Djokovic and Federer the favourites in Stan Smith, but is Rafa the contender in the other group? - UBITENNIS
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Djokovic and Federer the favourites in Stan Smith, but is Rafa the contender in the other group?

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Could Nadal’s late season resurgence see him dominate Ilie Nastase Group?

Ubaldo Scanagatta and Tennis Channel’s Steve Flink Comment the ATP World Tour Finals Draws (AUDIO)

 

Flink: “Nadal should be happy to be in his group”

If the Stan Smith Group looks somewhat predictable, with two Grand slam champions, tennis fans can be reassured that the Ilie Nastase Group is anything but. This article previews each singles player from both groups, and attempts a prediction as to how each group might eventually pan out.

Stan Smith

Novak Djokovic: The World Number 1 has had a scintillating year, winning three of the four Grand Slams, and six of nine Masters titles. He is the three-time defending champion in London, and will be the favourite to extend his run. Crucially for Djokovic, the player who has given him the most issues this year, Stan Wawrinka, has been drawn in the other group. Will certainly fancy his chances over Tomas Berdych, who he was drawn with last year, and defeated 6-2, 6-2. Kei Nishikori has had an injury plagued year, so should be little of little danger to Djokovic. Roger Federer is the major threat. He loves indoor tennis, and if Djokovic becomes unstuck in one match it would be with Federer.

Roger Federer: His season has been strong, highlighted by two Grand Slam finals, including his first In New York since 2009. He was beaten though in each by Djokovic. Federer loves indoors tennis, but has failed to defeat Djokovic in their last four meetings on the surface. Yet if anyone has the best chance of defeating Federer in the group stages, then Federer is the man. Has beaten Nishikori in their last two meetings, and Berdych in their last three. Question marks over his early Paris exit to John Isner.

Tomas Berdych: Has had a good if slightly underwhelming year, but has done well to qualify for sixth consecutive year. A telling stat is that he has failed to beat any of the opponents he is set to face in the group this season. He has been soundly thrashed by Federer twice, though did play Djokovic close in all three of their meetings this year. He did not encounter Nishikori this year. Lack of wins over top players is the apparent weakness In Berdych’s game this year.

Kei Nishikori: The Japanese star takes his place at the ATP World Tour Finals for the second time, though without a Grand Slam final display to back him up this time. Has beaten fellow contenders Ferrer and Nadal this year, but has no wins against his group opponents, though like Berdych, he took a set from Djokovic in their meeting in Rome. Inconsistent with injury this year, but has proven that when fit, can still beat the best. He has only met played one match, versus Djokovic, against his group opponents this season, so could be considered something of a wildcard.

Group Prediction:  1. Djokovic 3-0, 2. Federer, 2-1, 3. Nishikori 1-2, 4. Berdych 0-3.

Ilie Nastase

Andy Murray: The Brit leapfrogged Roger Federer into second place in the rankings at the back-end of the season, and his reward is avoiding Djokovic in the group stages. That said, Wawrinka, Nadal, and Ferrer are noteworthy opponents. Yet he has won both meetings with Ferrer this season, including a meeting on the Spaniard’s favoured surface of clay. He also beat Nadal on clay for the first time, in their only match this year, but he has struggled against Rafa in previous meetings at the World Tour Finals. Hasn’t played Wawrinka this season, so an interesting matchup in store there. The underlying subtext of the Davis Cup Final could have an impact on Murray’s focus, and he can’t afford any slip-ups against the quality of opposition he faces this year.

Stan Wawrinka: Should Stan be happy or relieved to have avoided Djokovic in the group stages? He is probably the only player capable of making a question of that this season. Beating Djokovic in the Roland Garros final solidified Wawrinka’s credentials as a genuine force, after his fortuitous win over Nadal in the Australian Open. A brilliant year punctuated by a few surprise losses but impressive titles, means that we never really know what to expect from Stan, except that he normally rises to the occasion in big events. Pushed Federer all the way in a tense semi-final in London last year, Stan will be looking to go one better in 2015

Rafael Nadal: After a comprehensive defeat to Djokovic at Roland Garros, followed by early defeats at Wimbledon and the US Open, some had begun to write Rafa off. Yet he is a true champion, and has signalled his return to somewhere near his good is not best form. He destroyed Wawrinka in Shanghai but lost to him in Paris. Finals in Beijing and Basel suggest he is in form, and played Federer close in the latter final. Gone is the almost afraid Rafa from the beginning of the year, replace by a force that could easily go all the way in London. He still dominates the head-to-head with all three in the group. He leads Murray 15-6, Ferrer 23-6, and Wawrinka 13-3. This might actually make him the favourite in this tight group.

David Ferrer. It is testament that Ferrer is yet again here this year. His participation in previous years has largely relied on playing more tournaments than just about any other player. Yet this year, an elbow injury curtailed his involvement in Wimbledon, and forced him to miss a large chunk of the season. He has instead relied on performing well in the events he has been able to play. No wins in three meetings this year vs Murray/Nadal, and did not face Wawrinka. He has a losing record against both Murray (6-11) and Nadal (6-23), and has lost his last three meetings with Wawrinka, even if he does still edge the head-to-head (7-6). Ferrer is a dogged competitor, but the feeling is his ability to earn wins in London will be more down to his opponent’s games than his own.

Group prediction: 1. Nadal 2-1, 2. Wawrinka 2-1, 3. Murray 2-1, 4. Ferrer 0-3

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Matteo Berrettini Scores Historic Win Before Exit From ATP Finals

The 23-year-old ends his breakthrough season on the ATP Tour with another milestone in his career.

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LONDON: Matteo Berrettini has become the first Italian man in history to win a match at the ATP Finals after defeating Dominic Thiem on Thursday afternoon.

 

The world No.8 managed to dismantle the game of his rival, who was far from his best at times, with the help of his blistering serve to seal the 7-6(3), 6-3, victory. Ending Thiem’s streak of four consecutive wins over top 10 players, including Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer earlier this week. In total Berrettini hit 30 winners to 21 unforced errors and converted both of his break point opportunities.

“I’ve always had great fights against him. I was able to stay mentally focused, especially in the first set when I lost my serve because I didn’t play a great game.” Berrettini said afterward.
“I’m really happy with my performance because I am not feeling great physically.” He added.

The downside to the round-robin format of the event is that some matches end up being irrelevant with this being one of them. Regardless of the outcome, Thiem has already qualified for the semi-finals and Berrettini is on his way out. Nevertheless, the 23-year-old Italian was playing for pride at The O2 Arena.

A close start to the match saw neither playing managing to gain any momentum during the first eight games. Then inconsistencies in Thiem’s game starting to haunt him. Berrettini’s ability to hit the ball deep into the court forced his rival to make a series of errors as he broke for a 5-4 lead. However, it was his turn to stumble behind his serve as Thiem broke back to level with relative ease.

Despite neither player capitalizing on their advantages, the tiebreaker was a one-sided encounter. Three Thiem unforced errors, as well as a winning Berrettini slice, saw him go behind 0-4 in the blink of an eye. Creating enough of a margin for Berrettini to seal the first set with the help of a 134 mph ace.

Thiem clearly looked flat on the court compared to two days ago when he downed Djokovic, however, nothing should be taken away from Berrettini. Who kept focus and stuck to his game plan throughout the match. A backhand passing shot, followed by a crosscourt winner enabled him to break once again midway through the second set. Easing towards victory after just 76 minutes play, Berrettini closed the match out with a delicate drop shot.

“I’m really proud of myself, but also for my team, my family and my friends. It’s been an unbelievable season.” He reflected on his year.
“I didn’t expect at the beginning of the season to be here (in London). I hope to come back next year, but now I just want to say thanks to those guys (his team). Without them, it couldn’t be possible.”
“I’m happy to finish with a win.“

Despite the loss, Thiem will finish at the top of the Bjorg Born Group. He will play the runner-up of the other group in the semi-finals on Saturday.

Whilst Berrettini’s ATP season is over, he can’t rest yet. Next week he will be in Madrid playing for his country in the Davis Cup along with many other of his fellow players.

“There is one more event. I have to rest a little bit and then I think I deserve a holiday.” He declared.

Berrettini ends 2019 with 43 wins on the ATP Tour in what is a career best. He started the year ranked 54th in the world and didn’t make his top 10 debut until last month.

Italian men in the ATP Finals

-C. Barazzutti in 1978 – 0 wins and 3 loses
-A. Panatta in 1975 – 0 wins and 3 losses
-M. Barrettini in 2019 – 1 win and 2 losses

 

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Focus On Tennis, Not Politics: Former Legends Back Inaugural ATP Cup Amid Ongoing Dispute

The brand new tennis event sparks excitement, intrigue and yet more uncertaincy for the future of men’s team tennis.

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The launch of the Davis Cup at the 2018 ATP Finals

LONDON: The attention should be on the court and not what is going on in the background. This is the message being stressed by the ATP less than two months before the launch of their latest masterpiece.

 

The ATP Cup has been billed as an event that has the potential to overshadow the historic 119-year-old Davis Cup. Held over 12 days at the start of January in Australia, 24 teams will lock horns in a group format. Unlike any other current team event, both ranking points and prize money will be up for grabs. A huge attraction for many of the men’s elite during what is a turbulent time in tennis politics.

“I ask you, I know there is lots of talk about tennis politics and all of that sort of stuff, but please get behind this event. I genuinely believe we are all in this business together, trying to sell our sport.” ATP CEO Chris Kermode pleaded during a press conference on Thursday in London.
“This (the ATP Cup) will be global and we want to try to reach new markets by presenting it in a different way.”

The tournament promises to provide a mixture of current stars working with former legends of the sport. The German team will be lead by captain Boris Becker, who was nominated for the role by Alexander Zverev. Under rules of the competition, captains are nominated by the top player from each country after discussions with their fellow teammates.

“Tennis is in a very good place right now. The fact that we have so many new competitions speaks for the interests, speaks for the image and the quality of the players we have.” Said Becker.
“This format gives players a chance to, in one way, represent their country, another way start the year off with a big bang.” He added.

https://twitter.com/ATPCup/status/1194733806344912896

It’s not perfect, but it will do for now

Embed from Getty Images

From 2020 there will be three team tournaments taking place on the men’s tour. Besides the ATP Cup, the Davis Cup now has a week-long finale at the end of the season in November. Meanwhile, the Roger Federer-backed Laver Cup occurs shortly after the US Open.

With three team events taking place during what is already a packed calendar, some have questioned the long-term likelihood of these events co-existing. Leading to some of the sport’s biggest names calling for the two of the biggest tournaments to be combined. A far from simple concept given the Davis Cup is run by the ITF, not the ATP. In recent months the two governing bodies have held somewhat tentative discussions with little compromise being reached.

Of course we need to fix a couple of more things on the tour to make a big, big competition. I think two team tournaments, Davis Cup and ATP Cup in one month, is something that, in my opinion, is not good.” Rafael Nadal commented during the Paris Masters.
“My feeling is that we need to create one big, big competition to stay together. ITF, ATP, that’s a good opportunity to make that happen and we need to make that happen.”

Nadal is not along in his calls. World No.2 Novak Djokovic has also made similar comments. They argue that having one big event will alleviate pressure on the player’s schedule and not have such an impact on what is already a very limited off-season period.

Adavntage ATP Cup

1995 French Open champion Thomas Muster leads the Austrian contingent. He points out that the current date of the new event places it in a stronger position of that held by the Davis Cup. Djokovic and Nadal have both stated their intention to play in the Davis Cup next week. However, Nadal had admitted that he is unsure of how his body will hold. Meanwhile, Marin Cilic and Milos Raonic have both withdrawn due to injury. Furthermore, Federer and Alexander Zverev have opted to play exhibition matches instead of the event.

“That sort of brings back to the conclusion of why certain players are not playing at the end of the year at Davis Cup final.” Said Muster. “It’s just because it’s late in the season, and players are tired and they have played a lot, and there is not much time between now and the new start of the season.”

Fellow former world No.1 and Russian captain Marat Safin also issued the same sentiment. Deciding the ATP Cup as ideal preparation for the Australian Open. A tournament he won back in 2005.

“It’s a perfect setup for this event at the beginning of the year, so all the guys are already in Australia and they want to start with a good step in the new year,” Safin stated.
“Quite interesting placement of the event, the beginning of the year. I think it’s a good choice.”

There is a feeling that at some point, one team event has to give way. Although it is impossible to see which one. It won’t be the newly created ATP Cup, which has a prize money pool of $15 million. The Laver Cup has managed to gain growth within the past three years. Meanwhile, the Davis Cup has received a much-needed investment from Kosmos. Creating a complicated situation in the sport.

“Is this the perfect scenario? No.” Admits Becker. “But I don’t want to talk about the politics in tennis. I think we are here today to speak about a new competition, a new venture, a new event, which is great.”
“I’m not responsible for the Davis Cup format, and I’m not responsible for the Laver Cup, either.”

The ATP Cup will officially launch on January 3d.

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ATP Finals 2019 Day 5 Preview: Will It Be Djokovic Or Federer In The Semis?

It’s the 49th installment of Federer against Djokovic, with the winner moving onto the semifinals, and the loser being eliminated from the tournament.

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The advancement scenarios for today are that simple, as Dominic Thiem has already guaranteed his place in the semis with tremendous back-to-back wins over both Djokovic and Federer.  For Djokovic, there are also year-end No.1 ranking implications, as he now needs to win this event to keep his hopes alive. And while Matteo Berrettini cannot advance to the semis after going 0-2 thus far, he’ll play to become the first Italian man to ever win a match at the ATP Finals.

 

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Matteo Berrettini (8)

This will be their third meeting within the past five weeks.  Berrettini prevailed in the Shanghai quarterfinals to reach his first Masters 1,000 semi, while Thiem was victorious at home in Vienna on his way to that title.  Their only other previous encounter was last year at Roland Garros, where Dominic won in four. What a week it’s already been for Thiem, but he has a lot of work still ahead of him.  And perhaps he is due for a letdown after two sensational wins, especially with his qualification for the semifinals already secured. However, Dominic should feel supremely confident coming off his results earlier this week.  And I’m sure his team will warn him of the danger in allowing his level to drop today, even with the result having no impact on his advancement. On the other side of the net, Berrettini has absolutely nothing to lose. Matteo can play freely, and knows he owns a recent win over Thiem.  Still, based on his form this week, Dominic should be favored to go 3-0 in the Bjorn Borg Group round robin play.

Novak Djokovic (2) vs. Roger Federer (3)

Four months ago in this same city, Djokovic saved two championship points and went on to defeat Federer in the first-ever 12-all fifth set tiebreak at Wimbledon to win his 16th Major singles title.  It was a heartbreaking loss for Federer, who was just one point away from his record-extending 21st Major.  Instead, he’s now just four Majors ahead of Djokovic, and only one ahead of Nadal after Rafa’s US Open victory.  Overall Djokovic leads this prolific rivalry 26-22. Novak has claimed their last five meetings, dating back to the championship match at this event four years ago.  But notably, Roger’s last win was just a few days prior, during the round robin stage of this tournament in 2015. On hard courts, Djokovic leads their head-to-head 19-17.  At the ATP Finals, Novak leads 3-2. Djokovic looked extremely agitated at times on Tuesday, seemingly surprised by how vehemently the crowd was rooting for Thiem. But Djokovic will know the London audience to be fully behind Roger today, so I don’t expect that to throw him.  Federer will certainly be eager to avenge the Wimbledon defeat from earlier this year, though overcoming Djokovic on this surface is no easy task. I anticipate another tight contest today between these two all-time greats, but give the slight edge to Novak to prevent Roger from advancing to the semifinals for just the second time in 17 appearances at the ATP Finals.

A breakdown of the Djokovic-Federer rivalry

By tournament

Grand Slams: Djokovic leads 10-6
ATP Finals: Djokovic leads 3-2
Masters 1000: Djokovic leads 11-9
ATP 500 events: Federer leads 4-2
Davis Cup: Federer leads 1-0

By year

YEAR

DJOKOVIC

FEDERER

2006

0

2

2007

1

3

2008

1

2

2009

3

2

2010

1

4

2011

4

1

2012

3

2

2013

2

0

2014

3

3

2015

5

3

2016

1

0

2017

0

0

2018

2

0

2019

1

0

 TOTAL

26

22

 

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