It's been a long season on the ATP circuit

Winning on the ATP Tour means surviving endless endurance battles in a war of attrition. Relentless core exchanges lead to longer, more...


Winning on the ATP Tour means surviving endless endurance battles in a war of attrition. Relentless core exchanges lead to longer, more grueling matches in a season that lasts most of the year.

There were further concerns that after the pandemic-cut short 2020 season, this year’s schedule could wreak even more serious havoc as players get back into shape.

“Our season is too long considering the physical nature of tennis today,” said third Alexander Zverev said in late October. “We don’t really have time to let our wounds heal.”

Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem were sidelined with injuries this year, and at the Paris Masters last week, fourth-place Stefanos Tsitsipas retired with a lingering arm injury. Tsitsipas said he gave up to keep his chance at an even bigger prize, the year-end Nitto ATP Finals.

The final, which this year travels to Turin, Italy from London, is what the soccer elite are striving to achieve. The tournament has the top eight players in the game divided into two groups of four who compete against each other in a round-robin format before two from each half advance to the semi-finals.

Brad Gilbert, an ESPN analyst, said the move to Turin should not have an impact on the style of play because, like the O2 Arena in London where the event took place last year, it takes place indoors with a hard court manufactured by GreenSet, which produced relatively slowly, low rebound surfaces.

“So we could have longer rallies,” he said. He said the week off between the Paris Masters and the ATP finals should benefit players if there are long points. (This final doesn’t even end the season, with the Davis Cup finals taking place a few days later.)

Paul Annacone, who has coached Pete Sampras and Federer and is a Tennis Channel analyst, said players who have made it to the ATP Finals feel a sense of accomplishment. “They understand the magnitude of this event, featuring the best of the best, so they will do whatever they can to win.”

The players have said they will indeed play despite their fatigue after a grueling season. Zverev, Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev also said they won’t switch tactics with bigger serves or groundstrokes, more drop shots or a run to reach the net – just to finish the points quickly.

“I will play as I play,” said Zverev, who at the United States Open the semi-final against Novak Djokovic won a rally of 53 shots in a match where the other five points averaged nearly 20 shots each.

Tsitsipas said his game hasn’t changed just because of the time of year, so players’ strategies won’t budge much either. “If there is any kind of difference, it will be very small. “

Rublev said Tsitsipas, who had the ability to load the net and the finesse to win on penalties, was perhaps in the best position to change his game if the game called for it, as he was frozen in his habits. “I am an aggressive player and I like to be the one leading the rally, who dictates the point,” said Rublev. “This is the goal of all matches.”

The local public should give an advantage to Matteo Berrettini, ranked No. 7 in the world, the only Italian in the final.

“Berrettini has a huge serve and a huge forehand so he can keep points short,” said Annacone. “And this is a new event for Italy, featuring one of their best young superstars, so I expect the crowd to sound like a concert of Italian fanatics. Berrettini could be there with the best players.

Annacone said Daniil Medvedev and Zverev have a good chance of winning because they have proven their endurance, playing excellent tennis since the summer, adding that they have big serves and first strikes so they can shorten points without changing tactics.

And Zverev has proven his resilience in those long US Open rallies, while Medvedev has thrived on the backlash and could wear down his tired opponents, Annacone said. In contrast, Tsitsipas and Rublev faltered in the second half of the season, making them less likely to survive this gauntlet.

Still, Djokovic, the world No. 1, remains the favorite. While second-ranked Medvedev beat him in the US Open final on hard and indoor court in last year’s ATP Finals, Djokovic has not lost an ATP game in the past two years. against any of the other competitors. (Zverev beat him in the Olympic Games.)

Djokovic also took time off after the US Open, which means he could be cooler than his rivals, which Annacone says could prove crucial.

“It will depend on who is fresher and healthier,” he said, “and can get back into shape that week.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: It's been a long season on the ATP circuit
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