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Preview: Djokovic Faces Zverev On Blockbuster Semi-Final Saturday

  • Posted: Nov 19, 2021

The rivalries which have defined the 2021 hard-court season are taking centre stage once again in the climactic rounds of the Nitto ATP Finals.

Novak Djokovic faced Alexander Zverev in the closing stages of the Australian Open, the Tokyo Olympics and the US Open – now the two will clash in Turin as the World No. 1 targets his eighth appearance in the final of the season-ending championships.

Should Djokovic reach that final, he could face Daniil Medvedev for the fourth time in 2021 after they played in the finals of the Australian Open, the US Open and the Rolex Paris Masters. That is, if Medvedev gets past the challenge of Casper Ruud, the only one of the four semi-finalists who is not a former Nitto ATP Finals champion.

Djokovic will be aiming to avoid a repeat of last year’s tournament, when he was edged out of the season finale at the semi-final stage. He could hardly have advanced through the group stage more cleanly, defeating Ruud 7-6(4), 6-2 and Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-2 to win the Green Group. But Zverev should be a much tougher challenge. Djokovic leads the ATP Head2Head 7-3, but their past four matches have gone past straight sets.

This will be the third clash between them at the Nitto ATP Finals, where Zverev memorably defeated Djokovic 6-3, 6-4 to claim the title in 2018 after losing to the Serb during the group stage. Djokovic defeated Zverev 6-3, 7-6(4) in the group stages in 2020.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Zverev said. “It’s always interesting and close when we play each other, so I’m expecting another tough one… There will be a lot of long rallies, we will run a lot more and suffer, in a way, a lot more as well.

“I think every single match we have played has been close. We’ve needed to be at our best and one or two points decided the matches. I expect no different here as well.”

Daniil Medvedev and Casper Ruud

There’s less history between second seed Medvedev and Ruud, who have played each other twice, Medvedev winning both matches in straight sets. But history is no guarantee of future success. Just ask Ruud, who was 0-4 and on a nine-set losing streak against Rublev when he came back from 2-6 down to win 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) and reach the semi-finals on his Nitto ATP Finals debut.

“It is going to be another tough battle, different kind of player from today, but one of the best in the world,” Ruud said. “He has proven himself as one of the best over the past two or three years. I have played against him a couple of times and lost both, but I know a little bit about what I am going to face and it is going to be a fun challenge.”

Ruud will be up against an even more formidable streak – Medvedev’s eight-match winning streak at the Nitto ATP Finals. After going 0-3 on his debut in 2019, Medvedev has not lost a match, claiming the title unbeaten in 2020 and he is now 3-0 in Turin. The Russian had already won the Red Group by beating Hubert Hurkacz 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4 and Zverev 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(6) when he faced Jannik Sinner on Thursday night, and looked set for an early night when he led 6-0. However, the young Italian – and the passionate crowd – wanted more. They got it, as Medvedev finally overwhelmed Sinner’s resistance after two hours and 29 minutes, 6-0, 6-7(5), 7-6(8). The World No. 2 will not be short of winning momentum to bring into Saturday’s semi-finals.

In the doubles, World No. 1 pairing Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic will meet the British-American duo of Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury. The British-American duo had to beat the experienced Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah to clinch their place in the semi-finals but rose to the occasion, winning 7-5, 2-6, 11-9 to go 3-0.

Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert will be looking to reach their third season-ending championship final as a team after winning the title without dropping a set in 2019. Their route through the group stages has been more dramatic this time – they lost 11-13 in the Match Tie-break to Ram and Salisbury – but not as dramatic as that of their semi-final opponents Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos, who saved four match points as they came back from 4-6, 1-4 down to defeat Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek.

But all the remaining players can put the qualification scenarios and hypotheticals of round-robin play behind them. When they take to the court at the Pala Alpitour on Saturday, there are only two possibilities left – lose, and go home; win, and reach Sunday’s final.

CENTRE COURT start 11:30 am

[2] R. Ram (USA) / J. Salisbury (GBR) vs [1] N. Mektic (CRO) / M. Pavic (CRO)

Not Before 2:00 pm
[2] D. Medvedev (RUS) vs [8] C. Ruud (NOR)

Not Before 6:30 pm
[4] M. Granollers (ESP) / H. Zeballos (ARG) vs [3] P. Herbert (FRA) / N. Mahut (FRA)

Not Before 9:00 pm
[1] N. Djokovic (SRB) vs [3] A. Zverev (GER)

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Ruthless Djokovic Downs Norrie In Turin

  • Posted: Nov 19, 2021

Novak Djokovic made it three wins from three in the Green Group Friday at the Nitto ATP Finals, dispatching Cameron Norrie 6-2, 6-1 in a ruthless performance to maintain his perfect record ahead of the semi-finals in Turin.

The World No. 1 had already secured top spot following round-robin wins over Casper Ruud and Andrey Rublev, and played with such confidence against Norrie, dictating from the baseline with his consistent groundstrokes to secure victory after 66 minutes.

“I tried not to think about tomorrow’s semi-final,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview. “It is not easy to walk on the court knowing you have already qualified and you know your opponent. I tried to be professional and I tried to give my best and I played really well. It was the first time we have played each other. I took the time away from Cameron. I analysed his game and knew the game plan and executed it very well.”


Djokovic will face Alexander Zverev in the last four on Saturday after the German finished runner up in the Red Group, while Daniil Medvedev will play Green Group runner up Ruud. It is the first time three former Nitto ATP Finals champions have advanced to the last four since 1994, when Andre Agassi, Boris Becker and Pete Sampras reached that stage.

“[My tennis] gets better and better every match,” Djokovic added. “I couldn’t be more satisfied with my tennis prior to possibly the two most important matches in the tournament.

“Sascha is playing well. He is obviously one of the best players in the world, arguably the best serve, it is definitely up there. It is going to be tough. The conditions are quick, so that will be one of the keys, how well will I serve and return.”

The Serbian is chasing a record-equalling sixth title at the season finale as he looks to draw level with Roger Federer. The 34-year-old, who last triumphed at the Nitto ATP Finals in 2015, arrived in Turin in form after lifting his 37th ATP Masters 1000 trophy in Paris earlier this month.

Djokovic has now earned 51 wins this year, having gone 27-1 in major championship play with title runs at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon. The top seed came within one match of the Grand Slam at the US Open, where he lost to Medvedev in the final.

In their first ATPHead2Head meeting, Djokovic started quickly against Norrie as he moved 2-0 ahead. The World No. 1 fired 11 winners and won 92 per cent (11/12) of his first-serve points in the first set to lead.

Fuelled by momentum, Djokovic maintained his dominance in the second set as he closed the net effectively to put Norrie under increased pressure. The Serbian hit with relentless power and depth to end the round-robin stage in style at the Pala Alpitour.

Norrie is the second alternate at the season finale, having replaced Stefanos Tsitsipas, who withdrew due to an elbow injury following his first match. The Briton, who is making his Nitto ATP Finals debut, has enjoyed a breakthrough 2021 season. The 26-year-old captured his first tour-level title at the Mifel Open in Los Cabos, before he clinched his maiden Masters 1000 crown at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.

“I think I played a couple of loose points in the first service game and he relaxed a little bit there, but I’ve watched him quite a lot and he was very solid, he gave me nothing really,” said Norrie. “I knew he had a good serve. I didn’t really know it was going to be this good. I think he had a very good serving day. He was very relaxed and even going after the second serve at times.

“For my level and for me to compete with him, I think there were too many free points, too many easy points in there. But I think it comes down a little bit to the fact you’re playing him, and you try to overplay at times. He was too good, very relaxed, he’s playing amazing and the conditions are perfect for him. Too good for me today.”

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Herbert/Mahut Keep Winning Momentum Heading Into Turin SFs

  • Posted: Nov 19, 2021

Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut finished second in the Red Group at the Nitto ATP Finals after defeating Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares 6-3, 7-6(5) on Friday.

Herbert and Mahut did not drop a set at the Nitto ATP Finals in 2019 on their way to becoming the first French champions since 2005, but their route in Turin has not been so straightforward.

They opened their campaign by beating Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah 7-6(1), 6-4, but were defeated 11-13 in the Match Tie-break by Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury, who went on to finish top of the Red Group and set the semi-final lineup with their own win over Cabal and Farah.

Murray and Soares have made the last four at the Nitto ATP Finals three times as a team, but were mathematically out of contention to do so in 2021 before Friday’s match began after defeats at the hands of Cabal and Farah and Ram and Salisbury. There was still plenty to play for as they faced Herbert and Mahut for the first time since 2017, with their ATP Head2Head series locked at 2-2.


Unfortunately for the British-Brazilian tandem, Herbert and Mahut proved too strong and polished a partnership at the Pala Alpitour on Friday. The French pairing converted both break points they earned in the first set to lead 6-3 after 30 minutes, with Murray and Soares having won only 33 per cent of points behind their second serve compared to Herbert and Mahut’s 67 per cent.

Murray and Soares defended their serve better in the second set, and had their biggest chance of the match on Mahut’s serve at 5-5. The veteran had received treatment for a back issue during the previous changeover, and he and Herbert were swiftly down 0/40. But the Frenchmen, playing their sixth Nitto ATP Finals in seven years, bounced back, held serve and largely dominated the tie-break, taking a 4/1 lead that proved unassailable.

Mahut and Herbert will face fourth seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos in Saturday’s semi-final as the French team continue to pursue their second Nitto ATP Finals title.

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Ruud's Search For Clues To Solve Medvedev Riddle

  • Posted: Nov 19, 2021

Casper Ruud will be trawling through old matches ahead of his semi-final at the Nitto ATP Finals, looking for clues as to how to beat World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev on Saturday.

Speaking after overcoming Andrey Rublev on Friday to go 2-1 in Green Group action, the Norwegian admitted, “Tomorrow, I hope I can have the crowd on my side as I’m playing the World No. 2 and I’d appreciate the support. I will fight and run until I am too tired to run. I have lost to him twice before, so I have to come up with a better game plan tomorrow.”

Medvedev, the Nitto ATP Finals defending champion, has gotten the better of Ruud in their two previous matches at the 2020 ATP Cup and at the Mallorca Championships in June. The Russian is 12-2 indoors this year and five of his 13 tour-level crowns have come on indoor hard courts. 

“I will go tonight and look at the match ups against myself, then look at footage of [Dominic] Thiem versus Medvedev in the past,” said Ruud. “I’m not similar to Dominic, but we do both play with quite a lot of topspin from the forehand. I think we both prefer to play the heavier shots with a lot of spin. Dominic has the potential to play so fast also, has a good slice, an unbelievable backhand, and I’d be interested to see what he has done in the past.”

“The past two or three years, Daniil have proved that he deserves to be on top of the world and tomorrow it will be my task to surprise him and try to beat him. It will obviously be tough, he is a great player, especially on an indoor hard-court. He has also struggled a bit [this week]. I think three matches in three sets, so he hasn’t been flawless and I hope I can find a way to force some errors from our match.”


The 22-year-old Ruud, who recovered to beat Rublev 2-6, 7-6, 7-6(5) at the Pala Alpitour in Turin, has now won 11 straight deciding sets since losing to Alejandro Davidovich Fokina at Roland Garros in May.

“My best service performance was against Cameron [Norrie on Wednesday], not the start, but in the second and third sets,” said Ruud, who has won 55 matches and lifted five ATP Tour trophies in 2021. “My serve got better as the match went on today. I have been working on it since Paris, also knowing in practice that the courts would be difficult to return on.”

“It was a great feeling and a relief [today], on the match point, to serve an ace. The toughest thing about the sport is the more you win, the more matches you play, and they become tougher. It’s the first time I have experienced the Nitto ATP Finals and I hope to play a good match [tomorrow].”

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Ruud Sets Medvedev SF Showdown In Turin

  • Posted: Nov 19, 2021

In a winner-takes-all Green Group match, it was Casper Ruud who rose to the task Friday at the Nitto ATP Finals, edging Andrey Rublev 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) in a high-quality match to qualify for the semi-finals in Turin.

The 22-year-old bounced back from losing his opening round-robin match against Novak Djokovic by defeating Cameron Norrie to set up a crunch clash against Rublev, with the Russian also holding a 1-1 record after two matches.

“The court is playing very fast and Andrey plays very fast,” Ruud said in his on-court interview. “He rips the ball harder than anyone on the Tour and serves very well on his first serve. We all want to play under control and with initiative, but it is not easy against Rublev because he makes you run all the time and play defensively all the time. I knew I had to fight fire with fire. On the big points I think I played quite smartly.”


With the pressure on, Ruud imposed his aggressive game on Rublev, hitting his powerful groundstrokes with precision and depth as he rallied from a break down in the second and third sets to secure his victory in two hours and 24 minutes.

The World No. 8 has finished second in the Green Group behind Djokovic and will face Daniil Medvedev in the last four on Saturday, while the World No. 1 will play Alexander Zverev.

“I am just enjoying the moment,” Ruud said. “I am looking forward to tomorrow already. It is going to be another tough battle, different kind of player from today, but one of the best in the world and he has proven himself as one of the best over the past two or three years. I have played against him a couple of times and lost both, but I know a little bit about what I am going to face and it is going to be a fun challenge.”

Ruud, who is making his debut at the season finale, fired 34 winners and broke Rublev three times as he rallied back to reduce his ATP Head2Head series deficit to 1-4 against the 24-year-old.

The Norwegian has enjoyed a standout 2021 season, capturing tour-level titles in Geneva, Bastad, Gstaad, Kitzbühel and San Diego. Ruud also reached the semi-finals at ATP Masters 1000 events in Monte Carlo and Madrid and became the first Norwegian to crack the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings.

In a fast start, Rublev quickly found his rhythm from the baseline and was dominant on serve, not facing a break point in the first set as he won 92 per cent (12/13) of points behind his first delivery. The Russian sealed the opener in 34 minutes when Ruud hit a backhand wide.

In a tighter second set, Ruud provided greater resistance as he began to play far more aggressively, stepping inside the baseline to pin Rublev back. After breaks were exchanged in the middle of the second set, it was Ruud who raised his level at the end of the set, dictating on his forehand to force a decider.

Both players continued to strike the ball with immense power in the third set off the forehand wing. After Rublev broke, Ruud responded immediately to level at 3-3. The World No. 8 then showcased his grit, fending off a break point at 5-5 with a forehand winner as they moved to a tie-break. In a tight tie-break, Ruud held his nerve to seal a massive win.

Rublev was making his second appearance at the season finale, having fallen in the round-robin stage in London last year. Earlier this year, the fifth seed clinched the title in Rotterdam and reached the final at ATP Masters 1000 events in Monte Carlo and Cincinnati.

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Tecau Signs Off On Storied ATP Tour Career

  • Posted: Nov 19, 2021

Horia Tecau embraced his partner Kevin Krawietz on Thursday after they completed a 6-3, 6-7(1), 10-6 victory against Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos at the Nitto ATP Finals. The Romanian had a big smile on his face knowing he had finished his ATP Tour career on a high.

It was the final tournament match of Tecau’s storied career. And although the eighth seeds did not advance to the semi-finals in Turin, it was still a perfect ending.

“It’s an amazing feeling. I couldn’t have written a better script for this moment. I’m really happy to be here, to do it on a nice team and finish with a win,” Tecau told “Before the match we were in the locker room and we couldn’t talk about tactics. I just wanted to play my last match like I did my career — play with good energy, try to win and fight hard until the end and leave everything on the court.

“That’s how I played every time and that’s the mark I wanted to leave on the court. Being able to get a win in an event like this in the last match, it’s an amazing feeling that not many players have. It’s probably going to sink in over the next few days, but I’m really happy to leave it like this.”

Horia Tecau
Photo Credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour
Tecau’s brother, Andrei, did not travel much during Horia’s career, but he was in attendance at the Pala Alpitour. So were several of Tecau’s close friends. They were all on hand to celebrate the end of the 36-year-old’s journey, which started when he turned professional in 2003.

“I’m proud of a lot of things. I grew as a person through the game. All the goals and all the dreams I had, I was able to accomplish them and that is very fulfilling. I got to meet some great people along the way. I had great partners, coaches and made a lot of friendships,” Tecau said. “The way I went through it all and matured as a person and a player, I think that’s the biggest thing I’m proud of.”

The former World No. 2 won 38 tour-level doubles trophies, including two men’s doubles majors — he lifted the trophy at Wimbledon in 2015 and the US Open in 2017 alongside Jean-Julien Rojer. He also captured the 2015 Nitto ATP Finals crown with Rojer and three ATP Masters 1000 victories.

“The first Slam at Wimbledon was that big dream that you want to accomplish with your partner. You work together for that one goal, one everything and become a team and fight for it,” Tecau said. “The second was more about the partnership, the friendship, being there for each other and supporting each other through all the tough moments.”

The Romanian admitted that he began to feel his impending retirement last year. Entering this season, he did not necessarily expect to find a partner like Krawietz, who needed a partner after Andreas Mies underwent surgery early in the year. Their easygoing relationship kept Tecau going.

“I’m really happy to have played one more year and to make it here to the [Nitto ATP] Finals,” Tecau said. “The more I kept playing, the more it was sinking in and I knew it was coming and was going to happen at the end of the year. There is no doubt about it, no mixed feelings like I should change my mind. That didn’t exist. I just focussed on the way I wanted to finish and that’s it.”

Tecau is a humble champion who is widely respected by his peers. He also was focussed on helping the community and inspiring the future generations, writing “Viata in ritm de tenis” (Life in the Rhythm of Tennis), a children’s book that encourages kids to pursue their dreams through hard work.

The Romanian, who will play his final match in Davis Cup next week, rarely showed excessive emotion on the court, and let his tennis speak for itself.

“I was never going to change. The sport and the results and the way it goes is sometimes challenging, but I always tried to have good relationships with my coworkers, my friends and the staff at the events. I think that was something that I was educated with, but something I also saw before me,” Tecau said. “I was a big fan of [Stefan] Edberg, [Patrick] Rafter and Roger [Federer]. Watching these guys on TV and some of them I met in the locker room and saw how they acted and behaved throughout the year with ups and downs, that was a benchmark for me.

“There are a lot of fans and kids who like watching the sport and I think it’s important that they get to see that you can win and treat things that way. You don’t have to be a selfish, rude guy to make it. That’s the way I saw things and how I acted on and around the court and I’m very proud of that. I’ll carry that forever.”

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Win & You're In: Rublev, Ruud Aim For SF Spots; Djokovic Meets Norrie In Turin

  • Posted: Nov 19, 2021

It’s simple on Friday, win and you’re into the semi-final at the Nitto ATP Finals. That’s what Andrey Rublev and Casper Ruud hope for in the final Green Group matches at the Pala Alpitour in Turin.

For the first time since 1994, three of the four semi-finalists at the season finale will be former champions. Novak Djokovic, the Green Group winner, continues his quest for a record-equalling sixth Nitto ATP Finals crown, and will play 2018 titlist Alexander Zverev on Saturday, while World No. 2 and defending champion Daniil Medvedev, the Red Group winner, awaits Rublev or Ruud.

So will it be Rublev or Ruud who makes it? History is firmly in favour of Rublev, who holds a 4-0 ATP Head2Head record against first-time qualifier Ruud, and has won eight straight sets against the Norwegian after losing the first set they ever played.

But momentum is on Ruud’s side. While Rublev started strongly in Turin with a win over Stefanos Tsitsipas, he admitted to “rushing, overthinking” in defeat to Djokovic on Wednesday. Ruud, a five-time ATP Tour titlist in a career-best season, opened his campaign by losing to Djokovic, but then secured a confidence-boosting win over alternate Cameron Norrie.

Ruud will be hoping to bring all the impetus from his strong finish against Norrie to Friday’s clash and has already vowed to try to do things differently against Rublev: “I will, of course, try my best to bring something new to the table on Friday and challenge him in a different way than I’ve done before, because previously it hasn’t been working as I’ve wanted,” he said.


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A post shared by Cameron Norrie (@norriee)

In the night session, Djokovic will aim to complete the round-robin stage with a 3-0 record, but Norrie is determined to make an impression. “It is going to be difficult, but I am looking forward to it,” said Norrie, ahead of his first meeting with Djokovic. “I am going to see if I belong and can compete with a guy like that.”

Djokovic, who has a 50-6 match record in 2021, said, “I always like playing new players, particularly in one of the greatest tournaments in the world here in Turin. Cameron deserves to be here, it’s not lucky. He worked his way to Turin with great wins in Indian Wells and some other tournaments, so it will be fun to watch him tonight against Ruud and I’ll get ready for my next match.”


In doubles action, it’s all to play for in the Red Group on Friday. If Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury beat Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, the American-British pair win the Red Group with Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut finishing second. But if Cabal and Farah win, the identity of the semi-finalists will be decided by the evening doubles match between Herbert and Mahut, and Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares.


CENTRE COURT start 11:30 am
[2] R. Ram (USA) / J. Salisbury (GBR) vs [5] J. Cabal (COL) / R. Farah (COL)

Not Before 2:00 pm
[5] A. Rublev (RUS) vs [8] C. Ruud (NOR)

Not Before 6:30 pm
[3] N. Mahut (FRA) / P.-H. Herbert (FRA) vs [7] J. Murray (GBR) / B. Soares (BRA)

Not Before 9:00 pm
[1] N. Djokovic (SRB) vs [Alt/10] C. Norrie (GBR)

See below for full qualification scenarios for the Green Group (singles) and Red Group (doubles).

Singles Green Group qualification scenarios:
After defeating Rublev in straight sets, Djokovic has qualified for the semi-finals and won the group.

– Rublev qualifies on Friday if he defeats Ruud.
– Ruud qualifies on Friday if he defeats Rublev.

Doubles Red Group qualification scenarios:
– If Ram/Salisbury win -> Ram/Salisbury will win the group and Herbert/Mahut will finish second.
– If Murray/Soares win and Cabal/Farah win -> Cabal/Farah will win the group and Ram/Salisbury will finish second.
– If Herbert/Mahut win in straights and Cabal/Farah win in straights -> Herbert/Mahut will win the group and Cabal/Farah will finish second.
– If Herbert/Mahut win in straights and Cabal/Farah win in 3 -> Herbert/Mahut win the group and Ram/Salisbury finish second.
– If Herbert/Mahut win in 3 sets and Cabal/Farah win in straights -> Cabal/Farah will win the group and Herbert/Mahut will finish second.
– If Herbert/Mahut win in 3 sets and Cabal/Farah win in 3 sets -> Ram/Salisbury win the group and Herbert/Mahut finish second.

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