Djokovic, Federer set for ATP Finals showdown after Berrettini win

Switzerland's Roger Federer and Serbia's Novak Djokovic before their group stage match. ( REUTERS/Toby Melville)
Updated 14 November 2019

Djokovic, Federer set for ATP Finals showdown after Berrettini win

LONDON: Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer prepared to face off for a place in the last four of the ATP Finals on Thursday after Matteo Berrettini made history with a consolation win in London.
The heavyweights, who have won the season-ending tournament 11 times between them, will meet for the 49th time in a repeat of this year’s Wimbledon final.
Djokovic, who holds a 26-22 advantage, has won their past five meetings, including their epic five-set battle in the final at Wimbledon in July, during which he saved two championship points.
The Serbian is bidding to equal Federer’s record of six ATP Finals titles and is also challenging Rafael Nadal for the year-end number one ranking.
The second seed, 32, will leapfrog Nadal to finish in the top spot if he wins the title at the O2 Arena and Nadal does not reach the final.
The Serbian, who can claim a record-equalling sixth year-end number one finish, is hungry to finish the year on top.
“One of the two biggest achievements that you can have as a professional competitive tennis player is winning a Grand Slam and being number one in the world at the end of the season,” he said before the tournament started.
Federer was asked earlier this week whether the Wimbledon defeat had left emotional or mental scars.
“We’ll find out, but I think it’s all flushed away from my side,” said the 38-year-old. “A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then.”
He added: “Actually, it’s good for me to play him again, and maybe that all helps to get a chance to get him back or whatever it is, but at the end of the day, I’m here for the World Tour Finals and not because of the Wimbledon finals.”
In Thursday’s early match in Group Bjorn Borg, which was a dead rubber, eighth seed Berrettini beat Austria’s Dominic Thiem 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.
In doing so, the 23-year-old became the first Italian to win a match at the season-ending championships.
Berrettini finished with a 1-2 record this week. Thiem had already qualified for the semifinals after his win on Tuesday against Djokovic.
Berrettini arrived in London at a career-high number eight in the ATP rankings after starting the season outside of the top 50.
“I always had great fights against (Thiem),” said the Italian. “I was able to stay mentally focused, especially in the first set.
“I played a great tie-break, so I’m very happy with my performance.”
Fifth-seed Thiem did not hit the heights he reached during his three-set win against Djokovic, notching just 12 winners compared with 50 against the Serbian.
Stefanos Tsitsipas has already qualified for the semifinals from Group Andre Agassi, leaving Nadal, defending champion Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev to scrap it out for the other spot on Friday.


Milan turn to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, Liverpool to revive glory

Updated 09 July 2020

Milan turn to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, Liverpool to revive glory

ROME: Preparing to complete a ninth Serie A campaign without winning the Scudetto, AC Milan decided returning to the pinnacle of football required a new approach.

Jay-Z’s entertainment agency Roc Nation is at the center of it, linking up with Milan to scour the world for sponsors and use concerts and other high-profile events to attract new fans.

And who better to ask about how to end a title drought than the team that just won their league for the first time in 30 years?

“We have been talking to Liverpool,” Milan chief revenue officer Casper Stylsvig told The Associated Press, “because they’ve been through the same path as we are going through now.”

Milan are enduring their longest Serie A drought since the 1980s. Despite beating leader Juventus on Tuesday, even the top four Champions League places are out of reach in this pandemic-delayed season. It’s been seven years since Milan last competed in Europe’s elite competition.

“We’re working very hard to get back to where we should be, and from that perspective, it does help open doors when you have won seven Champions Leagues,” Stylsvig said. 

“Playing European football is top of the agenda. It is our natural habitat and somewhere we should be.”

Only Real Madrid has lifted the European Cup more often than Milan. But that seventh title was won 13 years ago, by beating Liverpool.

Now Liverpool are the lodestar for Milan, which have fallen to 21st in the Deloitte ranking of football’s moneymakers with revenue of €206.3 million  ($234 million) in the last financial year, a third of the income at the newly crowned Premier League champions.

“Four, five years ago, no one considered Liverpool and see where they are now,” Stylsvig said. “They obviously play very attractive football. They are winning, they have a fantastic manager, a fantastic team and now they are following suit from a commercial perspective. It has taken time, but their model seems to work.”

Liverpool have been run for a decade by John Henry’s Fenway Sports Group. Milan have also had American ownership for three years since the takeover by the Elliott Management hedge fund.

“We are obviously a global brand,” Stylsvig said in a telephone interview. “I’ve probably been talking too much in the Italian market in the last few years and (the coronavirus) sort of pushed us to think more global again.”

The pandemic that shut down sports produced the first public manifestation of the partnership with Roc Nation when Milan staged a live virtual fundraising concert headlined by Alicia Keys.

“I do think merging sport and entertainment could be the way of engaging new fans,” Stylsvig said. “The world has changed dramatically and we need to follow suit. Roc Nation is helping us, challenging us with that, having someone on the sideline to do that.”

The biggest audiences logging in to watch “From Milan with Love” were from China and the US.

With no games being played during the three-month Serie A shutdown — and crowds still prohibited from matches — Milan have had to find new ways of connecting with its fan base and fulfilling commercial deals.

“It’s been incredibly challenging,” Stylsvig said. “You basically have to rethink the model. So one of the first things we did was focusing much more on a digital space, creating content and trying to be engaging and trying to talk to our partners.”

Further down the line is moving into a new stadium, with plans to rebuild the San Siro it shares with Inter Milan.

“That will change the club,” Stylsvig said. “The revenues are incredibly important but also for the perception of the club.”