The organisers of the Nitto AP Finals couldn’t be happier when the semi-final line-up was confirmed with the top four world-ranked players, namely Novak Djokovic (1), Carlos Alcaraz (2), Daniil Medvedev (3) and Jannik Sinner (4), made the last four.
Even the week before this event I felt really good on this court. It is quite fast. The crowd has given me so much energy Jannik Sinner
The first match on Friday’s schedule saw Carlos Alcaraz defeat Daniil Medvedev, who had already qualified, in straight sets after just 79-minutes, to end the robin stage at the top of the group and eliminating any chance of Alexander Zverev qualifying from the evening match.
Both matches in fact ended 6-4 6-4 with Zverev taking one-hour and 41-minutes to defeat Andrey Rublev and bring the group stage of the Finals to an end and set up a very exciting final weekend of the 2023 season,
Jannik Sinner opened play on Saturday with the first semi-final and after two-hours and 29-minutes, raised his arms in victory having dispatched an irritable Daniil Medvedev 6-3 6-7(4) 6-1.
The young Italian with the very partisan crowd well behind him, was in complete control despite dropping the second set which could have revived his Russian opponent’s game but, after sharing the first two games, Siner ran off with the set and match to become the first player from his country to reach the title round.
In that third set, Medvedevs frustration came to the fore as he got embroiled with the crowd, even, at one point, suggesting to a spectator to come down and settle their differences face-to-face!
“Incredible feeling,” Sinner said on reaching the biggest final of his career. “It was a really tough match today. I felt that he was playing more aggressively, especially in the first set. Somehow, I made the break and from that point I felt better.
“The second set was really tight but then he played a very good tiebreak.
“In the third set I just tried to stay a bit more aggressive and mixing up my game a little bit. I am happy to be in the final.”
He will face Djokovic in that final after the Serb contained Alcaraz in the evening semi-final with an excellent display of controlled tennis.
He cleared what many had hoped would be the final, with a 6-3 6-2 win after weathering a series of early break chances from the young Spaniard, who tried everything to gain a foothold but Djokovic kept himself and his game in control over 88-minute and at the end, was thrilled with his performance.
“One of the best matches of the year in these circumstances, playing probably the biggest rival I had this year, Carlos,” he said.
“We (have) had some epic matches. Actually, all three matches we played this year were marathon matches that went the distance. I think everyone expected, including probably both of us, that we were going to have a long night, a big fight, a long match.
“I just managed to I guess, step it up. When I broke his serve at 4-3 in the first set, (I then) played a really flawless match until the end of the match. Played great tennis, high level, put a lot of pressure on his service games, made him play. I served really well when I needed to.”
For Alcaraz inevitable disappointment but no doubt he will be back.
“He plays the same level during the whole match. The shot quality he has is unbelievable,” Alcaraz said. “He plays really, really deep. It’s really difficult to take advantage from that. Once again, he has shown why he’s the best player in the world.
“It’s not about just serving against him. He has a great return game,” he added. “Unbelievable, I’m going to say. As I said, he push you to a limit in every ball, every shot.”
While a Djokovic v. Sinner clash might not be the final everyone wanted, it should still live up to expectations.
Sinner beat Djokovic in the group stage, but no one has beaten the Serb twice in the same week before! Can the 22-year-old do it?
Sinner will feel the pressure, but he has the crowd who have certainly helped him throughout the week. In addition, he has the motivation to achieve something never done by an Italian before and is currently undefeated for the week.
“It is a privilege to have this kind of pressure,” Sinner said ahead of Sunday’s final. “Even the week before this event I felt really good on this court. It is quite fast. The crowd has given me so much energy.”
Djokovic, who is chasing his seventh ATP Final title to put him ahead of Roger Federer with whom he currently shares most ATP Finals titles won.
“Couldn’t be coming at a better time for me, considering that I maybe wasn’t playing my best tennis in the first three group stages, matches of the group stages,” Djokovic, who had spent over eight hours on those three matches, pointed out. “But tonight, I played close to my very, very best.”
Djokovic definitely goes into the final as favourite but whatever the outcome, Sinner will leave Turin having raised his public profile considerably..