Djokovic has world number one Nadal in his sights at London finale

Djokovic has world number one Nadal in his sights at London finale Djokovic has world number one Nadal in his sights at London finale

By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) – If Novak Djokovic is to claim the year-end number ranking for a record-equaling sixth time he will have to do it the hard way at the ATP Finals next week in London.

The Serb was knocked off top spot by Rafael Nadal on Monday despite winning the Paris Masters last week and will need a strong finish alongside the River Thames to snatch it back.

Only Pete Sampras has finished a year on top six times and Djokovic’s hopes of emulating the American are not in his own hands with Nadal leading by 640 points heading to the climax.

Nadal, 33, is bidding to become the ATP’s oldest year-end number but with 200 points awarded for round-robin wins, 400 for a semi-final win and 500 for winning the final the door is still ajar for Djokovic to deny him.

Spaniard Nadal has often struggled physically in London and pulled out of his Paris Masters semi-final against Denis Shapovalov last week citing an abdominal issue when victory would have put him virtually out of reach.

He intends to play in London having been drawn in a round-robin group alongside 2018 ATP Finals champion Alexander Zverev and debutants Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

If Nadal fails to win a round-robin match, Djokovic would still need to win two group matches and reach the final to dislodge him. Djokovic will also finish the year as number one by winning the title, providing Nadal does not reach the semis.

Djokovic faces a tough group though, with six-time champion Roger Federer, French Open runner-up Dominic Thiem and Italian Matteo Berrettini, the third newcomer in this year’s event, who he will play in Sunday’s opening singles.

“It’s an extremely difficult task considering who my opponents are going to be,” Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Djokovic said.

“As a consequence, if I manage to get the year-end number one, that would be fantastic. It is a motivation and a goal every day.”

Federer, ranked third, will be a particularly dangerous obstacle for Djokovic even if he has not added to his ATP Finals title haul since winning in 2011.

The Swiss, who has a record 57 match wins at the event, bowed out to Zverev in the semi-finals last year but continues to defy the passing years at the age of 38.

Last month he claimed the Swiss indoor title without dropping a set. It was his fourth title in 2019, during which he lost an epic Wimbledon final to Djokovic having held match points.

The penultimate ATP Finals in London, before it moves to Turin, has a fresh look this year.

Russian counter-puncher Medvedev has enjoyed an incredible breakthrough year and of the three debutants he looks the most likely to challenge for the title.

He leads the charts in terms of match wins (59) and finals reached (9) and against Nadal in a sensational U.S. Open final proved he has the personality to go toe-to-toe with the giants.

For the fourth successive year there are eight different nations represented in the singles while half of the singles field are aged 23 or under. The new wave is arriving, but Djokovic still has unfinished business.

Colombian duo Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah will lead the doubles event having already clinched the year-end number one ranking and will be seeking a London double after winning this year’s Wimbledon crown.

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NFL notebook: Rams' Gurley (knee) in limbo for finale

© Reuters. NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Rams © Reuters. NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Rams

Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay said running back Todd Gurley could miss his second straight game with a knee injury Sunday against San Francisco.

The Rams were in a similar position last weekend, ultimately deciding to deactivate the three-time Pro Bowl selection just before their 31-9 win Sunday at Arizona. Gurley leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns (17) and total touchdowns (21) but has been dealing with inflammation in his left knee since Week 15.

The Rams (12-3) are competing with Chicago (11-4) for a first-round bye, but McVay said Gurley’s health takes precedence over playoff positioning.

"We want to do what’s best for Todd most importantly and what’s best for Todd is also what’s best for our football team," McVay said.

–Pittsburgh Steelers running back James Conner will be questionable to play Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals in the regular-season finale, head coach Mike Tomlin said.

Conner is expected to return to practice this week, which will help determine whether or not he can play Sunday. The Steelers’ only realistic path to the playoffs is to beat the visiting Bengals and have the Cleveland Browns beat the Ravens in Baltimore, which would give Pittsburgh the AFC North title.

In Conner’s absence, the Steelers have relied primarily on rookie Jaylen Samuels, who has 328 scrimmage yards on 54 touches over the last three games. Pittsburgh has also given more carries to Stevan Ridley, but he lost a critical fumble in Sunday’s loss to the New Orleans Saints.

–D.J. Swearinger is heading back to Arizona after being claimed off waivers from the Washington Redskins.

Swearinger, 27, had three interceptions, nine passes defensed and 73 tackles in 20 games (13 starts) over parts of two seasons with the Cardinals. He left as a free agent in March 2017, signing a three-year, $ 13.5 million deal with Washington.

Arizona owes Swearinger — a Pro Bowl alternate in the midst of a career season — less than $ 200,000 for the rest of this year’s salary and has him under contract for $ 4.25 million in 2019.

–Phillip Lindsay, who enjoyed an impressive rookie season, will miss the season finale due to a right wrist injury.

The Denver Broncos rookie running back sustained ligament damage and a possible scaphoid fracture for which he will receive a second opinion, according to Denver’s 9News.com and NFL Network. Lindsay was hurt Monday night in the Broncos’ 27-14 road loss at Oakland.

Lindsay finished with 1,037 rushing yards on 192 carries. He just missed breaking the league record for the most rushing yards by an undrafted rookie. Dominic Rhodes set the mark of 1,104 yards with the Indianapolis Colts in 2001.

–The Green Bay Packers placed defensive tackle Kenny Clark on injured reserve, according to an ESPN report.

Clark hurt his elbow in Week 14, and the Packers announced last week he would not play again this season. However, they kept him on the roster and left him inactive for their past two games, a road loss to the Chicago Bears and an overtime road win over the New York Jets.

The move officially ends a breakout season for Clark, as the 2016 first-round pick had six sacks, nine QB hits and 55 tackles in 13 games while being named a Pro Bowl alternate.

–Field Level Media

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