Djokovic Seeks 'Alternate' Ending In Group Finale vs. Hurkacz

  • Posted: Nov 16, 2023

Djokovic Seeks ‘Alternate’ Ending In Group Finale vs. Hurkacz

Sinner meets Rune in evening matchup

The Green Group action climaxes on Thursday at the Nitto ATP Finals, with both qualification spots for the semi-finals still up for grabs.

Novak Djokovic will bid to bounce back from a defeat to Jannik Sinner, knowing a win against alternate Hubert Hurkacz would go a long way towards extending his Turin title defence beyond round-robin play. In the evening matchup, two of the ATP Tour’s brightest young stars in Jannik Sinner and Holger Rune will square off under the lights.

[1] Novak Djokovic (SER) vs. [9/Alt] Hubert Hurkacz (POL)

Djokovic was turned back by home favourite Sinner in a thrilling three-setter on Tuesday night, but the Serbian left the match proud of his efforts.

“It’s normal to lose some of the matches like this, but I have to be content with the fight, the fighting spirit,” he said after seeing his 19-match winning streak snapped. “I managed to make a comeback from a set down, a break down in the third set, playing in really challenging and difficult conditions on the court today. I’m proud of the fight that I put in. It just wasn’t enough for the win.”

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The defending champion now faces a fight to advance out of the group stage. While his matchup with alternate Hurkacz is not technically a “must win”, Djokovic would put himself in prime position to return to the semi-finals by improving to 2-1 on the week — particularly if his victory is an emphatic one.

Hurkacz will enter this matchup with nothing to lose, entering for the final group match as a replacement for Stefanos Tsitsipas (back injury). But the Pole will still be playing for considerable Pepperstone ATP Rankings points and prize money as he seeks to finish his season with a win against the World No. 1.

The Pole reached the Rolex Paris Masters quarter-finals in his last appearance, bowing out after a three-set defeat to Grigor Dimitrov — whom Djokovic beat in the final.

While Djokovic faced a barrage of big serves against Sinner on Tuesday, his returning prowess may be put to an even tougher test against the power of Hurkacz, who is the runaway ace leader on the ATP Tour with 1,031 this season. Like Sinner, Hurkacz will be seeking his first Lexus ATP Head2Head win against the Serbian.

[4] Jannik Sinner (ITA) vs. [8] Holger Rune (DEN)

After Sinner and Rune both battled Djokovic for three sets with contrasting results, the two young stars now meet each other in Turin. Sinner thrilled the Italian crowd with his 7-5, 6-7(5), 7-6(2) win against the World No. 1 and now has a chance to complete a perfect 3-0 group campaign.

The 22-year-old felt his growing maturity made the difference in enabling him to score his first Lexus ATP Head2Head win against the Serbian.

“I feel that I’m a little bit more confident in certain moments in a match,” Sinner said of his performance in the clutch moments. “I think I was really brave and intelligent in important moments, especially the third set.”

Rune has also proven to be fearless when the pressure is highest, with the shining example his three-set victory against Djokovic in last year’s Rolex Paris Masters final. While Rune has been beaten by Djokovic twice in the past month — losing in three sets in Paris-Bercy and Turin — the Dane levelled at 1-1 this week in his Nitto ATP Finals debut when Tsitsipas retired early in their Tuesday tilt.

Rune is now bracing for a much longer battle against Sinner — and his home support — on Thursday.

“He can do whatever he wants on the court,” Rune said of the Italian, whom he has beaten in both of their previous Lexus ATP Head2Head meetings. “He can hit a great forehand, great backhand, great volley. Great movement, serve, everything. Obviously it’s more tough here in Italy to play him. That’s what it is. I’m just going to prepare.”

Win & In For Dodig/Krajicek, Gonzalez/Roger-Vasselin

The noon matchup that pits Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek against Santiago Gonzalez and Edouard Roger-Vasselin will decide who joins fifth seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos in the semi-finals.

Granollers and Zeballos are confirmed as winners of the Green Group and will bid to complete a perfect 3-0 round-robin campaign against Argentines Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni.

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