It was a day of reckoning for the last group matches of the Green Group with three of the four players vying for a place in the semi-finals of this year’s Nitto ATP Finals being played in Turin, Italy.
I’m very happy that I have the chance to have at least two more matches. Hopefully I can finish the year in a good way. I think it’s going in the right direction, and let’s see what’s coming Jannik Sinner
The only one not in contention was the Pole, Hubert Hurkacz playing his first match coming in as replacement for Stefanos Tsitsipas who retired injured with a lower back problem on Tuesday. All Hurkacz could hope for where a few points, a handsome cheque and more importantly, his first win over Novak Djokovic, the defending champion.
Jannik Sinner was already virtually through with two wins to his credit but to be assured a place in the last four, Djokovic had to drop a set to Hurkacz and the Serb duly obliged taking just over two hours to get the better of Tsitsipas’ replacement.
The six-time champion defeated Hurkacz 7-6(1) 4-6 6-1 but still was not sure he would progress into the Knockout Stage which would be decided by Sinner defeating Holger Rune in the evening match.
“I will not be his fan. If he wins, I’ll qualify. If he doesn’t, I’ll still finish the season with a win and look to Davis Cup,” Djokovic said. “That’s all I feel now.”
However, the likelihood of Rune defeating Sinner was slim. The young Italian was on a high, full of adrenalin which was pumped up by the crowd who were delighted at one of their own featuring in the latter stages of the prestigious event, voicing their approval loudly when Djokovic dropped that set to give their hero that semi-final place.
The 22-year-old from northern Italy would have made it anyway with a win over Rune who definitely needed a win, if he was to progress, and he certainly didn’t make it easy for Sinner who eventually prevailed, after two-hours and 30-minutes, 6-2 5-7 6-4.
That result put Sinner at the top of the group with three wins and Djokovic second, with two wins and one loss – to Sinner!
“For me it was really important, resetting after the good win against Novak,” Sinner, who is the first Italian to make the last four, said later. “I never won against [Rune], so I really tried my best. I started off really well; in the second, he served better, he moved better, so it was a much more even match. The third set could have gone his way. At 4-3, I saved a break point. It was a little bit of a roller coaster today, but obviously really happy, and happy to be in the semis.
He added: “I’m very happy that I have the chance to have at least two more matches. Hopefully I can finish the year in a good way. I think it’s going in the right direction, and let’s see what’s coming,”
Sinner, though, could face Djokovic again in the final when he would have to repeat his opening day win, which won’t be easy.
With Daniil Medvedev already assured of a place in the semis from the Red Group the fight for the final place to be decided Friday, is between Carlos Alcaraz and Alexander Zverev.
The former champion Medvedev needs to beat Alcaraz to end up at the top of the group but the Spaniard in turn, needs to beat the Russian to qualify and with that match scheduled for the afternoon, it could well resolve the final positions of that group. It certainly is poised to be the match of the day.
Zverev meantime, will be supporting Medvedev for his chance at making it in the evening’s encounter but it might well be over for the two-time champion from Germany.
“He wants to go through,” Medvedev said of Zverev. “I don’t know all the scenarios. For sure, if I beat Carlos, it’s going to be the best for him. So, it’s normal. I would be the same. I can see him looking at the match (and commenting) if I miss, going, No, why did he miss? Same if I win points.
“Me, I’m going to try my best to play Carlos. Is not easy. But here, fast court, so can be interesting. It’s always a question, for sure you probably don’t want to play tiebreak of the third set after 3 hours 30 and having to play the next day. The moment you relax and say to yourself, ‘Maybe this match I can go easier,’ you can lose all the rhythm. That’s how tennis is.”
If Medvedev wins and with it the group, he will face Djokovic on Saturday. If he loses in straight sets, then Alcaraz wins the group (he then plays Djokovic) and Medvedev faces Sinner.
The scene for an exciting weekend is slowly being set.