Djokovic won 69 percent of his second serve points and hit 18 winners.
Djokovic picked up where he left off at the end of the second set by breaking at the start of the decider. Djokovic earned a break point which could have given him a double break but Nadal managed to save it and held serve for 1-2 keeping his hopes alive.
Djokovic dictated the match from the baseline. Djokovic got another break in the seventh game to take a 4-3 edge. He won nine points to take a 5-3 30-0 lead with a series of down-the.line winner and converted on his second match point for 6-3 when Nadal hit his forehand long.
Djokovic hit 46 winners and six aces
Djokovic won his fourth consecutive match against Nadal
The match was attended by tennis legends Boris Becker (coach of Djokovic), John Newcombe, Manolo Santana, Nicola Pietrangeli and Lea Pericoli.
“I want to dedicate this title to Serbia. I have been following what’s going on with the catastrophic flood during the last 2 or 3 days. It’s something that has taken away a lot of hope and homes and not being present makes me sad because I cannot physically contribute. If I was there I would help definitely.
It’s been a great week considering where I have been few weeks ago with the wrist injury. Luckily I played with no pain and increased the level of tennis as the week went on. I have had some tough matches. Four of five matches were three-setters and I had to come back from a set down yesterday against Raonic and today against Nadal. This gives me a lot of confidence. Winning against Rafa in the final of a big tournament on clay, his preferred surface, is a confidence booster. The crowd support was amazing. It’s something that I don’t take for granted. I try to show love as much as I can. It helps that I speak Italian. I feel at home here and close to these people. I am glad that I could this title in front of them”, said Djokovic
Nadal could not win two back-to-back Master 1000 Tournaments but he finished the tournament with a renewed confidence ahead of the Roland Garros.
“I felt that Novak was pushing me and has a great talent to play inside the lines. I think that this week is important for me. I have won 600 points. I was able to play in another final here. I was able to compete well against one of the best players at the moment. I arrive to the Roland Garros more encouraged now”, said Nadal
Team World One Win Away From Victory in Laver Cup
Team World take a huge 10-2 lead over Team Europe heading into the final day
After losing the first four editions of the Laver Cup, Team World look set to win the event for a second time as the event reaches its conclusion tomorrow.
Team World Captain John McEnroe was thrilled with the day’s results but warned against complacency: “We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. The job’s not done but we’re pretty close.”
American duo Taylor Fritz and Frances Tiafoe both earned straight sets wins over Andrey Rublev and Hubert Hurkacz, while Felix Auger-Aliassime and Ben Shelton beat Hurkacz and Gael Monfils.
“I want to play well for the guys,” said Tiafoe after his singles victory. “I played really well tonight. Just being in a team environment is so foreign to us as tennis players, it’s such an individual sport.”
After winning his third singles match in three appearances at the Laver Cup, Fritz was also motivated to do well:
“Yesterday, all the guys played really well. I felt that and wanted to come out on court and show what I can do. That definitely motivated me. Any type of team environment, I feel like it always elevates my game. I feel like my record in team events is really strong because I have a team cheering for me. I get pumped up. I’m excited to play for them. It just adds more pressure and fire to it. I think I play better in those situations.”
The doubles was a typically dynamic and feisty affair, and after the match Shelton was full of praise for his partner:
“It’s amazing, when you play with a guy who serves and returns like Felix, is as athletic as him, and goes back for the overhead as strong as him, it’s a fun time,” said Shelton. “We call him ‘Laver Cup Felix’ because he turns into something special this week, just glad I got to share the court with him at least once.”
Auger-Aliassime returned the compliments: “The best comes out of me when I’m playing not only for myself but for team-mates. Ben carried me through the end of that match, it was tough for me to get it done.”
Casper Ruud, meanwhile, beat Tommy Paul for Europe’s only points so far.
Matches on the final day are worth three points each – meaning that Team Europe would have to win all four remaining matches to prevent Team World from winning the trophy.
T. Fritz def A. Rublev 6-2, 7-6
F. Tiafoe def H. Hurkacz 7-5, 6-3
F. Auger-Aliassime & B. Shelton def H.Hurkacz & G. Monfils 7-5, 6-4
C. Ruud def T. Paul 7-6, 6-2
ATP RANKINGS UPDATE: Novak Djokovic, No.1 once more
After the US Open the Serbian champion reclaims top spot. Alexander Zverev is back in the Top 10
By Roberto Ferri
“Don’t ever underestimate the heart of a champion”
Rudy Tomjanovich coined this maxim just after his Houston Rockets won the NBA championship in 1995. He was paying homage to Akeem Holajuwon. It perfectly suits the heart of Daniil Medvedev, who proved 99% of tennis fans in the world to be wrong, convinced as they were that he would lose the semifinal to former No 1 Carlos Alcaraz.
But his dream to win a second US Open, after his triumph in 2021, was shattered by another champion, whose heart and class is even greater: that’s Novak Djokovic, who affixes his seal on his return to No.1, equalling Margaret Court Smith’s record of 24 majors.
Djokovic dethroning Alcaraz is not the only change in the top 20: Sascha Zverev is back in the top 10 after almost one year and Ben Shelton, great protagonist of the Us Open, debuts in the top 20 best players in the world.
A few comments:
Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrei Rublev and Alexander Zverev gain 2 positions.
Ben Shelton devours 28 positions.
Sinner, Tiafoe, Norrie and Dimitrov lose one.
Casper Ruud and Karen Khachanov, runner up and semi-finalist respectively at the 2022 US Open, drop 4 positions.
One step forward for Fritz, de Minaur, Paul, Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz.
ATP NITTO FINALS
From 12 to 19 November the 8 best players of the ranking based on the points earned in the ongoing solar season will be playing the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.
Will Novak Djokovic succeed in winning a second straight title? He appears to be heading in the right direction.
Thanks to his triumph at the US Open the Serbian overtakes Alcaraz also in the Race to Turin.
Jannik Sinner holds fourth spot while Andrei Rublev overtakes Stefanos Tsitsipas and is now fifth.
The eighth position is occupied by Alexander Zverev.
Last year runner up, Casper Ruud is currently 10th. This means he would feature in Turin as a reserve.
ATP NEXT GENERATION FINALS
The Next Gen Finals, dedicated to the best under 21s, (8 effectives and 2 reserves) of the season will take place this year in Gedda, Saudi Arabia.
The 2022 winner, Brandon Nakashima, will not be defending his title, since he was born in 2001.
Taking for granted that Alcaraz and, most likely Rune, will be playing the ATP Finals, we have included in the chart the 12 current top under 21s.
Besides Ben Shelton, other 11 players have achieved their career highest this week.
We tribute a double applause to the four players who are making their debut in the top 100.
The 25-year-old Croatian Borna Gojo, 22-year-old Australian Rinky Hijkata and the Swiss next gen Dominic Stricker all reap the reward for their brilliant runs at the US Open. Seyboth Wild, the Brazilian who stunned Medvedev in the first round of Roland Garros leaps to No.76 after winning the Challenger in Como last week.
Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye
COMMENT: Novak Djokovic Proves His Greatness At US Open
Love him, or hate him. But respect him.
No tennis player has ever been better than Novak Djokovic.
Even Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer have to take their hats off to Novak, and admire him.
Now that Rafa and Roger have left Djokovic on his own stage at least for now, tennis fans love Novak.
DJOKOVIC WENT ONE STEP FURTHER
Djokovic’s performance on Sunday evening in the U.S. Open final was simply amazing. Daniil Medvedev also played his heart out, but Djokovic went one step further. He was sensational.
It was a thrill-a-minute three-set match. It lasted well into the night after starting at mid-afternoon. The second set alone lasted 104 minutes.
Djokovic was the winner, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, but New York still loves 2021 champion Medvedev.
A FOURTH AND 24TH TITLE, AND A 24 TRIBUTE
At 36, the oldest U.S. Open men’s champion ever, Djokovic obviously has a special place in his heart for the number four. It’s the number of times he has won this tournament and the 24th time he has won a Grand Slam title.
The number 24 also was displayed prominently on the white jacket. Novak, his team members and family wore for the victory celebration as a tribute to the No. 24 jersey of deceased friend Kobe Bryant.
Djokovic lost his footing at least three times in the tight second set, stumbling to the surface once, apparently due to the length of the rallies.
Djokovic could look like he was almost completely wiped out of it physically one minute, and then play like Superman the next minute.
THREE POINTS MAY HAVE BEEN DECISIVE
Both men played great tennis, especially in the thrill-a-second second set in which Medvedev gained one set point in the 12th game before Djokovic recovered to force a tiebreaker.
Medvedev appeared to be in charge after out-playing Novak to win one of his drop shots to take a 5-4 lead in the tiebreaker. The match may have been decided on the next three points, all won by Djokovic on errors by the 6-6 Russian.
The big question now is what happens next January in the Australian Open. Right now, Djokovic probably wants to play . . . and win what has been his favorite tournament as far as success. But things can change quickly for players in their mid-30s. Just ask Roger or Rafa.
James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.
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