As the season approaches its end, attention switches to the ATP Finals which will be held in the Italian city of Turin for the first time in history.
Besides the prospect of winning one of the sport’s most prestigious titles outside of the Grand Slams, there is also an eye-watering prize money pool. This year’s winner is guaranteed to take home $1.094M but their earnings will rocket to $2.316M if they go undefeated. The eight-day tournament is split into two stages. First players are split into two groups of four and will play three round-robin matches. The top two of each group will then progress to the knockout stages.
20-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic heads the Green Group. He has been drawn to play Stefanos Tsitsipas, Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev. Meanwhile, US Open champion Daniil Medvedev is in the Green Group along with Alexander Zverev, Matteo Berrettini and Hubert Hurkacz.
On the eve of the tournament getting underway, UbiTennis looks at the how the player’s in this year’s draw fair against each other.
Out of the eight participants, Djokovic is the only player to have either a positive or neutral record against everybody else in this year’s draw. Overall, the world No.1 boasts a win-loss record of 27-9 against the six players he has previously faced on the Tour. Djokovic is yet to play Andrey Rublev who has been drawn in the same group as him. Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Zverev are the only players to have beaten him before and all of them have done so on multiple occasions.
Reigning champion Medvedev is on level footing with two players in his group when it comes to their head-to-head. He is currently tied with Zverev at 5-5 and is 1-1 against Hurkacz. However, he has beaten Berrettini in both of their previous meetings.
At the other end of the spectrum, Ruud has only scored three wins over his fellow ATP Finals title contenders. Recording two victories against Berrettini and one over Tsitsipas. This means he is yet to beat two out of the three players he will face in the group stages.
- Green = members of Green Group
- Red = member of Red Group
- Blue = potential semi-final/final head-to-heads when the two groups merge into the knockout stages
ATP Finals appearances
Djokovic is significantly the most experienced player when it comes to most times played in the season-ending event. This year will be the 14th time he has played in the event which is almost triple that of anybody else. After him, former champion Zverev will be making his fifth appearance. Djokovic is seeking to win the title for a sixth time which will tie the all-time record currently held by Roger Federer. Furthermore, if he wins two or more matches he will overtake Ivan Lendl for most matches won at the ATP Finals and moved into second on the leaderboard. He is currently on 38 wins but even if he goes unbeaten this year it will not be enough to surpass Federer who is on 59.
Ruud, who is the youngest player in the field, will be making an historic debut. The 22-year-old is the first Norwegian to qualify for the ATP Finals. Also making his debut is Poland’s Hurkacz at the age of 24. He is the second man for his country to qualify for the event after Wojciech Fibak who finished runner-up back in 1976.
Four out of the eight players in this year’s tournament have previously won the title. Making it the most number of former champions to feature in the ATP Finals since 1994. Besides Djokovic’s five-time triumph, Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Zverev have won the trophy once before.
Titles won in 2021
Djokovic, Ruud and Zverev lead the field in terms of most ATP trophies won in 2021 with each of them winning five titles. Three out of the five trophies won by the world No.1 was at a Grand Slam tournament with the only exception being at the US Open. Djokovic also won a 250 event in his native Belgrade and more recent the Paris Masters. In contrast, all of Ruud’s titles were won at 250 events. During July he became the first ATP Player in a decade to win three straight titles within as many weeks. Finally, Zverev claimed gold at the Tokyo Olympic Games in what he describes as one of the biggest achievements of his career. He also won two 500 events and two Masters 1000.
Russia’s Rublev has won the fewest titles so far in 2021 with just one to his name which occurred at the Rotterdam Open. However, since then he has reached the final of two Masters tournaments as well as a 500 event in Germany. Rublev has also achieved 32 wins on a hard court this season which is the joint-fourth highest on the ATP Tour.
Category of titles won
Felix Auger-Aliassime Survives Australian Open Marathon
For a second time this week the Canadian was pushed but managed to win a tough four-set match against his Spanish opponent.
Felix Auger-Aliassime booked his spot in the third round of the Australian Open after beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in a match that lasted four hours and 20 minutes.
The Montreal native hit 58 winners and served 28 aces while Davidovich Fokina hit 51 unforced errors. It is the second time the 21-year-old has reached the last 32 in Melbourne Park in what is his third appearence.
The first game of the match was a nervy one for the world number nine as it lasted six minutes and it involved him saving two breakpoints before being able to hold serve. The opener stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Fokina came up with an impressive passing shot to set up two more chances for the first break of serve of the match and this time managed to convert. Three games later the Canadian fought back and broke right back to go back on serve.
It was a tiebreak which decided the first set. The Montreal native jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Spaniard came back again to win the next four points but the Canadian responded again winning three straight points to take the breaker 7-4 and the first set.
The second set was another impressive performance on serve by both players and once again was decided by a back and forth breaker that this time was won by Davidovich Fokina to level the match.
The third frame was much the same as both players kept their level up and not much differentiated the two. This tiebreaker was much more straightforward as the Canadian jumped out to a 5-1 lead before closing out the third set 7-5 and taking two sets to one lead.
The fourth set stayed on serve until 2-1 when the world number 50 had a chance to break and was able to get it for a 3-1 lead before the Canadian was able to break back the following game to go back on serve.
For the fourth time, the set was decided by a tiebreaker and this one was super tight with the Canadian getting the crucial break to take a 4-3 lead and that one break was enough for him to serve it out.
Auger Aliassime will now face Dan Evans in the third round after the Brit was handed a walkover against Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech who pulled out of the match due to injury.
‘Best Feeling I’ve Ever Had’ – Underdog Christopher O’Connell Stuns Schwartzman At Australian Open
Prior to this week the 27-year-old had never won a main draw match at Melbourne Park or beaten a top 20 player.
World No.175 Christopher O’Connell has pulled off a major upset at the Australian Open by knocking out 13th seed Diego Schwartzman.
The 27-year-old wild card had only ever won one match in the main draw of a Grand Slam prior to this year but illustrated the talent that he has with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-4, win over Schwartzman. A player who is currently ranked 162 places above him in the rankings. Against the Argentine he fired a total of 44 winners and won 75% of his first service points on route to claiming his first win over a top 20 player.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had on a tennis court. I’ve been playing tennis since I was four. To have moments like this it’s a dream come true.” O’Connell said during his press conference.
Despite the straightforward score, the match itself was a marathon. The opener alone lasted for almost 90 minutes with the underdog saving three set points whilst down 4-5 before prevailing in the tiebreaker. Then in the following two sets he broke Schwartzman three times in total.
“I knew how crucial that first set was. It was really warming up out there. It was really a battle back and forth. It was crucial to get that first set, especially in the heat,” he said.
A late bloomer on the men’s Tour, the Australian started to make a breakthrough last year by reaching his first quarter-final at the Atlanta Open where he defeated Jannik Sinner. During that year he also reached the final of a French Challenger event before withdrawing due to injury and reached the second round of the US Open.
O’Connell, who has been ranked as high as 111th in the world, credits his coach for helping him reach new milestones in the sport. He is mentored by former player Marinko Matosevic who reached a ranking high of 39th back in 2013 and made more than $2M in prize money during his playing career.
“The process didn’t start yesterday. It’s been happening all of last year,” he stated.
“I’ve been working with Marinko. He’s just really confident with how I want to play tennis now. It’s the first time I’ve really had a one-on-one coach literally every day with me.’
“Marinko was such a great player. All his knowledge of the game, he’s just putting it onto me.”
Next up for O’Connell will be the in-form Maxime Cressy who lost to Rafael Nadal in the final of the Melbourne Summer Set just over a week ago. The American defeated Czech qualifier Tomáš Macháč 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5), in his second round match.
“I knew I had good results in me. It’s just being consistent. I felt today was a consistent match from me,” he reflected.
“But the biggest thing for me is just staying healthy, not having these injuries where I miss two months of tournaments. I nearly missed five or six months last year. I can’t be doing that.’
“The belief is always there, but I just got to make sure my body’s healthy this year. I want to play a full year.”
French Player Tests Positive For COVID-19 Hours After Australian Open Defeat
The world No.40 was preparing to leave the country.
Ugo Humbert is in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 following his first round loss at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
Humbert, who was the 29th seed in the men’s draw, is understood to have produced a positive result during a routine procedure players have to conduct before they leave the country. It is unclear as to if he is currently suffering from any symptoms.
Humbert crashed out of the tournament to compatriot Richard Gasquet, who won their match 3-6, 7-6(4), 7-6 (3), 6-3, in three hours and 18 minutes. Gasquet also tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Australia earlier this month but was given the all clear to play at Melbourne Park following a negative test. There was a 15-day period between the 35-year-old announcing on Twitter he had the virus and his first match against Humbert.
“I was tested positive on my exit test yesterday and I’ll stay one more week in isolation in Australia,” Humbert wrote on Instagram.
“Thanks for your support and see you soon.”
The 23-year-old has started his season by winning one out of four matches played. Prior to the Australian Open, he scored one of the biggest wins of his career by defeating Daniil Medvedev at the ATP Cup in the group stages. However, following that victory he suffered losses to Alex de Minaur and Matteo Berrettini.
Tennis Australia is yet to comment on Humbert’s positive test.
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