Nishikori Tops Federer In London Opener


Seventh seed Kei Nishikori defeated six-time former champion Roger Federer 7-6(4), 6-3 on Sunday night at the Nitto ATP Finals. Nishikori, who is a two-time semi-finalist at the season finale held at The O2 in London, had not beaten Federer since March 2014 in Miami.

Nishikori required 87 minutes to wrap up the Group Lleyton Hewitt round-robin match. It marked his 43rd match win of the season, which includes three runner-up finished at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters (l. to Nadal), the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2018 (l. to Medvedev) and the Erste Bank Open 500 in Vienna (l. to Anderson.

Nishikori dropped to 0/30 when serving at 5-6, but trusted his technique and attacked Federer’s backhand to work his way back to level terms with a net approach and half volley backhand on the stretch. Nishikori shut the door closed and in the tie-break won six of the first seven points to put pressure on Federer. The second seed recovered to 4/6, however Federer struck a forehand in the net to end the 51-minute opener.

The pair exchanged service breaks at the beginning of the second set, then Nishikori broke Federer’s serve for a 4-2 advantage when aggressive play from the baseline once again reaped dividends.

Federer, who has now competed at the year-end championships 16 times, lifted the trophy in 2003-04, 2006-07, 2010-11. He drops to a 46-9 match record on the season.

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Novak Begins Record-Tying Quest In London Against Isner


After an epic comeback year, there remains one more record for Novak Djokovic to chase in the final week of the 2018 ATP World Tour season. The Serb seeks a sixth title at the world’s biggest indoor tennis tournament to tie the mark Roger Federer set back in 2011, when he most recently claimed the crown.

Novak’s quest begins Monday night against tournament danger man John Isner, the 6’ 10” American who can take the racquet out a player’s hand with arguably the best serve in the game. But Djokovic has shown an ability to put racquet on ball against Isner like few others and has won their past five meetings, including the most recent three without dropping a set.

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Isner, who has two wins against the Serb in 10 meetings, the last of which was in Cincinnati in 2013, knows the difficulty of the challenge ahead. “I’m up against it for sure. Novak has won this event five times. He’s the player to beat this week for sure… [but] it’s a good spot for me, because I don’t have much to lose. I’m definitely the underdog.”

On Sunday, Djokovic was honoured on court for finishing year-end No. 1 for the fifth time, tying Federer and Jimmy Connors and moving to within one of Pete Sampras’ record of six.

“Next to the Grand Slams and the ATP Finals, being No. 1 is probably the ultimate challenge in our sport,” Djokovic said. “It’s the pinnacle of the entire season. I’m very proud of that achievement and it’s extra special this year because of the whole process and the journey that I’ve been through in the past 15 months. In particular, the past eight to 10 months.”

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Earlier Monday, two of the best big men in the game go at it, with Alexander Zverev taking a 5-1 FedEx ATP Head2Head advantage over Marin Cilic into their group opener.

Zverev has won the past five meetings, but the most recent four have all gone three sets, and his first victory in Montpellier in 2016 was in two tie-breaks.

Cilic is looking to reach the semi-finals for the first time in four appearances in London. After early losses in Tokyo, Shanghai and Basel, Cilic rediscovered his best form at the Rolex Paris Masters last week. The 6′ 6″ right-hander defeated Philipp Kohlschreiber and reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion Grigor Dimitrov, before ending Djokovic’s 30-set winning streak in a three-set loss to the eventual runner-up.

“In Paris, last week, I played great tennis,” said Cilic. “I am feeling good at the moment and [I am] very excited. Small margins are going to make the difference. Playing the top guys is always a big challenge and matches against them are always very close and very tight.”

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Djokovic won four consecutive titles at The O2 arena between 2012-2015. He also won in Shanghai in 2008.

 



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Cabal/Farah Impressive In Nitto ATP Finals Opener


In a meeting of tournament debut teams, Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah overcame Nikola Mektic and Alexander Peya 6-3, 6-4 at the Nitto ATP Finals on Sunday.

Joining Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares at 1-0 in Group Llodra/Santoro, the second seeds recorded their first victory at the season-ending event after 70 minutes, winning 81 per cent of first-serve points en route to victory. Cabal and Farah, the first South American team to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals since 2008, improve to 38-21 at tour-level this season and level their FedEx ATP Head2Head series against Mektic and Peya at 2-2.

Cabal and Farah started sharply, taking control of the match with quick reflexes and strong volleying to earn a 3-1 lead. That break of serve proved crucial, with the Colombian duo holding serve with ease to stride to a one-set advantage. After saving a break point in the opening game of the second set, Mektic and Peya grew into the match, serving well to reach 4-4.

But, it was there that Cabal and Farah once again broke through. From 15/40, the Internazionali BNL d’Italia titlists won three straight points to break for 5-4 before serving out the match after saving three consecutive break points.

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This week, Cabal and Farah are bidding to reach their fifth tour-level championship match (1-3) in their best season to date. The Colombian duo began its season by reaching the Australian Open final (l. to Marach/Pavic) and has since advanced to finals at ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events in Rome (d. Carreno Busta/Sousa) and Cincinnati (l. to Murray/Soares).

Playing their first tournament together since the Western & Southern Open in August, Mektic and Peya were unable to convert three consecutive break point chances in the final game of the match. The Croatian-Austrian tandem secured two tour-level trophies in Marrakech and Madrid earlier this season, before Peya suffered a right elbow injury.



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Djokovic Presented Year-End ATP World Tour No. 1 Trophy At 2018 Nitto ATP Finals


Novak Djokovic was today presented with the 2018 year-end ATP World Tour No. 1 trophy during an on-court presentation at the Nitto ATP Finals, the season finale at The O2 in London. The Serbian is one of only four players in ATP Rankings history (since 1973) to have clinched the year-end top spot on five (or more) occasions, joining Pete Sampras (six), Jimmy Connors and Roger Federer (both five times).

Djokovic, who replaced Spain’s Rafael Nadal at No. 1 on 5 November, has completed a remarkable comeback to top form in 2018, capturing four titles—including two Grand Slams and two ATP World Tour Masters 1000s – from six tour-level finals. Aged 31 and six months, Djokovic is the oldest player to finish year-end No. 1 in ATP Rankings history. Having previously finished at the top in 2011-12, 2014-15, he is the second player — after Nadal (2008, 2010, 2013 and 2017) — with three stints as year-end No. 1.

He is also the first player to be ranked outside the Top 20 and finish the same season at No. 1 in the history of the ATP Rankings. Russia’s Marat Safin was as low at No. 38 on 28 February 2000 before becoming No. 1 on 20 November that year, but he did not finish the season at No. 1. When Djokovic fell to No. 22 on 21 May 2018, it was his lowest ranking since he was No. 22 as a 19-year-old on 2 October 2006.

“Next to the Grand Slams and the [Nitto] ATP Finals, being No. 1 is probably the ultimate challenge in our sport,” said Djokovic. “It’s the pinnacle of the entire season. I’m very proud of that achievement and it’s extra special this year because of the whole process and the journey that I’ve been through in the past 15 months. In particularly, the past 8-10 months.

“After February’s elbow surgery, it looked quite improbable that I’d be in this position as a year-end No. 1. Not just because of the rankings, being No. 22, but also because of how I felt on the court and how I played. But there was always a part of me that believed I could make it back and I never thought it was impossible.”

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Djokovic first ascended to No. 1 in the ATP Rankings aged 24 on 4 July 2011 for a total of 53 weeks until 8 July 2012. The Serbian returned to top spot on two further occasions between 5 November 2012 and 6 October 2013 (48 weeks) and from 7 July 2014 to 6 November 2016 (122 weeks).

Djokovic underwent surgery on his right elbow after the Australian Open, which was his first tournament in six months. He reunited with long-time coach Marian Vajda at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters in April and entered the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in May with a 6-6 record. Djokovic has since compiled a 43-5 match record, including a 31-2 mark since the start of Wimbledon.

The 31-year-old won two Grand Slam championship crowns at Wimbledon (d. Anderson) — which represented his first major title since June 2016 at Roland Garros — and at the US Open (d. Del Potro) for the third time in the same season (also 2011 and 2015). As the World No. 21 at Wimbledon, he was the lowest-ranked major champion since No. 44-ranked Gaston Gaudio at 2004 Roland Garros. He defeated Nadal 10-8 in the fifth set of their Wimbledon semi-final, which lasted five hours and 15 minutes.

By beating Roger Federer in August at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Djokovic became the first player to win titles at all nine ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events since the start of the tournament series in 1990. He captured his fourth Rolex Shanghai Masters title (d. Coric) last month and additionally finished runner-up at the Fever Tree Championships at The Queen’s Club (l. to Cilic) in June and at the Rolex Paris Masters (l. to Khachanov) last week.

Djokovic, a five-time former champion at the Nitto ATP Finals, competes this week at The O2 in London in Group Guga Kuerten alongside Alexander Zverev, Marin Cilic and first-time participant John Isner. Six-time former champion Federer features in Group Lleyton Hewitt with Kevin Anderson, Dominic Thiem and Kei Nishikori.

Learn more about the players who have held the No. 1 ATP Rankings

Learn more about the history of the ATP Rankings



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Murray/Soares Fight For First Group Win In London


Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares worked hard to win their opening Group Llodra/Santoro match on Sunday at the Nitto ATP Finals with a 7-5, 4-6, 10-5 victory over Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus in one hour and 49 minutes.

Fourth seeds Murray and Soares saved three set points and recovered from 3-5 down in the first set for their 38th match win of the season (38-18 overall). The British/Brazilian team are making their third straight appearance at the season finale, which is held at The O2 in London, and have reached the semi-finals for the past two years.

Klaasen and Venus, appearing at the season finale as a team for the first time, broke Murray on a deciding deuce point in the first game, and Venus later saved two break points for a 2-0 lead. At 3-5, Klaasen mis-timed a forehand return off Murray’s serve on a set point and, in the next game, Venus could not convert two set point chances on serve. Soares soon pounced at the net for 5-5 on a deciding point. In a tense tie-break, Murray and Soares were proactive at the net and took their lone chance to wrap up the 54-minute opener.

Klaasen and Venus took a 2-0 lead in the second set, but Klaasen lost his serve in the third game. Yet the pair regrouped with Soares saving a deciding deuce point at 3-4. While Soares grew in confidence with his returning, it was Klaasen’s power that forced a volley error from Murray in the 10th game.

Murray and Soares, the 2016 year-end No. 1s in the ATP Doubles Team Rankings, seized early control of the Match Tie-break, winning the first three points, as they moved closer to their third win in four meetings over Klaasen and Venus in 2018 (also Rome, Wimbledon and Washington, D.C.).

Murray, 32, and 36-year-old Soares are now 6-3 at the Nitto ATP Finals. This year they lifted three titles – at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel presentado por HSBC (d. Bryans), the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. (d. M. Bryan/Roger-Vasselin) and the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati (d. Cabal/Farah) – from six ATP World Tour finals.

Klaasen and Venus, winners of the Open 13 Provence (d. Daniell/Inglot) in February and runners up at four other events this year, dropped to a 38-24 record on the season. Two years ago, Klaasen partnered Rajeev Ram to the final (l. to Kontinen/Peers) and Venus partnered Ryan Harrison at the 2017 event.



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Anderson Battles Past Thiem At Nitto ATP Finals


After owning a 6-0 FedEx ATP Head2Head series advantage coming into this season, Kevin Anderson entered the Nitto ATP Finals with a 0-2 record in 2018 against Dominic Thiem.

But, in his debut match at The O2, Anderson returned to winning ways against the Austrian, notching a 6-3, 7-6(10) victory to move to 1-0 in Group Lleyton Hewitt at the Nitto ATP Finals on Sunday. This year’s Wimbledon runner-up made a winning return to the English capital after one hour and 48 minutes, saving two set points in the second set tie-break en route to victory.

Anderson has now tied his career-best total of 46 tour-level victories, first achieved in 2015. The five-time tour-level titlist improves to 12-2 in indoor matches this season after producing his fourth Top 10 victory in eight meetings this year. Earlier this year, Anderson lifted trophies at the inaugural New York Open (d. Querrey) and the Erste Bank Open 500 (d. Nishikori).

After opening service holds for both men, Anderson increased his aggression off the ground to capture 12 of the next 14 points for a 4-1 lead. The South African took control of baseline rallies and moved into the net to take time away from his opponent in the fourth game, with love service holds either side of the break opening a commanding lead.

Thiem was consistently put under pressure by the South African on serve, and despite saving five break points in his following two service games, the Austrian was unable to find a way back into the set. The 6’8″ Wimbledon finalist won 21 of 25 service points in the opener, moving into a one set lead with his third love service hold.

A much tighter second set followed, with both players holding serve with relative ease to reach a tie-break. However, in the crucial moments, it was Anderson who raised his level. The 32-year-old rallied from 1/3 down and saved two set points, before firing a forehand down the line at 10/10 and serving out the match.

One of three Austrian players competing at the Nitto ATP Finals this year, alongside doubles players Oliver Marach and Alexander Peya, Thiem is bidding to advance beyond the round-robin stage for the first time on his third straight appearance at the elite eight-man event. In both his previous visits to The 02, Thiem ended his season with a 1-2 record at the tournament.



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Tsitsipas Named Most Improved Player Of The Year



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#NextGenATP Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas was named the 2018 Most Improved Player of the Year as part of the 2018 ATP World Tour Awards presented by Moët & Chandon. The award was voted on by fellow ATP World Tour players.

“It’s great. I didn’t expect that,” Tsitsipas said. “I had a fantastic year, but it was the last thing that was in my head. And when I finally saw it, I was happy that my name was there. So, yeah, really pleased holding that trophy.
All the hard work, all the effort that I put into my game this year, it’s part of this trophy. So yeah, it feels great.”

The 20-year-old became the top-ranked Greek in ATP Rankings history after rising to a career-high No. 15 this season, and he also became the first player from Greece to win a tour-level title. The champion at the Intrum Stockholm Open, Tsitsipas dropped just one set en route to the indoor-hard court crown.

Tsitsipas rose from a season-opening ATP Ranking of No. 91 to become the youngest member of the Top 20. He also finished runner-up at the ATP World Tour 500 event in Barcelona and the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Toronto, falling to Rafael Nadal in both finals. In Toronto, Tsitsipas became the youngest player to beat four Top 10 opponents at a single tournament since the ATP World Tour was established in 1990.

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New 'Infosys ATP Fan Meter' To Feature At 2018 Nitto ATP Finals


For the first time in its history, the Nitto ATP Finals will introduce a new fan engagement feature that will measure crowd noise within the O2 arena during matches, the ATP announced on Sunday prior to this year’s prestigious season-ending tournament getting underway.

Since 2009, the season-ending event at The O2 has generated an array of thrilling matches and raucous atmospheres inside the 17,800 capacity stadium. The Infosys ATP Fan Meter will be used for the first time and will measure fan noise which will be displayed on the giant screens as well as on the arenamation around the arena.

The Infosys ATP Fan Meter will allow fans, media and broadcasters to track the loudest moments throughout the tournament across singles and doubles, from player walk-ons, match points, hot shots and more. Loud moments will be displayed at least once per set in all matches. The new noise measurement feature represents the latest initiative in an ATP and Infosys partnership that continues to showcase the integration of technology and data in sport as a means of enhancing fan engagement.

Adam Hogg, Event Director of the Nitto ATP Finals, said: “The Nitto ATP Finals has become renowned for its capacity crowds and exhilarating atmospheres since 2009. We’ve welcomed more than 2.3 million fans into the arena during that time and the introduction of the Infosys ATP Fan Meter is an exciting way to engage further with our enthusiastic fans and directly measure the level of fan involvement in the spectacular production of our season-ending event.”

The graphics generated during the matches will be promoted on line through Social Media and through ATPWorldTour.com online.

Ravi Kumar S, President, Infosys said: “The Infosys and ATP partnership has always been about reimagining the game of tennis for players, coaches, media and fans. After many breakthrough experiences like virtual reality tennis, the Stats Leaderboards and the Second Screen, we have another first with the ‘Infosys ATP Fan Meter’. This is another important step to place fans at the heart of the ATP experience. Till now, we had limited means to quantify audience engagement and excitement levels. The Fan Meter leverages the Internet of Things to create a connected stadium experience and gives us a new way of understanding the pulse of a live audience by combining the sensory element of sound with powerful data analytics.”

In addition to the Infosys ATP Fan Meter, Infosys and the ATP have upgraded the second screen available on NittoATPFinals.com to make it more mobile-friendly, with a focus on an updated design, demonstrating Infosys’s digital expertise in mobility and design. A new series of features have also been added on the tournament website including an all-new live score analytics offering, serve and return ratings as well as social sentiment analysis bringing in the conversation fans are having, all within the same platform.



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