Elite Eight Take Over Turin For ATP Finals

ATP Finals Turin (photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images for ATP)

TURIN/WASHINGTON, November 13, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

The Nitto ATP Finals, which are being held for the first time in Turin, Italy after a successful run in London, begin Sunday at the Pala Alpitour with seven men in their early to mid-twenties and one 34-year-old, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

“The young guys are coming through and it’s a natural curve,” World No. 3 Alexander Zverev said on Friday during a pre-tournament media interview session. “Novak is deservedly the No. 1 right now. If you win three Slams you have to be No. 1. Then, there is Daniil, Stef [Tsitsipas], myself and Andrey [Rublev] in the Top 5. The Top 10 is getting younger, and it’s defnitely good for the sport.”

As group play begins on Sunday with Daniil Medvedev facing Hubert Hurkacz and  Zverev against Matteo Berrettini, there are a number of intriguing storylines. Among them:

• Can Djokovic, who last week clinched the year-end No. 1 ranking for a record-breaking seventh time, match Roger Federer’s record of six Nitto ATP Finals titles?

• Can Medvedev, the defending champion after garnering an unblemished 5-0 record – including a historic hat-trick of wins over the Top Three players (Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem) – repeat his 2020 success?

• Can someone other than Djokovic or Medvedev win this year’s title?

On Thursday night, the two singles groups – Green and Red – were revealed and the order of play for the first two days of the eight-day event, which concludes on November 21, was announced:

• Green Group: Novak Djokovic, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Casper Ruud.

• Red Group: Daniil Medvedev, Alexander Zverev, Matteo Berrettini and Hubert Hurkacz.

The two doubles groups were also unveiled:

• Green Group: Nikola Mektic and Mate PavicMarcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos; Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek; Kevin Krawietz and Horia Tecau.

• Red Group: Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury; Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut; Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah; Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares.

On Friday, it was off to a group photo shoot at the Piazza San Carlo in Turin, in which each of the singles players presented themselves in their fashionable best, followed by a day of interviews with international media. Among the more memorable quotes:

“Our group, I think, from what I see, is maybe the tougher group. Simply because on an indoor hard court, the players in the group are extremely difficult. Hubi [Hurkacz] is playing extremely well, Matteo can play well on this surface and Daniil can play well having won this title last year.”

Alexander Zverev of Germany, World No. 3, who won the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals title.

“Tennis is so much about ups and downs, gaining of confidence. Coming into Paris last year, I felt completely out of shape, low on confidence and not sure what I could achieve in the last two tournaments of the year. I found my tennis and confidence to win both of them, and of course I beat Novak [Djokovic], Rafa [Nadal] and Dominic [Thiem] at the [Nitto ATP] Finals. Three really tough match ups.

“It was amazing, and that gave me confidence in Australia. After you re-watch [matches] on YouTube, your confidence is back. You think, ‘I’m still able to do it.'”

Daniil Medvedev of Russia, World No. 2, on the ups and downs of tennis.

“Tennis has been booming on the men’s side in Italy, with Matteo, [Fabio] Fognini and [Jannik] Sinner in the past couple of years. There is a good vibe in the city and everyone looks forward to supporting the tournament, and Matteo in particular. Everyone here wants to finish off the year in the best possible way.”

Novak Djokovic of Serbia, World No. 1, on the support of tennis in Italy.

“It’s emotional. It’s super cool to be here. I’m very excited to play in the Finals. It’s such a small group of people playing here and so much fun. That atmosphere is going to be amazing with the Italian fans.”

Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, World No. 9, on the excitement of playing in the Nitto ATP Finals.

“I feel the pressure, but it’s a good pressure. It’s so nice to be here. I know that the crowd is going to be on my side, and I really cannot wait to step on the court. …

“Obviously, on the other side of the net there are going to be the best players in the world, so it’s not going to be easy. But I am one of them, so that helps. I think it’s special. I think that the atmosphere is going to be special. The site and everything, how it’s organized is really nice. I think Italy deserved such an event. Hopefully, it’s going to be also good on court.”

Matteo Berrettini of Italy, World No. 7, on being the only Italian in the Nitto ATP Finals and what it means to play in front of his home fans.

The bottom line, according to Zverev, is simple: “You have to enjoy it, because being here means you had a fantastic season and you’re among the best eight players in the world. It’s all about enjoying the moment and trying to be the best you can be on the court, but also enjoying the privilege of being here.”

Sunday and Monday order of play

By the numbers

Five players who are competing in the Nitto ATP Finals doubles competition are previous champions, with Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut the only pair to do so together in 2019. Marcel Granollers won with Marc Lopez in 2012, Horia Tecau paired with Jean-Julien Rojer in 2015 and Nikola Mektic, part of this year’s top-seeded team with Mate Pavic, won the crown with Wesley Koolhof last year.

“Quotable …”

“It means a lot. I think it’s one of the best events that we have on Tour and to have the chance to have it in my home country is something unbelievable. At the beginning of the year, it obviously was a big goal, but it was too soon to even think about it. And then match by match, I think I earned it and I’m really happy to be here.”

– Matteo Berrettini of Italy on being able to play in the year-end finale in his home country.