ATP World Tour Finals Day 1 Preview: Novak Djokovic to begin title defence against Kei Nishikori - UBITENNIS
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ATP World Tour Finals Day 1 Preview: Novak Djokovic to begin title defence against Kei Nishikori

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Kei Nishikori will be given the huge task of upsetting the World No.1 and defending champion on opening day

The ATP World Tour Finals begin Sunday, with the World No. 1 set to begin the defence of his crown. Novak Djokovic is in incredible form, boasting a 22-0 record since his defeat to Roger Federer in Cincinnati, and has dropped just one set in his last three tournaments. The evening match sees Roger Federer take on Tomas Berdych, who is making his sixth appearance in London.

 

Novak Djokovic vs Kei Nishikori (Not Befoe 2:00pm GMT)

The World No.1 will face a man who has had a good year, but has not reached the high levels of performance he produced in 2014. Yet Kei Nishikori will still be no easy task for Djokovic. Ttitles in Memphis, Barcelona, and Washington DC prove that when he has been able to avoid injury this year, he is as tough as anyone. Enjoyed a good debut at the World Tour Finals last year, as he defeated Andy Murray and David Ferrer to qualify second in the group behind Federer.

Flashback: These two met in the semi-finals last year, with Nishikori the only player to actually take a set off Djokovic. However, it still had a lopsided look to it in a 6-1, 3-6, 6-0 win for the eventual champion. Their only meeting this year actually went along a similar path, Djokovic winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

Prediction: Djokovic is a different player to the one that Nishikori took a set from last year, or even earlier this. A lot will be determined by just how fit the Japanese star is (he has assured everyone he is fine). By a lot means if he gets two or three games, or six or seven, I’m going Djokovic 6-2, 7-5.

Roger Federer vs Tomas Berdych (Not Before 8:00pm GMT)

Roger Federer is in good form heading into London. Yes, he lost earlier than he would have liked in Paris to John Isner, but the truth is just about everyone can lose to the 6’10 server if he makes the service count. Well, maybe everyone except Djokovic. Nevertheless, that defeat has garnered Federer what could turn out extra valuable preparation for London, and truth be told, he could not have hoped for much better to start his campaign for a seventh year-end title. In two best-of-three set meetings with Berdych this season, Federer lost just ten games. Across the two matches.

For Tomas Berdych, the key is in the surface. Indoor hard favours his big flat-hitting game. Though this favours Federer too, Berdych cannot afford to contemplate that, but consider what he can bring to the table. A win in Stockholm indoors suggests form, but in reality was a field that offered little top quality, having to beat no top 20 players for the title. You can only beat the players you are drawn against but, in this case, the challenge for Berdych is a daunting one.

Prediction: Close, with a tiebreak possible. But Federer is unrelenting when it comes to indoor matches, and should be winning this opener. Federer 7-6, 6-4.

Stat: Despite that fact that both men have player every World Tour Finals event since 2010, this is the first time they will face each other in this tournament.

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Novak Djokovic Faces No Regrets Over Olympic Participation After Missing Out On Medal

Novak Djokovic has no regrets about being in Tokyo despite walking away with no Olympic medal for the third consecutive games.

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Novak Djokovic (@BleacherReport - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic has revealed he doesn’t regret competing in Tokyo despite missing out on an Olympic medal.

 

The world number one lost his bronze medal match to Pablo Carreno Busta 6-4 6-7(6) 6-3 in 2 hours and 48 minutes.

A frustrating last 24 hours was capped off with a hard-fought defeat that saw him withdraw from his mixed doubles semi-final due to a left shoulder injury.

As a result Ash Barty and John Peers claimed the bronze medal which sees Djokovic without an Olympic medal for a third consecutive Olympics.

However after the loss to Carreno Busta Djokovic said he has no regrets about competing in Tokyo, “I don’t regret coming to Olympics at all,” Djokovic said to Sasa Ozmo.

“I believe that there are no coincidences in life, everything happens for a reason. I had some heartbreaking losses at Olympics and big tournaments, and I know that those losses have usually made me stronger.

“I do have a regret for not winning a medal for my country, both in singles and mixed. I just didn’t deliver yesterday and today. Level of tennis dropped, also due to exhaustion mentally and physically.

“I know that I will bounce, I will try to keep going for Olympics in Paris, to try to win a medal for my country. I am sorry I disappointed a lit of fans in Serbia, but that’s sport, I gave it all, whatever I had left in the tank, which was not so much.”

After failing to win a medal in Tokyo, Djokovic now has gone three consecutive Olympic games without a medal.

Despite this latest setback Djokovic is still on course to achieve the grand slam ahead of the US Open.

But in his post-match interview the Serb admitted that before he can think about that he has to take care of a few injuries, “I hope that the physical consequences won’t create a problem for me for the US Open,” Djokovic admitted.

“That is something I am not sure about right now, but there are no regrets, you have to give your all for your country. I have withdrawn (from mixed) because of injuries, not only one. I hope that won’t stop me for playing the US Open.”

Djokovic’s next scheduled tournament is in Cincinnati on the 16th of August although it’s possible that the world number one won’t play until the US Open on the 30th of August.

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Rafael Nadal Returns In Washington Ahead Of Historic US Open Bid

Rafael Nadal returns to action next week when he competes at the Citi Open in Washington.

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Rafael Nadal (@CitiOpen - Twitter)

Rafael Nadal makes his return to the tour in Washington this week ahead of a history-making two weeks in New York.

 

The top seed will enter the Citi Open next week playing his first tournament since losing in the Roland Garros semi-finals to Novak Djokovic.

Nadal leads the field as he prepares for a crucial few weeks coming up with history awaiting at the US Open.

Heading into the tournament at Flushing Meadows, Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are all level at 20 grand slams.

With Federer still recovering from his knee injury and Djokovic looking exhausted from his Olympic bid, Nadal will look to capitalise on a golden opportunity to get in-front in the race to being the greatest of all time.

In Washington, Nadal will begin his campaign against either Jack Sock or Yoshihito Nishioka.

A potential third round meeting with Lloyd Harris could await while Nadal could face 7th seed and in-form Cameron Norrie in the last eight.

Norrie is coming off of a title in Los Cabos having won the third most matches this season behind Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev.

Also in the Spaniard’s half is Grigor Dimitrov, Nick Kyrgios, Benoit Paire, Taylor Fritz and Dan Evans.

In the bottom half of the draw Felix Auger-Aliassime will face Andreas Seppi or a qualifier in the opening round.

The Canadian is also projected to meet Frances Tiafoe and Reilly Opelka en route to the semi-finals.

The likes of Jannik Sinner, Sebastian Korda and Alex De Minaur are also in Auger-Aliassime’s half of the draw

Play starts on Monday with Nadal’s opening match set to take place on Wednesday night local time.

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Tokyo Olympics Daily Preview: Belinda Bencic and Marketa Vondrousova Play for Gold

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Belinda Bencic was understandably quite emotional after her semifinal win on Thursday (twitter.com/ITFTennis)

The women’s singles gold medal match headlines Saturday’s schedule, featuring two surprising finalists.  Prior to this event, both Belinda Bencic and Marketa Vondrousova had almost as many losses on the year as wins, and no titles between them.  But on Saturday, they will compete for the biggest win of their careers.

 

Day 8 at the Ariake Tennis Park also includes four bronze medal matches.  For the fourth day in a row, Novak Djokvoic will play twice.  In men’s singles, he faces Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta.  In mixed doubles, the men’s singles No.1 will be across the court from the women’s singles No.1, Ash Barty.  And the bronze medalists will also be decided in women’s singles and doubles.  Bronze medal matches at the Olympic Games often provide some of the most emotional moments of the year, as the losers leave Tokyo with no hardware whatsoever.

Saturday’s play gets underway at 3:00pm local time, and it is forecast to be another toasty day in Tokyo.

Novak Djokovic (1) [SRB] vs. Pablo Carreno Busta (6) [ESP] – 3:00pm on Centre Court

This is the third time out of the last four Olympics that Djokovic finds himself in the men’s singles bronze medal match.  13 years ago in Beijing, Novak defeated James Blake to win the bronze.  Nine years ago in London, he lost to Juan Martin Del Potro, and walked away empty-handed.  On Saturday in Tokyo, he faces a player he is 4-1 against, with his only loss coming in the form of his shocking default at last summer’s US Open.  That was the day Djokovic struck a ball in anger after losing the 11th game of the first set, which hit a lines judge in the throat.  If not for that error in judgment, Novak might already own 21 Major titles.  He avenged that embarrassing loss to Carreno Busta a month later in Paris, defeating the Spaniard in the fall version of Roland Garros.  Outside of the 2020 US Open, their only hard court encounter was a year earlier in Cincinnati, which Djokovic won in straight sets. 

Novak was remarkably despondent after suffering two losses on Friday, especially after failing to close out Sascha Zverev despite being up a set and a break.  He played some lackluster tennis in the second half of that semifinal, and he will not enjoy playing at 3:00pm on Saturday, the hottest part of the day.  But he is still a favorite to win his second bronze medal in men’s singles, as there’s nothing on court Carreno Busta does especially better than Djokovic.  Novak should be able to control his destiny on this day.

Belinda Bencic (9) [SUI] vs. Marketa Vondrousova [CZE] – Third on Centre Court

This should be a highly-compelling battle, between two players who utilize the variety in their games extremely well.  Their only previous meeting took place earlier this year on a hard court in Miami, with Vondrousova prevailing 6-4 in the third.  The 22-year-old Czech was a shocking finalist two years ago at the French Open.  She was sidelined by injury for about six months shortly thereafter, and didn’t fully rediscover that form until this past week.  She only possesses one career WTA title, which came over four years ago at a WTA 250 event in Switzerland, Bencic’s home country. 

24-year-old Belinda has endured plenty of injury setbacks in her career, but is the more accomplished player with four career titles, all of them at either the 500 or 1000 level.  Her backhand may be the best shot on the court, but Vondrousova’s lefty serve, paired with frequent drop shots, have proven to be a dangerous combination throughout this event.  In her last eight sets played, no opponent has won more than four games.  And those opponents include two top four seeds: Naomi Osaka and Elina Svitolina.  Bencic has survived much tighter battles to this stage, claiming a trio of consecutive three-setters. 

Between her victories over Osaka and Svitolina, Vondrousova averaged 77% of first serve points won.  If she can maintain that against Bencic, she’ll be hard to overcome.  But with a gold medal in the balance, Belinda’s experience edge in big matches should prove crucial.  And she has previous success representing her country, as she won back-to-back Hopman Cups alongside Roger Federer.  Belinda Bencic is the favorite to stand atop the medal podium on Saturday night in Tokyo.

Other Notable Matches on Saturday:

Elina Svitolina (4) [UKR] vs. Elena Rybakina (15) [KAZ] – They have split their two previous matches, though neither were on a hard court.  While this is not exactly a tournament final, it’s worth noting Svitolina is 15-3 lifetime in career finals, which is a lot different than Rybakina’s record of 2-5, with her most recent loss in a final coming at the hands of Svitolina.

Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Vesnina [ROC] vs. Laura Pigossi and Luisa Stefani [BRA] – Kudermetova and Vesnina were narrowly defeated in the Wimbledon final 9-7 in the third, and lost another close match in Thursday’s semifinals, decided by a 10-point tiebreak.  Pigossi and Stefani do not usually team together, but they saved four match points in their second round matchup.

Ash Barty and John Peers [AUS] vs. Nina Stojanovic and Novak Djokovic [SRB] – It is an extremely rare occasion for both the men’s and women’s No.1’s, as well as the reigning Wimbledon champions, to share a court.  Barty and Peers are the far more experienced doubles players, though Djokovic will surely play some inspired tennis as he tries to win another medal for Serbia.

Saturday’s full Order of Play is here.

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