It was a strange day at the ATP Finals. Novak Djokovic took care of the replacement Hubert Hurkacz in three sets 7-6(1), 4-6, 6-1 to end 2-1 in the Red Group. But to advance out of the round robin, Djokovic needed Jannik Sinner to beat Holger Rune.
If Rune defeated Sinner, Rune would move on and Djokovic, a six-time champion and tournament favorite, would be eliminated. Djokovic wasn’t phased about needing Sinner to win.
“I will not be his fan. If he wins, I’ll qualify. If he doesn’t, I’ll still finish the season with a win and look to Davis Cup,” Djokovic said. “That’s all I feel now.”
Sinner had already clinched his berth once Djokovic dropped a set against Hurkacz. That mean that the Italian controlled Djokovic’s fate.
Rune had something to play. It was a must win, a defacto quarterfinal. Win and he wins the group (Sinner takes the second spot). Lose and his season is over. And the Dane put up a big fight but fell in the end 6-2, 5-7, 6-4.
The result means Sinner, who was two games from the exit, wins the group with Djokovic taking second.
“For me it was really important, resetting after the good win against Novak,” said Sinner to the ATP. “I never won against [Rune], so I really tried my best. I started off really well. In the second, he served better, he moved better, so it was a much more even match. The third set could have gone his way. At 4-3 I saved a break point. It was a little bit of a roller coaster today, but obviously really happy and happy to be in the semis.”
He also becomes the first Italian to make the semifinals at the ATP Finals.
“I’m very happy that I have the chance to have at least two more matches. Hopefully I can finish the year in a good way. I think it’s going in the right direction, and let’s see what’s coming,” he said.
Sinner, though, could see Djokovic again in the final. And beating him twice in the same week?
Tomorrow, the final spot in the semifinals will be filled. Carlos Alcaraz will take it if he beats Daniil Medvedev. Medvedev’s already qualified but his slot to still to be determined.
Alexander Zverev will try to keep his hopes alive against the eliminated Andrey Rublev. Zverev can’t win the group and can only qualify with a win and an Alcaraz loss.
With Alcaraz-Medvedev first on, Zverev might already be eliminated by the time he takes the court. The German will be Medvedev’s biggest fan.
“He wants to go through,” Medvedev said of Zverev. “I don’t know all the scenarios. For sure, if I beat Carlos, it’s going to be the best for him. So it’s normal. I would be the same. I can see him looking the match. If I miss going, No, why did he miss. Same if I win points.
“Me, I’m going to try my best to play Carlos. Is not easy. But here, fast court, so can be interesting. It’s always a question, for sure you probably don’t want to play tiebreak of the third set after 3 hours 30 after having to play the next day. The moment you relax and say to yourself, Maybe this match I can go easier, you can lose all the rhythm. That’s how tennis is.”
But if Medvedev wins and with it the group No. 1 seed, he will face Djokovic on Saturday. If he loses in straight sets, then Alcaraz wins the group (he then plays Djokovic) and Medvedev faces Sinner.
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