Novak Djokovic Below Par is Enough to Beat Tomas Berdych and Clinch Spot in London Semi-Finals - UBITENNIS
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Novak Djokovic Below Par is Enough to Beat Tomas Berdych and Clinch Spot in London Semi-Finals

Ivan Pasquariello

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Novak Djokovic puts together a similar performance to the one that saw him lose in straight sets against Roger Federer on Thursday at the ATP World Tour Finals. A below par Djokovic is though enough to beat Tomas Berdych 6-3 7-5 in 1 hour and 29 minutes. The Serb was assured a place in the semis after winning the first set. Four of the top five ranked players on the ATP World Tour will play in the semi-finals.

 

 

He needed one set, one set only to be sure he would still keep his bid to win 4 consecutive championships at the ATP World Tour finals alive. No one has ever done it before, and Novak Djokovic’s run to tennis history is yet to come to a halt. After all, against a player like Tomas Berdych – whom he had beaten 2o times out of 22 – even a below par Djokovic was enough to sail through, securing at least one set.

Analysing the meaning of below par, even a World No.1 capable of only firing one single winner, to 8 unforced errors, was enough to win a set by 6 games to 3 against the World No.6. The truth is that Novak Djokovic was a dull copy of the player seen so far in the season, something much closer in its essence to the player who lost in straight sets to Roger Federer in London on Tuesday.

Unable to dictate the play, hardly moving as fast as we have seen him doing all year long, the first player to miss on a regular basis in 5-shot or more rallies, clearly the Serb is struggling to find his best self in London this year. After a brilliant performance against Nishikori in his debut match at the O2, Novak has hardly been himself again. Passive in his shot making, almost to the point where he doubts his weapons, the same ones that have let him dominate the tour almost unbeaten this year.

The slower surface of the O2 Arena should help the Serb create his “Spider Web” – as Federer likes to call it – but is surprisingly working as a counter-punch to the Serb’s consistency.

That said, even winning just 52% of the points on first serve, and a -7 differential between winners and unforced errors, only firing one single winner on his backhand throughout the entire match, having no baseline winners to his name in the first set, Novak has managed to find a way and win the match in straight sets.

Rather than a disappointing performance then, the Serb can see this victory as a blatant revelation of his superiority on the rest of the field in men’s tennis. Sure Berdych helped, once again falling victim of his nerves and melting like snow in the sun on the most important moments, once again unable to find the extra something he needs to take the lead against the top competitors in the sport.

Djokovic needed one set, and took two. The Serb may have lost his first match since August two days ago, his first indoor match in three years, but he still is in the game. Right after beating the World No.1, Roger Federer said: “I see Novak as the favourite to win still. He is going to do well against Berdych and then in the semis he will be the favourite to win the tournament again to me”.

And that same feeling spreads across tennis experts, fans and competitors. After all, Djokovic has built a mental invulnerability that tells him he can still find a way out even when things don’t look great, even if his tennis is not responding to the Robo-Nole commands.

Now the tournament presents the semis with 4 of the top 5 players competing. The Serb is the favourite, because when tournaments hit the latest stages, he tends to be the one finding that extra sparkle and fire to tore off the competition and finish on top.

It has been a recurring story this year on the tour. Now the Serb has to fight for history.

 

MATCH REPORT

 

Novak Djokovic (SRB) b. Tomas Berdych (CZE)

O2 Arena, London

RR Barclays ATP World Tour Finals

 

Head-2-Head = Djokovic leads 20-2

 

Qualification Outcomes

  • Berdych wins in 2 sets = Berdych advances to the semi-finals
  • Berdych wins in 3 sets = Djokovic advances to the semi-finals
  • Djokovic wins in 2 sets = Djokovic advances to the semi-finals
  • Djokovic wins in 3 sets = Djokovic advances to the semi-finals

 

THE FIRST SET

 

Djokovic breaks in the second game attacking to lead 2-0. In the third game, Berdych breaks back to trail 1-2.

 

The Serb has three chances to take the lead again, when Berdych misses an easy forehand long to go down 0-40. Berdych saves all three break points, one with a first serve and then firing two consecutive aces. The Czech challenges Djokovic’s backhand and surprisingly as the rallies grow longer, it is Tomas who gains the edge. Djokovic so far looks a very close version to the player who lost to Federer in straight sets. With another first serve, Berdych saves the game and holds to set the score tied at 2-2.

 

The Czech has another chance on Djokvovic’s serve up 15-30 after winning an impressive point at the net with a backhand volley winner. The World No.1 reacts right away to regain the lead in the game and the set, closing the game with a first serve. 3-2 Djokovic.

 

As the match continues in being a baseline battle, it is the Czech who seems more capable of finding aggressive solutions to win the rallies. Berdych is the first player to take control of the court, advances at the net at 40-30 and closes the game with a stunning backhand drop volley to set the score at 3-3.

 

So far in the match, Novak Djokovic has only hit one single winner and 7 unforced errors, compared to Berdyhc’s 10 winners and 10 unforced errors. Clearly the Serb isn’t playing at his best, but is enough to keep the lead in the set at 4-3.

 

As it happens many times, Berdych feels the nerves when the match gets closer to a deciding moment. The Czech from 30-15 hits first a forehand and then a backhand both just wide, to face a break point at 30-40. Tomas uses his first serve yet again to exit trouble. Djokovic however finds a sparkle of brilliance right when he needs it the most. The World No.1 attacks Berdych’s backhand to get another chance to break at 40-A. As a response, Tomas fires an ace, the 4th in the match, to get back to deuce. On the following point, Berdych kills a forehand in the net and Djokovic has his 3rd break point in the game. This time, the Serb breaks thanks to a terrible unforced error committed by the Czech. Berdych fires a strong first serve wide, but then decides to step on court and try to close the point with an airborne forehand which finishes in the net. Djokovic breaks and leads 5-3 to serve for the set.

 

Djokovic has his first set points up 40-15. While on the first the Serb hits a backhand long, on the second Berdych hits a backhand return long. Djokovic wins the set 6-3 in 42 minutes and mathematically secures his access to the semi-finals.

 

Djokovic closed the set with 1 winner and 8 unforced errors. Berdych with 12 winners and 18 unforced errors.

 

With Djokovic qualified, 4 of the first 5 players in the rankings reach the semi-finals in London.

 

THE SECOND SET

 

No matter the score in the set, the semi-finals are already decided in London for the Stan Smith group, with Federer advancing as first and Djokovic as second in the group.

 

The second set starts with 3 break point chances for Djokovic, who breaks at 30 and takes an early lead up 1-0. The Serb soon leads for 2-0 and it seems the match is heading towards the predicted finish.

 

Despite being virtually already out of the tournament, Berdych has a reaction of pure pride as he strikes full swing and breaks back to trail 1-2. The Czech continues to push the Serb and the service games of both players start to go away easyer. With Berdych holding serve to 30 in the 7th game (despite a stunning forehand return winner from Djokovic on 40-0) the Czech now leads 4-3.

 

Knowing there is not much more than pride at stake, the match fails to pull the strings of excitement. Both players manage to stay strong on their serve. Djokovic serves down 4-5, but wins the game with a forehand winner, his 10th winner in the match.

 

At 5-5, the World No.1 has a chance to close the match as he raises to 0-30 on Berdych’s serve. The Serb gets to triple break points at 0-40. On the first chance, Berdych catches the net on a backhand drop volley and the ball barely bounces in Djokovic’s half of the court. On his second chance, Djokovic attacks Berdych on the forehand, the Czech hits long and Novak closes the game to lead 6-5.

 

Djokovic serves for the match in the 12th game after 43 minutes since the start of the second set. The Serb gets to match point attacking with his forehand on Berdych’s backhand to lead 40-15 as Tomas hits a defensive slice wide. Djokovic closes out the contest with a first serve on which Berdych returns a chopped forehand in the net. Djokovic wins 6-3 7-5 after 1 hour and 29 minutes.

He advances to the semi-finals as second in the Stan Smith group, after Roger Federer.

Djokovic closes the second set with 9 winners and 8 unforced errors, finishing the match with 10 winners and 16 unforced errors. Berdych loses with 26 winners and 31 unforced errors to his name. The Czech has dominated the play, but has failed to win the most important points, yet again.

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Novak Djokovic Included In ATP Cup Field, Expected To Play Australian Open

The world No.1 is down to play in the team tournament but he is yet to publicly comment.

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Novak Djokovic at the 2021 Rolex Paris Masters (Credit: Roberto Dell'Olivo)

Novak Djokovic has officially been named in the line-up for next month’s ATP Cup in what is the biggest indication yet that he will travel to Australia.

 

The 20-time Grand Slam champion is set to headline the team event in Sydney which will feature 18 out of the world’s top 20 players. Djokovic guided Serbia to the title back in 2020 but this year they failed to progress beyond the knockout stages after losing to Germany. The country is the top seeds for the 2021 edition and have been drawn in Group A along with Norway, Chile and Spain. Seedings in the event are determined by the ranking of the country’s top player.

Djokovic’s inclusion in the squad is the biggest hint yet that he intends to defend his title at the upcoming Australian Open which will only allow players who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to participate. The rules are in line with a health mandate that has been implemented in the state of Victoria. In recent weeks the 34-year-old has refused to disclose his vaccination status and has been coy about his plans at the Melbourne major.

“The players are aware of the conditions if they come to Australia so if they’re playing in the ATP Cup we’re expecting all those players to play the Australian Open,” tournament director Tom Larner told reporters on Tuesday.

The region where the ATP Cup is played doesn’t have the same entry criteria as the Australian Open regarding a mandatory vaccination. However, unvaccinated players will have to apply for an exemption and then go through a 14-day quarantine if they still wanted to play in the event.

Besides Djokovic, US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, Olympic gold medallist Alexander Zverev and Matteo Berrettini are all set to play. The event will also see the return of Dominic Thiem who hasn’t played on the Tour since June due to a wrist injury. Stefanos Tsitsipas is also on the entry list despite recently undergoing surgery on his elbow.

“There’s no better place for us to launch the 2022 season than with the ATP Cup in Sydney. The players have loved competing at this event in recent years and the 2022 player field speaks for itself. We’re delighted that fans will be able to see so many of the world’s best representing their countries in the opening week of the season and we look forward to a fantastic event.” ATP Cup Chief Tour Officer Ross Hutchins said in a statement.

A total of 16 countries are participating in the ATP Cup and they have been split into four groups of four. The winner of each group will then move into the semi-finals. Each tie will consist of two singles matches and one doubles. A total of USD$10 million in prize money is up for grabs and singles players can earn a maximum of 750 ranking points.

The ATP Cup is set to get underway on January 1st.

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Bianca Andreescu delays season won’t travel to Australia

Bianca Andreescu will miss the start of the season in Australia after a tough 2021 season.

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Bianca Andreescu (@OduNews1 - Twitter)

The Canadian went on social media to break the news that she needs a little more time to rehab, prepare and focus on mental health.

 

Bianca Andreescu’s most recent tennis season wasn’t easy and amid a difficult year with highs and lows with twists and turns, she has decided to delay the beginning of her season.

The Toronto native took to Twitter to break the news to announce she was going through a difficult time including the fact she was worried about her grandmother who was in the ICU due to Covid.

Andreescu got off to a slow start last season losing in the second round of the Australian Open but bounced back in Miami in the first WTA 1000 tournament of the year making the final.

In that final, she faced the world number one Ash Barty but was actually forced to retire after a scary tumble for her first injury of the season. The clay-court season was even more hectic as she had tested positive for Covid herself and played one tune-up event prior to the French Open.

She won two matches in Strasbourg before pulling out of precaution due to an ab tear and ended up being upset in the first round of Roland Garros to the Slovenian Tamara Zidansek.

She then turned to the grass-court season where she won one match in Eastbourne, one where she struggled to get past the American qualifier Christina Mchale but managed to pull it off in three sets.

She lost her next match to the Estonian Anett Kontaveitt in straight sets and went on to her next grass-court event in the German capital of Berlin. She was upset once again by Alize Cornet of France.

She faced Cornet once again in round one of Wimbledon but again failed to get the win. She then played her home event the National Bank Open in Montreal where she lost in the round of 16 to the Tunisian Ons Jabeur.

In Cincinnati, she suffered another first-round exit at the hands of the Czech Karolina Muchova but managed to have a great US Open run in New York where again she made the round of 16.

She eventually lost to Maria Sakkari of Greece in a tough three-set match and played two more events in Chicago and Indian Wells. In the windy city, she lost her opening match to Shelby Rodgers and made the second round in California losing once again to Kontaveitt.

After all her 2019 points dropped off she is now ranked 46 in the world.

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Davis Cup Chiefs Presses Ahead With Five-City Plan But Admits Not Everybody Will Be Happy

Unanswered questions remain over the staging of next year’s historic team event but both Kosmos and the ITF are confident about their plans.

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MADRID, SPAIN - DECEMBER 05: Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals 2021 at Madrid Arena on December 05, 2021 in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Manuel Queimadelos / Quality Sport Images / Kosmos Tennis)

The Organizers of the Davis Cup say that they can’t avoid negative ‘noise’ about them after revealing their plans for the 2022 edition of the tournament.

 

Next year will see the finals of the competition staged across five cities over a 11-day period. The number of teams participating will be cut from 18 to 16 and then split into four groups. Each group will play in a designated city which will be held in a country of one of the qualified teams. Those who progress to the knockout stages will then have to fly to a ‘neutral’ location for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.

There remain a lot of unanswered questions about the latest format change with the host cities yet to be revealed. Something which confused many journalists on Sunday after they originally received an invitation titled ‘next destination’ which indicated that the name of the host countries would be revealed. It is widely speculated that Abu Dhabi will be one of the main cities selected for 2022 and is strongly favoured to host the knockout stages. A somewhat controversial decision to move the event to an area which doesn’t have a rich Davis Cup history.

Refusing to name any countries, the president of the International Tennis Federation, David Haggerty, told reporters that he is ‘unaware’ of any opposition to where the tournament could be held. Even though Australian Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt last week accused officials of ‘selling the soul’ of the competition amid reports it could be heading to the UAE.

“I can tell you that we are in final negotiations. We haven’t signed so we didn’t think it was proper to make an announcement. There is no opposition that we’re aware of. We’re very pleased with the preferred city that we’re in final stages with,” Said Haggerty.

Enric Rojas is the president of Investment firm Kosmos who are in charge of overseeing the Davis Cup after signing a 25-year deal worth millions back in 2018. He confirmed that discussions have taken place with various stakeholders about the competition but it is unclear as to how much say they have had in the decision making process. Whilst the 2021 finals has been praised by some, Rojas acknowledges that he is unable to please everybody.

“We cannot avoid some noise around everything we do. We have faced that since 2018 and in 2019, now in 2021, especially coming from a few countries,” he said.
“I have the feeling after speaking to many players, captains and federations that the noise that we are hearing is because of Abu Dhabi or because of other things, that noise will always happen irrespective of whatever you do.’
“There will be some flexibility in the process, but we are looking for having agreements with the host cities and the countries in between three and five years.”

There is still more clarity needed on the staging of the competition. One of which being what happens if a country who has agreed to host the group stages of the event over a fixed period doesn’t qualify one year. Will they continue to host the competition or do they lose out to another country? One option to avoid this could be the use of wildcards but organisers normally change countries each year.

As for the players, all concede that having an event such as the Davis Cup at the end of a long season is a massive challenge. Marin Cilic played in the title match on Sunday where Croatia lost 2-0 to the Russian Tennis Federation.

It definitely is different,” Cilic commented on the Davis Cup changes in recent years. “But it’s tough to say in the end what is better, what is not. For us the whole system worked. This new system worked amazingly well.”

World No.2 Daniil Medvedev has voiced his backing to the prospect of having the 2022 finals staged across Europe, then moving the knockout stages to the Middle East. However, he admits the timing of the competition is problematic for some of his peers.

“I think the idea itself is very good. Of course, the calendar doesn’t let Davis Cup be in any other week, so that’s where it’s tough. That’s where some top players are not going to play because it’s the end of the season, somebody’s burned out, somebody’s injured, somebody wants to prepare well for Australia, so that’s not easy.” Medvedev told reporters on Sunday.
“It’s going to be tough for any player, especially those who play the Masters (ATP Finals), to be able to cope up with the season.” He added.

According to Kosmos, the four cities which will host the group ties will have to go through a bidding process with the final decision made next March. As for the fifth neutral venue, Abu Dhabi has been described as the ‘preferred option’ but it hasn’t been officially signed off yet. It has been confirmed that the entire 2022 Finals must be staged indoors regardless of the host country in order to minimised players need to adapt to various conditions.

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