TENNIS ATP FINALS – Roger Federer has reached 70 wins in a season for the sixth time by defeating Kei Nishikori 6-3, 6-2. If Raonic wins one set tonight against Murray he will be qualified for the 12th ATP Finals semifinal in 13 appearances. From London, Paul Sassoon
For the sixth year in his career, Roger Federer has won 70 or more matches in a season. He accomplished this result at 33 years of age after beating Kei Nishikori in straight sets, “I think it’s a great number. I played only the big tournaments this year. Basically, again, I chased all the Masters 1000s, Grand Slams, so forth. It’s not easy to win matches there, as we know, because guys are always very good, margins are small. More importantly for me is getting closer to the thousand number. Not that it’s one I’ve ever wanted to reach, but it would obviously be cool to get there.”
Roger Federer won his second match at this year’s ATP Finals. Again he won his match in straight sets (the fifth straight set match in the tournament overall). In his first match he defeated Milos Raonic 6-1, 7-6, today he won 6-3, 6-2 against another ATP Finals debutant Kei Nishikori. As is always the case the O2 Arena was packed and the majority of the crowd was cheering for the Swiss, but there were many Japanese flags scattered around the stands. The Japanese fans, one group was sitting behind me, started in good spirits, but were quickly deflated by their favoured players difficulties.
The world number two broke serve for the first time in the fourth game of the match after he struggled in the initial games with his backhand. Nishikori had the first opportunity to break serve in the third game, but was thwarted by the Swiss with an ace. In the fifth and ninth games the Japanese player came within two points of the break but he failed to actually get to break point. Federer won the set 6-3 in thirty five minutes of play.
Between the first and second set Kei Nishikori received treatment to his right wrist, but the injury didn’t seem to impede him at first but after he held his serve to love in the opening game of the second set, he started to lose control of his forehand with increasing frequency. Also he struggled to return Federer’s first serve (87% of first serve points won in the second set). In the first match of his tournament, Federer started to fade in the second set and was forced to a tie-break by Raonic, in this match he didn’t and he broke serve in the third game of the second set and a second in the seventh game to seal his win. Before he could celebrate, the world number two had to save one final break point in the eighth game, he did it with the aid of his serve closing the match 6-3, 6-2 in 1 hour and 9 minutes.
So far in this event every match ended in straight sets and the Swiss player believes that this is due to the surface, “in my opinion, because the court plays somewhat slow, and the serve doesn’t have that much of an impact depending on you how back it up, your serve. I think it’s very much a game of movement and the baseline game. Whoever’s better from the baseline has the upper hand, then dominates. I think that’s why we’re seeing heavy scorelines, because it’s just hard to get out of hard to serve your way out of trouble. It’s almost not possible time and time again.”
The fans at the O2 Arena have been a bit short changed, the five matches so far have been quick and one-sided and all five lasted for a total of 6 hours and 6 minutes. It’s very little if you compare it to the 2012 Australian Open Final played by Djokovic and Nadal that lasted 5 hours and 53 minutes, and that was just one match. For a keen fan that has spent up to £360 for the six sessions, it has not been a good tournament. Of course it’s still early in the tournament and there is still time to match the 2009 record when 10 out of the 15 matches went to the final set, but so far the fans have not received value for money.
The US Open finalist explained the match in the press conference, “He took the important points, all the important points. Maybe he didn’t play maybe hundred percent, but all the tough points he played, you know, good serve, good points. He didn’t give me a chance to come back. Yeah, I think he did great that. Important points, he put all the efforts. Yeah, for me, I didn’t play really bad. But still, you know, I wasn’t really consistent everything, my serve, my strokes. I had a little bit of unforced errors. So that’s why I couldn’t, you know, stay there.”
Kei Nishikori later explained why he called for the trainer at the end of the first set, “(I) just had a little bit of soreness today. I mean, the tennis was okay. I was playing really solid from the baseline. Maybe serve wasn’t there, you know, today. But I have, you know, one more day, tomorrow, off. So try to come back, recovery well, and hopefully I can win next one.”
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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