On the last day of the group matches at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin, Andrey Rublev beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the ‘winner-take-all’ clash for second place in the Red Group while Djokovic solidified his place as the group winner by inflicting another loss on Daniil Medvedev.
This match against one of the greatest rivals I have today is very important, regardless of the fact that I had qualified already, I really wanted to win Novak Djokovic
Both matches were gruelling, especially the first one featuring the two former world No.1s who had to survive a three-hour 11-minute encounter when the Serb would have preferred a quick match seeing he will be back in semi-final action against the big serving, fresh and in-form, Taylor Fritz on Saturday.
While Djokovic didn’t need to win, his mentality is such that he cannot lose just to suit some tactical plan! Consequently, the packed afternoon crowd at the stadium were presented with a thriller of a match which the 21-time grand slam champion finally won 6-3 6-7(5) 7-6(2).
But the 35-year-old who is chasing his sixth ATP Finals crown, at the end did show signs of fatigue and was shown with his arms shaking as he raised a towel to his face at one changeover in the deciding set, but he willed himself through to win regardless to take his place in the semi-finals.
“This match against one of the greatest rivals I have today is very important, regardless of the fact that I had qualified already,” said Djokovic. “I really wanted to win.
“Daniil and I have had some battles in the past and I knew coming into the match today that it was going to be his last match of the season and he wouldn’t want to finish with a loss. I started off very well. Had chances in the second, had some break points but he played very well in those decisive points. He was playing really quick. I didn’t fell physically well in the third set, struggled a lot. It is a battle, and it is a fight.”
Djokovic was broken at 4-all in the third. However, Medvedev failed to serve it out, and the Serb took advantage in the breaker for his 40th match win of the season.
“At 4-5 I managed to read his serve and anticipate well and got myself in a good position. I started off very well in the tie-break. Tough three matches for him, losing 7-6 in the third in all three matches. It is not easy, but he is an amazing player. I have a lot of respect for him and what a great battle.”
When asked to elaborate on his comment of feeling unwell, he replied: “I didn’t feel physically so well in the third set to be honest. I struggled a lot to stay physically there,” he said. ” I’m really proud of being able to find the last drop of energy and necessary focus in order to come back into the match.
“No, no, no,” Djokovic responded when asked if he contemplated pulling out of the match. “To be honest I don’t know, I don’t know what the rules are. I don’t think that if I pull out, I won’t be able to play tomorrow, I don’t know, but I wasn’t even thinking about it to be honest.”
On the other side of the net the former ATP Finals champion Medvedev was not happy with his week’s work finishing 0-3 and bottom of the Red Group.
“It’s a disaster,” said Medvedev who did find something positive with his performance if not the result. “What I’m really happy is that this match didn’t count in going out of the group, otherwise I would have two matches where I lost serving for the match. At least this one didn’t count. I’m going to try to be better next time. I have no other choice.”
Medvedev has been unable to capture any big tournaments titles this year.
“In general, after the Australian Open I cannot find huge results from myself,” he admitted. “Even if I made some finals, won tournaments. I didn’t play bad. I’m in Torino in the top eight. But I would expect more from myself.
“Vienna and Astana I played great, today I played great. I’m confident I’m going to be able to do something big in the future. Just need to continue working. Going to be sad for one, two days, then enjoy my days off, then get ready for the next season.”
In the evening session it was Andrey Rublev who generated all the excitement as he recovered from what looked like his third loss of the season to Stefanos Tsitsipas by turning their crucial match around to snatch the prize of a place in the semis for the second time in his career.
He beat the Greek, a former ATP Finals champion 3-6 6-3 6-2 after one-hour and 42-minutes and then exploded with emotion at his achievement.
“I didn’t give up. I kept fighting and playing,” Rublev said. “I lost my emotions a bit when I lost a stupid game at 40-0 in the first set. I let my emotions go. But then I just kept fighting and playing and you will have chances. I thought I would have chances if I just gave my best. I managed to turn the match around and I am happy to be in the semis.”
Tsitsipas in contrast couldn’t hide his disappointment.
“It’s a shame…,” he said. I feel like the better player. I felt like I could do more with the ball today. I felt like I could just be much more creative. I don’t even have to say that. I think it’s quite obvious.
“But, yeah, he prevailed with the few tools that he has. He was able to really take advantage of them and win today.”
Rublev, who now goes on to face the Green Group winner, Casper Ruud on Saturday, is clearly keen to avenge the defeat he suffered at the Norwegian’s hands in the group stages of the 2021 competition which resulted in Ruud eliminating him!
“I don’t know if it can be different [this time] or not, but I’m really looking forward (to it) because Casper is such a nice person inside the court and outside the court,” he said.
“He’s a great player, a great fighter, he achieved so many good things this season so it’s going to be a really, really good challenge for me, so I will do my best and we will see what’s going to happen.”