TURIN, Italy — There shall be no record-tying sixth victory within the ATP Finals for Novak Djokovic.
Alexander Zverev made certain of that. So did the top-ranked Djokovic’s uncharacteristically shaky play early within the third set, which gave the long-limbed, big-serving Zverev all of the elbow room he required to shut out his 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-3 victory within the semifinals on Saturday night time.
There was additionally no readability on whether or not Djokovic will attempt to win a record-extending tenth singles title on the 2022 Australian Open, the primary Grand Slam event the place gamers shall be required to be fully vaccinated towards Covid-19. Djokovic, who has declined to disclose his vaccination standing, had stated that he would make his determination about touring to Australia as soon as the event introduced its coverage. It grew to become official on Saturday, however he selected to stay noncommittal in regards to the occasion, which begins on Jan. 17.
“Now that I do know, we’ll simply have to attend and see,” he stated.
Djokovic has had a remarkably profitable season, profitable three main singles titles and coming inside one match of finishing the Grand Slam on the U.S. Open. At age 34, as soon as thought-about a complicated tennis age, he’ll end the yr at No. 1 for a document seventh time.
However he’s additionally more and more below risk on hardcourts, be they outdoor or indoors, from the youthful and taller set. Zverev and Daniil Medvedev have taken turns thwarting Djokovic’s huge plans and tennis goals previously 4 months. It’s hardly a fantastic shock that the second-ranked Medvedev and the third-ranked Zverev will meet within the last on Sunday.
“We’re not that younger anymore, 25 and 24, so not that younger,” stated Zverev, who turned 24 in April. “And we’re beginning to break by way of. He’s a Grand Slam champion, and I’m an Olympic gold medalist, and perhaps we each put that on the road tomorrow.”
Each achievements got here at Djokovic’s expense. Djokovic has by no means received an Olympic gold medal, and he was on the brink when he confronted Zverev within the semifinals of the Tokyo Video games in July. He received the primary set 6-1 and went up an early service break within the third. However Djokovic’s stage dropped considerably from there.
“It was nearly as if he needed it an excessive amount of,” Roger Federer, certainly one of Djokovic’s career-long rivals, stated in an interview with Sky Italia on Saturday.
Zverev rallied to win the gold medal, probably the most important victory of his profession.
Djokovic, deflated, didn’t play once more till the U.S. Open, the place he received his first six matches, together with a five-set thriller towards Zverev within the semifinals, to offer himself the possibility to play for the Grand Slam towards Medvedev.
However as a substitute of Djokovic breaking his tie with Federer and Rafael Nadal by profitable a twenty first Grand Slam singles title, Medvedev grew to become a first-time Grand Slam champion.
Djokovic thinks Zverev, who has but to beat Djokovic in a best-of-five-set match, is near becoming a member of the membership. It was laborious to dismiss the notion after watching Zverev rip serves within the clutch and infrequently get the higher of Djokovic in grueling, high-velocity baseline rallies.
“He’s a fantastic man, implausible tennis participant, I’m certain quickly to be a Grand Slam champion,” Djokovic stated late Saturday night time after embracing Zverev on the web.
It was straightforward to overlook amid the bonhomie that Zverev stays below investigation by the lads’s tour due to allegations of bodily abuse from a former girlfriend Olya Sharypova. She has filed no formal prices however has given an in depth account of the accusations in media interviews. Zverev, who has denied abusing Sharypova, has welcomed the investigation as an opportunity to clear his identify. He has managed to thrive on court regardless of the controversy.
However the Olympic gold medal has boosted Zverev’s confidence. It’s a comfortable reminiscence he faucets into by often carrying his German Olympic group warm-up go well with earlier than matches.
Each he and Medvedev received the ATP Finals when this elite, itinerant eight-man occasion was held on the O2 Area in London: Zverev in 2018 and Medvedev in 2020. Now, they are going to face one another in Turin, the place the event has moved for a five-year run with the same deep-blue colour scheme and a fairly faster courtroom.
Each are 6-foot-6 with huge wingspans and glorious mobility, which might make them exceedingly tough to interrupt down. However Medvedev has had the clear edge, profitable their final 5 matches over the previous two seasons, together with their round-robin match this week by the narrowest of margins, 6-3, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (6).
The pace of the courtroom doesn’t make Medvedev’s large and elastic serve any simpler to deal with. However the situations could assist Zverev’s greater serve much more. Djokovic, the sport’s supreme returner, might break him simply as soon as on Saturday and even when Djokovic guessed appropriately on the placement of Zverev’s serves, he was usually unable to achieve them.
Djokovic additionally served brilliantly by way of a lot of the match, utilizing his precision to hit 15 aces to Zverev’s 14. However at 1-2 within the third set, he performed his worst service sport, opening with a clean forehand winner, then making three consecutive forehand unforced errors and finally dropping the edgy sport by dumping a backhand into the online.
“Simply wasted actually the match in that sport,” Djokovic stated. “4 unforced errors. Within the situations like this the place you could have one of many greatest servers within the sport, it’s simply tough to return again from that.”
The consequence deepened Djokovic’s drought on the ATP Finals, which he final received in 2015. Although Djokovic has damaged or matched a few of Federer’s most important data, together with whole weeks at No. 1, Federer nonetheless holds the document for many victories on the ATP Finals with six.
Whereas Federer, now 40, is sidelined indefinitely due to main knee surgical procedure, Djokovic performs on, though maybe not in Australia in 2022. He has made it clear that he doesn’t consider vaccination for Covid must be required, and but the state authorities of Victoria in Australia has made it obligatory for the Australian Open.
Zverev went out of his method on Saturday to go with and help Djokovic: “He’s the best participant of all time, and other people overlook that typically,” Zverev stated in his post-match interview. “I feel all people ought to recognize that.”
He stated he hoped Djokovic would be capable to play in Melbourne however acknowledged the obstacles.
“Look, it is a very robust one, as a result of it’s very political,” Zverev stated. “That is in regards to the virus that is occurring, proper? This isn’t a few event or tennis. We’re visiting a special nation. On the finish of the day, the nation is permitting us to enter. We have to observe the principles and observe the rules.”
Match officers have given no indication that any exceptions shall be made to the coverage, and the Australian Open might be the primary of quite a few tour occasions to require vaccination subsequent season.
“On the finish of the day, I’m No. 3 on this planet, so if he doesn’t play, it’s simpler to win the event,” Zverev stated.
However although Djokovic did play in Turin, he’s now not within the working. The trophy will go to one of many two different, youthful males who’ve shined most brightly on courtroom in 2021.