Nerves and emotions

The camera lens, and the messages scribbled on it at the end of a contest, has been a great source of insight into what a player is feeling immediately after a match. While some players opt to simply sign their names, many choose to be more expressive and come up with spur-of-the-moment revealing lines.
Alternate Jannik Sinner’s first thoughts after making a stunning ATP Finals debut on Tuesday was to send a message to his fellow Italian Matteo Berrettini, whom he replaced in the draw due to injury.
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“Matteo sei un idolo,” wrote the 20-year-old Sinner after his 6-2, 6-2 win over Hubert Hurkacz. Matteo, you’re an idol. He also drew a heart.
“He has been unlucky many, many times already in his career and I wish him all the best. I’m going to play for him this tournament because he deserves more than me to be here so I give my best,” added Sinner in his on-court interview.
Earlier in the day, Daniil Medvedev wrote, “Not tight, but hands are shaking”, on the camera lens after his third-set tiebreak victory over Alexander Zverev.
The Russian was down in the deciding breaker but somehow turned things around. It all looked so clutch on TV but Medvedev made sure to let us know he was indeed quite nervous.

Round-robin mind games

Losing a match and sticking around at a tournament is not something tennis players are accustomed to; nor is winning a match yet still getting eliminated.
The round-robin format in place at the ATP Finals comes with its own set of unique challenges, particularly in the mental department.
With two victories under his belt, combined with the withdrawal of Berrettini, No.2 seed Medvedev is already guaranteed to reach the semi-finals as the winner of the Red Group, irrespective of his result against Sinner on Thursday.
That match could essentially become a dead rubber if Zverev defeats Hurkacz earlier in the day.
Asked to describe his mental approach to a situation like that, Medvedev said: “I just know that in order to keep the momentum going, it's better to try to win the match.
“Of course, maybe if I lose the first set 20-18 on the tie-break, and I know I'm first in the group, then I don't know what happens, I will be honest, but still, I think when you lose the match, you lose the momentum, so it's always better to win.
“So I'm just going to get ready for Jannik. I think it's going to be our third meeting. It's always, you know, you lose in the head-to-head it's a loss, so I don't like to lose. So I'm going to be 100 per cent.”

Daniil Medvedev (ATP Finals)

Image credit: Getty Images

For Sinner, he has to grapple with the fact that his fate is not solely in his own hands. The 20-year-old was ruthless in his victory over his good friend Hurkacz when he stepped in for an injured Berrettini on Tuesday.
Another unique aspect of the round-robin equation is that an alternate can be subbed in at any point during the group stage if a player is forced to withdraw ahead of a match.
In an effort to find a way to get ready for his second match, while dealing with an abdominal injury, Berrettini requested to play during Tuesday’s evening session and waited until 5pm before he made the decision to withdraw. That meant Hurkacz found out he was going to face Sinner just four hours before the match.
“I found out like in the middle of my warm-up,” revealed Hurkacz. “I was kind of preparing for both players.”
Was it difficult making a plan for two different opponents?
“Well, it turned out a bit difficult,” a disappointed Hurkacz said with a smile.
Zverev lost a tight one to Medvedev on Tuesday, but the 2018 champion immediately locked into confidence mode and can rely on his previous experiences at the ATP Finals to reset for his next match.
“In my personal opinion, I think we both have a very good chance of passing the group,” Zverev said of himself and Medvedev. “This is not like any other tournament. I am in the tournament still. I still have a chance to win the tournament. This is what I'm thinking to myself.
“Of course, I want to win. There is no doubt about it. I lost 8-6 in the third-set tie-breaker, but the tournament isn't done yet.”

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Big day for video review

A relatively new addition to tennis – and available at the ATP Finals for just the second time – video review was called upon not once, but twice, on Tuesday in Turin.
In the opening doubles match of the day, umpire Aurelie Tourte had yet another eventful officiating day in the chair.
Tourte denied Nikola Mektic the opportunity to challenge a call that deemed his opponent’s serve was in because he waited until he saw his own return land in the net before gesturing he wanted to challenge.
That decision did not go down well with Mektic and his partner Mate Pavic.
“Can we check the video review to see if he asked for the challenge right away?” said an exasperated Pavic, who sat on the sidelines until the review was shown.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Mektic/Pavic are requesting a video review on when Mr. Mektic raised his hand to ask for the challenge,” announced Tourte. Words rarely uttered on a tennis court.
It turned out Tourte made the right call and her decision was not overturned. The Croatians weren’t too convinced.
Later in the day, Medvedev asked for a video review for a foot fault called on his second serve early in the second set tie-break.
It was really close but umpire Mohamed Lahyani did not reverse the line judge’s call after replaying the video twice, and it resulted in Medvedev losing the point by virtue of a double fault.
As technology continues to play a bigger role in tennis officiating, the players are split in their views on the subject. Hawk-Eye Live replaced line judges at several tournaments over the past couple of seasons – not at these ATP Finals though – and while many prefer to eliminate the factor of human error when it comes to line calls, Medvedev is not so sure.
“When we had it last year due to Covid, I was kind of more in favour for the electronic system, but now that we have line judges back, I feel there is also a charm in it to use Hawk-Eye (and then challenge), to look at the mark; today I was really bad on the calls, but still, it's a game also,” said the Russian.
“It's tough to comment on this opinion. I think both sides are good.”

Another alternate on the way?

With Berrettini out of the competition and rumours that Stefanos Tsitsipas ended his Tuesday practice prematurely due to his elbow injury – he said “no comment” when asked about his elbow in press on Monday – the chances of second alternate Cameron Norrie getting called upon before the conclusion of the group stage are getting higher by the minute.
World feed commentators Lee Goodall and Colin Fleming said on air on Tuesday night that a third alternate, Aslan Karatsev, was on his way to Turin.
The last time two alternates came in as replacements mid-tournament during an ATP Finals was 1998 when Albert Costa and Greg Rusedski replaced Marcelo Rios and Andre Agassi. There has never been an occurrence where three alternates got in on the action during the same edition of the season-ending championships. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that in Turin.

Stefanos Tsitsipas hat sein Auftaktmatch bei den ATP Finals verloren

Image credit: Getty Images

Tecau set for Thursday farewell

Having announced the ATP Finals would be his swansong, Romanian doubles star Horia Tecau will make his last official appearance on Thursday, after he and his partner Kevin Krawietz were assured elimination from the tournament with two round-robin defeats.
The two-time Grand Slam doubles champion and Olympic silver medallist was not prepared to discuss his retirement just yet when quizzed on the matter on Tuesday.
“I'm not ready to talk about it yet. I want to play one more match, I want to give it my all, and then I'll be ready to answer and speak about what has been a long and very fulfilling career for me,” said the 36-year-old from Constanta.

Stats of the day

With his win over Hurkacz, Sinner is guaranteed to finish the season ranked inside the top 10, marking the first time in ATP history that two Italians (Berrettini and Sinner) will end the year in that elite ranking bracket.
Medvedev’s win on Tuesday didn’t just extend his ATP Finals winning streak to seven in a row, it saw him join Zverev at the top of the 2021 match-wins leaderboard by posting his 56th victory of the year.
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