Novak Djokovic has restored normal service as he dispatched the GenNext star Denis Shapovalov 6-3,6-4 in only 66 minutes to capture his first title since winning his fifth Wimbledon crown on July 14 this year. He is now only one short of Rafael Nadal’s tally of 35 Master’s series titles and heads next week’s World Tour Final in London as the firm favourite to clinch his sixth title at the season ending finale.
The top seeded Serb never lost serve in the entire match and saved the only break point he faced in the match. Shapovalov served 11 aces but could only save two of the four break points he faced in what was the fourth match-up between the duo in 2019. Shapovalov took one set against Djokovic in their first meeting at the Australian Open in January, but has lost for the third time in straight sets this year. Djokovic won in Rome and Shanghai and is now a perfect 4-0 against the left handed Shapovalov.
The 20 year old Shapovalov dropped serve once in each set and that was all Djokovic needed to win his record extending fifth title at the last of the nine Master’s series title for the year, the only Master’s series title played indoors. Shapovalov, who is now coached by the Russian Mikhail Youzhny ends the year ranked at a career high fifteenth in a season where he captured his maiden career title in Stockholm at the Instrum Open last month.
Djokovic broke serve in the second game of the first set and then in the seventh game of the second set as he equalled John McEnroe’s tally of 77 titles. He is now tied at fifth place with the temperamental American in career titles. Jimmy Connors with 109 and Roger Federer with 103 titles are the only players in the Open era with more than hundred titles. Ivan Lendl won 94, while Rafael Nadal’s tally is 84 titles. Djokovic though drops to number two in the rankings as the Spaniard Rafael Nadal overtakes him to be ranked at number One.
The duo took their fight for the year end No.1 ranking to the season ending finale at the O2 Arena in London as the Top Eight players compete at the prestigious season ending finale where there are 1500 points at stake. Nadal leads Djokovic by 640 points in the race for year ending number One as the Spaniard can ensure number one ranking by reaching the final and assuming he wins all three round robin matches. It will be a tough task for the Spaniard as he has struggled at the season ending finale, in the past, and is looking for his maiden title there.
The two were joined by six time champion Roger Federer of Switzerland, Daniil Medvedev of Russia, Dominic Thiem of Austria, the Greek sensation Stefanos Tsitsipas, the defending champion Alexander Zverev of Germany and the Italian Matteo Berrettini. Medvedev, Tsitsipas and Berrettini made their debuts at the biggest indoor tournament on the ATP tennis calendar.
Djokovic made sure that the Italian debutant Berrettini received a baptism by fire, as the 16 time Grand Slam Champion brought out some of his best tennis to open the tournament. The result was a thorough beat-down from the Serbian legend. Berrettini won all of 3 games in the entire match. In the night match, Thiem continued his recent dominance of the Swiss genius.
In an extremely competitive match, Thiem came up with the answers on the big points as he has done in their 2 previous matches. Federer faltered in the all important 11th game of each set to hand the match over to the Austrian 7-5, 7-5.
On the 2nd day of the tournament, two of the future stars of ATP Tsitsipas and Medvedev served up some good tennis and Tsitsipas was able to do something Federer was unable to, the day before. Tsitsipas was able to reverse a string of losses to the Russian break-out star. In fact, this was the Greek’s first win against Medvedev in 6 tries. After a tight first set, Tsitsipas used the single break he got to close the match out 7-6, 6-4.
In the final match of the first round, Alexander Zverev continued his dominating run at the year end tournament. Zverev had closed out last year’s tournament with back to back wins over Federer (in the semifinals) and Djokovic (in the final). He picked up from where he left, downing Nadal 2 and 4 in very dominating fashion. Like Tsitsipas, in the morning, Zverev recorded his first win over his opponent in his sixth meeting.
Thiem and Zverev ensured the younger generation start the assault on the Big3, right away at the ATP Tour Finals. However, as the wonderful sport of tennis reminds us very frequently, it is not how you start, but how you finish, that makes all the difference.
– Rasesh Mehta and Prakash Potukuchhi (You can reach them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org)