Novak Djokovic has ‘highest ambitions’ after record ATP Finals triumph

Update Novak Djokovic has ‘highest ambitions’ after record ATP Finals triumph
Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates following Sunday’s record-breaking seventh ATP Finals victory, this time against Italy’s Jannik Sinner. (Reuters)
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Updated 20 November 2023
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Novak Djokovic has ‘highest ambitions’ after record ATP Finals triumph

Novak Djokovic has ‘highest ambitions’ after record ATP Finals triumph
  • Novak Djokovic has racked up a host of new records this season
  • Serb is gunning for more glory in 2024, when Paris hosts the one major event where he has not won – the Olympics

TURIN, Italy: Novak Djokovic has no intention of slowing down after capping another incredible year with Sunday’s record-breaking seventh ATP Finals victory.

At 36 years old Djokovic is still tennis’ number one player by some distance and he has racked up a host of new records this season, taking his Grand Slam tally to 24 and finishing top of the year-end world rankings for the eighth time.

He swept past young pretenders Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner on his way to triumph in Turin and is gunning for more glory in 2024, when Paris hosts the one major event where he has not won — the Olympics.

Asked what else he can accomplish in tennis, Djokovic joked: “Well, you can win four Slams and Olympic gold.”

“I have always the highest ambitions and goals. That’s not going to be different for the next year, that’s for sure. The drive that I have is still there,” he added.

“Motivation, especially for the biggest tournaments in sport, is still present... For me, obviously those are Grand Slams and Finals, and next year hopefully also Olympic Games.”

The Olympics take place over July 26-August 11 in the French capital, starting less than a fortnight after Wimbledon and finishing shortly before the US Open.

It is a major career goal sandwiched into an already long, draining season, one which will take its toll on all the top players let alone one heading toward his late 30s.

“It is definitely one of the major goals for next year, other than Grand Slams,” said Djokovic.

“It’s going to be very congested schedule with going from the slowest to the fastest surface in sport back to the slowest. Clay, grass, clay, then hard court. Obviously that’s a very demanding, challenging stretch of the year.”

Vanquished finalist Sinner hailed Djokovic as an “inspiration” during the trophy ceremony and is using the Serb as a model for his own bid for the sport’s top honors.

Both Djokovic and his coach Goran Ivanizevic predicted that Sinner, who claimed four tour-level titles this season, will one day win Grand Slams and top the world rankings.

And his performances at the Pala Alpitour have been cause for great optimism within Italian tennis.

“He’s an inspiration because he worked throughout the whole years before, when he was younger, in the right way to get to this point. That’s also one of my goals,” Sinner told reporters.

“It’s not only about watching one season. You watch this season, and you say, OK, I played good. But you have to play well every season, and you have to get to a certain age, which is 35, 36, 37, whatever, and you can still feel the body in the right way.”


De Minaur beats Tsitsipas at last to reach Acapulco semifinals

De Minaur beats Tsitsipas at last to reach Acapulco semifinals
Updated 01 March 2024
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De Minaur beats Tsitsipas at last to reach Acapulco semifinals

De Minaur beats Tsitsipas at last to reach Acapulco semifinals
  • The other semifinal will pit second-seeded Holger Rune of Denmark against sixth-seeded Casper Ruud of Norway

MEXICO CITY: Defending champion Alex de Minaur beat Stefanos Tsitsipas for the first time to reach the semifinals of the ATP hardcourt tournament in Acapulco, Mexico on Thursday.

Australia’s De Minaur had come up empty in 10 prior meetings against Tsitsipas and it looked like more of the same when the Greek raced through the first set 6-1.

But third-seeded De Minaur, coming off a runner-up finish to Australian Open champion Jannik Sinner in Rotterdam, fought back for a 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory and booked a last-four clash with Britain’s Jack Draper.

“Every time I’ve got to play him I get reminded about my (record in the) matchup,” De Minaur said. “I’m glad I got one on the board.”

Tsitsipas, seeded fifth, broke De Minaur three times in rolling through the first set.

The Australian came out on top in an exchange of five service breaks in the second set and saved the only break point he faced in the third.

“I would like to say that no one beats me 11 times in a row, but hey, Stefanos has had my number for a very long time, so I’m glad I was able to get one back,” De Minaur said.

Draper, 22, cruised past Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic 6-2, 6-2 to seal his place in the last four.

The other semifinal will pit second-seeded Holger Rune of Denmark against sixth-seeded Casper Ruud of Norway.

Rune defeated Germany’s Dominik Koepfer 7-6 (7/2), 7-6 (7/0) to reach the semifinals for the second year in a row.

Ruud rallied from a set down to beat American Ben Shelton 6-7 (7/9), 6-4, 6-4.


Medvedev wins to set up Dubai Tennis Championships semifinal with Humbert

Medvedev wins to set up Dubai Tennis Championships semifinal with Humbert
Updated 01 March 2024
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Medvedev wins to set up Dubai Tennis Championships semifinal with Humbert

Medvedev wins to set up Dubai Tennis Championships semifinal with Humbert
  • Reigning champion beat Davidovich Fokina at Dubai Tennis Stadium to take one step closer to emulating Federer’s 2015 feat
  • No. 5 seed Ugo Humbert beat Hurkacz to book place in final 4, while 2022 winner Andrey Rublev also progressed

DUBAI: Daniil Medvedev booked his place in the semifinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships on Thursday night following a comfortable win over Alejando Davidovich Fokina 6-2, 6-3.

The victory saw the world No. 4 extend his winning streak to eight at the Dubai Tennis Stadium and took him one step closer to becoming the first male since Roger Federer in 2015 to successfully defend the Dubai title.

Medvedev, into his sixth semifinal in his last eight events, was at times sublime under the lights of center court, breaking his Spanish opponent’s serve four times during the 77-minute tie, and displaying an impressive repertoire of booming forehands, angled slices, and unreachable drop shots. He struck 15 winners and committed just six unforced errors.

And even when he was not perfect, he had Lady Luck on his side.

Struggling with the wind in the fifth game of the first set, he found himself in a triple breakpoint hole. He saved all three, with the help of an accommodating net cord as his backhand hit the tape and fell on his opponent’s side. It was not the only time in the match when he benefited from the cord.

“I think it happened four times,” said Medvedev who is the first top seed to reach the final four in Dubai since Novak Djokovic in 2020. “I definitely got lucky. There was one more that touched the net for him and went on his side. Sometimes it happens. At one moment in the second set, I was like: ‘Wow, I’m almost doing it on purpose.’ But I wasn’t. Definitely a little bit lucky. I don’t remember another day where it would be four times, but that’s how tennis is sometimes. Today I got lucky. Next time it could be him.”

Medvedev, winner of 20 ATP events, is looking to defend a title for the first time in his career. He will face France’s Ugo Humbert, who defeated Hubert Hurkacz 3-6, 7-6 (8), 6-3. Hurkacz enjoyed a dominant start to the match, winning 15 of 16 first-serve points and remaining unbroken throughout the first set, as Humbert struggled to find answers for an average first serve speed of 204 kph from the world No. 8.

The second set saw a change of momentum, however, as a defiant Humbert broke Hurkacz’s serve for the first time in the match to take a 3-1 lead, although the favor was immediately returned by the No. 3 seed who broke back and was eventually forced to contest his fifth tiebreak of the tournament. Twenty-five-year-old Hubert edged it 10-8.

An early break in the third set made for a much-needed one-game cushion throughout the set for Humbert, which he capitalized on, holding serve and breaking the Pole once more to seal the set 6-3. The world No. 18 can be confident against Medvedev, whom he leads 2-1 head-to-head. “It will be a great challenge against Daniil,” he said. “We played a couple of times and they were great games. I need to rest a little bit, but then I’ll be ready to go again.”

Last year’s defeated finalist Andrey Rublev, meanwhile, is also through to the final four after his quarterfinal opponent Sebastian Korda retired through injury in the second set with the score at 6-4, 4-3. Former champion Rublev, who is looking to reach a third successive final in Dubai, did not look in complete control during his early exchanges with Korda as difficult conditions affected both players.

Korda was bidding to reach the semifinals of the competition, 25 years after his father Petr last appeared in Dubai. Speaking after the match, Rublev expressed sympathy for the 23-year-old American, who was making his debut at Dubai’s ATP 500 tournament. “When it’s these kinds of conditions, the tennis is always not that beautiful,” said the No. 2 seed.

“You need to find a way. You must accept that this is the way it is today. Sometimes today I was lucky as well because of those conditions. In important moments, the ball moved because of the wind and he couldn’t play well. It helped me a lot today.

“In the end, of course, you never want to finish in that way. All I can say is I hope there is nothing serious with Sebastian and he will be ready for Indian Wells 100 percent.”

Rublev’s next hurdle meanwhile, Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik, moved into the top 20 for the first time in his career with a 4-6, 1-4 victory after opponent Jiri Lehecka was forced to retire through injury in the second set.


Medvedev cruises into Dubai semifinals

Medvedev cruises into Dubai semifinals
Updated 29 February 2024
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Medvedev cruises into Dubai semifinals

Medvedev cruises into Dubai semifinals
  • The world number four wasted little time in wrapping up a 6-2, 6-3 win
  • The Russian is playing in just his second tournament of the season after reaching the Australian Open final

DUBAI: Daniil Medvedev raced to victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Thursday to reach the Dubai semifinals and continue his excellent start to the year.
The world number four wasted little time in wrapping up a 6-2, 6-3 win and will face either Hubert Hurkacz or Ugo Humbert in the last four.
The Russian is playing in just his second tournament of the season after reaching the Australian Open final, where he suffered an agonizing defeat by Jannik Sinner after leading by two sets.
Reigning champion Medvedev is bidding to defend an ATP title for the first time, having won 20 trophies at Tour-level events in his career but all at different tournaments.
Medvedev eased through the opening set with breaks in the sixth and eighth games.
He powered into a 4-0 lead in the second and sealed victory on his first match point, despite a brief rally from Davidovich Fokina, who has now lost all four of his meetings with Medvedev.
Alexander Bublik and Andrey Rublev will meet in the other semifinal after both were beneficiaries of retirements in their last-eight matches.
Kazakhstan’s Bublik led 6-4, 4-1 when his opponent Jiri Lehecka quit their tie with injury.
Second seed Rublev was 6-4, 4-3 ahead when American Sebastian Korda left the court in the second quarter-final.
The win ended a run of three successive quarter-final exits for world number five Rublev.


Medvedev and Hurkacz book quarterfinal spots at Dubai Tennis Championship

Medvedev and Hurkacz book quarterfinal spots at Dubai Tennis Championship
Updated 29 February 2024
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Medvedev and Hurkacz book quarterfinal spots at Dubai Tennis Championship

Medvedev and Hurkacz book quarterfinal spots at Dubai Tennis Championship
  • Reigning champion Medvedev recovers from losing opening set to beat Sonego in tight encounter on center court
  • Hurkacz and Korda through to quarterfinals in straight sets, Qatar Open finalist Mensik forced to retire

DUBAI: Reigning champion Daniil Medvedev overcame a spirited Lorenzo Sonego on Wednesday to secure a spot in the quarterfinals of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory.

The world No. 4 looked shaky during the opening exchanges, winning just 53 percent (10/19) of points behind his first delivery as Sonego took full advantage and deservedly won the first set. Medvedev, to his credit, recovered quickly and served with far more aggression in the second and third sets, firing off both wings and hitting pinpoint serves.

The decisive moment came during a tense fifth game in the final set as the No. 1 seed broke Sonego’s serve with a running forehand winner and safely saw out the match thereafter. Medvedev will face Alejandro Davidovich Fokina after Qatar Open finalist Jakub Mensik was forced to retire through injury early in the second set of their clash.

Hubert Hurkacz will join Medvedev in the last eight after a battling 7-6, 6-4 victory over Australian Christopher O’Connell. The world No. 8 will make his fourth quarterfinal appearance in Dubai when he takes to the court to face Ugo Humbert, the French No. 1, on Thursday evening.

One man who will not be competing in the quarterfinals is Karan Khachanov after the No. 4 seed was sent crashing out of the tournament following Jiri Lehecka’s stunning comeback victory (6-7, 7-6, 6-4).

Lehecka, the world’s No. 36, fell to his knees in elation after securing a spot in the last eight at the expense of in-form Khachanov, who had come into the match on the back of five straight wins. The 27-year-old won his sixth career title in Doha last week and looked on course to continue that momentum after clinching the first set against Lehecka.

Lehecka had other ideas, though, saving five points during a tense second set, coming back from 0-3 in the tiebreak that later followed, and from 2-4 in the third set to secure a second top-20 win of the season — after a mammoth three-hour clash on court one.

Meanwhile. Sebastian Korda continues to enjoy his maiden Dubai tournament, needing just 43 minutes to breeze past Botic van de Zandschulp and set up a quarterfinal meeting against 2022 winner Andrey Rublev.

Korda dropped just one game in an emphatic straight sets victory (6-1, 6-0) over the Dutch No. 2.


No fairy-tale ending for Andy Murray in Dubai, as Ugo Humbert advances to quarter-finals

No fairy-tale ending for Andy Murray in Dubai, as Ugo Humbert advances to quarter-finals
Updated 28 February 2024
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No fairy-tale ending for Andy Murray in Dubai, as Ugo Humbert advances to quarter-finals

No fairy-tale ending for Andy Murray in Dubai, as Ugo Humbert advances to quarter-finals
  • The 2017 Dubai Tennis Championships winner receives standing ovation as he bows out with a 6-2, 6-4 defeat in what is likely to be his final appearance at event
  • No. 2 seed Andrey Rublev defeats qualifier Arthur Cazaux 6-4, 6-4, and Alexander Bublik enjoys a hard-fought 7-6 (10-8), 7-6 (7-2) victory over Tallon Griekspoor

DUBAI: Andy Murray’s hopes of fairy-tale ending to what seems likely to be his last appearance at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships were dashed by in-form Frenchman Ugo Humbert, who defeated the 36-year-old Scot 6-2, 6-4 on center court at Dubai Tennis Stadium on Wednesday night.

The three-time Grand Slam champion, winner of this tournament in 2017, cut a frustrated figure against the No. 5 seed, who is 11 years his junior.

Clearly desperate to give his enthusiastic and vocal Dubai fans something to cheer, Murray, who beat Fernando Verdasco in the final here seven years ago, could be seen continually talking to himself as he struggled with his own game and the energy of his opponent.

He won the opening game on serve but then Humbert, who needed three sets to see off veteran wildcard Gael Monfils in his opening match, broke serve twice in succession. He simply had too much for Murray to cope with and took the opening set 6-2.

The second set followed a similar path, with Murray holding serve in the opening game, only for Humbert to break twice in a row as he calmly wrapped up the set 6-4 to claim a spot in the quarter-finals.

Murray received a standing ovation as he left the court in Dubai for what is probably the final time, the fans acknowledging his service not only to the sport in general but to the evolution of this particular tournament.

After the game, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist admitted he is in the twilight of his illustrious career.

“Yeah, I mean, I’m likely not going to play past this summer,” he said. “I get asked about it after every single match that I play, every single tournament that I play.

“I’m not going to talk more about that between now and whenever the time comes for me to stop. But yeah, I don’t plan on playing much past this summer.”

Humbert, who has an ATP title to his name already this year, thanks to victory in Marseille this month, was a picture of relaxation as he celebrated his victory and looked forward to the quarter-finals.

“Consistency has been the key for me this year,” the 25-year-old said. “I’m really happy that I’m playing well. It’s really nice to play in a venue like this in front of a great crowd. I was really calm today and knew what I needed to do.”

In the bottom half of the draw, No. 2 seed and last year’s beaten finalist, Andrey Rublev, was the first player to book a quarter-final berth, dashing the hopes of French qualifier Arthur Cazaux.

Cazaux, who was making his debut in Dubai this week, produced some fine tennis to get through the qualifiers and then defeat Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti in the round of 32. But Rublev took control of their last-16 clash on center court from the opening game, breaking his opponent’s serve and holding firm to take the first set 6-4.

The second set went with serve until Rublev, a winner in Hong Kong in January, broke Cazaux in the seventh game and held his subsequent serves to seal a 6-4, 6-4 victory.

Alexander Bublik booked his place in the quarter-finals with a 7-6 (10-8), 7-6 (7-2) victory over Tallon Griekspoor of the Netherlands. Bublik, who survived a scare in his opening match when he came back from a set down against qualifier Tomas Machac, was once again pushed hard by Griekspoor, but dug deep to secure victory.