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Djokovic’s Pursuit Of Perfection

  • Posted: Nov 10, 2019

Djokovic’s Pursuit Of Perfection

Serbian moves to 1-0 in Group Bjorn Borg

By all accounts, including the most important – the scoreboard – Novak Djokovic was enjoying a dominating performance to start his 12th Nitto ATP Finals on Sunday afternoon.

The second seed was leading Italy’s Matteo Berrettini 6-2, 4-0, only two games away from a near-flawless performance to begin his bid to recapture the No. 1 ATP Ranking and finish as year-end No. 1 for a record-tying sixth time.

But then Djokovic hit a forehand into the net, and Berrettini had his first break point. Suddenly, things were going terribly. Djokovic shouted and gestured at his coaching team.

He was broken in the next point. But the Serbian recovered quickly to win 6-2, 6-1 in only 64 minutes. So why the outburst?

No other reasonable explanation than trying to play as perfect as possible,” Djokovic said.Everyone is different. Throughout my career, I always intended and always tried to perfect my game and, in the midst of a battle and heat of the moment, sometimes you just get frustrated with certain things regardless of the results.

Sometimes I really don’t mind the results as much as I care about the execution of certain shots or tactics or whatever it is. That’s all it is.”

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The 32-year-old has plenty to be pleased about after improving to 1-0 in Group Bjorn Borg and moving to within 440 points of No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the battle for year-end No. 1 in the ATP Rankings.

Djokovic must reach the final for a chance at finishing in the top spot for a sixth time, which would tie American Pete Sampras’ all-time mark (1993-98). Nadal starts his stay at The O2 on Monday night against defending champion Alexander Zverev in Group Andre Agassi.

The eighth-seeded Berrettini was making his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals, which can be an overwhelming feeling, as Djokovic remembered. The Serbian first played at the season finale in 2007, failing to advance out of his group, which included Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Richard Gasquet.

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I lost all three matches in the group,” Djokovic said. “I was tense. I was happy that I was there, of course. I was very proud to be part of this elite eight guys, but it’s an environment which is kind of new to you. Even though it’s a tennis court, a tennis match, it’s still different, knowing that you’re there for the first time and that you’re going to play against a Top 10 player every match in the group.

It’s a lot of pressure mentally, that you have to deliver your best, where for us guys that have been playing on the top level for many years, we have the experience. We know how to handle these kind of situations emotionally, mentally.”

Djokovic will rely on that experience all week.

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Djokovic Fires Warning With Berrettini Win

  • Posted: Nov 10, 2019

Djokovic Fires Warning With Berrettini Win

Serbian prevails on opening day in London

Novak Djokovic started his quest for a record-equalling sixth Nitto ATP Finals crown on Sunday, firing a warning shot to his rivals when he beat Italian debutant Matteo Berrettini 6-2, 6-1 over 64 minutes in the Group Bjorn Borg opener.

Djokovic is now 440 points behind Rafael Nadal in the battle to become year-end No. 1 in the ATP Rankings. The Serbian must reach the final for a chance to be year-end No. 1 for a sixth time, which would match the record of Pete Sampras (1993-98). Nadal begins his campaign on Monday against defending champion Alexander Zverev in Group Andre Agassi on Monday night.

The 32-year-old Djokovic has compiled a 54-9 match record this year, including five tour-level titles at the Australian Open (d. Nadal) and Wimbledon (d. Federer), two ATP Masters 1000 events at the Mutua Madrid Open (d. Tsitsipas) and at the recent Rolex Paris Masters (d. Shapovalov), plus one ATP 500-level title at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships (d. Millman).

Djokovic made the breakthrough in the sixth game, when Berrettini over-hit two groundstrokes to put him under pressure. While the eighth seed saved the first break point, a forehand in the net handed Djokovic a 4-2 lead. Twelve forehand unforced errors in the 28-minute opener cost Berrettini, the first Italian to play singles at the season finale since Corrado Barazzutti in 1978.

From 2-2 in the first set, Djokovic ran through the next eight games for a commanding 4-0 lead in the second set. A double fault from Berrettini gave Djokovic his third service break, but Berrettini was able to gain a single break for 1-4, when Djokovic struck a backhand wide. Djokovic completed victory with a routine forehand winner, close to the net. The 2008, 2012-15 champion is now 36-12 lifetime at the season finale. Berrettini committed 28 unforced errors in total.

Berrettini, who started 2019 outside of the Top 50 in the ATP Rankings, has enjoyed a breakthrough year and compiled a 42-21 match record. He has won two ATP Tour titles at the Hungarian Open in Budapest (d. Krajinovic) and at the MerdedesCup in Stuttgart (d. Auger-Aliassime). He was also runner-up at the BMW Open by FWU (l. to Garin).

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France win deciding rubber to claim Fed Cup in Australia

  • Posted: Nov 10, 2019

France won the deciding doubles rubber to claim a first Fed Cup title since 2003 in Perth, Australia.

Kristina Mladenovic and Caroline Garcia beat Ashleigh Barty and Samantha Stosur 6-4 6-3 to seal a 3-2 victory, denying Australia a first Fed Cup in 45 years.

Earlier, Mladenovic defeated Barty in the singles but Ajla Tomljanovic beat Pauline Parmentier to level.

“I’m the proudest man on the planet. I am going to have a lot of beers,” said French captain Julien Benneteau.

“I’m so proud of my girls and my team. They deserve it because they fought for a long time for this title.”

Mladenovic and Garcia embraced on the floor on the baseline after the winning point, with their team racing to pile on top of them as France won the Fed Cup for a third time.

“I’m not sure I’ve completely realised, because it’s been a crazy weekend for everyone,” Garcia said. “The doubles went very fast, but we played every point so focused, and we played a great match and it was very tense.”

Australia have now lost the last nine Fed Cup finals they have played in.

The final marked the last Fed Cup played under the current format, with an overhaul next year seeing 12 nations compete in a six-day event in Budapest.

That will mean an end to home ties and the atmosphere they bring, with the 26,951 fans turning up over two days in Perth the second-highest Fed Cup attendance on record after Roland Garros (30,000) in 2005.

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Sinner Shines In The Spotlight

  • Posted: Nov 10, 2019

Sinner Shines In The Spotlight

Italian reflects on dream week in Milan

Jannik Sinner’s press conference after defeating Alex de Minaur in Saturday’s title match at the Next Gen ATP Finals was standing room only. Cameras clicked and whirred as the 18-year-old answered questions in English and Italian, signed autographs and gave video messages for fans on social media.

The amount of attention and support he received all week in Milan would likely have been unfathomable to him at the start of the year. Sinner’s rapid progression took him from outside the Top 500 at the start of the year to competing in front of 5,400 fans at the Allianz Cloud, where fellow Italians cheered him on. But instead of shying away, he’s embraced the increased interest.

“I’ve never had this kind of support, even on court. Off court, [I’m] making some media. I’m still young, so now it’s okay,” Sinner said.

His ease at being thrust into the spotlight hasn’t gone unnoticed among his #NextGenATP peers this week. Many of them hadn’t met Sinner since he’s only played a handful of tour-level events. But after practising with him and getting to know him off the court, they’re impressed by what they’ve seen.

”I have seen what a genuine, humble, sort of grounded kid he is, which is great to see,” said De Minaur. “Even though he’s been talked about a lot… he’s taking it exactly the way he should be. I don’t think he’s changing. He’s still the same kid that he was before all of this happened. Hopefully he can keep going that way and I’m sure good things will follow.”

Despite the extra attention, Sinner remained focussed on tennis. He saved his best match for last against De Minaur, erasing all nine break points and winning five of seven deciding points. But what pleased the teenager most is his progression throughout the week.

“I think I played better match after match. That’s the point and that’s the thing we were looking for,” Sinner said. “I played well the first match. Yesterday, I started not perfect, but then it was a great match after. I started today very well… I’m very happy about that.”

When Sinner sat in the stands to watch last year’s event in Milan, the thought of holding the trophy 12 months later never crossed his mind. The soft-spoken Italian admitted that he didn’t expect to take the title this week, but his modesty doesn’t reflect a quiet confidence in his game. If his performance here is any indication, he’ll be standing in the winners’ circle for many years to come.

“I’m surprised because it’s been an unbelievable week. All the players are unbelievable players. If not, they are not here,” Sinner said. “I was the [lowest-ranked] one. I was the [eighth] seed. So I tried to have my chances and, of course, today I’m very happy about my game.”

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Scouting Report: 8 Key Things About The 2019 Nitto ATP Finals

  • Posted: Nov 10, 2019

Scouting Report: 8 Key Things About The 2019 Nitto ATP Finals

An executive summary of what every fan should know about the 2019 season finale

Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer lead the elite eight at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals, the 50th edition of the year-end championship, from 10-17 November at The O2 in London.The field also includes defending champion Alexander Zverev, four-time qualifier Dominic Thiem and debutants Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Matteo Berrettini.

 Player Age  2019 W-L (Finals)  Appearances  W-L vs 2019 field 
[1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) 33 51-6 (4-1)  9th (qualified
15 times) 
[2] Novak Djokovic (SRB) 32 53-9 (5-1) 12th  7-5 
[3] Roger Federer (SUI) 38 51-8 (4-2)  17th  5-6 
[4] Daniil Medvedev (RUS) 23 59-18 (4-5)  1st  6-5 
[5] Dominic Thiem (AUT) 26 46-17 (5-1)  4th  7-4 
[6] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE) 21 50-24 (2-3)  1st  6-9 
[7] Alexander Zverev (GER) 22 42-23 (1-2)  3rd  2-5 
[8] Matteo Berrettini (ITA) 23 42-21 (2-1)  1st  2-5 

Here are eight key things to know about the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals:

1) The Nitto ATP Finals is the 50th edition of the year-end championship on the ATP Tour, which began in Tokyo in 1970. This is the 11th year the tournament has been held in London. The 10-year attendance total at The O2 is 2,561,084. The only city to host the season finale longer is New York, which held the Masters for 13 years from 1977-1989.

2) For the first time in tournament history eight Europeans from eight different countries are represented. Overall eight different countries are represented at the Nitto ATP Finals for the fourth consecutive year.

3) There are three former champions in the field, led by last year’s winner Alexander Zverev, record six-time titleholder Roger Federer and five-time trophy winner Novak Djokovic. The last time there were three former year-end champions in the draw was 2000 Lisbon with Pete Sampras (1991, ’94, ’96-97, ’99), Alex Corretja (1998) and Andre Agassi (1990). 

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4) There have been four different winners the past four years with Zverev, Grigor Dimitrov (2017), Andy Murray (2016) and Djokovic (2015). The last time this occurred was from 1998-2001 with Alex Corretja (1998), Sampras (1999), Gustavo Kuerten (2000) and Lleyton Hewitt (2001).

5) This is the first time since 2009 there are four players 23 & under in the Nitto ATP Finals with Stefanos Tsitsipas (21), Zverev (22), Matteo Berrettini (23) and Daniil Medvedev (23). There are three first-time participants: Tsitsipas, who won last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals; Medvedev, who was a Milan semi-finalist in 2017, and Berrettini, who is the first Italian to qualify for the year-end Finals since Corrado Barazzutti in 1978. In 2009, the foursome was del Potro (21), Djokovic (22), Murray (22) and Nadal (23).

6) This is also the first time since 2003 the Top 5 players in the ATP Rankings all have won at least four ATP Tour level titles during the season with Djokovic (5), Dominic Thiem (5), Federer (4), Medvedev (4) and Nadal (4).

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7) The Big 3 of Nadal, Djokovic and Federer are among the Top 3 seeds together in the year-end championship for the fourth time (2007, 2009-10). They were also in the Top 3 coming into the tournament on three other occasions (2008, 2014, 2018) but Nadal withdrew.

8) No. 1 Scenarios: Djokovic must reach the final for a chance to be year-end No. 1. Here is a look:
= 2 RR Wins + SF Win + Nadal earns 0 RR wins.
= 3 RR Wins + SF Win + Nadal only earns 0-1 RR wins.
= 1 RR Win + SF Win + Final Win + Nadal only earns 0-2 RR wins.
= 2 RR Wins + SF Win + Final Win + Nadal does not reach final with 3-4 wins.
= 3 RR Wins + SF Win + Final Win + Nadal does not reach final with 4 wins.

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De Minaur Praises Sinner: 'He Was Just Too Good'

  • Posted: Nov 10, 2019

De Minaur Praises Sinner: ‘He Was Just Too Good’

Aussie reflects on second runner-up showing in Milan

Alex de Minaur’s solid baseline tennis gives him plenty of chances to gain momentum in matches and the Aussie typically uses those opportunities well. But in Saturday’s title match against Jannik Sinner at the Next Gen ATP Finals, his straight-sets defeat was due in part to his missed opportunities. The top-seeded Aussie couldn’t convert any of his nine break points on the night, including seven in the second set.

But statistics can be deceiving. De Minaur credited Sinner with not allowing him to play a role in critical points that could have shifted the momentum.

“He could not have played any better on the break points. [In the first game], I missed a rally ball. Out of nine break points, I’m pretty sure that’s the best chance I had,” De Minaur said. “Maybe if I had gotten a couple of those break points early, it would have been a completely different match. It ended up being that he just played too good.”

De Minaur admitted not being familiar with Sinner prior to this week, but they practised together and got to know each other off the court in Milan. He praised the Italian as a “genuine, humble, grounded sort of kid,” and believes the Italian’s breakout run in Milan is only a sign of things to come.

“Jannik is a hell of a player and he was too good. I’m sure that if he keeps this level up, he’s going to quickly rise up the [ATP] Rankings,” De Minaur said. “He’s still so young and [does] not [have] a lot of experience on Tour. That’s why I think he’s where he’s at, but come next year, that’s going to quickly change.”

Although De Minaur was understandably disappointed to leave Milan with another runner-up showing, he was able to look at the positives of his best year on Tour. The 20-year-old arrived this week at a career-high No. 18 in the ATP Rankings after earning his three tour-level titles in Sydney (d. Seppi), Atlanta (d. Fritz) and Zhuhai (d. Mannarino). He also finished runner-up in Basel (l. to Federer) and scored his first Top 10 win against Kei Nishikori at the US Open.

The Aussie’s inspired run last year helped serve as a springboard to success. With preseason plans already locked in, he’s confident that he can replicate the feat in 2020.

“I don’t think it would be very smart if I judge my season with this one match,” De Minaur said. “I’ve had my best season yet and it’s all been thanks to a lot of hard work that we put in. I’m very happy to be able to sit down and know that I finished the year at No. 18. It’s of a goal that we put ourselves to and I’m happy to be able to finish off the year like that.”

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Next Gen ATP Finals: Jannik Sinner stuns top seed Alex de Minaur in final

  • Posted: Nov 10, 2019

Italian wildcard Jannik Sinner has won the Next Gen ATP Finals after beating Australia’s world number 18 and top seed Alex de Minaur 4-2 4-1 4-2.

De Minaur also lost of the final last year, at a tournament that is for the best players aged 21 and under.

Sinner, 18, is the youngest player inside the world’s top 100 – at 95 – after jumping more than 450 places in the rankings this year.

“The week has been unbelievable,” said Sinner, the tournament’s third winner.

Playing in front of a home crowd in Milan, he added: “I wouldn’t be here without the wildcard, so thanks to everyone. I hope to be back here next year.”

The previous two champions, South Korean Chung Hyeon (2017) and Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas (2018), both reached the Australian Open semi-finals two months after winning the title.

Sinner, who was a champion skier, but chose tennis aged 13, reached the US Open first round in August.

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Sinner Stuns De Minaur For Milan Title

  • Posted: Nov 09, 2019

Sinner Stuns De Minaur For Milan Title

Teen completes dream run from wild card to champion

Jannik Sinner’s performance on Saturday in the Next Gen ATP Finals title match made it clear that the future is now. The 18-year-old Italian completed a dream run from wild card to champion, delighting the Milan crowd with a 4-2, 4-1, 4-2 victory over top-seeded Aussie Alex de Minaur.

Sinner’s win over De Minaur is his second Top 20 victory of the season, having also defeated Gael Monfils last month in Antwerp. He won 74 per cent of his first-serve points and broke the Aussie three times to take the title in 65 minutes.

More to follow…

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