TURIN, Italy (AP) — Top-ranked Novak Djokovic will be bidding for a record-breaking seventh ATP Finals title when he takes on home favorite Jannik Sinner in Sunday’s final.
Djokovic took less than 90 minutes to beat Carlos Alcaraz 6-3, 6-2 in a semifinal match between the top two ranked players on Saturday night, after Sinner had earlier dispatched Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-1.
The 36-year-old Djokovic is currently tied with Roger Federer on six titles at the season-ending tournament for the year’s top eight players, while Sinner is the first Italian to reach the final.
However, Sinner recorded his first-ever victory over Djokovic earlier this week and the Serbian will also have to contend again with a passionate, partisan crowd.
“He’s been playing fantastic tennis, arguably the best tennis of his life,” Djokovic said. “We played a very close match the other night. The atmosphere was unbelievable, electric really. I don’t expect anything less than that, probably even louder than what we had in the group-stage matchup.
“It’s the final, I’ve been in this situation before many times. I’m really happy with the way I’m feeling, the way I’m playing, so hopefully I can deliver my ‘A’ game tomorrow.”
Djokovic had plenty of support in Turin on Saturday, with many chanting his name between points.
Alcaraz and Djokovic had played each other four times previously and won two each. Djokovic won their most recent encounter in the final in Cincinnati in August, while Alcaraz beat the Serb in five sets in the Wimbledon final.
The latest battle between the two never hit those levels of drama, however, as Djokovic clinically took his chances after recovering from having to stave off two break points in the opening game.
“I approached the match with the right attitude, the right mentality, and I knew from the very first point it was going to be greatly intense,” Djokovic said. “He had break points right away, 15-40 in the first game.
“That’s Carlos. He always brings out his best in these kinds of matches and starts with a lot of high quality tennis and intensity. You’ve got to match that, try to weather the storm, and I did that.”
Djokovic nosed in front in the eighth game as Alcaraz — playing in his first ATP Finals — saved one break point but then hit a backhand into the net to leave Djokovic serving for the set. He duly did so to love, seeing it out with an ace.
Djokovic had won his past 15 matches after taking the opener and the writing appeared on the wall for Alcaraz when his opponent went a set and a break up early in the second set.
Alcaraz had the chance to level the set in the sixth game but Djokovic saved two break points, the second with a sumptuous crosscourt forehand that had the crowd roaring its approval. Djokovic lapped it up, raising his arms out, before cupping his hand to his ear and nodding his head and then pumping his fist.
Instead, it was Djokovic who broke in the very next game and then duly served for the set.
Sinner has won all four of his matches at the ATP Finals, including that mesmerizing victory over Djokovic earlier this week.
Sinner has been fervently backed by the fans in Turin — with the orange-clad “Carota Boys” ever present — and the 22-year-old raised his arms to the joyous crowd after serving the match out to love against 2020 champion Medvedev.
“It is a privilege to have this kind of pressure,” Sinner said. “The crowd has given me so much energy.
“It was a very difficult match. He started better than me, then I somehow managed to get the break and then I felt a bit better.”
Sinner is already up to No. 4 in the rankings — the highest an Italian man has risen since Adriano Panatta nearly a half-century ago.
Sinner’s win over the third-ranked Medvedev also saw him become the Italian with the most victories over top-five players (10), breaking Panatta’s record.
Medvedev had won all six of his matches against Sinner before last month but the Italian had ended that streak with victories in the finals at Beijing and Vienna.
The nerves appeared to be setting in for Medvedev after Sinner broke his serve in the second game of the decider and moments later the Russian hurled his racket at the boards after losing a scintillating rally, before remonstrating with the crowd as the boos rang out.
Medvedev managed to avoid a complete meltdown but Sinner dominated and broke again in the sixth game before serving out to love.
AP tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis