Djokovic equals Sampras, edges closer to Federer and Nadal - UBITENNIS
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Djokovic equals Sampras, edges closer to Federer and Nadal

If Djokovic were to overtake Nadal and Federer without playing in Australia or in the US it would be hard to deny him the GOAT.

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Novak Djokovic (@Wimbledon - Twitter)

His seventh triumph in the championships, the fourth in a row, stems from his class, but also from his greater mental solidity. He lost 6 sets, but he always dominated the final sets. it’s all about the points he will no longer have. It’s worth celebrating the resurrection of Kyrgios. But he won’t be able to count on the 1200 ATP points.

 

The best returner in history of tennis struggled against the best service on the tour. In fact he only succeeded in returning 42 of the 112 services (just 38%, counting both first and second serve) of Nick Kyrgios, who constantly served at a speed between 210 at 220 kph.

Nevertheless Novak Djokovic also in his eighth final on the Centre Court of Wimbledon – he has no longer lost there since 2013 when he was defeated by Andy Murray, first Brit to lift the Wimbledon crown after Fred Perry’s triplet (1936-1938) – was so solid in his service games (he just conceded one break, in the first set with his usual diesel start) that he triumphed in his fourth back to back Wimbledon and his 7th overall (2011, 2014, 2015, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022) just like his idol Pete Sampras who won here seven times.

Nole always recalls seeing for tennis, Sampras and Wimbledon the first time in 1992. He’s getting the year wrong though: actually that year the tournament was won by Andre Agassi who defeated Goran Ivanisevic in a five set thriller. Sampras won his first Wimbledon title in 1993.

Yet it is definitely true that Novak asked his parents, who were running a small resort in the snowy Serbian mountains, to buy him a racket, his first racket.

That kid has gone a long way. His majors are now 21, 7 more than Sampras, One more than Federer, one less than Nadal. But the latter will be able to play the US Open whereas he likely won’t be able to.

I’m not vaccinated and I’m not planning to get vaccinated so the only good news I can have is them removing the mandated green vaccine card or giving an exemption. Goran and I still have not spoken about the schedule. We have to sit down and see what the news are. I’m not going after points here and there. I’ll focus on Majors, on the ATP Masters 1000 I can play. I may play Laver Cup. Davis Cup is coming as well. I love playing for my country. My manager has told me that as I have won a major, being ranked in the top 20 will be enough to be able to take part in the ATP Finals in Turin. Those are the big, let’s say, tournaments that I have right now in my mind.

Nole has lost his 2000 points he earned at Wimbledon 2021 – I’ll never cease to believe that the decision to remove the points from Wimbledon 2022 was a wrong move, since it undermines the credibility of the ATP rankings – and he’s also going to lose the 1200 points he collected in the US Open 2021 final which he lost to Medvedev. Lucky for him, his decision, one year ago, to play at the Olympic Games in Tokyo rather than at the Canadian Open and Cincinnati comes as a silver lining since he won’t be dropping the points he would have surely earned if he had played the two ATP Masters 1000 on the road to the US Open.

He will be seventh in the ATP Rankings this week and if he ends up not playing until after the US Open, he will have only 3570 points left, which may not be enough to grant him a place in the top 10.

 Djokovic out of the top 10 sounds incongruous, unreal. Wrong. They may say it is his fault due to the fact that he refused to get vaccinated, but it still sounds unconvincing.

But that’s that. in this moment what counts is that he has won another Wimbledon, that he is just one behind Nadal, and that he proved to be a notch above all the other players in the last sets of every match he played.

Throughout the tournament he lost more sets than usual: one against Kwon, Van Rijthoven, Norrie, Kyrgios, and two against Sinner. The Italian is the only player who can boast he clinched two sets, the first two. The only player who succeeded in coming back from two sets to one in a major against Djokovic and winning the match was Istomin at the Australian Open 2017. But that was Djokovic’s worst year, the year of his crisis, of the guru, and of his first split with Vajda…

In the final Kyrgios proved he could be even more dangerous because in the second set, after losing his service in the second game, if he had managed to convert one of the 4 break points he earned, three of which were consecutive when Djokovic was serving the set out at 5-3, the set would likely have been decided by a tiebreak, just like the fourth. And a tiebreak with Kyrgios is never a piece of cake.

The point is that Kyrgios fell short in the key moments of the match. In the one we just mentioned he came up with at least one dismaying unforced error, in the third set, at 4-4, he squandered a 40-0 lead, which he had built up with his 21st and 22nd ace, by allowing mistakes to pour in and double-faulting. He just started ranting against his team when he only had himself to blame.

He also had an outburst against a lady sitting in the first row, claiming she had disturbed him between the first and second serve (“She’s had about 700 drinks”), he received a warning for “audible obscenity” while he was blabbering against his team in his player box as well as arguing with the umpire, leaving young Prince George shocked. Even if Kyrgios is the tweener world champion – never before in a Major had we seen two in a row, a passing shot which caught Djokovic by surprise, and a lob which didn’t – he isn’t stronger than the Serbian in terms of mental solidity

In the long rallies, but for a few fireworks of his, it was Djokovic who held the upper hand and prevailed, also thanks to his formidable backhand dropshots which Kyrgios never really got to anticipate or run down, repeatedly tumbling into the net.

When Djokovic put up resistance Nick imploded. Full credit must be given to the Aussie who hung on more than was expected, never giving in, also in the fourth set, after botching up his 40-0 lead in the nineth game. He still lacks the mental resilience which is needed when winning points gets tougher. He immediately flies into a gale of abusive words.

He served 30 aces and only Roger Federer in 2014 and 2019 had served more than 20 aces (but over 5 sets) against the best returner in the world: on those occasions too Novak came out a winner.

Indeed it was the better player who won. Scoring points that get the audience   on their feet isn’t enough. Neither can pulling rabbits out of the hat do the whole job. Continuity, solidity, relentless and bombproof concentration – and Kyrgios really did fire cannonball serves (“At times it was frustrating not being able to hit returns…”), confidence to emerge unharmed from the trickiest situations. Nevertheless, the tennis world is hugely benefited by the resurrection of Kyrgios, a tennis player who has been bestowed with an immense talent, as well as – unfortunately, with a marked rudeness. After his breakthrough in 2014 he had disappeared from the radars and no longer seemed able to feature in the final stages of the major events. I’m delighted he’s back once more after 8 years. Kyrgios too would have enjoyed those 1200 points he can’t earn. Another ATP boomerang.

Theres no need for me to explain to Ubitennis readers why Novak Djokovic is such a phenomenon, an outstanding champion. And about his future…well, I’m convinced we are going to see him play in the ATP Finals in Turin because he’ll surely reap enough points to secure a position in the top 20.

I’m also convinced that, considering his extraordinary athletic condition and his focus on the slightest details in order to preserve it, his 21st major will not be the last. Is Nada going to win more? I don’t know. But from now on Rafa will have to be on the watch, and above all overcome his recurring physical issues.

Novak is only to be hindered by his stubbornness in refusing any vaccine which may come up. However it is certain that as far as the famous GOAT debate is concerned, if Nole were to succeed in winning more majors than Nadal without playing either in Australia or in the US, this year and next year, I feel that no one could deny his right to claim such acronym.

ATP

The Year-End Rankings: The Rise Of Alcaraz And The Eternals, Djokovic and Nadal

Image via ATP Twitter

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By Roberto Ferri

Let’s start our last article on the ATP rankings by quoting the words which are said to be the last of emperor Augustus: “The play is over, applaud”.

 

We cannot but applaud Novak Djokovic, six-time ATP Finals winner just like Roger Federer. And we applaud the season, which, for good or ill, has been unique. Just consider the most striking events: Carlos Alcaraz rising to No. 1, Roger Federer’s retirement, all the issues involving Djokovic and the Wimbledon affair.  

The top positions of the ranking have been significantly impacted by Djokovic’s absence from two Majors (Australian Open and US Open), four Masters 1000 (Indian Wells, Miami Open, Canadian Open, Cincinnati) and by ATP’s decision to not award points for Wimbledon.

If we compare the ATP rankings published after the ATP Finals in 2021 and 2022, this fact is clearly noticeable. 

22 NOVEMBER 2021

PositionPlayerCountryPts 
1DjokovicSerbia11540
2MedvedevRussia8640
3ZverevGermany7840
4TsitsipasGreece6540
5RublevRussia5150
6NadalSpain4875
7BerrettiniItaly4568
8RuudNorway4160
9HurkaczPoland3706
10SinnerItaly3350
11Auger-AliassimeCanada3308
12NorrieGB2945
13SchwartzmanArgentina2625
14ShapovalovCanada2475
15ThiemAustria2425
16FedererSwitzerland2385
17GarinChile2353
18KaratsevRussia2351
19Bautista AgutSpain2260
20Carreno BustaSpain2230

14 NOVEMBER 2022:

PositionPlayerCountryPts
1AlcarazSpain6820
2NadalSpain6020
3RuudNorway5820
4TsitsipasGreece5550
5DjokovicSerbia4820
6Auger-AliassimeCanada4195
7MedvedevRussia4065
8RublevRussia3930
9FritzUSA3355
10HurkaczPoland2905
11RuneDenmark2888
12ZverevGermany2700
13Carreno BustaSpain2495
14NorrieGB2445
15SinnerItaly2410
16BerrettiniItaly2375
17ShapovalovCanada2105
18CilicCroatia2075
19TiafoeUSA2000
20KhachanovRussia1990

Novak Djokovic ended 2021 with 4720 points more than Carlos Alcaraz; also Medvedev and Tsitsipas earned more points than the Spaniard, who would not have reached 7000 points even counting the 135 points he wasn’t awarded at Wimbledon.

A few comments on the 2022 rankings:

  • Casper Ruud, the ATP Finals finalist, concludes his excellent year in third place, overtaking Stefanos Tsitsipas with an impressive final rush.
  • Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal are the only top 10 players born in the 80s; the other 8 were born in the second half of the 90s.
  • Cameron Norrie and Pablo Carreno Busta are the survivors of the lost generation, born between 1990 and 1995 and that was most overpowered by the Big Four dominance. 
  • Only North America, beyond Europe, is represented at the very highest: Auger Aliassime, Fritz, Shapovalov and Tiafoe.
  • Holger Rune has gained 92 positions since the start of the year. Carlos Alcaraz “just” 31.
  • A final note: Kei Nishikori ends 2022 without a ranking. Does this suggest he’s going to retire?

BEST RANKING

Owing to earned and dropped points, as well as results in the Challenger events, five players in the top 100 have achieved their career highest this week:

Emil Ruusuvuori – 40

Quentin Halys – 64

Christopher O’Connell – 79

Roman Safiullin – 89

Nuno Borges – 91

A special applause for the 20-year old Ben Shelton, a bright prospect for USA tennis, who has made his debut in the top 100. Thanks to his victory in the Champaign-Urbana Challenger he’s now ranked 97.

Is that all? Not yet! Just a quiz for everybody: which was the last year which saw the first two places in the rankings occupied at the end of the season by two players of the same nationality?

That’s really all for now. We’ll be back in 2023.

Translated by Kingsley Elliot Kaye

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ATP Finals Daily Preview: Novak Djokovic Faces Casper Ruud in the Championship Match

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Novak Djokovic on Saturday in Turin (twitter.com/atptour)

The biggest ATP non-Major final of 2022 takes place on Sunday in Turin, Italy.

 

2022 has been a bizarre year in the career of Novak Djokovic.  It started with his deportation from Australia, forcing the unvaccinated Djokovic to miss the first Major of the year.  That would be one of six prominent events that Novak would miss this season due to COVID-19 entry rules (Australian Open, Indian Wells, Miami, Montreal, Cincinnati, US Open).  Yet Djokovic was still able to accumulate a record of 41-7, and win his 21st Slam at Wimbledon.  He is now 17-1 at indoor ATP events this fall, and will end the year as the World No.5  With a win on Sunday, he would tie Roger Federer for most all-time ATP Finals titles.

2022 has been a groundbreaking year in the career of Casper Ruud.  He had already established himself as a top 10 player, but prior to this season, was predominantly thought of as a clay court specialist, with five of his six ATP titles coming on that surface.  Yet that all changed this season, starting in Miami when he reached his first Masters 1000 finals.  Casper would go on to also reach his first two Major finals, in Paris in New York.  He is now 51-21, and into his fourth big final of the year.


Sunday’s action in Turin starts at 4:00pm local time with the doubles championship match, featuring Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic (4) vs. Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury (2).  Both teams are an undefeated 4-0 this past week.  This is Ram and Salisbury’s second consecutive year in the final, having lost a year ago to Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.  Mektic won this title two years ago alongside Wesley Koolhof, while this is Pavic’s first appearance in the final of this event.  These teams have not met since the semifinals of this tournament last year, when Ram and Salisbury prevailed.


Casper Ruud (3) Novak Djokovic (7) – Not Before 7:00pm

Ruud is 3-1 this past week, with his only loss coming in a dead rubber against Rafael Nadal.  Prior to his three top 10 victories across the last seven days, Casper only had two all season (Zverev, Auger-Aliassime).  And he is yet to win a title above 250-level in his career, with the aforementioned three losses this year in big finals.  Ruud was a semifinalist here a year ago in his ATP Finals debut.

Djokovic is an undefeated 4-0 this week, which includes an arduous effort to defeat Daniil Medvedev on Friday in a dead rubber.  Novak is now 10-3 against top 10 opposition in 2022, having taken nine of his last 10 against the top 10.  He is 4-2 in finals this year, though he lost his most recent one, two weeks in Bercy, to Holger Rune.  Djokovic is an eight-time finalist here, though he hasn’t won this title since 2015.

Djokovic has played a lot more tennis across the last two days than Ruud.  On Friday, Novak spent over three hours on court, while Ruud had the day off.  But Djokovic still looked plenty fresh for his semifinal on Saturday against Taylor Fritz, and was able to prevent the American from extending that tight contest to a third set.  Novak is 3-0 against Casper, which includes a straight-set victory at this same event a year ago.  And considering Ruud’s poor record in significant finals, Djokovic is a considerable favorite to win his sixth title at the ATP Finals on Sunday.


Sunday’s full Order of Play is here.

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ATP Finals: Fritz Close But No… Final, Djokovic Advances

Novak Djokovic beats Taylor Fritz in two tie-breaks and is just one win away from his sixth title at Nitto ATP Finals

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Novak Djokovic - 2022 Nitto ATP Finals Turin (photo Twitter @atptour)

[7] N. Djokovic b. [8] T. Fritz 7-6(5) 7-6(5)

 

Even when physically not at his best, Novak Djokovic can still count on his incredible ability to play the most effective tennis in the most important moment. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if the opponent misses an easy shot while attempting to close out the set, but the pressure Djokovic puts on whomever is on the other side of the net makes even the easiest shot look a little bit harder.

The former world no. 1 has put together a clinical display of efficiency during the first semifinal of the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin edging Taylor Fritz by two points in the tie-breaker of each set to reach his eighth finals in the end-of-year Championship.

It was not the best Djokovic, and it was not the best match: lots of errors on both sides, and a huge opportunity for Fritz to take the match to the distance when he served at 5-4 in the second set and then missed an easy backhand sitter to go a set-point up at 40-30, blaming an idiot spectator who indeed shouted in the middle of the point, when he really should have been able to put away that point blindfolded.

Fritz did not start the match in the best possible way: 10 unforced errors during the first five games, a break conceded at love at 2-2 and Djokovic appeared destined for a relatively quiet afternoon. But it was not going to be that easy: errors started flowing also on the Serbian side, and Fritz was able to equalize at 3-3. A tie-break was then needed to decide the winner of the first set, and the deciding point was a laser forehand down the line by Djokovic who swept point and set at 6-5 and headed off to the toilet for a comfort break after taking a one-set advantage.

But the break did not do him much good: unforced errors kept coming from the baseline, and Fritz blitzed 2-0 up with a break. At 4-3, the American wowed the Italian crowd with a magical backhand stop-volley to recover a service game where he found himself down 0-30, but when it was time to serve out the set, he missed that easy backhand we described earlier to give Djokovic another chance to close out a match in two sets.

And another chance is the last thing Djokovic should be gifted, although on a day like today, with Christmas time upon us, gift trading became the thing of the match. Two great points at 4-4 in the tie-break warmed the 12,000-strong crowd at Pala Alpitour to what could have possibly been a great end of the set, but Djokovic first earned a match point to be played on his serve with a good action from the baseline closed by a volley and then squandered it all with a very unusual unforced error on a routine backhand. But on his second match point, just a minute later, Fritz badly missed an inside-out forehand putting an end to the match and gifting Djokovic a chance to win his sixth title at the Nitto ATP Finals, the first in Turin.

On Sunday he will face either Casper Ruud or Andrey Rublev: he has never lost to Ruud in three previous matches (3-0) and the only time he did not beat Rublev (2-1) was last spring in Belgrade in the final of the tournament organized by his family.

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