Novak Djokovic Eyes A Return To The Top After Record-Equalling Triumph At ATP Finals - UBITENNIS
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Novak Djokovic Eyes A Return To The Top After Record-Equalling Triumph At ATP Finals

After a turbulent 2022, the 35-year-old has ended the year on a high with plenty of motivation for the future.

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

The season might have just ended but Novak Djokovic has already issued a warning to his younger peers ahead of next year.

On Sunday the Serbian became only the second man in history to win the ATP Finals for the sixth time after Roger Federer. In the title match, Djokovic dispatched of Casper Ruud 7-5, 6-3, to lift the year-end trophy without losing a match in the round-robin event. In doing so, he has earned a staggering $4,740,300 in prize money. Overall the 21-time Grand Slam winner has won $9,934,582 this season which is more than any other player on the ATP Tour. 

Djokovic’s dominance at the ATP Finals concludes what has been one of the most, if not the most, challenging years of his career. Due to his stance on the COVID-19 vaccination and some countries’ policies on entry requirements, he missed two out of four Grand Slam tournaments, as well as a series of Masters 1000 tournaments in North America. Furthermore, at Wimbledon he won the title but didn’t receive any ranking points after they were removed from the event by the ATP in response to a ban imposed on Russian and Belarussian players. 

“I always see myself as the best player in the world,” Djokovic said during his press conference on Sunday. “I have that kind of mentality and that kind of approach. Regardless of who is across the net, regardless of what the surface is, regardless of what season it is, and what number of the professional season in my career we’re facing, it’s always the same. The ambitions are as high as possible.’
“That kind of approach, I feel it brought me to where I am sitting here today as a 35-year-old, holding one of the biggest trophies in the sport.”

While he ended the year ranked fifth in the world, some such as former world No.1 Andy Roddick believe Djokovic is the best player in the men’s game. Currently occupying the top spot is 19-year-old Carlos Alcaraz who won the US Open title earlier this year. 

“I don’t feel like there’s any stopping happening or thoughts about letting the tennis career go for some time now. I feel motivated. I feel good in my own body. I take care of myself,” Djokovic continued. 
“For me, it’s love and passion really. As long as that’s there I’ll do anything in my power to challenge the young guys for the biggest trophies.”

Perhaps one of the most striking aspects of Djokovic’s latest run in Turin was his serve. In all five of his matches, he won 75% of his first service points or more. In the final, that figure was 85%. 

Goran Ivanisevic, who has been coaching the tennis star since 2019, believes many underestimate this area of Djokovic’s game.

“His serve was a very underestimated shot all through his career. If you look at so many matches, five, 10 years ago, his serve always saved him somehow,” said Ivanisevic. 
“But now he’s even better. Now he always wants to improve. Especially this week, amazing percentage, amazing precision of the serve. Every time he needed to, he hit an unbelievable first serve. His second serve is much better (too).”

Djokovic enters into the off-season knowing he will be able to return to Australia in January after the government removed his Visa ban. Next month he is scheduled to play at the inaugural World Tennis League in Dubai which is an 18-player exhibition event taking place between December 19-24. 

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Jack Draper Wins In Stuttgart, Potentially Faces Andy Murray in Round Two

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Jack Draper – ATP Monaco di Baviera 2024 (foto via Twitter @atptour)

Britain’s Jack Draper tight first round win headlined the opening day’s results at the Boss Open 2024 in Stuttgart – and possibly faces a second-round match with Andy Murray who takes on Marcos Giron tomorrow.

Less than 24 hours from the last ball being hit at Roland Garros, the ATP Tour had already switched surfaces onto the grass, and 22-year-old Draper was well tested but ultimately came through in two tie-breakers over Sebastian Ofner.

The sixth seed’s 7-6, 7-6 win contained just one break of serve each, both coming in the second set, as serve dominated proceedings on the faster grass courts in Germany.

While the Austrian won 75% on his first serve, Draper won a whopping 89% behind his first delivery as well as hitting eight aces. These kind of service stats will surely take him far during the grass court season.

“I thought it was a really good match,” Eurosport quoted Draper saying after his match. 
“Both of us played really clean tennis, executing really well.
“When it came down to it, I’m glad I competed really well and got over the line – it’s good to be back on the grass as well.”

There were also wins for Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann who won 6-3, 6-3 over wildcard Henri Squire, while compatriot Dominik Koepfer won in three sets over China’s Zhizhen Zhang 4-6, 7-6, 7-6. 

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Carlos Alcaraz Still Owns A Magical Racket

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The legend of Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket lives on.

The 21-year-old Spaniard executed one magical shot after another with his racket and legs  Sunday afternoon in the French Open final. That bit of magic spelled defeat for Germany’s Alexander Zverev.

This was a final to remember, one of the great matches of all the Grand Slams. It just wasn’t in the cards for the 26-year-old Zverev to finally win a Grand Slam title.

HE HAD IT, THEN HE DIDN’T

Both players seemed to play a game of “he had it and then he didn’t.”

Alcaraz appeared to have everything under control in the first set, but Zverev rushed through the second set and then made a comeback from 5-2 down in the third set to win five straight games.

Zverev had everything going for him when he started the fourth set with a two-set advantage. It appeared that all the 6-6 Zverev had to do was to continue playing his masterful game of big serves and mighty ground strokes.

But Zverev couldn’t get started in the fourth set until he was down 4-0. So much for a smooth and easy ride to a Grand Slam title. By then, the magic of Alcaraz was heating up.

MAGIC OF ALCARAZ HEATING UP

Zverev still had his chances, even when he fell behind 2-1 in the fifth set. He had to feel pretty good about his chances when he took a triple break point lead against Alcaraz’s serve and appeared ready to even the set at 2-2. Even after Carlos came up with a winner to bring the  game score to double break point.

Zverev still was ready to even the entire match.

That’s when everything seemed to go haywire for the German, while all the while, Alcaraz was able to repeatedly come up with his magical shots as the Spaniard made critical shots that looked almost impossible to make.

ALCARAZ HEADED FOR GREATNESS

Everything for Zverev was lost in the magical racket of Alcaraz.

What was then initially called a game-ending Alcaraz double fault and a 2-2 deadlock quicky reversed itself and Alcaraz stayed alive by winning the next three points while taking a 3-1 advantage.

Zverev did get back to a 3-2 deficit and had a break point in the sixth game, but that was it for the hopes of Zverev. The last two games went rather easily in favor of Alcaraz to wrap up a 6-3, 2-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 victory for Alcaraz.

That moved the Spaniard to a higher level of success on the ATP Tour. He became the youngest man to win Grand Slam titles on all of the different surfaces, clay, grass and hard courts.

Carlos Alcaraz and his magical racket appear to be headed for greatness.

James Beck was the 2003 winner of the USTA National Media Award  for print media. A 1995 MBA graduate of The Citadel, he can be reached at Jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. 

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Tsitsipas Brothers Hit With Trio Of Fines At French Open

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Stefanos Tsitsipas and his brother Petros have been fined more than 20,000 euros for multiple violations of the coaching rules at this year’s French Open. 

The brothers received a financial penalty during three different matches that they played in. Two of those were in the second and third rounds of the men’s doubles tournament. Furthermore, Stefanos was also penalised during his singles quarter-final match against Carlos Alcaraz, which he lost in straight sets. According to French newspaper L’Equipe, all three of those fines were issued as a result of coaching rules being broken.

Ironically, coaching is allowed during matches at the French Open but certain rules must be followed. ‘Verbal’ coaching can only be issued from the coaches and their team if they are sitting in the designated player’s box. Instructions must be limited to a few words and can only be given if the player is in the same half of the court as their coach. Although non-verbal coaching is allowed regardless of what side the player is on. Finally, players can’t start a conversation with their coach unless it is during a medical break, a bathroom break or when their opponent is changing clothes.

However, the Tsitsipas brothers have been found in violation of these rules, which is likely due to their animated father in the stands who is also their coach. Apostolos Tsitsipas has been given coaching violations in the past at other events, including the 2022 Australian Open. 

The value of the fines are €4,600 and €9,200 for the Tsitsipas brothers in the doubles, as well as an additional €7,400 just for Stefanos in the singles. In total, the value of their fines is €21,200. However, the penalty is unlikely to have an impact on the duo whose combined earnings for playing in this year’s French Open amount to roughly €495,000. 

So far in the tournament, the highest single fine to be issued this year was against Terence Atmane who hit a ball out of frustration that struck a fan in the stands. Atmane, who later apologised for his actions, managed to avoid getting disqualified from the match. Instead, he was fined €23,000. 

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