The ATP Finals Exceeded Expectations But There Was No Changing Of The Guard - UBITENNIS
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The ATP Finals Exceeded Expectations But There Was No Changing Of The Guard

Daniil Medvedev has shown how a player outside of the Big Three can shine at one of the most significant tournaments in men’s tennis but it is wrong to read too much into this achievement.

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Daniil Medvedev with the Nitto ATP Finals trophy (image via https://twitter.com/DaniilMedwed)

On Sunday afternoon the 2020 tennis season ended with a pulsating showdown between two of the biggest names outside of the formidable Big Three.

 

Daniil Medvedev held his nerve to fight back and edge out Dominic Thiem in an enthralling roller-coaster encounter that lasted almost three hours. Besides claiming the biggest title of his career to date, the Russian has become only the fourth player in history to defeat the world’s top three players at the same tournament, following in the footsteps of Boris Becker, Novak Djokovic and David Nalbandian.

In the aftermath of Medvedev’s victory came the inevitable question – is this the start of a new era in men’s tennis? For over the last decade the Tour has been dominated by Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Between them they have won 57 Grand Slam titles and shared the No.1 position continuously since August 2017. In fact, since February 2nd 2004, Andy Murray is the only other player outside of the trio to have held the top position.

“Hopefully all of us young guys will keep pushing and will have some great rivalries,” Medvedev told reporters on Sunday.
“Hopefully we can be there for a long time, maybe pushing the other generations back because that’s how we can be close to the Top 3.”

Medvedev’s emphatic performance at the end-of-season event showed that he has what it takes to scale the top of the game but recent history suggests that too much shouldn’t be read into it. Remarkably no member of the Big Three has won the event since Djokovic in 2015. Instead there have been five different champions most recently with each of those years raising hopes that there could be a changing of the guard on the Tour.

However, those hopes have never fully materialised. Prior to Medvedev, the four most recent ATP Finals champions have failed to win multiple titles the following year. In the case of 2017 winner Grigor Dimitrov, he hasn’t won a trophy of any sort since.

ATP Finals championTitles won over the next 12 monthsBest Grand Slam run over next 12 monthsYear-end ranking 12 months later
Andy Murray (2016)1French Open SF16 (down 15)
Grigor Dimitrov (2017)0Australian Open QF19 (down 16)
Alexander Zverev (2018)1French Open QF 7 (down 4)
Stefanos Tsitsipas (2019)1French Open SF 6 (no change)


It can be argued that the numbers above fail to tell the full story. For example Andy Murray’s injury woes started to hinder him the year after he won the tournament and Tsitsipas’ season has been marred by the COVID-19 pandemic. Although it does illustrate that staying at the very top of the game on a consistent basis without beng a member of the Big Three is a tough ask, raising questions about if the landscape of men’s tennis will ever change before Djokovic and co retire?

“There is going to be a time when they are not around anymore, then it’s going to be so important to keep all the tennis fans and to keep them with this great sport,” world No.3 Thiem explains.
“I think that’s our challenge, that we perform well and play great in big tournaments to become huge stars ourselves.
“It’s super important for tennis in general because they (the Big Three) gave so much to the sport. That’s our challenge to keep all those people with tennis and to maybe continue their story.”

Thiem boasts the honour of having at least five wins over every member of the trio, something  that has only ever been achieved by Murray. In London he defeated both Nadal and Djokovic which was something Medvedev also managed to achieve during the same week.

Veteran journalist Steve Flink perhaps is one of the most knowledgeable figures when it comes to the evolution of men’s tennis in the Open Era. His work in the sport dates back to 1972 when he was a statistician covering the US Open for CBS and working alongside the iconic Bud Collins. In a video chat with UbiTennis, Flink notes the recent shortcomings by ATP Finals champions but is hopeful that 2021 could be different.

“I don’t think we should put too much stock on this. On the other hand, Medvedev has ended the year strong and Thiem has now finally won a major at the US Open. You have to believe that these two guys will be threatening (for titles) next year with Thiem challenging for his second major and Medvedev to maybe win his first. So maybe there will be some more equity in men’s tennis,” he said.

Only time will tell about what may happen next year and if Medvedev’s ATP Finals triumph will have any impact at all. The only certainty is that more people are starting to talk about the other guys and that is a victory in itself for the future of the sport.

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Updated Entry Lists For Great Ocean Road Open and Murray River Open

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The two ATP 250 tournaments will be played in Melbourne just before the Australian Open.

 

The Melbourne Summer Series will start with an updated schedule to give more time to the quarantined tennis players to get ready. Three men’s tournaments will take place in the first week: the ATP Cup and two ATP 250 events, where the entries are reserved for the players who are already in Australia.

Melbourne-1 and Melbourne-2 are scheduled to happen from the 1st to the 7th of February with a special format: the main draws have been expanded to 56 players and the qualifying tournament has been cancelled. That should give the chance to compete to the players who could not practice at all during the hard quarantine.

David Goffin, Karen Khachanov, Hubert Hurkacz, Jannik Sinner, Feliciano Lopez and many more players are committed to play the Murray River Open (Melbourne-1). Stan Wawrinka, Grigor Dimitrov, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Borna Coric lead the field for the Great Ocean Road Open (Melbourne-2).

Murray River Open (AUS, Hard), entry list:
Goffin, David (BEL)
Khachanov, Karen (RUS)
Hurkacz, Hubert (POL)
Sinner, Jannik (ITA)
Basilashvili, Nikoloz (GEO)
Opelka, Reilly (USA)
Kecmanovic, Miomir (SRB)
Bublik, Alexander (KAZ)
Sandgren, Tennys (USA)
Querrey, Sam (USA)
Thompson, Jordan (AUS)
Djere, Laslo (SRB)
Bedene, Aljaz (SLO)
Andujar, Pablo (ESP)
Pospisil, Vasek (CAN)
Lopez, Feliciano (ESP)
Koepfer, Dominik (GER)
Cuevas, Pablo (URU)
Travaglia, Stefano (ITA)
Caruso, Salvatore (ITA)
Delbonis, Federico (ARG)
Anderson, Kevin (RSA)
Monteiro, Thiago (BRA)
Herbert, Pierre-Hugues (FRA)
Martinez, Pedro (ESP)
Gombos, Norbert (SVK)
Balazs, Attila (HUN)
Mager, Gianluca (ITA)
Kwon, Soonwoo (KOR)
Carballes Baena, Roberto (ESP)
Hanfmann, Yannick (GER)
Martin, Andrej (SVK)
Lu, Yen-Hsun (TPE)
Uchiyama, Yasutaka (JPN)
Seppi, Andreas (ITA)
Majchrzan, Kamil (POL)
Ivashka, Ilya (BLR)
Dellien, Hugo (BOL)
Dzumhur, Damir (BIH)
O’Connell, Christopher (AUS)
Stebe, Cedrik-Marcel (GER)
Laaksonen, Henri (SUI)
Alcaraz, Carlos (ESP)
Van de Zandschulp, Botic (NED)
Cressy, Maxime (USA)
Coppejans, Kimmer (BEL)
Safiullin, Roman (RUS)
Vilella Martinez, Mario (ESP)
Torpegaard, Mikael (DEN)
Vukic, Aleksandar (AUS)
Haase, Robin (NED)
Stakhovsky, Sergiy (UKR)
(WC)
(WC)
(WC)
(WC)
Alternates:
Alt.1 Harris, Andrew (AUS)
Alt.2 Purcell, Max (AUS)
Alt.3 Mott, Blake (AUS)
Alt.4 Kubler, Jason (AUS)
Alt.5 Nam, Ji Sung (KOR)

Great Ocean Road Open (AUS, Hard), entry list:
Wawrinka, Stan (SUI)
Dimitrov, Grigor (BUL)
Auger-Aliassime, Felix (CAN)
Coric, Borna (CRO)
Ruud, Casper (NOR)
Fritz, Taylor (USA)
Humbert, Ugo (FRA)
Evans, Daniel (GBR)
Sonego, Lorenzo (ITA)
Mannarino, Adrian (FRA)
Cilic, Marin (CRO)
Ramos-Vinolas, Albert (ESP)
Kyrgios, Nick (AUS)
Gasquet, Richard (FRA)
Paul, Tommy (USA)
Fucsovics, Marton (HUN)
Tiafoe, Frances (USA)
Simon, Gilles (FRA)
Chardy, Jeremy (FRA)
Norrie, Cameron (GBR)
Vesely, Jiri (CZE)
Berankis, Ricardas (LTU)
Giron, Marcos (USA)
Gerasimov, Egor (BLR)
Cecchinato, Marco (ITA)
Moutet, Corentin (FRA)
Londero, Juan Ignacio (ARG)
Albot, Radu (MDA)
Ruusuvuori, Emil (FIN)
Kukushkin, Mikhail (KAZ)
Harris, Lloyd (RSA)
Coria, Federico (ARG)
Ymer, Mikael (SWE)
Sugita, Yuichi (JPN)
Duckworth, James (AUS)
Sousa, Pedro (POR)
Popyrin, Alexei (AUS)
Daniel, Taro (JPN)
Polmans, Marc (AUS)
Nagal, Sumit (IND)
Bolt, Alex (AUS)
Mmoh, Michael (USA)
Ferreira Silva, Frederico (POR)
McDonald, Mackenzie (USA)
Machac, Tomas (CZE)
Troicki, Viktor (SRB)
Ymer, Elias (SWE)
Halys, Quentin (FRA)
Muller, Alexandre (FRA)
Gojo, Borna (CRO)
Tomic, Bernard (AUS)
Kokkinakis, Thanasi (AUS)
(WC)
(WC)
(WC)
(WC)
Alternates:
Alt.1 Harris, Andrew (AUS)
Alt.2 Mott, Blake (AUS)
Alt.3 Kubler, Jason (AUS)
Alt.4 Smith, John-Patrick (AUS)
Alt.5 Ebden, Matthew (AUS)

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Next Gen Star Carlos Alcaraz Praises ‘Idol’ Nadal

The rising star talks Nadal, Ferrero and his hopes for the future.

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Growing up in Spain is unsurprising that Carlos Alcaraz is inspired by the achievements of tennis legend Rafael Nadal.

 

The 17-year-old tennis star is labelled as one of the most promising youngsters on the ATP Tour following a breakthrough 2020 season where he won a trio of Challenger titles. Becoming the second-youngest player in history to do so after Richard Gasquet. It was also during the same season where he became the youngest player to win an ATP 500 match since the series began in 2009 and he ended the year ranked 136th in the world.

Finding his footing on the Tour, Alcaraz is hoping that he will be able to follow in the footsteps of his idol Nadal who has won 20 major titles so far in his career. The teenager believes the mentality of his compatriot is one that can serve as an example for everybody to follow.

Rafa is my idol,” Alcaraz told itftennis.com. “His hunger, his attitude. It doesn’t matter if he plays a first match or a final, his level of concentration is the same. He wants to win every match.
“His mentality is an example for anyone, a tennis player or any person. He motivates everyone because he never surrenders. Everyone wants to be the best, no matter if you´re an athlete, a football player, a doctor, a journalist… everyone has an objective in life.”

Alcaraz is currently preparing for the Australian Open after successfully qualifying for the tournament earlier this month. In Doha he scored wins over Filip Horanský, Evgeny Karlovskiy and Hugo Dellien. It is the first time he has qualified for a grand Slam main draw in his career. An impressive achievement for a player who is also currently studying for his Segundo de Bachiller exams and driving test.

Guiding the tennis prodigy on the Tour is Juan Carlos Ferrero. A former world No.1 player who won the 2003 French Open. The two have been working together since 2019.

“I’m very proud to have Juan Carlos as a coach,” said Alcaraz. “He has great experience and knowledge and I’m very proud to be able to learn from him.
“He contributes to my knowledge in a way that other coaches probably wouldn’t be able to. He understands the situations that I’m living now, because he experienced them in the past. He knows how to manage the pressure.”

It remains to be seen just how successful Alcaraz will become but the expectations are high. He is already the youngest player ranked in the world’s top 600 and the only player born in 2003 to be inside the top 400.

“I don’t focus on the records or if I’m the youngest player,” he stated. “I want to improve every day and to focus on my objectives. My aims in 2021 are to play at Roland Garros, to be in the top 100 and to finish the season in the top 50.”

Alcaraz is set to return to competitive tennis next week.

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Dominic Thiem Training At ‘High Level’ Despite Absence Of Coach Massu

The manager of the US Open champion has given an update on his current condition ahead of the first Grand Slam of 2021.

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Dominic Thiem will play the Australian Open without his principal coach Nicolas Massu after it was confirmed that he is unable to find a way to travel to the region.

 

Massu, who has been part of the Austrian’s team since 2019, was unable to travel to Australia earlier this month after testing positive for COVID-19. An unfortunate situation that also affected former world No.1 Andy Murray. Thiem had originally hoped that his mentor would be able to join him at a later date but that is no longer possible under strict regulations set out by Australian health officials. All players and their teams are required to quarantine for 14 days in a hotel before they are allowed to play a professional match in the country.

The absence of Massu has been confirmed by Thiem’s manager Herwig Straka who is currently in Adelaide with the tennis player. Straka is a top tennis official who also sits on the ATP Board of Directors and is in charge of the Vienna Open.

Dominic’s father Wolfgang leads the training and is in contact with Nico a lot. Although he is now negative, he will still not make it to the Australian Open,” he told neue.at.

Fortunately for Thiem he has avoided the fate of many of his peers who have been forced to go into a strict quarantine after being declared a close contact of somebody who tested positive for COVID-19. All 72 players who have been affected are staying in Melbourne. Thiem is among the top three players in the world who have been allowed to quarantine in Adelaide under a deal struck by Tennis Australia.

The training is going well and it is at a very high level. In his room he passes the time with series shows, computer games and reading,” Straka commented.

The 27-year-old is bidding to go one step better at the Australian Open than 12 months ago where he finished runner-up to Novak Djokovic. In that final he led the match by two sets to one before losing. Since then Thiem has broken new territory by winning his maiden major title at Flushing Meadows in New York.

‘Like a student’

Providing a glimpse into what it is like staying in Adelaide, Straka says he still had ‘much to do’ during the two-week period as he drew parallels between the current conditions and when he was studying. He studied law and Business before going into the sports industry.

“Since there is no room service for security reasons, we have to make the beds, do laundry and cook ourselves. A washing machine, a microwave and a stove are available in the room. It feels like back in the college days.”

Some have said Thiem and Co are receiving preferential treatment from Tennis Australia with their current living conditions. In a recent interview with UbiTennis, doubles player Marcelo Demoliner said ‘the top tennis players always had these extras, we (the players) are kinda of used to it.’’ Craig Tiley, who is the head of Tennis Australia, has also previously conceded that those in Adelaide are getting a better deal.

Although Thiem’s manager has played down just how significant the difference in treatment is between the two bubbles.

“It’s not that much better in Adelaide. The few advantages are that the player’s team can be bigger, that it doesn’t get so jammed during training times and that the rooms have a balcony,” he said.

Later this week Thiem will return to professional tennis by taking part in a one-day exhibition. Then he heads to Melbourne where will be leading the Austrian team in the ATP Cup which will be captained by his father Wolfgang.

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