The Malta Independent 14 July 2024, Sunday
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Home favourite Sinner records his first win over top-ranked Djokovic at ATP Finals

Associated Press Wednesday, 15 November 2023, 07:45 Last update: about 9 months ago

Jannik Sinner recorded his first win over top-ranked Novak Djokovic, delighting a raucous home crowd at the ATP Finals.

Sinner triumphed 7-5, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2) in a match spanning more than three hours on Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning.

It was the 22-year-old Sinner’s first win in their four head-to-head meetings. It also ended Djokovic's 19-match winning streak that stretched back to his five-set loss to Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final.

“It means a lot to me,” Sinner said. “When you win against the World No. 1, who has won 24 Grand Slams, it’s obviously in the top," of career results.

Sinner sealed the result with a smash at the net to send the Turin arena into a frenzy.

“There doesn’t exist a better place to beat the World No. 1. After Wimbledon I said I felt a bit closer but I didn’t even win a set," Sinner said on his on-court interview, which was interrupted by the crowd serenading him with “Olé, Olé, Olé Olé, Sin-ner, Sin-ner."

“Here I managed to play the most important points in the best way. There was a bit of tension when I lost the second set, it was very hard, but together with you (the crowd) we won together.”

The umpire had to tell the fans to be quiet several times during the match as they fervently cheered the Italian player on and also booed Djokovic several times.

The 36-year-old Djokovic, who normally enjoys huge support in Italy, lapped up the boos and even encouraged the fans to up their hostility toward him.

“I think the main difference is that in the important points, he was going for it, he was more courageous,” Djokovic said. “He deserved to win because in important moments I wasn’t aggressive enough, I wasn’t decisive enough.

“You have to just congratulate him. He just played a fantastic match. That’s what I told him at the net. I think in the most important moments, he played his best game and he absolutely deserved to win.”

Sinner, who beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-4 in Sunday’s opener, is now on the verge of reaching Saturday’s semifinals. He next plays Holger Rune, who has one win after Tsitsipas retired early in their green group match and withdrew from the tournament.

Djokovic, who is bidding to break a tie with Federer and capture a record seventh title at the tour finals, will play first alternate Hubert Hurkacz.

Sinner didn't make it out of the group stage in his only other appearance at the ATP Finals, as an alternate in 2021.

But the crowd sensed a huge win was on the cards when Sinner won nine straight points to finish the first set — rallying from 40-0 down to break Djokovic's serve and then holding to love.

Sinner also broke again in the third to lead 4-2 but Djokovic immediately managed to get his only service break in a match that mainly went with serve and saw 35 aces.

Sinner is finishing up a year in which he has claimed four titles, including his first Masters 1000 trophy, and moved to a career-high No. 4 — the first Italian that high since Adriano Panatta nearly a half-century ago.

TSITSIPAS WITHDRAWS

Tsitsipas withdrew with a back injury after playing only three games of his second match in Turin.

Tsitsipas, the 2019 champion, was trailing 2-1 in the opening set when he had a lengthy conversation with his trainer before slowly getting to his feet, shaking his head and walking over to shake Rune’s hand.

That was after only 17 minutes of play and led to boos from the crowd in Turin, which instead had to settle for an exhibition match between alternates Taylor Fritz and Hurkacz.

“My apologies to all the fans and the crowd that came to support me today and watch the match. I’m really gutted that I wasn’t able to finish the match," Tsitsipas said. "My doctors and the countless visits that I had in the last few days suggested that I play, they gave me the green light to go and try.

“Unfortunately I felt terrible on the court ... I hate retiring from matches, I'm not that kind of person that likes leaving mid-match and it kills me not to be able to finish this tournament, the one that I’ve prepped for for so long, made sure that I’m completely fit to perform at my best and show my capacities as a player.”

Tsitsipas had cut short a practice session on Friday because of an apparent physical issue but the Greek player said he was “absolutely fine.”

Tsitsipas also withdrew from the tournament in 2021 after losing his opening match.

“It definitely hurts me a lot because this is the tournament that means the most to me, including the Grand Slams,” he said.

Rune lost his opener to Djokovic 7-6 (4), 6-7 (1), 6-3.

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