Players Bid Farewell To London In Strange Settings At ATP Finals - UBITENNIS
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Players Bid Farewell To London In Strange Settings At ATP Finals

The final chapter of London’s love affair with the season-ending event will begin on Sunday with mixed emotions among those taking part.

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The O2 Arena, venue of the ATP World Tour Finals (photo by Alberto Pezzali)

This year’s ATP Finals will mark the end of an era for a period in which the tournament gained some of its biggest success.

 

London’s love affair with the season-ending tournament will officially end this year with organisers moving the event to the Italian city of Turin. The same country which also stages the ATP Next Gen Finals. Held at The O2 Arena since 2009, the British capital has proven to be a hit for tennis fans with 242,883 attending the 2019 edition over an eight-day period. To put that into perspective the same year Wimbledon recorded its second-highest attendance in history with 500,397 visitors over a 13-day period. Overall, the ATP Finals welcomed a total of 2,803,967 fans between 2009-2019.

“I think the O2 Arena was very successful for this event over the last 11 years. I was fortunate to have plenty of success here and it is hard to pick one of the titles or finals I played (as my favourite). I had some thrilling matches with Roger and Rafa,” five-time champion Novak Djokovic reflected on his time at the event.
“It is definitely one of the most successful arenas to host the ATP Finals in history. It’s going to be strange to bid a farewell without a crowd but nevertheless I think we are all grateful to have the chance to play the tournament here.”

Djokovic’s reference to the strange farewell is due to the fact this year’s edition is being held behind closed doors for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The tournament is taking place during the same time as England’s lockdown, which is set to end on December 2nd. Of course, it is not the first event to be taking place under such circumstances.

“It will feel strange but I think we are already kind of used to it because we have played many tournaments without the presence of the crowd,” Djokovic commented. “That is something that will help us accept these kinds of circumstances as it is.”

In 2018 Alexander Zverev won the biggest title of his career at The O2 with a straight sets win over Djokovic. One of the most intriguing aspects of the ATP Finals has been the fact it hasn’t been won by a member of the Big Three since 2015. A group composed of Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Nadal is the only member of the trio yet to win the title.

“London is a place where we love the atmosphere, we love the stadium and everything. It’s going to be difficult and different but I am still looking forward to playing in this beautiful stadium for the last time. It is still going to be special,” Zverev told reporters on Friday.

The ATP Finals have been held annually since 1970 when it was known as the Grand Prix Masters Cup and there were no ranking points on offer. Over the years the tournament has blossomed in terms of revenue and acclaim. Last year the prize money pool was $9 million with ATP commercial revenues surging by 200% over a decade. Although both of those figures have taken a hit in 2020 due to the pandemic.

Like Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas’ biggest title of his career also took place at the tournament when he clinched the title in 2019 to become the youngest player to do so since Lleyton Hewitt back in 2001. The Greek is bidding to become the third man to defend his ATP Finals title in London after Federer and Djokovic.

“It is like a meeting for those who have had a good year. Celebrating their hard work, dedication to the sport and I’m very privileged to be part of it,” he commented on the showdown. “I know it is not easy to be in this position.’
“I’m proud to say this tournament is one of my favourite tournaments to play.”

Even those who haven’t been so fortunate at the tournament still have high praise for London. 34-year-old Nadal is yet to win the season-ending trophy with his best run being a two-time finalist. Incredibly, he has won 86 ATP titles in his career but only two of those have occurred at indoor events.

“The experience of playing the ATP Finals (in London) has without a doubt been one of the best. The atmosphere, organisation have been great and I think the event has been very popular around the world. The ATP did a great job in choosing London and creating a fantastic event for so many years,” Nadal said.

For Nadal, he is perhaps one of the most forthcoming when it comes to relocating the event. In the past he has expressed support for different countries to hold the event and even the possibility of it being played on another surface than a hard court. It has previously played on carpet and event once on the grass back in 1974.

“Tennis needs to keep moving but at the same time it is not fair to finish the World Tour Finals in London without a crowd. But that is what is happening today,” he said.
“We need to move (the tournament) because I think an event like this needs to go around the world to keep promoting our sport.’
“I expect to have another great event in Turin.”

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Nadal survives three-set marathon with Shapovalov in Rome

Rafael Nadal saved match points to edge out Denis Shapovalov in Rome.

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Rafael Nadal (@atptour - Twitter)

The King of Clay needed three sets and over three hours to claim the win and avoid an upset.

 

Rafael Nadal needed three hours and 27 minutes to beat the Canadian Denis Shapovalov 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 at the Italian Open in Rome hitting 29 winners while his counterpart hit 46 unforced errors in the loss.

To everyone’s surprise it was the world number 14 who came out with the faster start earning two breakpoints in the first service game of the match with a stunning forehand winner.

He would break to take an early 1-0 lead and continued to have momentum earning another break and the Spaniard found himself staring at 3-0 defecit.

At 4-1 the world number three would get one of the breaks back but it wasn’t enough as the Toronto native would break one more time at 5-3 on his fourth breakpoint of the game to take the first set.

Once again we saw some really strong play from the Canadian in the beginning of the second set we saw history repeat itself when the world number 14 held serve and get the early break this time with his powerful forehand.

Nadal was fighting to stay in the set and the match and managed to earn a breakpoint but it was quickly saved with a big ace from Shapovalov. The very next game the Canadian had a chance to get another break but this time the Spaniard would deny him the opportunity.

After the world number three held serve he went on the attack looking to go back on serve and after three chances would get the break back. He would end up winning five games in a row and would take the second set to send it to a decider.

The third set remained on serve until 2-1 when the Canadian had a chance to break and he would take to jump out to a 3-1 lead. The break didn’t hold as Nadal came storming back the very next game breaking the world number 14 to love and equaling the set at 3-3.

The set and the match would ultimately be decided by a tiebreaker and in that breaker is when the Spaniard would take over winning it 7-3 to book his spot in the quarterfinals.

He will next face either Alexander Zverev or Kei Nishikori on Friday for a spot in the semifinals.

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Novak Djokovic Moving Into A ‘Good Trajectory’ After Reaching Rome Quarter-Finals

Novak Djokovic admitted that he is on a good trajectory after reaching the last eight in Rome.

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Novak Djokovic (@atptour - Twitter)

Novak Djokovic has said that he is on a ‘good trajectory’ after moving into the Rome Quarter-Finals.

 

The world number one moved into the last eight in the Italian capital with a comfortable 6-2 6-1 victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.

Despite being broken in the first game, Djokovic rallied back to break on five occasions as he cruised past the Erratic Spaniard.

After 1 hour and 11 minutes, Djokovic’s overall game was too much for Davidovich Fokina as the Serb progressed to his 15th quarter-final in Rome.

After the match in his on-court interview the top seed admitted he is on a good trajectory as he builds momentum towards Roland Garros, “I thought I played well,” Djokovic told the ATP website.

“He started well and broke my serve in the first game. I made some errors, but I managed to break back right away and establish the control and consistency on the court. I think from the back of the court I was just a bit more solid than him.

“He made some unforced errors and double faults in key moments, which obviously helped me get that necessary break forward. I thought I played better, at least 20 or 30 per cent better, than I did against Fritz a few days ago. I am on a good trajectory and hopefully tomorrow will be even better.”

The real test for Djokovic will come tomorrow when he faces top 10 opposition in the last eight.

It will either be Monte-Carlo champion Stefanos Tsitsipas or Madrid finalist and home favourite Matteo Berrettini next up for the world number one.

Djokovic was well aware of the form either of his possible opponents are in heading into tomorrow’s showdown, “My next match will be against a Top 10 player, so it is going to be a battle,” Djokovic explained.

“Both of these guys are in great form. Tsitsipas won Monte-Carlo and Berrettini is just coming off the final in Madrid. I am obviously going to do my best to win that match, whoever I play against.”

In the other result in Rome today, Reilly Opelka reached the quarter-finals with a 7-6(6) 6-4 win over Aslan Karatsev.

The American hit 18 aces as he will now face Felix Auger-Aliassime or Federico Delbonis on Friday.

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Stefanos Tsitsipas sets up blockbuster third round match against Matteo Berrettini in Rome

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Stefanos Tsitsipas edged past Marin Cilic 7-5 6-2 to advance to third round at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. 

 

Tsitsipas has improved his win-loss record to 28-7 this season, equalling Andrey Rublev for most match wins after Rublev beat Jan-Lennard Struff 6-7 (7-9) 6-1 6-4 earlier today. 

Tsitsipas had to save two break points in the ninth game to hold serve after four deuces. The 2021 Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters winner earned his crucial break in the 12th game to win a hard-fought first set 7-5. 

Tsitsipas was in control of the match and cruised to a 6-2 win in the second set with two breaks in the second and eighth games. 

“Sometimes I need to adjust my game and Marin is someone I respect a lot. I knew he was going to come out here and play his best tennis. He made move a lot. It was quite tricky to adjust to that at the beginning, but towards the very end of the first set I stayed calm and stayed calm and resilient. I had to play deep on the returns and find solutions from the baseline rallies. That worked well for me from 6-5”, said Tsitsipas. 

Tsitsipas set up a blockbuster third round match against last week’s Madrid Mutua Open finalist Matteo Berrettini, who beat John Millman 6-4 6-2 in front of fans, who will return on Thursday. Tsitsipas enjoyed the atmosphere on the Pietrangeli Stadium. 

“The Pietrangeli Stadium is very beautiful. It’s one of the best courts on tour. I feel like the Pietrangeli here is great. We are surrounded by trees in the city and it’s very quiet which is very important for tennis. Honestly, I can’t wait for the fans to come and fill in the stadium”, said Tsitsipas. 

Berrettini missed three consecutive break points in the third game of the opening set and earned his first break in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead. The Rome-native star served out the first set at 15. Berrettini earned two consecutive breaks to race out to 4-0 lead. Millman saved a break point to hold serve in the fifth game, but Berrettini never looked back in his next two service games to claim the second set 6-2. 

Berrettini has improved with his each appearance in the Rome tournament, reaching the second round in 2018, the third round in 2019 and the quarter final in 2020. 

Tsitsipas beat Berrettini in their only head-to-head match at the 2019 Australian Open. 

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