ATP Finals: Fired up Sinner in prime position

The home charge is the first Italian to advance to the semi-finals in the tournament’s 54-year history.

Jannik Sinner ATP Finals 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

The 'Elite Eight' of the men's season have been battling it out at the Pala Alpitour.

The prestigious ATP Finals trophy is within reach with the semi-finals roster almost complete in Turin, Italy. Who will rise to the occasion?

Sinner on song

"Olé, olé, olé, Sinnerrrrr" has been a chant ringing around the stands all week. The locals are vehemently excited about the local charge Jannik Sinner and with good reason. 

The 22-year-old opened his title quest with a commanding 6-4, 6-4 scoreboard over Stefanos Tsitsipas, before a spectacular 7-5, 6-7(5), 7-6(2) maiden triumph over world No.1 Novak Djokovic.

The rallies, the shot-making were mesmerising, the atmosphere was raucous. Carlos Alcaraz tuned in and enjoyed the show.

"As a huge fan of tennis, it was one of the best matches of the year. It was high quality of tennis," claimed the world No.2  "It was an unbelievable match. I think everybody enjoy that match."

Sinner's home heroics edged his head-to-head with Djokovic to 1-3 and the Italian echoed Alcaraz's sentiment, that this was one of his best matches of 2023.

"Putting together all circumstances, playing here in Turin against the No.1 in the world, he won 24 Grand Slams, with such an atmosphere and everything, I think it's in the top, top," stated Sinner.

"Also for my mind, it was really important to go close this match so in my mind I know I can really trying to win against him also for the next matches. I think it's in the top."

Djokovic delivers once again

Top atmospheres, top form, Sinner replicated his scintillating tennis to finish his Green Group round robin with a  6-2, 5-7, 6-4 scoreboard on Thursday night to down Holger Rune.

In doing so, the year-end No.1 Djokovic was slotted into the ATP Finals semi-finals draw sheet for the 12th time in his era-defining career.

Djokovic is evidently driven to break clear of Roger Federer's six titles to chalk up another record to stand alone on seven ATP Finals titles. So much so, the 36-year-old has been embroiled in three duels going the distance this week.

Away from his trophy hunt in Turin, Djokovic welcomed the news that perennial rival Rafael Nadal is in line to make a comeback to the Tour in 2024.

"I think it would be nice for the sport to have at least one more match between Nadal and me. That's the biggest rivalry in terms of the amount of matches played that this sport ever had. Hopefully that can happen," continued the Serbian.

"He's a big warrior. He's somebody that really never gives up. With all the injuries that he had, he keeps going. That's definitely something that you have to respect and admire about him and his spirit.

"For the world of tennis, no doubt that it's amazing news that he'll be back."

Daniil in the groove

Friday's order of play will see the last semi-final ticket secured.

2020 champion Daniil Medvedev opened with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Andrey Rublev on Monday, saving all seven break points, then posted a 7-6(7), 6-4 win over Alexander Zverev. 

Medvedev, just at the right times, has been masterful, picking off crunch points with consummate ease.

The world No.3 took to court over the net from Alcaraz. From the Spaniard's viewpoint, he was below par in a 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-4 loss to Zverev, but returned to his explosive, human highlight reel shotmaking to down Rublev 7-5, 6-2 on Wednesday.

"You could see I've been struggling with my level the last few months, few tournaments. Playing this match in this quality, at this level, it's really helpful for me coming into the third one," mused the Wimbledon champion. 

"I'm really happy to show this level and realize that my level is still there, giving myself a chance in this tournament."

Alcaraz who defeated Medvedev at Indian Wells and in the Wimbledon final four signed another victory against him to join the 2020 ATP Finals champion in the semi-finals.

“Medvedev is one of the best players in the world. You have to play very well tactically, be patient and aggressive at the same time," said Alcaraz before their match. "It’s very difficult to beat him. You have to wait for the opportunity, but run and be calm, and get five or six shots in per point until the chance comes, while being aware that often it won’t."