Wimbledon 2022 Concludes With Memorable Duel - UBITENNIS
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Wimbledon 2022 Concludes With Memorable Duel

An unbelievable two weeks of Wimbledon concluded with a memorable battle between Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios.

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WIMBLEDON—I have been coming to Wimbledon nearly every year for more than half a century. My first time at the shrine was back in 1965, when my father took me out to the All England Club and my life was altered irrevocably by witnessing perhaps the premier sporting event of them all.

 

I was here for nine years in a row as both a fan and a reporter in training, missed three years (1974-76) after going to work for World Tennis Magazine in New York, and then was present as a reporter for 43 consecutive years (1977-2019) before the tournament was cancelled due to Covid in 2020. I covered Wimbledon from home a year ago, but this time around it was a joy returning to the major I cherish more than any other.

Over the fortnight, there was much to celebrate across the board, including the arrival of a breakthrough major champion in Elena Rybakina. The No. 17 seed upended the universally popular Ons Jabeur of Tunisia, rescuing herself gamely from behind to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 over the No. 3 seed. Many of us believed Jabeur’s time had come and she would take her first of many majors on the Centre Court.

Jabeur won the first set convincingly, taking 16 of 20 points on serve, breaking her big serving adversary twice, setting the tempo throughout. But Jabeur seemed to be too aware of the size of the occasion thereafter, pressing repeatedly, using the drop shot too frequently, advertising her distress periodically. She never broke serve across the last two sets, wasted nine of eleven break point opportunities in the match, and fatally squandered a 0-40 opening with Rybakina serving at 3-2 in the final set. Nonetheless, the champion deserved her honor by virtue of her high voltage serving and her crackling power off the ground. She essentially hit Jabeur off the court.

Meanwhile, the men’s tournament showcased the growing importance of a few prominent players. Jannik Sinner reached his first Wimbledon quarterfinal with a stirring performance against whiz kid Carlos Alcaraz. He won their four set contest without losing his serve, and held his nerve after squandering two match points in the third set tie-break, maintaining his high caliber big hitting and excellent serving to win 6-1, 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-3. Sinner then established a two set lead over the top seeded Djokovic, winning 12 of 15 games from 1-4 and break point down in the first set. His speed and firepower in this stretch were nothing short of stupendous.

But Djokovic refused to be swayed by that onslaught from his gifted opponent. The Serbian took a bathroom break and reemerged with considerably more purpose and authority. Masterful from the backcourt, serving with extraordinary precision, moving with alacrity, Djokovic turned the match upside down with his unique brand of offense and defense, winning 5-7, 2-6, 6-3 6-2, 6-2, rallying from two sets to love down for the seventh time in his estimable career. Djokovic was in another league those last three sets but the fact remains that Sinner took a step in the right direction and left his boosters with the impression that he could well be a factor at the next Grand Slam tournament in New York.

Before I get to the eagerly awaited final round clash between Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios, it is time to address the most arresting player in the field once more in London, and that, of course, was Rafael Nadal. Somehow he had won the Australian Open at the start of this year, claiming that crown for the first time in 13 years by fighting back valiantly from two sets to love down and 2-3, 0-40 in the third set to topple Daniil Medvedev in the final.

At Roland Garros, Nadal secured a 14th crown on the red clay in Paris despite daily injections for an ailing foot. He came into Wimbledon after a procedure for the foot which seemed to work.

But along the way to a quarterfinal collision against No. 11 seed Taylor Fritz, Nadal tore an abdominal muscle rather badly. He was in unmistakable pain during his match with the American but somehow Nadal escaped with a 3-6, 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (10-4) triumph despite losing his serve eight times over the course of those five sets.

He had to reduce the speed of his delivery significantly and needed to slice most of his backhands to get through that ordeal, but the Spaniard persevered. Be that as it may, his injury was so serious that he decided to default the semifinal against Kyrgios rather than risk long lasting damage.

That was fortunate for Kyrgios. The world No. 40 had prepared well for Wimbledon and reached the semifinals in two grass court tournaments before defaulting against Roberto Bautista Agut in Mallorca after winning one match in that tournament. Kyrgios departed with an abdominal injury of his own, making certain he did not endanger his chances of making a serious run for the Wimbledon title. Yet he nearly lost to British wildcard Paul Jubb in the opening round, escaping in that harrowing encounter 3-6, 6-1, 7-5, 6-7 (3), 7-5. Kyrgios crushed No. 26 seed Filip Krajinovic 6-2, 6-3, 6-1 in the second round before prevailing in a contentious confrontation against No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (7).

The drama kept unfolding. Facing the soft-spoken and congenial American Brandon Nakashima in the fourth round, Kyrgios was troubled by a sore shoulder which prevented him from serving at full force through various stages of the match. Yet Kyrgios prevailed in the end 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 6-2, surviving a second five set skirmish. Seemingly back in better physical shape in the quarterfinals, Kyrgios accounted for Chile’s Christian Garin with sheer efficiency 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (5).

And so, despite not having to step on court to defeat Nadal, Kyrgios has done his share of hard work prior to the appointment against Djokovic. The fact remained that this was brand new territory for the mercurial 27-year-old Australian. He had never been beyond the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament before, way back in 2014 at Wimbledon and again at the 2015 Australian Open.

Across his entire career, Kyrgios has won only six tournaments. He has never been victorious at a prestigious Masters 1000 event, only once reaching a final at Cincinnati in 2017. Kyrgios had established himself as one of the vast under-achievers in the world of sports and one of its most exasperating performers. And yet, here he was in a fight for supremacy against one of the all time great players in tennis history.

Djokovic was appearing in his eighth Wimbledon final of the last eleven played. This was his 32nd career final at a major, more than any man has ever played. He was chasing a 21st Grand Slam title, and attempting to move within one title of Nadal for the most men’s major singles crowns ever. History was driving Djokovic in this captivating meeting with Kyrgios, inspiring him to perform majestically yet simultaneously making the Serbian feel the immense weight of pressure.

The last major he had garnered was at Wimbledon a year ago, and he had fallen upon some tough times ever since, losing to Medvedev in the U.S. Open final when he was only three sets away from a Grand Slam.

Djokovic ultimately was not able to play the Australian Open this year as an unvaccinated player, and was thus deprived of a likely tenth title run in Melbourne. At the French Open he underperformed in a four set quarterfinal loss to Nadal.

All of those setbacks made Djokovic highly motivated to succeed once more on the Centre Court and add to his legacy, but he also realized that a bid for a fourth U.S. Open title almost surely will not be possible later this summer because he is not vaccinated. That fundamental and inescapable fact surely made Djokovic even more determined to win Wimbledon this year. He was a man on the deepest of missions, treating this tournament as a critical moment in his career, utterly unwavering in his pursuit of the crown.

In the final against Kyrgios, Djokovic was well aware from the outset that Kyrgios was not intimidated by either his resume or his reputation. They had met only twice before and Kyrgios had prevailed in both clashes— at Acapulco and Indian Wells five years ago.

In those two matches combined, Kyrgios did not lose his serve. I watched these two battles and they were well played on both sides of the net, but this was amidst one of Djokovic’s worst years. Only a few months earlier he had lost to Denis Istomin at the Australian Open.

In the early stages of this gripping Wimbledon final, Kyrgios was striking the ball beautifully. He was hardly missing in the fast paced backcourt exchanges, driving his forehand potently, guiding his two-hander safely to avoid senseless mistakes. He broke Djokovic on a double fault at 2-2 in the first set as the Serbian gambled on a 111 MPH second serve and sent it into the net. Kyrgios rolled through his service games until 5-4 but then sealed the set after a deuce game with an ace measured at 131 MPH down the T. In 31 minutes, the 6’4” Australian powerhouse had secured the opening set.

Djokovic was concerned but largely undismayed. He won a critical game on his serve at 1-1 in the second set by prevailing in a hard fought 23 stroke exchange at 30-30 and then executing a backhand drop shot winner immaculately on the following point. Djokovic looked up pridefully at his entourage as he went to the changeover. Buoyed by his commendable hold, Djokovic broke at love in the fourth game to move ahead 3-1. At 5-3, he served for the set, opening with a double fault in that ninth game, soon falling behind 0-40.

But, in a spirited stand, he rallied to deuce before saving a fourth break point with a gusty backhand drop shot down the line that was unmanageable for Kyrgios. Soon a fiercely determined Djokovic held to make it one set all.

The complexion of the encounter had changed. Djokovic was now getting more and more returns back into play and challenging the Australian in almost every service game. But Kyrgios fended off two break points in the first game of the third set, held from deuce for 2-1 and survived another deuce game for 3-2, closing it with a pair of aces.

They went to 4-4 and Kyrgios seemed poised for a comfortable hold when he took a 40-0 lead. But Djokovic produced forehand winners on two of the next three points on his way back to deuce before a beleaguered Kyrgios double faulted. At break point down, Kyrgios netted a routine backhand. Djokovic had opportunistically collected five points in a row to establish a 5-4 lead in the most pivotal game of the match. He held on in the following game to build a two sets to one lead.

To the surprise of many seasoned observers in the cognoscenti, Kyrgios did not fold in the fourth set. In fact, he fought on ferociously. Both combatants were unstoppable on serve across that set. Kyrgios won 24 of 33 points in his service games on his delivery leading up to the tie-break, while Djokovic was even more convincing, taking 24 of his 29 service points. To be sure, the 35-year-old Serbian was two points away from being forced into a fifth set when he served at 5-6, 30-30, but he calmly claimed the next two points to make it 6-6.

Djokovic was nearly letter perfect in that tie-break, knowing unequivocally that he wanted to end the skirmish right then and there, realizing that a fifth set might have brought out the best in Kyrgios. Kyrgios opened that sequence by double faulting. Djokovic led 2-0 but made his only unforced error of that tie-break.

And yet, despite two first serves from Kyrgios on the next two points, Djokovic won them both with solid returning and heads-up play. He moved swiftly to 6-1 before Kyrgios saved two match points on his own serve, but on his third match point Djokovic succeeded handsomely, eliciting a netted backhand pass from Kyrgios on the run to prevail seven points to three.

Victory went to Djokovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (3) as he emerged victorious for the seventh time in eight Wimbledon finals. Djokovic is now the only man in the history of tennis to win two of the four majors at least seventh times. In addition to his seven titles at the All England Club, he has amassed nine more in Melbourne at the Australian Open.

Kyrgios had sent out a barrage of blockbuster serves all through that final, releasing 30 aces and countless service winners. But he lost his serve twice in the four sets while Djokovic—astonishing in getting his racket on so many searing serves and blocking them back with depth— was broken only once before holding in his last 18 service games. Most remarkably, Kyrgios connected with 73% of his first serves, averaging 123.6 MPH on his first serve and 110.6 on his second delivery.

Be that as it may, the Australian won only 70% of his first serve points (a decidedly low number for him) and 53% on the second serve. Djokovic, meanwhile, won 83% of his first serve points and 61% on second serve. Djokovic made only 17 unforced errors in the match, 16 fewer than Kyrgios.

Djokovic has raised his record to 21-11 in major finals and has now moved past Roger Federer into sole possession of second place on the all time men’s list, standing only one behind Nadal. It was a very important title for Djokovic in a multitude of ways, and immensely gratifying as well. He has not lost a Centre Court match since falling in the 2013 final against Andy Murray, winning 39 in a row. Moreover, Djokovic has captured four Wimbledon titles in succession.

And yet, the Serbian drops in the ATP Rankings this week from No. 3 to No. 7. How can that be? The ATP and WTA elected to take away all ranking points from the players at Wimbledon this year. Thus, Djokovic, despite defending the title, lost his 2000 ranking points from 2021. Strictly in terms of the rankings, it was as if he and everyone else never played.

That was a ludicrous decision by the associations to harm their players in this manner. Wimbledon is the sport’s centerpiece event, the most prestigious tournament in the game of tennis, the one all sports fans look forward to the most. This year was no exception. But Djokovic and many other players were done a terrible injustice. It is not only regrettable but it cuts into the credibility of those rankings.

Djokovic stands to lose another 1200 points that he earned at the U.S. Open last year as a finalist if he does not play this year, which is exceedingly likely. It is Djokovic’s choice if he does not go to New York because he could have taken the vaccine. Along with his many ardent admirers and observers who believe Djokovic is one of the most extraordinary craftsmen the game has ever seen, I wish he felt differently and had changed his mind about the vaccine, which the vast majority of authorities believe is very safe.

Having said that, it must be reiterated that Djokovic is not refusing to be vaccinated out of egocentricity. To the contrary, he is standing up for his own principles. Whether misguided or not, he may miss two of the four majors this year. He is making a substantial sacrifice without asking for any sympathy, and that must not be forgotten by those who question his motives.

Where the Covid Crisis goes from here is anybody’s guess. But this much is certain: Djokovic has tied both his idol Pete Sampras and William Renshaw with his seven titles at the All England Club. Next year, he will seek to tie Roger Federer’s men’s record of eight championships. Incidentally, the iconic trio of Sampras, Federer and Djokovic have won 22 of the last 29 Wimbledon titles collectively. Djokovic will be surely return as the favorite. The feeling grows that Djokovic will remain in the forefront of the game for at least three more years, and some of his very best tennis might well be ahead of him.

In all of my happy years at Wimbledon, I have witnessed very few players on the preeminent stage of the sport who have given me as much pleasure as Novak Djokovic.

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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