Novak Djokovic cruises past Kei Nishikori in London - UBITENNIS
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Novak Djokovic cruises past Kei Nishikori in London

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Novak Djokovic in action during the 2015 ATP Finals (image via www.barclaysatpworldtourfinals.com)

Novak Djokovic has started the defence of his title at the ATP Finals by crushing Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-1,  at the O2 Arena.

 

Djokovic is bidding to win his 11th title of 2015 at the prestigious year-end championship and become the first man in history to win the ATP Finals four consecutive times. Leading up to the final event of 2015, Djokovic defeated Andy Murray to claim a record breaking sixth Masters title of the season at the BNP Paribas Masters. In Contrast Nishikori was forced to end his presence at the tournament early due to injury.

The world No.1 settled into the match instantly as he dominated proceedings on the court to take the first game before having a double chance to break Nishikori in his first service game. The Japanese player successfully fended off both of the break points, with the help of a poor drop shot from Djokovic, but was still unable to prevent the Serbian from breaking him as Djokovic surged to a 3-0 lead. Despite the early onslaught, Nishikori finally got himself onto the scoreboard as he took the fourth game following an unforced error from his opponent, setting off a big cheer at the O2 Arena. Despite getting on the scoreboard, Nishikori was unable to tame Djokovic. The world No.1 moved effortlessly around the court, pushing Nishikori side to side, as he broke once again to lead 5-1. Serving for the first set, Djokovic fired a serve out wide to get two set points. He required only one as a second successive serve out wide force the world No.8 to return into the net.

The Djokovic dominance continued as he broke at the start of the second set due to a sluggish unforced error from Nishikori. Despite the one-sided scoreline, the world No.8 did at times produced impressive play, but they were rare against the brilliant display produced from the top seed. Last year Nishikori was the only player to take a set off Djokovic during the ATP Finals.

Leading by a set and a break, Djokovic appeared relaxed on the court against an increasingly frustrated Nishikori. The pressure applied by the 28-year-old was relentless as he broke yet again to grab a strong hold on the match, leading by a set and 4-1. Nishikori appeared on course to claim his third game of the match before a double fault enabled Djokovic to level at deuce. As the pressure bombarded Nishikori, a forehand unforced error gave Djokovic his first match point. The top seed only required one match point as he finished off a beautifully constructed rally with a backhand winner at the net to secure the victory.

During the 66-minute match, Djokovic lost only nine points on his serve. In addition the world No.1 also produced 6 aces, 17 winners and converted 5/9 break points.

Following his win, Djokovic received a trophy from the ATP for finishing the year as the world No.1. It is the fourth time in Djokovic’s career that he has ended the year at the top of the world rankings after 2011, 2012 and 2014. Following his trophy presentation, Djokovic reflected on his year.

“Undoubtedly it has been the most successful and best year of my life. I have become a father and got married. Those are the kind of trophies that means that most. These have positively reflected on my performance this year”. Said Djokovic.
“2011 and 2015 has stood out, I look back at them with pride and joy”.

The top seed also thanked his team for supporting him throughout the year, including both his family as well as his coaching team.

“They are helping me each and every day to get better, not just as a player but as a person”. He said.

Djokovic ended his on-court interview by paying tribute to the victims in last Friday’s Paris terror attacks, ending with an applause from the London crowd.

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Loss Meaningless To Dominic Thiem In Hunt For ‘Most Difficult’ Title At ATP Finals

The world No.5 explains why the key to his latest match was keeping it short, but not necessarily winning.

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LONDON: Dominic Thiem isn’t going to be losing any sleep over his latest loss at the ATP Finals with the ultimate prize still in his sight.

 

Thiem, who qualified for the semi-finals of the tournament of Tuesday, was far from his best as he slumped to a straight-sets loss to Matteo Berrettini. Who has become the first Italian in history to win a match at the event. It is hard to read too much into Thiem’s latest performance with him openly admitting that his focus was on his upcoming semi-final clash. Highlighting one of the drawbacks of having a round-robin tournament with some matches providing irrelevant to the overall standings.

“Of course I was still trying to win that match, but also, at the same time, I knew in my head that I have to take care (of my body) for Saturday because obviously, it’s the way more important match,” Thiem explained during his press conference.
“I’m really trying to get the body going 100% for Saturday, and it wouldn’t be that smart if I would have another three-hour match today.”

The comments do not mean that Berrettini just had a walkover win and he was made to work for the victory. Which levels the head-to-head between the two players to 2-2. However, both would admit that with not much on the line there was a lack of intensity.

“I think that today was maybe even the weakest compared to those three (matches).” Thiem states.
“We had a great one in Shanghai. We had a great one in Vienna and also here. Of course, it affected a little bit that both of us, we couldn’t do anything about the standings in the group anymore.”

The 26-year-old has certainly illustrated his worthy candidacy to lift the title on Sunday in London following his previous triumphs. Earlier this week he scored back-to-back wins over Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. Should he end up playing Nadal over the weekend and win, he would become the first player to defeat all members of the Big Three in the same tournament since David Nalbandian at the 2007 Madrid Masters.

There is still a way to go for Thiem to clinch the biggest title of his career to date. The Austrian believes he if he does manage to win the tournament, any other title is not off-limits for him.

“I think that maybe this tournament is the most difficult to win because you have to beat five top 10 guys in a row. Okay, you can afford to lose one match maybe, but still, I’m 100% sure that if you win this title you can win, as well, any other title.” He explains.
“I haven’t done it yet, but I think that if you win this title, it gives you a lot of confidence for Australia (Open) because it’s the closest, but for the full next year as well.”

Few can dispute the fighting spirit of the Austrian on the court in London. However, after a long season, he admits that he isn’t fully healthy. A situation his rivals also find themselves in. Although some are struggling more than others at present.

“I’m not 100%, but it didn’t affect me in these three matches,” Thiem admits. “That’s why I also really need to be careful because I really hope I have two more matches so I can give all that I have and my own 100% in the remaining two matches.”

Thiem could play one of three players in the semi-finals depending on the outcome of Friday’s matches. Awaiting him will be either Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev or Daniil Medvedev. The only way he can play Nadal is if they both progress to the final.

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Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo secure their semifinal spot in the ATP Finals in London

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Former ATP Finals runners-up Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo battled past Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 6-7 (5-7) 6-4 10-7 after 1 hour and 44 minutes to finish the Group Jonas Bjorkman with a 2-1 round robin record.

 

Kubot and Melo came back from an early break down and fended off four set points before Ram and Salisbury converted their fifth chance to win the opening set 6-4.

Kubot and Melo fended off a break point in the seventh game with a great serve, before they converted their first break point in the 10th game.

Kubot and Melo won five consecutive points in the Match Tie-Break to open up a 6-2 lead. The Polish and Brazilian players converted their fourth match point to secure their spot in the semifinal.

 

 

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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 started 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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