ATP Finals: History-chasing Djokovic leads final four line-up

The men’s season finale has just four names left hoping to cap their 2022 campaign in style this weekend.

Novak Djokovic / ATP Finals Turin 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Around about 11 months on Tour has boiled down to the final weekend.

Over in Turin, Italy, it’s the ATP Finals and just four men have the chance of lifting aloft the prestigious silverware.

Djokovic up for the fight

21-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic is clearly driven to carve out even more history this week, hoping to tie Roger Federer’s record six ATP Finals triumphs.

The Serbian opened his title tilt with a high-quality 6-4, 7-6(4) victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas. Djokovic, last champion in this event in 2015, then put in a “flawless” second set to dismiss Andrey Rublev 6-4, 6-1.

Already qualified for the semi-finals, the 35-year-old defiantly maintained his 100 percent record with an exhilarating and gruelling three-hour 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-6(2) firecracker with Daniil Medvedev.

Let’s hear from Novak

Visibly shaking and gasping for air at some changeovers, the win over Medvedev was simply brutal, physically and mentally.

“This match against one of the greatest rivals I have today is very important, regardless of the fact that I had qualified already,” maintained Djokovic. “I really wanted to win. It’s a battle, it’s a fight, I’m really proud I was able to find that last drop of energy and necessary focus.”

The world No.8 must make a sharp turn around to prepare for his 11th ATP Finals semi-final over the net from American Taylor Fritz. Been there, done it, Djokovic has his blueprint.

"I don't think that a limit exists," insisted Djokovic. "It's really in your head. It's really about perspective and approach and your perception of how you see things in that given moment.

"On the physical side, I'm not worried because... worry just depletes you of the vital energy you need. I have things that have always been part of my routine. I know what I need to do.”

Fritz stepping up when it matters

Having cut short his holiday to replace the injured Carlos Alcaraz in the draw, Fritz has more than grasped his opportunity.

The ATP Finals debutant opened his account 7-6(3), 6-1 to topple Rafael Nadal. Despite a 7-6(6) scoreline in the third set versus Casper Ruud, the 25-year-old bounced back to claim an absorbing 7-6(4), 6-7(5), 6-2 passage past Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Taylor Fritz / ATP Finals Turin 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
Let’s hear from Fritz

“When I play the top guys, I just always play better tennis because I know I need to. I know I'm not going to get away with anything less than my best tennis,” stated Fritz, thriving in this field and format. “When I have those shots on the court, ‘Should I go for it?’ I'm pulling the trigger more. I'm much more prone to play a not-so-good match against a lower-ranked person who I really, really don't want to lose to.”

Fritz will need an extra gear to bring down Djokovic, especially as the 21-time Grand Slam champions owns a 5-0 record in their previous duels.

Ruud right in contention

So underestimated, but 2022 Roland-Garros and US Open finalist Casper Ruud was the first player to collect a semi-final spot.

The Norwegian impressed 7-6(4), 6-4 over Auger-Aliasime before his rocket-fuel three-sets win facing Fritz. 7-5, 7-5 was the scoreboard as Rafael Nadal left Turin with a round robin victory to his name. In doing so Ruud fell 0-8 in clashes with Top 3 talent, which is troubling at 0-20 in those sets too.

Casper Ruud / ATP Finals Turin 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
Let’s hear from Ruud

However, the Norwegian still has a spring in his step, replicating his 2021 semi-finals run in Turin.

“To book my place in the semi-finals felt great,” said the 23-year-old.

“I think my movement has been much better in recent weeks,” added Ruud, struggling for consistent form since his US Open final showing.

 “I feel I am moving better now than in the past months. You will face tougher moments in periods of your career when you are heavier in the legs, and they aren’t working. But here in Turin they are working well.

“Every time you feel your movement is good it gives you confidence, knowing you can reach a couple of extra balls.”

Rublev marches on

Three past champions in his group stage, not many backed Andrey Rublev to make the cut.

He “kept fighting” and has chalked up a career milestone on his third visit to the ATP Finals with his first semi-finals spot at the top table event.

Posting comebacks with 6-7(7), 6-3, 7-6(7) against compatriot Medvedev and a Friday night 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 thriller with Tsitsipas will have caught the attention of rivals in the locker room.

Let’s hear from Rublev

"I didn't give up. I thought I would have chances if I just gave my best. I managed to turn the match around and I am happy to be in the semis,” said Rublev, lining up his final four battle with Ruud.

"I am really looking forward because Casper is such a nice person on and off the court. He is a great player, great fighter. He has achieved so many good things this season, so it is going to be a really good challenge for me. I hope I will do my best and I will see what happens."

Rublev owns a 4-1 record over the net from Ruud, but the Norwegian prevailed 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(5) during the group stages in Turin last November.

Andrey Rublev / ATP Finals Turin 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT