ATP Finals Day 1 Preview: The Tournament Begins with a Rematch of Last Year’s Final - UBITENNIS
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ATP Finals Day 1 Preview: The Tournament Begins with a Rematch of Last Year’s Final

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Stefanos Tsitsipas starts his title defense today in London (Ella Ling/ATP Tour)

For the twelfth and final time, the ATP Finals will be staged at London’s O2 Arena.  And due to the pandemic lockdown, it will be held without fans.

 

Round-robin play commences today.  After three rounds, the top two players from each group of four will advance to Saturday’s semifinals.  Group London play their first matches today, which consists of Roland Garros champion Rafael Nadal, US Open champion Dominic Thiem, defending champion Stefanos Tsitsipas, and the ATP’s winningest player in 2020, Andrey Rublev.  Tomorrow, Group Tokyo will take the court, which features Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic, Paris Masters champion Daniil Medvedev, US Open finalist Sascha Zverev, and Rome Masters finalist Diego Schwartzman. 

A year ago at this event, Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Dominic Thiem in an excellent championship match, decided by a third set tiebreak.  Today they will play the first singles match of the tournament, in their first meeting since last year’s final.  During the evening session, Rafael Nadal will begin his tenth attempt at winning this elusive title, the most glaring omission on his amazing resume.  He’ll face Andrey Rublev, who is making his ATP Finals debut after leading the tour with five titles and 40 match wins this season.

Dominic Thiem (3) vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas (6)

Despite his loss at the end of last year’s tournament, it was a great run for Thiem, who defeated both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in round-robin play.  Also despite that loss, Dominic owns a 4-3 record against Tsitsipas, and a 3-2 edge on hard courts.  Thiem had a great year at the Majors in 2020: he was a quarterfinalist at Roland Garros, the runner-up in Melbourne, and won his first Slam at the US Open.  But outside the Majors, Dominic is a meager 5-5 this season.  He only played one event and three matches during the indoor hard court season, losing to Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals of Vienna.  He did not play the Paris Indoors due to a foot blister, but has stated that’s no longer an issue.  Tsitsipas didn’t fare as well as Thiem at this year’s Slams, but has accumulated 28 match wins and reached three tour finals.  He went just 1-2 on indoor hard courts this past month, so neither player arrives with much momentum.  But in this battle of one-handed backhands, Tsitsipas should be slightly favored, as he’s the better player on indoor hard courts.  Four of his five career titles have come on indoor hard courts, while Thiem actually has a losing record in his career at this event.

Rafael Nadal (2) vs. Andrey Rublev (7)

This will be only their second career meeting, with the first taking place over three years ago.  In the quarterfinals of the 2017 US Open, Nadal dropped only four games to comfortably dismiss Rublev.  That was Andrey’s breakout Major.  A back injury the following year deterred his progress, but now he’s one of the ATP’s most reliable performers.  In addition to his five titles this year, he reached the second week at all three Majors.  And notably, four of his titles came on hard courts.  While Nadal’s 2020 highlight of course was winning his 20th Major at the French Open, he’s compiled an impressive 16-4 record this year on hard courts.  But this indoor hard court event at the end of the tennis calendar has been a struggle for Nadal.  He’s missed or retired from this tournament due to injury five of the last eight years.  And he hasn’t advanced out of the round-robin stage since 2015.  Facing this year’s best hard court player will not be an easy start.  Though Rublev will surely be nervous for ATP Finals debut, he’s won three of his last five matches against top five opposition (as per Tennis Abstract).  Those two losses were to Daniil Medvedev, a tricky matchup for Rublev due to their lifelong friendship.  So it would not be surprising to see Rublev pull off the upset on Sunday.  His game is better suited for these conditions than Nadal’s.

Other Notable Matches on Day 1:

Australian Open champions Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (2) vs. Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo, who won two ATP titles this year.

Roland Garros champions Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies (3) vs. Wesley Koolhof and Nikola Mektic (5), who lost to Krawietz and Mies in the Roland Garros semifinals.

Full order of play is here.

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Next Generation Not Even Close To Upstaging Tennis’ Big Three, Says Andy Murray

The three-time Grand Slam champion had some harsh words for those hoping to end the dominance of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

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There has been a lot of talk about who may take over from the reign of the Big Three in the future but Andy Murray believes there is still a long way to go until that happens.

 

The former world No.1 believes the next generation of players are yet to prove they have what it takes to take over from the trio who has won 15 out of the past 16 Grand Slam tournaments between them. Dominic Thiem is the only exception after triumphing at the US Open last year. Between them they have won 271 titles on the ATP Tour and have spent over 800 weeks at the top of the rankings.

On Sunday Novak Djokovic continued the Big Three’s dominance by downing Daniil Medvedev in three sets to win the Australian Open. Dealing another blow to those hoping that a change of guard in the men’s game will occur soon.

“I expected the final to be closer to be honest but I also know how good Novak is there and when he’s on his game and obviously highly motivated,” Murray told The Press Association.
“I saw before the final Medvedev said something along the lines of Novak having immense pressure on him, which is true, but those guys have been at the top of the game, they’ve been dealing with immense pressure their whole careers and they know how to deal with it and perform at their best level when it matters.”

Continuing his assessment of the current game, Murray said that Thiem’s US Open win last year was more of a blip rather than any potential momentum changer. Both Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic were absent from the tournament. Meanwhile, Novak Djokjovic ended up getting disqualified following a mishap.

“The younger guys, for me, they’ve not shown that they’re particularly close,” he said.
“Obviously what happened at the US Open, (Dominic) Thiem did what he had to do to win the event, but, if Novak hadn’t put a ball through the line judge’s throat, it would be the same outcome I think.”

Murray currently has a losing head-to-head record against every member of the Big Three. However, he was the first man in history to have beaten each of them at least five times before Thiem also reached the milestone last November. Overall, he has scored seven wins over Nadal, as well as 11 victories over both Federer and Djokovic.

The Brit is set to return to action later this week at the Montpellier Open in France. He was forced to miss the first Grand Slam of the season after testing positive for COVID-19 and instead played a Challenger event in Italy.

“I didn’t watch any because I wanted to be there myself,” Murray said of missing the Australian Open. “It was a struggle to be honest. I stopped following all the tennis players I follow on social media and stuff because I just didn’t really want to see it.”

In Montpellier Murray will play Egor Gerasimov in his opening match on Tuesday.

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Undeterred Daniil Medvedev Praises The ‘Cyborgs Of Tennis’ After Australian Open Loss

The world No.4 reacts to his loss to Novak Djokovic in Melbourne Park.

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Daniil Medvedev says he is down but not out of the race for Grand Slam glory after losing in the final of the Australian Open on Sunday.

 

The world No.4 fell in straight sets to Novak Djokovic in what was his second taste of playing in a major final. His first was against Rafael Nadal at the 2019 US Open. In his latest encounter Medvedev struggled at times with his unforced error count as he failed to find a way to break down Djokovic’s defensive display.

“It’s definitely tough. I don’t like to lose matches. Doesn’t matter if it’s a first round or a final of a Grand Slam. Of course, it’s just that feeling that you’re closer to holding the trophy than when you lose the first round,” Medvedev told reporters.
“I feel like it’s the kind of matches I won throughout this tournament, he won today.”

Heading into the clash some pundits have tipped the 25-year-old to lift his maiden major title given his recent surge on the Tour. Prior to the showdown he was on a 20-match winning streak with 12 of those victories being over top 10 players. Earlier in the tournament Medvedev scored wins over Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

However, the Russian failed when faced with the ultimate challenge in men’s tennis – playing a member of the Big Three in a Grand Slam. Despite being described by Djokovic as one of his toughest opponents, he is under no illusion of the challenge the trio poses to him and others.

They’re just better than other tennis players. I’m not shy to say this,” Medvedev stated.
“It’s just the truth. In fact, in numbers and everything. After, of course, when you’re out there, you want to beat them. You don’t care that it’s the big three or the big 100. But that’s why they have so many slams. They’re just really good.”

Medvedev does have the weapons to those who he has nicknamed the ‘cyborgs of tennis.’ He has defeated Djokovic three times and Nadal once at the ATP Finals last November.

“We’re talking about some Cyborgs of tennis in a good way. They’re just unbelievable,” he continued.
“Every time I go out there, when I say this, I’m not at all when I’m out there thinking about this, thinking, Okay, they are too strong for me. I always want to win. I beat some of them in some big tournaments, like London for example. Just need to be better next time in the Grand Slam finals against these two guys or Roger.”

It is now a case of what could have been for Medvedev who would have broken into the world’s top two if he had won the Australian Open. To put that achievement into perspective, the last player outside of the Big Four (including Andy Murray) to do so was Lleyton Hewitt in 2005.

“I’m usually quite easy in defeats, I would say. That’s the best part of tennis, is when you win a tournament, if you have a tournament next week and you’re going to lose a final, semifinal, first round, you’re going to be disappointed with the loss, you will almost not remember a win,” he explained.
“I guess it’s different after a Grand Slam win.”

Medvedev will return to action later this month at the Rotterdam Open.

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Novak Djokovic Captures Record Ninth Australian Open Title With Clinical Win over Medvedev

The world No.1 toppled his lacklustre opponent who produced a series of costly unforced errors to seal his 18th major title at Melbourne Park.

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Novak Djokovic has extended his dominance at the Australian Open by comprehensively beating Daniil Medvedev 7-5, 6-2, 6-2, to clinch an historic ninth title in Melbourne Park.

 

The showdown on the Rod Laver Arena was between two giants of the current game. Djokovic is the most decorated male player in Australian Open history and has recorded 11 consecutive wins over top 10 players in the tournament prior to the final. Meanwhile, Medvedev was on a 20-match winning streak with 12 of those victories being against a member of the top 10. However, a large majority of the encounter was dominated by the top seed who produced a total of 20 winners as he broke seven times en route to victory.

“I really like him as a person off the court. On the court, he’s definitely one of the toughest players I ever faced in my life,” Djokovic said of his rival during the trophy ceremony.
“It’s a matter of time that you will hold a Grand Slam for sure – if you don’t mind waiting a few more years…”

For the first time in the Open Era the men’s final was being contested by the first and fourth seeds in what was a battle from the onset. Playing on what he describes as his ‘home court’ Djokovic was the quicker of the two to settle into the match after a forehand down the line from the Serbian triggered a Medvedev error to give him a break en route to a 3-0 lead. Eventually Medvedev regained his footing as he gave his rival a dose of his own medicine by winning three games in a row to draw level. Both illustrated glimpses of their best tennis with sublime defensive play but it was the world No.1 who has the edge in the opener. Leading 6-5 a blistering Djokovic backhand passing shot handed him a trio of break points to clinch the set. He failed in his first two attempts, but it was third time lucky after the Russian fired a forehand shot into the net.

The thunderous hitting continued into the second frame as players started to contend with an increasingly animated crowd who had to be told repeatedly to stay quiet during points. One of the disturbances was a refugee protest which involved the removal of two people. On the court Djokovic once again traded breaks with his rival early on before pulling away with the help of some costly Medvedev mistakes. Prompting the world No.4 to smash one of his rackets out of anger and received a code violation for doing so as he fell behind 2-5. Medvedev’s mood deteriorated further in the next game as the top seed returned a serve deep to the baseline to clinch a two-set lead.

source – AusOpen Twitter

Winning all the mini battles that were fought, Djokovic’s offensive was one that drew his rival to despair who continuously made glimpses towards his camp in the crowd. Mentally Medvedev was done as Djokovic masterfully manoeuvred his way to the trophy once again. A three-game winning streak at the start of the third set placed him within touching distance of the win. Enough of a margin to see him over the finish live as he clinched victory on his first championship point after hitting an overhead volley. Prompting Djokovic to fall to the floor.

“I would like to thank my team,” said the nine-time champion. “It has been a roller-coaster ride for me, especially in the last couple of weeks but always a special thanks to you. You have dedicated so much time making sure I’m able to play and I am grateful to you. Thank you guys, I love you.’
“Last but not least, I would like to thank this court and the Rod Laver Arena. It’s a love affair that keeps going.”

It is the second time that 25-year-old Medvedev has lost in a major final after doing so to Nadal at the 2019 US Open. Although he remains one of the most likely candidates to take over the reign of the Big Three in the years to come. Since the start of 2020 he has won 38 Tour matches which is the third highest on the ATP after Djokovic and Andrey Rublev.

“(It’s) Never easy to speak when you just lost a Grand Slam final, but I’ll do my best!” said Medvedev.
“Congrats to Novak. Nine Slams in Australia is amazing and this won’t be your last one. Just to tell you a small story, I first met Novak when I was 500 or 600 in the world. I thought OK, he’s not going to speak to me, because he was world number one.’
“I was really shy. He was talking to me like I was a friend. He’s never changed – he’s always been a great sport and a great friend.”

The triumph has given Djokovic his 18th Grand Slam title which is just two away from the all-time record currently held by both Nadal and Roger Federer. He has now won a record nine titles in Melbourne Park which makes him only the second male player in history to have won the same major title that amount of times. Nadal has 13 French Open titles to his name. It is also the fifth time in his career Djokovic has successfully defended his title at the Australian Open.

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