Nitto ATP Finals Begins With Plenty Of Fanfare And A Sinner Win, Too

Jannik Sinner (photo: ATP Tour video)

TURIN/WASHINGTON, November 12, 2023 (by Michael Dickens)

The Nitto ATP Finals began with plenty of fanfare, front and center, at Turin’s Pala Apitour Sunday afternoon. Not only were there singers and dancers and classical violinists – plus a colorful light show – in the beginning, even Jannik Sinner’s Carota Boys fan club were in attendance.

Oh, there was also a clash of big hitters that captured everyone’s attention, too.

Italian home favorite Sinner, 22, competing for the second time in the year-end finale but the first time as a direct entrant, dominated from the back of the court against 25-year-old Greek star Stefanos Tsitsipas, who won the ATP Finals title in 2019, in the opening singles match in the Green Group. Together, they put on quite a show.

However, throughout the duration of their one-hour, 25-minute matinee, it was the World No. 4 Sinner, a four-time titlist this season on the ATP Tour, who was most composed. With focus and clarity, the South Tyrolean won, 6-4, 6-4, much to the delight of the Italian fans, who had Sinner’s back from first ball to last ball.

“It is a special week,” Sinner said in his on-court TV interview after his opening victory, which put him in first place in the Green Group pending the outcome of Sunday night’s match between No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia and No. 8 Holger Rune of Denmark.

“We play under a roof, so it is nosier and playing with this crowd is such a special feeling. I tried to be really happy on the court and really focused,” he added.

Beloved by the Pala Alpitour’s 13,000 faithful fans, Sinner hit nine aces and 22 winners overall. He won 89 percent of his first-serve points with great accuracy, faced no break points, and outpointed World No. 6 Tsitsipas 62-50. Although Tsitsipas countered with 17 winners, they were offset by 17 unforced errors. In the end, it all added up to Sinner’s 58th victory in 72 matches during the 2023 season, while Tsitsipas fell to 51-23. It was just Sinner’s third career win in eight meetings against Tsitsipas, but it was a big one.

“I was excited to step on court and opening the Finals is really, really special,” Sinner said, “I knew it was going to be very tough but I think I handled the situation well. I tried to stay aggressive and I am very happy with the performance. I am happy to start off with a win and hopefully I can continue with this intensity.”

Around the Pala Alpitour

Doubles No. 1 seeds Ivan Dodig of Croatia and Austin Krajicek of the United States benefited from three breaks of their opponents’ serve and saved all five break points they faced to defeat No. 7 seeds Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni, both of Argentina, 6-4, 6-2, to begin action in the Green Group. Dodig and Krajicek outpointed the Argentines, who were making their Turin debut, 52-44.

“It feels great to come back here, for us a second time as a team together. I’m really enjoying it,” said Dodig during an ATP Media interview prior to Sunday’s start of group play. “Happy that we had a great season. And to finish it here, it’s always the best thing. That’s why we fight through the year, to play this one. And hopefully this time we can have a good run.

“Last year, we had great matches. We lost all the matches in the [match] tie-break. Hopefully this time, we can do it better. But all in all, great season. Happy to be back.”

Dodig and Krajicek won titles this year at Roland Garros as well as at Rotterdam, Monte Carlo, Queen’s Club and Beijing.

By the numbers

There are four former champions in the Nitto ATP Finals for the second time in three years with Novak Djokovic, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Alexander Zverev. It’s the fifth time in tournament history this has happened.

With Jannik Sinner’s win, it’s just the third time an Italian player has won a singles match at the event, after Matteo Berrettini defeated Dominic Thiem in 2019 and Sinner beat Hubert Hurkacz in 2021.

“Quotable …”

“I had a very good season and I played fewer tournaments than last year but I played more matches. It’s obviously a great sign for me and how I ended the past several tournaments was good. Hopefully I can show this here.”

Jannik Sinner of Italy, from his ATP Media pre-tournament interview.