TENNIS ATP FINALS – The pre tournament press conferences at the O2 Arena in London were focussed mainly on the new faces that have qualified for the end-of-year event. Is the new generation of players ready to replace the old guard? From London, Paul Sassoon
The ATP Finals will get underway on Sunday, today was dedicated to the pre-tournament press conferences. The main topic of conversation was the past season that saw to new Grand Slam winners in Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic and the wind of change that is supposedly sweeping the men’s tour. Three players of the next generation have qualified for the first time for the end-of-year event, Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic. The three new faces have joined the usual suspects, Djokovic, Federer, Wawrinka, Murray and Berdych for the final showdown at the O2 Arena in London.
So is this the year that the new breed take over? The players seem to agree that the change has started, but removing the champions that have dominated over the last few years won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight.
According to the World Number 1 this has not been the season when the change started, but it has been a process that began a few years ago, “It’s been now few seasons that we had four different Grand Slam winners. Those players that you named (Cilic, Nishikori, Wawrinka and Raonic) are here at the World Tour Finals, some of them are making their debut in this tournament. There is some change in professional tennis in terms of new players and new generations coming up and challenging the top four that have been winning most of the Majors and the big events on tour, but I believe that this is something normal to expect after many years of Federer Nadal dominance and Murray and myself got into that mix. Of course you always expect younger players who are capable of fighting for major titles and thats what happened this year and I think we expected it a little bit earlier.”
Listen to Novak Djokovic’s press conference
Federer agrees with Novak that the change has started, but it isn’t over yet, “the rankings prove that it might be the case (that the top four are still dominant when they are fit). But I think that the margins are so small that we have to prove ourselves time and time again. It’s very interesting and things can change very quickly in tennis thats why I am always careful with predictions, but it’s nice to see different faces at the World Tour Finals.”
Listen to Roger Federer’s press conference
Andy Murray was one of the “Fab Four” that dominated the ATP Tour over the last few years. It took him some time to recover from his back operation and was forced into a mad dash after the US Open to qualify for these World Tour Finals. The Scottish player agreed with Novak and Roger, “there definitely has been a change, but it’s not as drastic as some people were making out. I think obviously that a lot of the guys are here first time. The younger guys are improving a lot, making big improvements. This year there has been a lot of firsts for those guys. Stan won a Slam, Cilic won a Slam, Nishikori’s first final, Raonic had semis at Wimbledon, There have been a lot of firsts for the younger guys. They have improved, become more consistent. That’s natural, but some of the players you mentioned (Djokovic, Federer and Nadal) are some of the best of all time, no matter how much the younger guys improve, you are not just going to knock them off.”
Listen to Andy Murray’s press conference
For years Tomas Berdych has been right behind the top players and with the new generation he may run the risk of getting overtaken, “…well, let’s see. In the last couple of years, maybe three four years, there have been pretty much no changes, there were always the same guys in the top eight and the top four spots have been already taken since the season started off and so to make it to the World tour Finals there were only four spots to make. This year there a few new guys coming up and as I said it’s not easy to maintain and stay the same position but I managed to do so and its the fifth year in a row. It’s a good result to be sitting here and it means having a successful season.”
Listen to Tomas Berdych’s press conference
The beginning of the change is credited by many to Stan Wawrinka’s win in Melbourne. The Swiss is at his second consecutive participation at the ATP Finals, “This year was different than the past three years, that’s for sure with different winner of the Grand Slam. You can see already this year was some big surprises, but I think that if you look Nole, Roger, Rafa when he is not injured are still up there. They are still stronger than the rest of the players. It’s going to be interesting next year for sure. There are more players behind ready to beat those guys but you have to do it because it’s not that easy.”
Listen to Stan Wawrinka’s press conference
The US Open champion was the only player that didn’t talk about the “new generation”, instead he focussed on his year, “It’s a great honour for me to be here for the first time, same for Kei and Milos. This year as been the best of my career. I had a lot of great tournaments, I had a big success at the US Open. I feel it opens a little bit the door for the other guys.”
Listen to Marin Cilic’s press conference
Kei Nishikori lost the Flushing Meadows final to Marin Cilic, but his excellent season means that he qualified as well for the end-of-year event, “it has been a different year than past couple of years. Stan won a Grand Slam and so did Cilic. Cilci and me in the final was a little bit weird, I think nobody was expecting those two in the final. Now three new guys are here so I think it’s very exciting for the tennis tour.”
Listen to Kei Nishikori’s press conference
Yet the best description of the situation on the men’s tour was given by the youngest player to qualify for the ATP Finals, Milos Raonic, “I think those guys are knocking on the door in a lot of ways, but nobody has definitely kicked that door open.”
Listen to Milos Raonic’s press conference
Tennis Player Disqualified From Shanghai Qualifying Match Two Points Away From Victory
It will be a match that Australia’s Marc Polmans will never forget but for all the wrong reasons.
The World No.140 looked to be on the verge of victory against Italy’s Stefano Napolitano when leading their match 7-6(3), 6-6(6-5), in the final round of qualifying at the Shanghai Masters. However, disaster struck at the next point when Polmans temper got the better of him and subsequently cost him.
With match point, he approached the net to hit a backhand shot but it ended up in the net. Prompting the frustrated 26-year-old to hit a tennis ball that unfortunately hit the umpire. As a result of that action, he was automatically disqualified from the match which handed Napolitano the victory and a place in the main draw.
It is not the first time a tennis player has been disqualified for such an incident. During a 2017 Davis Cup tie between Canada and Great Britain, Denis Shapovalov was disqualified for firing a tennis ball that hit the umpire’s eye. Novak Djokovic was also disqualified from the 2020 US Open after hitting a ball that accidentally struck a lines judge.
“Players shall not violently, dangerously or with anger hit, kick or throw
a tennis ball while on the grounds of the tournament site except in the reasonable pursuit of a point during a match (including warm-up),” the 2023 ATP rulebook outlines.
“For purposes of this rule, abuse of balls is defined as intentionally or reckless- ly hitting a ball out of the enclosure of the court, hitting a ball dangerously or recklessly within the court or hitting a ball with disregard of the conse- quences.’
“Violation of this section shall subject a player to a fine of up to $350 for each violation. In addition, if such violation occurs during a match, the player shall be penalized in accordance with the Point Penalty Schedule.”
It is a tough lesson for Polmans to learn. He was on the verge of playing in the main draw of a Masters 1000 event for the first time in his career. He is currently the 10th highest-ranked Australian player on the ATP Tour and reached the final of a Challenger event in Guangzhou, China last month.
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
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Maria Sakkari ‘Scared’ Of Anti-Doping Testing Measures After Halep Ban
Gutsy Novak Djokovic Prevails In Grueling Battle With Medvedev To Win US Open
Iga Swiatek Says Her Priority Is Form, Not Reclaiming No.1 Spot
Iga Swiatek Dismisses Criticism Over Recent US Open Exit
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(VIDEO): Novak Djokovic Faces Sinner Test, Women’s Semis Take Centre Stage
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