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The ATP Finals As You Never Seen Before

The eight top players in men’s tennis are heading to London to participate in the end-of-year showdown but this edition will be like no other.

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

After what has been a roller-coaster season interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the ATP Finals will get underway with a series of new restrictions.

 

Held at The O2 Arena in London the tournament will have a somewhat different atmosphere compared to previous years due to the absence of fans. Like other tournaments such as the US Open and Paris Masters, it is being held behind closed doors in accordance with local government regulations. The financial impact will undoubtedly be huge given the fact that 242,883 fans attended The O2 across the eight days in 2019.

“I’m playing quite okay without closed doors. I do miss the fans a lot but we all just have to be happy to be playing tennis and we all just have to be thankful for the opportunities that we get,” 2018 champion Alexander Zverev told reporters on Sunday.
“Other sports don’t get them, and we do. So it’s great to kind of be playing.”

It is for this reason that prize money at the usually extravagant finale will be down compared to 12 months ago. Should this year’s champion clinch the title without losing a match in the round-robin event he will take home $1,564,000. A stark contrast to last year when Stefanos Tsitsipas lost a match en route to the trophy but still took home $2,656,000. Participation fees have also been cut from $215,000 to $153,000.

Singles Prize Money: 2019 Vs 2020

20192020
Alternate $116,00$73,000
Participation Fee $215,000$153,000 
Round-robin match win $215,000$153,000
Semi-final match win $657,000$402,000  
Final win$1,354,000 $550,000  
Undefeated champion$2,871,000 $1,564,000
source: atptour.com


On the court there will be no linesmen or women making the calls. Instead the Hawk-Eye live system will be implemented in an approach that was also taken at the US Open earlier this year. Although at the US Open their two premier courts still used lines judges. Novak Djokovic, who is the top seed at the tournament, is one of the most vocal players to speak in favour of the use of this technology.

“With all my respect for the tradition and the culture we have in this sport, when it comes to people present on the court during a match, including line (judges), I really don’t see a reason why every single tournament in this world, in this technological advanced era, would not have what we had during the Cincinnati/New York tournaments,” Djokovic said earlier this year.
“The technology is so advanced right now, there is absolutely no reason why you should keep line umpires on the court. That’s my opinion.”

Among other restrictions at the ATP Finals, players are required to stay at the same hotel and will be disqualified from the tournament if they leave their ‘bubble’ without a justifiable reason. Upon arrival they will be tested for COVID-19 and will not be allowed to leave their hotel room until they get a negative result. Then on average they will be tested every four days.

The title hunters

Stefanos Tsitsipas at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals in London (photo Roberto Zanettin)

Despite the changes to what is the 50th edition of the year-end extravaganza, there is still a big desire to win the prestigious event with up to 1500 ranking points on offer. Rafael Nadal holds the record for most Grand Slam titles won along with Roger Federer but is still yet to win any silverware at the ATP Finals. His best run was reaching the final in 2010 and 2013.

“I need to adjust a couple of things, but I am doing well on all the important things. I have one week and a little bit more to keep working, and I hope to be ready.” Nadal said following his semi-final loss at the Paris Masters.

Greece’s Tsitsipas is bidding to become the first player outside of the Big Three to defend a title at the event since Andre Agassi in 2001. Although he has been hampered by a leg injury in recent days.

“It’s actually back to normal which I’m really happy to be feeling this way and feeling more free on the court. Injuries are always psychologically difficult to handle and they can drain you a lot. I am happy that I am back to normal,” he told atptour.com last week.

Reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Djokovic will be hungry for glory following his Vienna shocker. It was during that tournament where he secured the year-end No.1 spot for a record-equalling sixth time in his career. However, he suffered a shock 6-2, 6-1, loss to Lorenzo Sonego in the quarter-finals. The heaviest defeat he has ever suffered on the Tour.

I am going to spend some time with my family, I am coming back to Serbia, which I am looking forward to. I will have a good preparation for London in order to have a strong ending to the season,” he said following the loss.

Should Djokovic win in London he will draw level with Federer for most ATP Finals trophies in history at six.

Elsewhere, Dominic Thiem is hoping to go one better than last year when he settled for runner-up. Since then he has won his maiden Grand Slam title in New York. An achievement that helped him win Austrian sports personality of the year at an awards ceremony on Tuesday.

Daniil Medvedev is another player with a spring in his step after winning his first trophy of 2020 at the Paris Masters on Sunday.

“For sure I’m coming (to the ATP Finals) in better shape than last year. Last year I was really exhausted, lost the first round in Paris. That’s when you lose your confidence. When you lose first round you always lose your confidence,” Medvedev explained.
“Hopefully I can get some wins. I have no other goal than just to get some wins,” he added.

Completing this year’s field will be Andrey Rublev and Diego Schwartzman. Rublev has already won five titles on the ATP Tour this season which is more than any other player. Meanwhile, US Open semi-finalist Schwartzman recently cracked the top 10 for the first time at the age of 28.

The ATP Finals will start on Sunday.

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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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Alexander Zverev eases past Hugo Dellien to set up a third round match clash against Kei Nishikori in Rome

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This year’s Madrid Mutua Open champion Alexander Zverev cruised past qualifier Hugo Dellien 6-2 6-2 on Nicola Pietrangeli Court to move into the third round at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome. 

 

Zverev fired 27 winners and fended off all six of the break points he faced. The German won five consecutive games from 0-1 down with a double break to race out to a 5-1 lead and served out the opening set at 15 in the eighth game. 

Zverev went up a break in the third game to take a 2-1, but he had to save six break points in a 12-game fourth game. Zverev managed to hold serve after seven deuces before breaking serve in the fifth game to open up a 4-1 lead. The German served out the win on on his second match point in the eighth game. 

The  German star will face Kei Nishikori for the second time in two weeks. He beat Nishikori, Dan Evans, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem and Matteo Berrettini last week at the Madrid Mutua Open en route to the fourth ATP Masters 1000 title of his career after claiming three previous trophies in Rome and Canada in 2017 and Madrid in 2018.  

Federico Delbonis didn’t face a break point and converted four of his nine break points in his 6-2 6-1 win over David Goffin. The Argentine player will take on Felix Auger Aliassime, who cruised past last year’s Rome finalist Diego Schwartzman 6-1 6-3. 

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Aslan Karatsev beats Danil Medvedev in all-Russian clash in Rome

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Aslan Karatsev beat his compatriot Danil Medvedev 6-2 6-4 after 1 hour and 18 minutes in an all-Russian match to move into the third round at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia at the Foro Italico in Rome. Karatsev has scored his fifth career win against top 10 opponents.

 

Karatsev has improved his win-loss record to 21-6 in his 27 matches this year, including the ATP 500 title in Dubai, the semifinal at the Australian Open and the final at the Serbian Open in Belgrade. 

Karatsev has scored his second top 5 win in the past month after taking an upset win over world number 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinal in Belgrade. 

Karatsev earned a double break in the fifth and seventh games to open up a 5-2 lead. The 27-year-old Russian player earned another break in the seventh game with a volley to take a 4-3 lead. He never looked back and served out the win on his first match point in the 10th game. 

Karatsev won 90% of his first serve points and saved just one break point. 

Karatsev faced Medvedev for the first time in his career on the ATP Tour. They teamed up with Andrey Rublev at the ATP Cup in Melbourne last winter helping Russia win the final against Italy. 

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