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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Dominic Thiem Rules Federer Out Of GOAT Debate

The Austrian puts forward his theory on who should be regarded as the best player in history.

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Dominic Thiem; e-motion/Bildagentur Zolles KG/Martin Steiger, 27.10.2022

The honour of which player deserves to be regarded as the greatest of all time (GOAT) should be decided based on one factor, according to Dominic Thiem. 

 

The former world No.3 has weighed in on the debate by suggesting that the argument should be settled by the number of Grand Slam titles a player has won as they are the most prestigious tournaments in the sport. In tennis, the four major tournaments are the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and the US Open. 

Thiem’s GOAT criteria have therefore ruled Roger Federer out of contention. The Swiss maestro was at one stage the frontrunner due to the numerous records he has broken throughout his career. However, he retired from the sport last year with 20 Grand Slam trophies under his belt which is less than both Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic who are currently on 22 each. 

“In my opinion, the Grand Slam titles should be the defining criteria when determining the best of all time, they are the four most important tournaments in tennis,” Eurosport quotes Thiem as saying. 
“Everything else is fine, but it’s not the same. The Slams are what counts, so the GOAT will probably be the one with the most Grand Slams.”

Others will argue that more factors should be taken into account in the subjective debate. For example, Federer has won 103 ATP titles which are more than his two rivals, Djokovic holds the record for most weeks as world No.1 and Nadal has won more tournaments on clay than any other player in history. Furthermore, there is the players’ win-loss rate on the Tour and their records against the top 10 players. 

Recently at the Australian Open Djokovic won the men’s title for a historic 10th time in his career. An achievement that has been hailed by Thiem who was runner-up to the Serbian at Melbourne Park in 2021. 

“I am not very surprised, Djokovic still looks young,” he said. “Physically and mentally, because of the way he moves on the court. It’s like he was 25 years old.
“We have to be honest, he is the best, so his victory was not very surprising.”

Thiem has won one Grand Slam title which was at the 2020 US Open when he became the first man in the Open Era to come back from two sets down to win in the final. He has also been runner-up at the French Open twice, as well as the Australian Open once. 

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Novak Djokovic’s Australian Open Injury ‘Hard To Believe’ In The Eyes Of His Opponent

Some details surrounding Djokovic’s battle with a hamstring issue ‘doesn’t make sense,’ according to Enzo Couacaud.

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Image via Adelaide International Twitter

The only man to take a set off Novak Djokovic during the Serbian’s run to a historic 10th Australian Open title believes there are unanswered questions over his injury. 

 

France’s Enzo Couacaud took a set off the world No.1 before losing their encounter in the second round at Melbourne Park. At the tournament Djokovic was dealing with a hamstring problem which he picked up at the Adelaide International earlier this year. Throughout the tournament, he was wearing strapping on his leg and there was uncertainty about if he would be able to continue playing in the Grand Slam event. 

Despite the issue, Djokovic claimed a record-equalling 22nd Grand Slam title by disposing of Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets in the final. Afterwards his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, claimed that 97% of players would not have played if they were in a similar situation. The exact diagnosis of Djokovic’s injury hasn’t been addressed by his team but Australian Open director Craig Tiley said he suffered a 3mm tear. 

However, Couacaud has questioned the significance of the injury to begin with. During an interview with Tennis Actu, the world No.172 believes that some of the details appear to be ‘far-fetched’ as he draws parallels with Rafael Nadal, as well as footballer Kylian Mbappe.  

“Novak claimed he was playing with an injury, a big injury,” said Couacaud. “When athletes are injured in combat sports, they often can’t continue. When Rafael Nadal is injured, he can’t run. Kylian Mbappe, for example, is out for two weeks.
“And those are the greatest athletes, not those who don’t have access to top-notch care. It is therefore difficult to believe that only one man in the world can continue with an injury.
“When you take the examples of Nadal or Mbappe, but especially Rafa, with an injury to Wimbledon, he couldn’t even serve. When you see the greatest who can’t set foot on the pitch and another who wins a Grand Slam by playing every day for 15 days. It still seems a bit far-fetched.
“There are little things that don’t make sense to me. I was always told not to stretch with an injury. You saw Novak stretching all the time. You say to yourself, either they have a new method in Serbia, or it’s weird. Little things like that, he has his staff, but I’m too far to judge the authenticity of anything. It is true that it seems hard to believe.”

It is not the first time Djokovic has faced accusations that he has in some way exaggerated the significance of an injury. He encountered a similar situation during the 2021 Australian Open where he suffered an abdominal injury. After winning the tournament, he confirmed that he sustained a tear in the region. 

Speaking to journalists at Melbourne Park last month, the tennis star once again hit back at his critics and claimed that he was being singled out. 

“I leave the doubting to those people – let them doubt,” Tennis Majors quoted Djokovic as saying in Serbian following his fourth round win over Alex de Minaur. “Only my injuries are questioned. When some other players are injured, then they are the victims, but when it is me, I am faking it. It is very interesting… I don’t feel that I need to prove anything to anyone.
“I am not really interested at this point what people are thinking and saying. It is fun, it is interesting to see how the narrative surrounding me continues, narrative that is different compared to other players that have been going through similar situation. But I am used to it, and it just gives me extra strength and motivation. So I thank them for that.”

Djokovic has won 93 ATP titles during his career which is the fourth-highest tally in history. Only Ivan Lendl (94), Roger Federer (102) and Jimmy Connors (109) have won more. 

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Nick Kyrgios Admits Assaulting Former Girlfriend But Avoids Prosecution

The tennis star says he ‘deeply regrets’ how he reacted during an argument with his former partner.

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Nick Kyrgios (AUS) playing against Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) in the third round of the Gentlemen's Singles on No.1 Court at The Championships 2021. Held at The All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon. Day 6 Saturday 03/07/2021. Credit: AELTC/Jonathan Nackstrand

Nick Kyrgios will not be charged with assault despite pleading guilty to shoving over his former girlfriend following an argument. 

 

The Wimbledon finalist attended court on Friday after he was accused by his former partner, Chiara Passari, of assaulting her during an incident that took place on January 10th 2021. Kyrgios was initially charged following an argument which took place outside of Passari’s apartment in the inner-city Canberra suburb of Kingston. 

At a hearing at the ACT Magistrates Court, it was revealed that Kyrgios’ ex-girlfriend was standing in front of an Uber car door which prevented him from closing it before he pushed her over. When she fell to the ground, he was heard saying ‘seriously.’ In the minutes leading up to what happened, Kyrgios told Passari “leave me the f*** alone” and to “just f***ing piss off” when he was asked to get out of the car and calm down. He had called for an Uber ride following their argument. 

Passari, who didn’t report the incident to the police until 10 months after it happened, suffered a grazed knee and hurt her shoulder as a result of her fall, according to her legal filing. Kyrgios apologized for his actions two days later when the two met at a Canberra cafe. Unknown to him at the time, that conversation was recorded by Passari. The two continued their relationship for some months before breaking up. 

Magistrate Beth Campbell has ruled in Kyrgios’ favour despite him owning up to his actions. In her verdict, Campbell said the seriousness of the matter was ‘low’ and the tennis star was not likely to re-offend again. 

“You acted in the heat of the moment,” she said.
“I am dealing with you in the same way I would deal with any young man in this court. You are a young man who happens to hit a tennis ball particularly well.”

During the hearing, evidence was heard from Kyrgios’ psychologist, Sam Borenstein, who said his mental health issues were ‘recurrent’ and he has suffered from thoughts of self-harm. Although Borestein says his condition has improved in recent times. Furthermore, Kyrgios’ lawyer, Michael Kukulies-Smith, said there was “a relationship between the mental health and the offending – even though he no longer suffers it to the same extent today.”

In a statement issued following the court’s decision, Kyrgios said he reacted ‘in a way he regretted’ and apologized for his actions. He went on to attribute what happened to his mental health condition at the time. 

“I respect today’s ruling and I am grateful to the court for dismissing the charges without conviction,” he said.
“I was not in a good place when this happened and I reacted to a difficult situation in a way I deeply regret. I know it wasn’t OK and I am sincerely sorry for the hurt I caused.
“Mental health is tough. Life can seem overwhelming. But I have found that getting help and working on myself has allowed me to feel better.”

Before his guilty plea, Kyrgios had argued that the charge should be dropped on the grounds of his mental health but that appeal was withdrawn when the court found that he is not currently suffering from a major depressive illness. 

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