Novak Djokovic cruised past Andrew Rublev in the second round of Green Group matches to secure his place in the weekend’s semi-finals of the ATP Finals being contested in Turin this year, on a day which saw Cameron Norrie, the second Alternate, called on to replace a injured Stefanos Tsitsipas.
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. Cameron Norrie
Tsitsipas had retired in round two of the Paris Masters with a shoulder/elbow problem and in his first match in Turin two days ago, that problem wasn’t evident during his loss to Rublev. However, it seems to have flared up again forcing his withdrawal and allowing the British No.1 to join the action.
“I have taken the very difficult decision to retire from the 2021 Finals due to my elbow injury, which has been bothering me for a couple of weeks now,” Tsitsipas said.
“It’s a very difficult decision from my side.”
Norrie made his debut in the evening session against Casper Ruud and looked set to emulate Jannik Sinner’s performance on the previous day who, as the first Alternate playing in place of Matteo Berrettini, dismissed Hubert Hurkacz for the loss of just four games.
However, the Norwegian after dropping the first set, recovered to secure his first win at the Finals 1-6 6-3 6-4 and will contest a place in the semi-finals against the defending champion Daniil Medvedev, with Rublev on Friday.
“The first set went away a bit too quickly. I think I started off quite well, and then I just had some game points that I threw away,” Ruud said on court.
“Cameron is a great baseline player, he makes you play a lot of balls and he runs down a lot of balls and he has a tricky flat backhand, here on these courts it’s a really effective shot.
“I wasn’t getting the feel of his shots at the beginning, so I made quite a few mistakes. For the first set-and-a-half, he was the better player. My serve saved me a bit today on some big points… That’s how tennis can turn quickly, just a break or a couple of points here and there.”
Meanwhile Norrie was delighted at being allowed to join in.
“I enjoyed every second out there and I was feeling good in practise and was ready to play and compete,” he said on the ATP website. “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.”
Looking ahead to his next Green Group match against Djokovic, he added:
“I can’t wait. 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.”
Earlier in the day Djokovic, the world No.1, had reached his 10th semi-final at the season-ending extravaganza, coasting past Rublev 6-3, 6-2.
“I knew that I had to be on my toes and start well,” Djokovic said after winning his 50th match of the season in 69-minutes.
“I dropped my serve again like in the first match. It was quite a nervous start from both of us until 4-3, then with new balls I somehow managed to find the right shots at the right time. I made him play, crucially on the break point at 4-3, when I managed to strike a good passing shot.
“Winning the first set I put additional pressure on him, and I started to maybe play more consistently from the back of the court. I served well, that helped tremendously. I wanted to put him out of his comfort zone, taking away the time and mix up the pace. It was a great performance overall.”
On Friday, the Serb will finish his round robin stage against Cameron Norrie but having already assured himself of a semi-final place, Djokovic is in fact two wins away from equalling the record of 6 ATP Final titles currently held by Roger Federer.
The Serb has not won the ATP Finals since 2015, losing finals in 2016 and 2018 to Andy Murray and Alexander Zverev respectively, while also falling in an epic last-four clash with Dominic Thiem last year.