Tag Archives: Dominic Thiem

ATP Finals at the O2 Arena, London

Will we finally see a new face win a men’s Grand Slam in 2020?

For a third straight time, the ATP Finals singles title has been won by a player who isn’t Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer.

Stefanos Tsitsipas defeated Dominic Thiem in this year’s finale at London’s O2 Arena, following in the footsteps of Alexander Zverev in 2018 and Grigor Dimitrov in 2017. All three were just 21 when lifting the trophy.

So the question now being asked in the men’s game is: will we finally see a new face win any of the four Grand Slam crowns in 2020? Since 2004, only six players other than Djokovic, Nadal or Federer have won Slams: Andy Murray (3), Stan Wawrinka (3), Marat Safin (1), Juan Martin Del Potro (1) and Marin Cilic (1) and Gaston Gaudio (1).

Federer is now 38, Nadal is 33 and Djokovic 32, yet their grip on the sport’s four biggest titles – the Australian, French and US Opens, plus Wimbledon -remains as firm as ever. But there are signs that next season might be the one which ushers in a new era of younger Slam winners.

Defending champion Zverev, 22, defeated Nadal 6-2, 6-4 on day two at this year’s ATP Finals, giving him wins over the all of the big three in the past 12 months. Thiem, 26, claimed victories over Federer and Djokovic in the group stage, reaching the semi-finals and final at the O2 for the first time.

This year’s elite eight-man field in London also included Daniil Medvedev (23) and Matteo Berrettini (23). Thiem was competing in his third consecutive ATP Finals. Slowly but surely, the new generation are starting to make more of an impact.

Rising star

Thus far, however, no player born after 1990 has won a Grand Slam, although three have reached finals. In 2016, Milos Raonic was beaten at Wimbledon by Murray. Thiem lost to Nadal in both the 2018 and 2019 French Open. Medvedev was beaten by Nadal in this season’s US Open, but the rising Russian star forced the Spaniard to spend four hours and 50 minutes winning his 19th Grand Slam.

In the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows, Medvedev overcame Dimitrov. Earlier this year, Tsitsipas and Berrettini reached the semi-final of Australian Open and US Open respectively, but Nadal ended their runs.

Nadal in action at the O2 Arena
Nadal in action at the O2 Arena

Among all players in their 20s, Thiem might be the closest one to his first Grand Slam trophy. The Austrian has more experience compared to his peers and a stable world ranking; he has not been out of the top 10 since 2016.

He also has a strong and long-standing relationship with his coaching team, having worked with Gunter Bresnik since he was just eight years old. Bresnik also coached six-time Grand Slam winner Boris Becker.

After winning at ATP Finals crown, Tsitsipas declared he was ready to win a Grand Slam, but thus far he has only beaten Federer from that dominant top trio. Zverev, who has had a better overall ranking than the Greek in the past two years, has yet to reach the final four of any Slam event.

But the young guns are making progress. The last time that the ATP Finals line-up had four participants under 23 was 10 years ago, when Nadal (23), Djokovic (22), Murray (22), and Del Potro (21) all featured.

Out of the current big three, it will surely be Federer who is first to decide his time is up. The Swiss legend plans to play at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but will turn 39 during the Games, and retirement is beckoning.

Nadal and Djokovic may both yet overhaul Federer’s record of 20 Grand Slam titles, but both have had injuries that will start to slow them down. Murray has returned after hip resurfacing surgery, but it is generally felt unlikely that he will be able to make it a ‘Big Four’ again.

Tennis fans will continue to cheer the big three to the rafters, and most will mourn Federer’s eventual retirement, but this year’s ATP Finals showed that the sport’s future is bright and in the safe hands of a younger, talented group of players.

Main image of the ATP Finals at the O2 Arena by Jess C via Flickr Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC 2.0

Alexander Zverev

Can Zverev’s first ATP Tour Finals title inspire the next generation?

Alexander Zverev’s stunning ATP Tour Finals victory over world number one Novak Djokovic took many in the world of tennis by surprise.

The 21-year old took home the title after defeating the Serbinator in straight sets at the O2 Arena, 6-4, 6-3.

He also became the second player outside the top four to win the tournament after Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov who won last year.

The question now is, will Zverev’s triumph in London inspire a new generation of players to compete against the world’s established elite: namely, Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal?

Still the best – but for how long?

Despite Sunday’s defeat to Zverev, Djokovic can be satisfied with what he has achieved in 2018. The 31-year-old added the Wimbledon and US Open titles to his grand slam haul and ended the year at the top of the rankings once again.

He easily beat Zverev in the round-robin stage at the O2, and perhaps the German took advantage of some level of complacency as he dramatically turned the tables in the final.

‘Perhaps the time is ripe for the rising stars of men’s tennis to really make their mark’

The way he was able to raise the level of his performance really surprised the world No.1, and he was unable to deal with the pressure exerted on him by his younger opponent.

Djokovic still has time on his side to increase his slam tally beyond the current 14, but whether Federer has any more in him is open to question.

There is no doubt the Swiss star will be remembered as the greatest men’s player of all time, but he turned 37 in August and surely cannot have much longer at the very highest level.

True, he won his sixth Australian Open title earlier this year, becoming the oldest player to win a grand slam for 45 years, surpassing Ken Rosewall who won in Melbourne in 1972.

With 20 majors in the bag, his place in tennis history is assured, but will 2019 be the year in which Federer’s fortunes begin to wane?

Taking its toll

Whilst he has remained largely injury-free in his illustrious career, the same cannot be said for his great rival Nadal, who has 13 slam titles to his name.

The Spaniard, 32, has suffered a series of injury setbacks in recent seasons, including another at this year’s Aussie Open when he had to retire during his quarter-final against Marin Cilic with a hamstring injury.

It has been 10 years since Nadal has completed a season without sustaining an injury, and his immensely physical style of play is seemingly taking its toll on one of the toughest competitors the sport has even seen.

So perhaps the time is ripe for the rising stars of men’s tennis to really make their mark. Who has the potential to impress in 2019?

Dominic Thiem

The Austrian is on most people’s list of layers to at look out for next season. He has won three titles this year, in St Petersburg, Buenos Aires and Lyon. Although these events are not part of the Masters 500 or 1000 Series, the 25-year old has shown that he has the potential to be a superstar in men’s tennis.

Thiem has had interesting season in terms of participating in the grand slams. The world number eight reached the fourth round at the Australian Open, lost to Nadal in the final at Roland Garros, did not play at Wimbledon and only reached the second round of the US Open. He will be looking for a major improvement on the sport’s biggest stages in 2019.

Karen Kachanov

The Russian, who beat Djokovic in the final of the Paris Masters, did not qualify for the World Tour Finals, but at the age of 22, he has potential to be a future star of the game.

That stunning victory in the French capital is his one Masters title so far. At the start of 2018, he was ranked just inside the top 50, but ATP Tour wins in Marseille and Moscow plus that Paris success have seen him rise to 11th.

Cameron Norrie

For British tennis fans wondering about life after Murray, this 23-year old is another player to look out for in 2019. Born in Johannesburg to British parents, he spent much of his junior career in New Zealand but began representing Great Britain in 2013.

Norrie does not have ATP Tour titles to his name, but he does share a doubles title with Davis Cup team-mate Kyle Edmund. The British duo won the Millennium Estoril Open on clay in Portugal. This is a clay court tournament which is part of the ATP 250 series.

Kyle Edmund 

Ahead of Norrie in the British pecking order is another South African-born 23-year-old who is currently in an impressive 14th place in the world rankings.

Edmund’s 2018 got off to a tremendous start as he reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open, and he won the European Open title in Belgium in October.

He has also gone deep into other tournaments this year, and played well for Great Britain in the Davis Cup, proving his Melbourne feats were not just a flash in the pan.

Edmund, who used to train with Murray in Miami, is now seen as the man most likely to succeed the Scot as a Brit at the sport’s top table.

However, Murray might have something to say about that as he plots his comeback from hip surgery – another member of the old guard looking to hold off the rising stars of the game in 2019.

Photo courtesy of Mirsasha via Flickr Creative Commons under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

02 Arena awaits ATP 2018 finale

As the men’s tennis season draws to a close, there is still plenty to play for at the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London.

The tournament in its earlier format was originally known as the Masters Cup, and first played in Tokyo in December 1970. Since then, it has become the most prestigious event in the men’s game outside of the four grand slams – a season-ending finale featuring the eight top-ranked players in the world.

However, it was staged in various cities around the world until 2009, when it first came to London and was renamed the ATP World Tour Finals. The name and location has stayed the same ever since.

The Finals, which run from November 11-18, also feature a doubles competition, but the main focus is on the singles event.

If the winner remains undefeated, they will take home a cool $2.7m. If they lose one of their three round-robin group matches but go on to lift the trophy, they still pocket $1.2m.

Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov won the title in 2017, but does not feature in this year’s field. So, who are the contenders? 

Group Guga Kurten

Novak Djokovic

‘The Serbinator’ is the man  who currently holds the No.1 spot in the world rankings. He returned to the top after Rafael Nadal pulled out of last week’s Paris Masters (and subsequently the World Tour Finals) and is favourite to triumph at the O2.

However, Djokovic  heads into the tournament on the back of a defeat in the Paris final against Karen Khachanov of Russia. Although he lost in France, earlier this year he became the first player to win all nine Masters Series titles.

The 31-year-old has also claimed two grand slam titles this year, beating Kevin Anderson at Wimbledon and Juan Martin Del Potro at the US Open. Can add to his five ATP World Tour Finals victories?

Alexander Zverev

The 21-year-old, widely seen as a future grand slam winner, is the youngest player in this year’s Finals.

Ranked fifth in the world, he has achieved an impressive win/loss record of 46-16 for the season, including titles in Washington, Madrid and Munich

This will be the German’s first ATP Finals – but can he shine on the biggest stage of all outside of the four slam events?

John Isner

Rafael Nadal’s late withdrawal gives  an opportunity for the big-serving American to experience his first-ever World Tour Finals.

Isner holds the record for the third-fastest serve in the men’s game – 253 km/h (157.2 mph) – behind second-placed Alberto Olivetti of France and Sam Groth from Australia.

Aged 33, he claimed his first ATP Masters title in Miami in June where he defeated Zverev in the final in three sets. There is no doubt that his serve poses a huge threat.

Marin Čilić

The 30-year-old is often considered a dark horse, but has arguably not achieved as much as he should have since winning his first grand slam in 2014.

That year saw him defeat Japan’s Kei Nishikori in the US Open final, as well as winning three other tour titles.

The seventh seed has only won five ATP tournaments in the past four years, the latest being the Ageon Championships in June at London’s Queen’s Club.  Can he sign off 2018 in style at the O2?

Leyton Hewett Group

Roger Federer

At the age of 37, it’s hard to credit that the Swiss superstar is still playing at the very highest level of the game. Federer will be aiming for a seventh ATP World Tour title at his 16th World Tour Finals, but his most recent came back in 2011.

The former world number one is currently ranked in third place behind Djokovic and Nadal. Will he be able to deliver a strong finish to 2018 by making it 100 career titles, including his 19 majors?

Kevin Anderson

The big-serving South African is an outsider at the O2 next week but shouldn’t be discounted. After a fine 2018 season, he is currently ranked in sixth place.

Anderson achieved his best finish in a grand slam when he became only the second South African male player to reached the final at Wimbledon, where he was beaten by Djokovic in three straight sets, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6.

This will be the 32-year old’s first ATP World Tour Finals, and he will surely want to make the most of his belated debut at the O2 Arena.  

Dominic Thiem

The Austrian was the last player to clinch a spot in this season’s ATP Finals. The eight seed reached the final four of the Paris Masters, where he was beaten by eventual winner Khachanov.

Thiem, 25, has won three titles this year, in St Petersburg, Buenos Aires and Lyon. However, all of them came in first half of the season, and in his three appearances in the Tour Finals to date,  he has yet to progress beyond the round-robin stage.

Kei Nishikori

The final contender in this season’s finals claimed his spot following Juan Martin Del Potro’s withdrawal due to a knee injury.

The current world No.9 has featured in three previous World Tour Finals, his best results coming when he reached the semi-finals on his debut in 2014 and again in 2016.

The US-based Japanese player, 28, returned to the tour in January after a five-month break due to a wrist injury.

Nishikori has captured 11 ATP career titles, his last coming in 2016 at the Memphis Open.  The World Tour Finals will be a tougher nut to crack…

Doubles event

There will be some British interest in this year’s Finals as Jamie Murray will be competing alongside Bruno Soares for the doubles title. The duo are currently fourth in the double’s rankings.

The British-Brazilian partnership have managed to qualify for semi-finals in the past two years at the O2 and will hoping to go one step further.

Elsewhere in the doubles field, the Bryan brothers are not competing together as Bob is still recovering from hip surgery, which took place in early August.

That means sibling Mike will play alongside a different doubles partner for the 12th time in his career, lining up in London with fellow American Jack Sock.

The draw – how it works

The top-seeded players/team is placed in Group A and the second-seeded player/team is placed in Group B. Players/teams seeded 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8, are then drawn in pairs with the first drawn placed in Group A. Each player/team plays the three other players/teams in his group

The winner of each group is placed in separate semi-final brackets, with the top player/team in Group A playing the runner-up in Group B, and vice versa.

If two or more players/teams are tied after the round-robin matches, the outcome is decided by: 1) highest percentage of sets won; then 2) highest percentage of games won. If that still fails to separate them, their positions in the world rankings will come into play.