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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Rafael Nadal beats Daniil Medvedev at U.S. Open final

U.S. Open 2019 — Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates his victory over Daniil Medvedev of Russia on Sun., Sept. 8, 2019. Getty

The 19th Grand Slam title that seemed so inevitable for Rafael Nadal during the first two-plus sets of the U.S. Open final suddenly seemed in doubt as Daniil Medvedev forced it to a fifth.

What had all the makings of a crowning morphed into a real contest thanks to Medvedev, a man a decade younger and appearing in his first major final. Medvedev shifted styles, upped his level and received an unexpected boost from Arthur Ashe Stadium spectators.

Truly tested for the only time in the tournament, the No. 2-seeded Nadal managed to stop Medvedev’s surge and hold off his historic comeback bid, pulling out a 7-5, 6-3, 5-7, 4-6, 6-4 victory in 4 hours, 50 minutes of highlight-worthy action and feature-film-worthy drama on Sunday, collecting his fourth championship at Flushing Meadows.

Nadal is now within one major trophy of Roger Federer’s record for Grand Slam titles won by a man. But this one did not come easily. Not at all.

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Sure seemed it might, with Nadal ahead by two sets and a break in the third at 3-2. But the No. 5-seeded Medvedev, a 23-year-old from Russia, did not go gently into the night. He broke right back to 3-all, then again to claim that set and yet again to end the fourth.

Not since 1949 had a man won the U.S. Open final after trailing by two sets to one. Never before had Medvedev won a five-set match. Only once before had Nadal lost a Grand Slam match after taking the opening two sets.

And yet the drama here was real.

U.S. Open 2019 — Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal of Spain celebrates with the championship trophy. Getty

Even at the very end — or when everyone, save Medvedev, perhaps, figured it was the very end — Nadal had trouble closing things out. After breaking to lead 3-2 in the fifth, in a game Medvedev led 40-love, Nadal broke again and served for the championship at 5-2.

The way this back-and-forth tale was spun, though, it probably was inevitable that Medvedev would break there. And so he did, because Nadal double-faulted on break point after he was docked a serve for his third time violation of the evening.

In the next game, Nadal held a pair of match points, but Medvedev, of course, avoided defeat yet another time, erasing one of those with a backhand winner, the other with a service winner.

With fans screaming, “Close it out!” at the ensuing changeover, Nadal once more stepped to the baseline to try to serve it out, this time at 5-4. Naturally, he was forced to deal with another heart-in-throat break point, but came up with a stinging forehand that drew a long forehand from Medvedev.

Two points later, it was over, and Nadal was splayed on his back on the court, the victor at Flushing Meadows for the fourth time.

Add the Spaniard’s haul in New York to his 12 titles at the French Open, two at Wimbledon and one at the Australian Open, and the 20-19 gap between Federer and Nadal is the closest it’s been in 15 years. Federer led 1-0 after his breakthrough triumph at the All England Club in 2004, and he had four by the time Nadal got his first at Roland Garros in 2005.

Federer, who lost in the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open, is 38, while Nadal is 33 — making him the oldest male champion at Flushing Meadows since 1970. He’s also the first man to win five majors after turning 30.

U.S. Open 2019 — Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal of Spain is congratulated by Daniil Medvedev of Russia after winning his Men’s Singles final match. Getty

Nadal says he wants to finish his career at No. 1 in the Grand Slam standings — ahead of Federer and Novak Djokovic, looming in third place currently with 16 – but also insists he won’t base his happiness on how it all shakes out in the end.

This one ended the way he wanted it to. The journey just took more detours than anyone could have anticipated.

Perhaps sensing the end was near, Medvedev turned into a trickier foe. He alternated serve-and-volley surprises with a penchant for out-hitting Nadal at the baseline. For a stretch, it felt as if Medvedev simply could not miss.

It was the kind of ball-striking and shape-shifting Medvedev showed while going 20-2 during the North American hard-court circuit, reaching four finals in a row.

The Flushing Meadows fans that jeered Medvedev in Week 1 because of his on-court behavior – he trolled his detractors by sarcastically thanking them and telling him their vitriol was why he won – were pulling for him.

Or, at least, pulling for more bang for the bucks they spent on tickets.

They certainly got that.

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No sweat for Nadal and Federer, Bertens pulls out

© Reuters. French Open - Roland Garros © Reuters. French Open – Roland Garros

By Martyn Herman

PARIS (Reuters) – Defending champion Rafael Nadal continued to chomp his way through the French Open draw on Wednesday and Roger Federer also maintained his smooth progress into the third round.

It felt like a case of deja vu for Spaniard Nadal, the second seed, as for the second match running he dispatched a German qualifier named Yannick in brutal fashion.

After beating Yannick Hanfmann for the loss off six games in round one, he conceded seven against Yannick Maden in a 6-1 6-2 6-4 win on Court Suzanne Lenglen, crunching 43 winners in the process.

Things might get more tricky next when he faces Belgium’s David Goffin — but the 11-times champion is already on a roll.

“We know that he’s at home at the French Open. He’s the king,” 27th seed Goffin said.

Third seed Federer also played an obscure German, 25-year-old lucky loser Oscar Otte, ranked 144th in the world.

Federer, wearing pale brown shorts, turned the screw just enough, breaking serve at a crucial juncture of each set for a clinical, yet still eye-catching 6-4 6-3 6-4 victory.

After missing the last three French Opens he has found the groove straight away with six near-perfect sets.

“I must say I feel really good, you know, considering I haven’t played here in that long,” the 37-year-old said.

The women’s draw lost another big name as Kiki Bertens, the Dutch fourth seed, was forced to retire early on against Viktoria Kuzmova, saying she had been up all night vomiting.

She joined fifth seed Angelique Kerber and 13th seed Caroline Wozniacki and 2017 champion Jelena Ostapenko through the exit door.

There were no alarms for 2016 champion Garbine Muguruza who beat Johanna Larsson to set up a clash with ninth seed Elina Svitolina who enjoyed a walkover against Kateryna Kozlova.

Last year’s runner-up Sloane Stephens also reached the third round, beating Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-1 7-6(3).

Marin Cilic’s hopes of completing his set of Grand Slam finals came to an abrupt end as the 11th seed lost a four-hour 23 minute five-setter against Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov.

That was one of two matches that in previous years would have graced the latter stages of a Grand Slam, the other one seeing Japan’s Kei Nishikori beat home favorite Jo-Wilfried Tsonga after losing the opening set.

Former world number three Dimitrov, unseeded this year, will have to be at his best again in the third round where he faces 2015 champion Stan Wawrinka.

The Swiss 24th seed was in scintillating form to beat Chile’s Cristian Garin, second on the list for claycourt wins this year, 6-1 6-4 6-0.

Greek sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, tipped as the man most likely to provide a breakthrough for the next generation this fortnight, battled past Bolivian Hugo Dellien.

French hopes were boosted with youngster Corentin Moutet posting an impressive win over 19th seed Guido Pella, while Benoit Paire beat compatriot Pierre-Hugues Herbert 11-9 in the fifth set of a thriller.

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Nadal knocked out by Fognini in Monte Carlo semi-finals

© Reuters. ATP 1000 - Monte Carlo Masters © Reuters. ATP 1000 – Monte Carlo Masters

MONTE CARLO (Reuters) – Rafa Nadal suffered a shock 6-4 6-2 semi-final defeat against flamboyant Italian Fabio Fognini at the Monte Carlo Masters on Saturday, showing rare signs of weakness five weeks before the French Open.

The 11-time champion’s loss ended a series of 25 consecutive sets won on his favorite clay as Fognini set up a final showdown against Serbian Dusan Lajovic.

In windy conditions at the Monte Carlo Country Club, the 11-time French Open champion was overwhelmed by Fognini, who entered center court with all guns blazing.

Fognini’s unpredictability, added to that of the weather conditions, were eventually too much for the Spanish world number two who bowed out on the fourth match point.

It was world number 18 Fognini’s fourth career win against Nadal in 15 encounters, the third on the slowest surface.

Earlier, Lajovic reached his first Masters final when he mastered the windy conditions to beat Russian Daniil Medvedev 7-5 6-1.

Lajovic trailed 3-0 and 5-1 in the opening set before going through the gears.

The 10th-seeded Medvedev could not hold the pace as winds swept across center court and Lajovic quickly moved 4-0 up in the second set against a frustrated opponent, who bowed out on the second match point.

“It was an incredible match today,” said world number 48 Lajovic, the lowest-ranked player to reach the final here since Hicham Arazi in 2001.

“I had the worst nightmare, falling down 5-1. But I won 10 games in a row, so I was able to find my rhythm and my game.

“In windy conditions like today, it was impossible to play real tennis and in the end I was able to hit my forehands better than him. I’m still unaware of my achievement in Monte Carlo.”

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

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