Mutua Madrid Open: Defending Champion Nadal drawn with Federer. Nole retires from the tournament - UBITENNIS
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Mutua Madrid Open: Defending Champion Nadal drawn with Federer. Nole retires from the tournament

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TENNIS – World Number 1 Rafael Nadal will start his title defence of the Mutua Madrid Open at the Caja Magica against the winner of the first-round match between Juan Monaco and Jurgen Melzer. His possible rivals in the Round of 16 could be German veteran Tommy Haas, Robin Haase or Jarkko Nieminen. Diego Sampaolo

Interviews, results, order of play and draws of the Mutua Madrid Open

Nadal will be looking to bounce back from two back-to-back quarter final defeats in Monte-Carlo and Barcelona in two clay tournaments where he was used to dominate. He will have to defend 2000 points in the next two weeks in Madrid and Rome. Last year Nadal beat Stanislas Wawrinka in the final in the Caja Magica.

“When you lose you have a hard moment and you have more doubts. But that’s what happenedI have already said several times. I didn’t try to win Monte-Carlo or Barcelona 12 times. Maybe that is not normal. This is the reality of the situation. It’s normal to lose three times in the quarter finals. Maybe what is not normal is what happened during the past nine years”, said Nadal.

“I feel really good playing here. Madrid is a very special tournament for me. The energy this tournament gives me is something a bit different to others”.

“When you come back from tough moments, you come back with a little more intensity to try to be back as soon as possible”.

Nadal could face either Tomas Berdych or Grigor Dimitrov in a possible quarter final. The Czech player, who lost against Carlos Berloq in the Oeiras final, will start against either Radek Stepanek or Jurgen Melzer in the second round before a potential intriguing match against Grigor Dimitrov who won the third ATP title of his career and the first on clay in Bucharest last week. First the young Bulgarian will have to face clay specialists like Marcel Granollers and Pablo Carreno Busta, the ATP Most Improved player in 2013.

Nadal has been drawn in the same top half with Roger Federer who will return to the Mutua Madrid Open where he won two years ago. Nadal and Federer could square off in the semifinal in another chapter of their rivalry. Federer recently lost his fourth Monte-Carlo final against his compatriot Stan Wawrinka.

Federer will be looking to improve the result of last year when he did not get through the Round of 16. He will start against a French rival (either Benoit Paire or Giles Simon) before facing a possible third round match against Roberto Bautista Agut who upset Tommy Robredo 6-4 6-4 i the first round on Sunday.

Federer could meet either Jo Wilfred Tsonga or Andy Murray in the quarter final. If he faces Tsonga, the two players could play a re-match of the recent quarter final in Monte-Carlo won by Federer.

Murray will face a tough draw as he could make his debut against Nicolas Almagro who recently beat Nadal for the first time in his career in the quarter final in Barcelona before meeting Tsonga in the Round of 16.

This year’s Australian Open Stanislas Wawrinka will be looking to win his back-to-back Master 1000 tournament on clay in Madrid after clinching his first Monte-Carlo title.

Wawrinka will start his campaign against Dmitry Tursunov in the second round before meeting Mikhail Youzhny, Federico Delbonis or Feliciano Lopez in the third round.

Wawrinka has been drawn in the third quarter as Milos Raonic and they could square off the quarter final. The young Canadian has not a easy draw as he could meet Jeremy Chardy in the second round. Chardy beat Bucharest finalist Lukas Rosol in the first round in three sets with 4-6 6-3 6-4. on Sunday.

The possible Round of 16 match could be played between Raonic and in-form Kei Nishikori, who recently won his first tournament on clay in Barcelona, a tournament won by Spanish clay specialists in the last 12 years. Last year the Japanese star beat Roger Federer to reach the quarter final in the Spanish capital before achieving his career.high when he moved up to World Number 11 in the ATP Ranking. Nishikori will start his Madrid campaign against Croatian player Ivan Dodig. The winner of this match may face Guillermo Garcia Lopez who edged Pablo Andujar 6-2 2-6 6-2 in the first round on Sunday

“It was a big surprise for me to win a clay tournament. It was my first clay title. I didn’t play against top-10 players but I still think it was a good week for me”, said Nishikori

Nishikori also won in Memphis and reached the semifinal in Miami after beating Roger Federer in the quarter final. The advice provided by Michael Chang has certainly contributed tp his recent success.

“Michael is giving me good improvement. My tennis is getting better and stronger. Michael is not in Madrid with me but it’s going well with him. My next goal is to get into the top 10. It’s not going to be easy. My goal is not just to stay in the top-10 for one week. Hopefully I can keep that ranking all the time. I feel very strong especially after winning in Barcelona. It was unfortunate to have an injury in Miami. Hopefully I can stay healthy for a while and do well in every tournament. The big goal is to qualify for the ATP World Tour Final”, said Nishikori.

Unfortunately 2011 Madrid champion Novak Djokovic, who had been originally drawn in the bottom quarter, has been forced to withdraw from Madrid as he has not fully recovered from his wrist injury which affected his Monte-Carlo semifinal against Roger Federer.

“I am very sorry for the Madrid tournament and all Spanish fans to have to pull out of the Madrid Mutua Open. I did everything possible in order to play in Madrid, which is one of the biggest tournaments of the year, but unfortunately my right arm has flared up again. Now I will have to recover and heal my injury. I look forward to returning to Madrid next year”, said Djokovic on Sunday. There is a chance that Djokovic could recover in time to play in Rome.

In this quarter of the draw Marin Cilic, who is tied for second place on the 2014 match-wins ranking with 25 wins, could face either Italian 13-seed Fabio Fognini, who won in Vina del Mar and lost the final in Munich against Martin Klizan this week or Ukraine’s Aleksander Dolgopolov who reached the Indian Wells semifinal this year losing to Roger Federer after a third set win over Rafa Nadal in the third round.

David Ferrer has been drawn in the bottom half of the draw The player from Valencia, who reached the Monte-Carlo semifinal after beating Rafa Nadal on his favourite clay tournament in the quarter final but was knocked out in the second round in Barcelona against Gabashvili, will start against either his compatriot Albert Ramos or Frenchman Nicholas Mahut. He could face a Round of 16 match against either John Isner or Phillip Kohlschreiber.

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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