Tuesday, June 25, 2024

ATP Finals: Perfect Sinner tops group, helps Djokovic into semis

Jannik Sinner’s Nitto ATP Finals charge has taken him all the way to the top of Green Group. The home favourite wrapped a perfect round-robin stage at the prestigious season finale on Thursday by downing Holger Rune 6-2, 5-7, 6-4. In doing so, he also ensured that six-time champion and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic progressed to the semi-finals alongside him.

Sinner backed up his opening wins against Stefanos Tsitsipas and Djokovic with a courageous third performance of the week inside the Pala Alpitour, converting two of four break points he earned to register a two-hour, 33-minute triumph in a match that swung back and forth.

“For me it was really important, resetting after the good win against Novak,” said Sinner. “I never won against [Rune], so I really tried my best. I started off really well. In the second, he served better, he moved better, so it was a much more even match. The third set could have gone his way. At 4-3 I saved a break point. It was a little bit of a roller coaster today, but obviously really happy and happy to be in the semis.”

Sinner looked the more comfortable player for the first set and a half of the match but his movement appeared compromised by an apparent back concern from midway through the second set. Holding firm, the Italian took the match deep into the deciding set and rode the raucous support from the stands to clinch his first win against Rune in three Lexus ATP Head2Head meetings between the two.

Now 60-14 for the 2023 season, Sinner is two matches away from winning five tour-level tournaments in a single year for the first time. The 22-year-old, who became champion in Montpellier, Beijing, Toronto and Vienna this season, is the first Italian to advance to the singles semi-finals in the 54-year history of the Nitto ATP Finals.

“It means for sure more doing it here in Italy, in Turin, a special place, special tournament,” said Sinner of earning his milestone 60th win — the most for an Italian man in the Open Era. “I’m very happy that I have the chance to have at least two more matches. Hopefully I can finish the year in a good way. I think it’s going in the right direction, and let’s see what’s coming.”

Roared on by the vocal Italian support, Sinner made a rapid start in his bid to maintain his perfect run in Turin. He opened a 4-0 lead by being clinical every time he went on the attack, and he ultimately powered nine winners past the unsettled Rune en route to the opening set.

In need of a fast turnaround, the World No. 8 Rune, who would have topped the group himself and eliminated Djokovic by beating Sinner, dug deep to work through his early struggles. The Dane received treatment on his right knee from the physio at 3-2 in the second set but that did not prevent him raising his level and taking command as Sinner began to clutch his back inbetween points.

Rune made his move at 6-5 in the second set, capitalising on a wayward service game from Sinner to level the match and carry significant momentum into the decider. What transpired was a tense third set in which both players fended off break points. Appearing to move freely again, it was Sinner who took his chance in style, dropping a stunning backhand volley over the net at 4-4, 30/40 for an ultimately decisive break.



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