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Mektic/Pavic Keep Alive Hopes Of 10th Title In 2021

  • Posted: Nov 18, 2021

Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic are still in the hunt for a 10th ATP Tour-level title of 2021 after reaching the semi-finals in Turin.

The top-seeded Croatians defeated sixth seeds Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek 6-4, 7-6(6) in their final round-robin match at the Nitto ATP Finals to join fourth seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos in the semi-finals.

The defeat marks the end of the partnership between Australian Open champions Dodig and Polasek, but their Croatian opponents seemingly go from strength to strength. The duo won 56 of their first 61 matches in 2021, including titles at Wimbledon, the Tokyo Olympics and three ATP Masters 1000 events.

After both teams defeated eighth seeds Kevin Krawietz and Horia Tecau earlier in the week, the semi-final spot came down to a straight fight in the final round-robin match of the Green Group. Mektic and Pavic led the ATP Head-to-Head 2-1, but had lost arguably the biggest match of the rivalry when Dodig and Polasek triumphed in the Australian Open semi-finals. Three of the four players had also featured in the gold medal match at the Tokyo Olympics, where Dodig had partnered Marin Cilic to the silver medal.

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Mektic and Pavic got off to the brighter start, breaking Dodig and Polasek at their first opportunity in the fifth game. Although Dodig and Polasek fended off four break points at 2-4 to stay in touch and had two break points of their own as the Croatians served for the set, Mektic and Pavic were able to close out the opener in 38 minutes.

Dodig and Polasek broke immediately to lead 2-0 in the second set, but Mektic and Pavic soon broke back. The Croatians raced to a 4-1 lead in the tie-break before being pegged back on serve by some strong returning from Dodig, but ultimately Pavic landed a return winner for a second match point and then converted with a big serve.

This will be Pavic’s first appearance in the semi-finals of the Nitto ATP Finals, while Mektic won the title with Wesley Koolhoff in 2020.

Mektic and Pavic will have to wait to find out who their semi-final opponents will be, with three teams in the Red Group still in contention going into the final day of round-robin matches on Friday.

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Zverev On Djokovic Semi-final: 'I'm Expecting Another Tough One'

  • Posted: Nov 18, 2021

Alexander Zverev has set his sights on raising his game for a semi-final blockbuster against Novak Djokovic on Saturday at the Nitto ATP Finals.

The German star, who beat Hubert Hurkacz 6-2, 6-4 to complete Green Group action with a 2-1 record on Friday, has already played World No. 1 Djokovic four times this season.

“We have played each other in basically every single big hard-court event this year, at the ATP Cup, Australian Open, Olympics and US Open,” said Zverev, who beat Djokovic en route to the Tokyo Olympics gold medal in August. “So it’s only right that we play each other here as well.”

Djokovic won their ATP Cup clash 6-7(3), 6-2, 7-5 in February and 6-7(6), 6-2, 6-4, 7-6(6) in the Australian Open quarter-finals. Zverev won their Tokyo semi-final 1-6, 6-3, 6-1, before Djokovic beat the 24-year-old once again, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, in the US Open semi-finals.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Zverev, ahead of their 11th ATP Head2Head meeting. “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.”

The World No. 3 knows that Djokovic has a strong following in Italy, but Zverev has also enjoyed his time in Turin. “I love Italy a lot and I think the fans can relate to me as well,” said Zverev, who won the 2017 Internazionali BNL d’Italia crown in Rome. “The food is great… I feel that the Italian fans are louder, they are electric and into the sport.”

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Hurkacz: 'I Have Gained A Lot Of Experience'

  • Posted: Nov 18, 2021

Hubert Hurkacz may have not won a match on his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin this week, but the Pole believes he has lots of positives to take from competing at the event as he looks to return next year.

The 24-year-old demonstrated his capabilities as he claimed the first set in his opening match to Daniil Medvedev before losing in three. Hurkacz then fell to Jannik Sinner and Alexander Zverev in the Red Group as he was unable to find top form at the Pala Alpitour.

“I have gained a lot of experience,” Hurkacz said. “I definitely want to be back here and compete at a better level because I know I can play better than I played this week. I started well and then just didn’t’ play well enough and sometimes that happens.”

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Hurkacz earned his place at the season finale after enjoying a breakthrough season. The World No. 9 captured tour-level titles in Delray Beach and Metz, while he also clinched his maiden ATP Masters 1000 crown in Miami.

When reviewing his year following his final match of 2021, the Wimbledon semi-finalist was pleased with the success he has achieved, but admits he can make further improvements.

“I think it was a great season. I learned a lot, which was very big for me. The improvements I have made [gave me] the opportunity to be here and compete here. I am learning about what to work on. It is nice to have a lot of things to improve in my game. My return and my forehand are things I want to work on.”

Medvedev and Sinner will round off Red Group action on Thursday evening. Medvedev has already secured top spot, with Alexander Zverev qualifying in second following his victory against Hurkacz.

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Fibak On Hurkacz & Swiatek: 'We Have Two Diamonds'

  • Posted: Nov 18, 2021

Hubert Hurkacz has surprised some in the tennis world with his breakthrough season, which included a maiden ATP Masters 1000 title at the Miami Open presented by Itau and a trip to the Wimbledon semi-finals. But fellow Pole Wojtek Fibak, a former Top 10 star in singles and doubles, is not surprised.

This week Hurkacz became the second player from Poland to compete in singles at the Nitto ATP Finals, joining Fibak, who made the championship match at the event in 1976. Fibak is thrilled with the state of tennis in his country given the rise of Hurkacz and WTA star Iga Swiatek.

“We have these two diamonds. It’s like one in a million at the same time,” Fibak told ATPTour.com. “There are not that many countries with a man and woman [at this level]. You have Nadal and Muguruza [in Spain], Tsitsipas and Sakkari [in Greece]. It’s amazing… It’s unique, it’s a blessing. After I finished playing, no Polish player played at Wimbledon for 20 years. Twenty years! After [Agnieszka] Radwanska retired, boom, they came!”

Wojtek Fibak, Hubert Hurkacz
Photo Credit: Wojtek Fibak
After Hurkacz defeated Denis Kudla in the second round in Miami this year, Fibak declared to the Polish press that Hurkacz would win the tournament. It was a bold statement considering he had never made it past the quarter-finals at a Masters 1000 event.

“Everybody said Wojtek is out of his mind!” he recalled.

But it proved prophetic, as Hurkacz has gone on to great success in 2021. In October, the 24-year-old cracked the Top 10 in the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time.

“Hubert is an all-around player. He’s phenomenal on defence, he’s excellent attacking, has a great backhand, great forehand, big serve, great return. He doesn’t miss when he doesn’t have to,” Hurkacz said. “The only thing now with Hubert if I would say one weakness is when there is pressure that he has to win a match and he is a big favourite, he has problems with that. That’s how the road to the [Nitto ATP Finals], there were a couple of very tense matches.”

Even so, Hurkacz has tested the best players in the world in recent weeks. The Pole battled Novak Djokovic into a final-set tie-break in the semi-finals of the Rolex Paris Masters and pushed Daniil Medvedev deep into a third set in the first match of Red Group play this week in Turin.

“The way he played against Medvedev, the way he played Djokovic in Paris, right now he’s No. 4 on hard courts right after Djokovic, Medvedev, Zverev and then it’s Hubert,” Fibak said.

Fibak is very supportive of Hurkacz, consistently watching his matches. This week, he is in Turin to cheer on his countryman.

“I think everybody loves him for being so polite and so kind. I’ve given hundreds of interviews by now over the past three or four years about Hubert. I was the first to call him the Polish Andy Murray four years ago because of the way he walks and being a bit phlegmatic also,” Fibak said. “I said there’s a phenomenal talent hidden there. Today a lot of people are not convinced that Hubert is so good, because he doesn’t have such an explosive personality. He’s not Italian, French, British or American.

“Being Polish, he’s not so well-known even though he’s a Wimbledon semi-finalist and won Miami. He’s not a household name yet worldwide, in Poland he is. He’s a bit shy, he’s modest, he has a quiet personality. He’s not coming up with some lines. But he’s a phenomenal player.”

Fibak is certainly happy with how Hurkacz is carrying the torch of Polish tennis. This is Hubi’s first Nitto ATP Finals appearance, and all signs point towards there being plenty more to come.

“I’m really proud that a Polish guy has such soft hands, such feeling for the ball,” Fibak said. “He is a great player to watch, he’s correct, he’s a gentleman, always full of fairness. I can only speak in superlatives about Hubert.”

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Zverev Closing In On Turin SF Berth, How Sinner Can Qualify

  • Posted: Nov 18, 2021

Third seed Alexander Zverev is one win away from returning to the Nitto ATP Finals semi-finals, but there’s a lot more at stake on Thursday as Hubert Hurkacz and Jannik Sinner are also bidding to extend their stay in Turin.

The German will take on seventh seed Hurkacz with the fate of the Red Group hanging on the line. With defending champion Daniil Medvedev already safely through to the semi-finals, there’s one spot left in the final four – and Zverev, Hurkacz and Sinner can all make a play on it. 

For Olympic gold medalist Zverev, the mission is simple: win and he’s in. The 2018 champion has yet to post a statement victory in Turin, and his win-loss record sits at 1-1 after his opening matches. He won via retirement against an injured Matteo Berrettini, and narrowly lost in three sets to Medvedev, but he still favours his chances in the event.

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“This is not like any other tournament. I am in the tournament still, I still have a chance to win the tournament and this is what I’m thinking to myself,” Zverev said on Tuesday. “Of course, I wanted to win [against Medvedev], there’s no doubt about it, I lost 8/6 in a third-set tie-break. But the tournament isn’t done yet.”

It’s a position he has been in before: Zverev owns the longest streak of consecutive appearances at the Nitto ATP Finals among active players and is the second-most experienced competitor in the eight-man field behind Novak Djokovic. 

During his title-winning run in 2018, Zverev similarly arrived at his last round-robin match with a 1-1 record after winning over Marin Cilic and losing to Djokovic. Back then, the German found a way to overpower John Isner in straight sets to send him into the semi-finals. 

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He’ll be hoping for more of the same against Hurkacz on Thursday. Zverev owns a 1-0 lead in the ATP Head2Head against Hurkacz, but a lot has changed since that three-set match in Madrid in 2019. 

“I’m ready to play Hubi on Thursday, and I think that will be the deciding match for me,” Zverev said. “I’m excited, I’m looking forward to it. I think it’s all in my hands, kind of.”

After a career-best season, Hurkacz might be making his final stand in Turin at the Pala Alpitour hoping to turn around his 0-2 group stage record – and blow the door wide open for himself, and possibly Sinner, to qualify for the semi-finals. 

If the Pole can defeat Zverev, he can go through if Medvedev defeats Sinner, although the Italian can advance if Zverev and he defeats Medvedev. Hurkacz is still seeking the first win of his Turin debut after falling to Medvedev in three sets and then suffering a one-sided loss against alternate Sinner.

After rocking the Pala Alpitour with an unforgettable Nitto ATP Finals debut, 20-year-old Sinner is looking to keep the run going as he attempts to become the first alternate to reach the semi-finals in the event’s 52-year-history. 

 

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He will be facing steep uphill climb against defending champion Medvedev. Sinner is 0-8 in matches against the Top 5 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, including an 0-2 ATP Head2Head against Medvedev – both matches took place on the indoor hard courts of Marseille.  

“Of course, you want to go on to the semi-finals, you’re trying to do your best, but on the other hand, these are the best eight players in the world. And with me, nine,” Sinner said. “Everyone is tough to beat here, so let’s see what’s coming.”

Regardless of the result against Sinner, Medvedev is already through to the semi-finals. The Russian is seeking to become the first player to win back-to-back Nitto ATP Finals titles since Djokovic won four straight between 2012 and 2015. 

In doubles, fourth seeds Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos are one win away from the semi-finals as they take on eighth seeds Kevin Krawietz and Horia Tecau. Top seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic will face sixth seeds Ivan Dodig and FIlip Polasek – both teams come into the match with a 1-1 record in the Green Group. 

ORDER OF PLAY – THURSDAY, 18 NOVEMBER 2021
CENTRE COURT start 11:30 am

[4] M. Granollers (ESP) / H. Zeballos (ARG) vs [8] K. Krawietz (GER) / H. Tecau (ROU)

Not Before 2:00 pm
[3] A. Zverev (GER) vs [7] H. Hurkacz (POL)

Not Before 6:30 pm
[1] N. Mektic (CRO) / M. Pavic (CRO) vs [6] I. Dodig (CRO) / F. Polasek (SLO)

Not Before 9:00 pm
[2] D. Medvedev (RUS) vs [Alt/9] J. Sinner (ITA)

See below semi-final qualification scenarios in play for both groups at the Nitto ATP Finals: 

Singles Red Group qualification scenarios as of Thursday, 18 November:
Following Berrettini’s withdrawal, Medvedev has qualified for the semi-finals and won the group.

Zverev qualifies on Thursday if he defeats Hurkacz (any score).
Hurkacz qualifies on Thursday if he defeats Zverev and Medvedev defeats Sinner.
Sinner qualifies on Thursday if he defeats Medvedev and Hurkacz defeats Zverev.

Singles Green Group qualification scenarios as of Thursday, 18 November:
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. 
– Norrie cannot advance to the semi-finals.

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Norrie: ‘This Week Has Been Incredible’

  • Posted: Nov 18, 2021

Despite suffering defeat on his Nitto ATP Finals debut on Wednesday, Cameron Norrie revealed that he loved the experience of competing at the Pala Alpitour in Turin and was happy with his performance against Casper Ruud.

The 26-year-old is the second alternate at the season finale and only had hours to prepare for his Green Group match after he replaced Stefanos Tsitsipas, who withdrew due to an elbow injury.

“I enjoyed every second out there and I was feeling good in practise and was ready to play and compete,” said Norrie. “I came out firing and loved the match. It just came down to a couple games in the second and third sets. I was really happy with my level.

“This week has been incredible for me so far. I was using it as a training block heading into the Davis Cup, so [it is] a bonus to get a couple if matches in here. It is huge for the experience.”

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The Briton has enjoyed a breakthrough 2021 season, earning a career-best 50 tour-level wins. Norrie captured his first tour-level title at the Mifel Open in Los Cabos in August and claimed his maiden ATP Masters 1000 crown at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells last month.

The lefty stated that the success and experience he has gained this year helped him on his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals.

“It was one of the biggest matches for my career, so I just tried to learn from Indian Wells and take from that the experience, the emotions, playing big matches and playing well under the pressure there,” said Norrie. “It has been a lot of fun playing at this level and playing at this level all year.

“I was really happy with how I handled the match [with Ruud] and how I approached it. I was basically out there playing for free as the second alternate. I had nothing to lose and I came out firing. All credit to Casper, that is the best I have ever seen him serve.”

Norrie will face Green Group winner Novak Djokovic in his final match on Friday. The 26-year-old has played Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer at majors this season, but has never met the World No. 1 before. It is an opportunity Norrie is relishing.

“I can’t wait,” Norrie said. “I have never played Novak before or practised with him, so it is a first for me. I am looking forward to it. I watched him today and he is firing and really feeling the ball well. He is really good in these conditions. It is quite quick the court. It is going to be difficult, but I am looking forward to it. I am going to see if I belong and can compete with a guy like that.”

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Ruud: ‘I’ll Bring Something New To The Table’ Against Rublev

  • Posted: Nov 18, 2021

Casper Ruud recovered from a set down against Cameron Norrie at the Nitto ATP Finals on Wednesday to keep his hopes of making the semi-finals alive. After a 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory, the Norwegian will attempt to record his first win in his fifth ATP Head2Head meeting over Andrey Rublev on Friday.

“I played against him a couple of times and never was able to beat him,” Ruud said. “But 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.

“But it will be a fun challenge. He’s a nice guy, we know each other well and he always plays with such high intensity. So I hope to do the same.”

Ruud, the first Norwegian to play at the Nitto ATP Finals, lost his opening match 7-6(4), 6-2 to Novak Djokovic on Monday. Djokovic went on to secure his place in the semi-finals after beating Rublev on Wednesday.

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Anticipating a match against Stefanos Tsitsipas, Ruud had to make a rapid adjustment when the Greek star withdrew from the season finale, which is being played at the Pala Alpitour in Turin.

Ruud dropped just two games when he and Norrie met for the first time in the final of the San Diego Open earlier this year, but Wednesday’s clash was a much more closely contested affair. Ruud was able to turn things around after losing the first set, and credited his serve as the key to his comeback.

“I think I did better in the second and third [sets] because I didn’t [make] so many unforced errors, and I was also serving much better,” said Ruud. “The serve helped me a lot today,

“On this surface, when it’s so fast, it’s a very important shot. Probably the most important shot during the matches is to have a good serve, because you get a lot of free points, and that was key today.”

Ruud ended the match with 10 aces and he lost only two points behind his first serve in both the second and third sets.

“Everything changed a little bit with the momentum after a couple of points that went my way in the 4-3 game in the second set,” said Ruud. “Cameron maybe made some unforced errors that helped me a little bit to get the break. It’s a point or two that can turn a match around and I’m very happy that it ended up going my way today.”

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