ATP Finals Turin – From the group of death to the title? What speaks for Novak Djokovic in Turin

Novak Djokovic may be only number eight in the world, but for most experts he is still the best tennis player on tour. “He had a longer break after Wimbledon and he is still fresh and hungry,” says Mischa Zverev exclusively on Eurosport.

The Serb’s motivation is at the limit of its possibilities. If he wins the tournament, he will tie with record winner Roger Federer, who has won the event six times. “That’s one of my biggest goals,” Djokovic left no doubt about his ambitions at the Pala Alpitour. The Serbian’s defeat a few days ago in the final of the ATP Masters in Paris against Holger Rune does not change the fact that the 35-year-old player has the best cards, Zverev believes.

However, Djokovic caught an extremely difficult group in the draw. With Daniil Medvedev (2020) and Stefanos Tsitsipas (2019) against two former final winners and there is also a duel with the dazzling Félix Auger-Aliassim.

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However, what happens at the end of a long year at the ATP Finals is – more than at any other event – physical condition. Players who have had a long season struggle or, in the worst case – like US Open champion Carlos Alcaraz – cannot even start due to injury.

Can Nadal close the gap?

It wouldn’t be long before Rafael Nadal would meet the same fate. The record Grand Slam champion was physically challenged and only recently returned in Paris. The 36-year-old immediately suffered a surprise bankruptcy against outsider Tommy Paul. The ideal preparation looks different.

The schedule and special circumstances at the ATP Finals are largely responsible for Nadal’s continued pursuit of a season finale triumph.

It’s the last big gap in the superstar’s title list – but at least there’s hope from the draw. The king of clay caught a supposedly easier group with Casper Ruud, Andrey Rublev and Taylor Fritz. In addition, Nadal can make a jump in the ATP rankings in Turin.

Tsitsipas in the red group – advantage due to failures?

This also applies to Stefanos Tsitsipas. The 2019 winner would have to win the final again, which according to Zverev is quite realistic. “Stefanos had a bit of a break because he didn’t get that far in some tournaments. The 24-year-old, this year’s winner of the Masters tournament in Monte Carlo and Mallorca, still has the necessary freshness. The sometimes disappointing results could now be an advantage for Tsitsipas. “Djokovic and him are my two favourites,” Zverev says.

Directly behind him, he sees Félix Auger-Aliassimo, to whom “extreme development” is a testament. The problem: The Canadian has been drawn in a group with Djokovic, Medvedev and Tsitsipas, but needs to finish at least second to advance.

THE GREEN GROUP RED GROUP
RAFAEL NADAL (ESP) STEFANOS TSITSIPAS (GRE)
CASPER RUUD (NORWAY) DANIIL MEDVEDEV (—)
ANDREY RUBLEV (—) FÉLIX AUGER-ALIASSIME (CAN)
TAYLOR FRITZ (USA) NOVAK DJOKOVIC (SRB)
Regardless, the 22-year-old is clearly thriving as he gains experience and works with coach Toni Nadal. Auger-Aliassime had a sensational October, winning back-to-back titles in Florence, Antwerp and Basel – with a match record of 13-0.

“Félix no longer just plays nice tennis, he knows exactly how to win rallies at important moments. That’s what set him apart in recent weeks,” explains Zverev. Strategically, the Canadian is now acting at a higher level. Nevertheless, in Turin, due to difficult opponents, he is not among the first contenders for the title.

Medvedev: When things are unpleasant…

Medvedev thus remains in the red group. The Russian may be having a mixed season, but he has vast experience that comes in handy especially at the big events.

In 2020 he won the ATP Finals, the following year the US Open, this season he won the first place in the world rankings.

Medvedev is currently not one of the outright favorites, but that is why he is perhaps the most unpleasant opponent.

Fritz, Rublev, Ruud – three lucky bags in the Green Group

Two-time Grand Slam finalist Casper Ruud, Andrey Rublev and Taylor Fritz all want to play that role in the Green Group. On paper, it’s about who finished second behind Djokovic.

Although Fritz is considered an outsider and only slipped into the field after Alcaraz’s cancellation, he still deserved his finals debut. The American has won three titles this season, including a Masters coup in Indian Wells. Rublev has an even better yield. The 25-year-old player made his mark in Marseille, Dubai, Belgrade and Gijón.

Ruud reached six finals in three titles (Buenos Aires, Geneva, Gstaad), and even got a sniff of the first Grand Slam crown with his final appearances at the French Open and the US Open. The Norwegian could be among the favorites if he had not suffered a slump in performance. It hasn’t been going well since the US Open, early defeats in Seoul (quarterfinals), Tokyo (1st round), Basel (1st round) and Paris (16th round).

There is no doubt: Fritz, Rublev and Ruud are the lucky ones in Turin.

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