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Updated: 2 days 14 hours ago

Infosys ATP Fan Meter Reveals Top 10 Loudest Moments Of The Nitto ATP Finals

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 12:43pm

After eight days of thrilling Nitto ATP Finals action at The O2 in London, Alexander Zverev earned the biggest title of his career. The 21-year-old German defeated World No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 on Sunday, but which moment did fans inside the world famous venue in South East London connect most with? Infosys ATP Fan Meter has the answer.

Recording decibel levels inside Centre Court throughout the tournament, the Top 10 moments from the elite eight-man event have been confirmed. Six of the eight players competing for the trophy at the season finale made the Top 10 winning list, with all eight man featuring in matches containing Top 10 moments.

Leading the way, with three entries in the Top 10, is Roger Federer. The six-time champion was responsible the loudest reaction of the tournament in his opening match against Kei Nishikori, with the crowd reaching 110dB as they rallied behind the 16-time ATPWorldTour.com Fans' Favourite award winner after an exquisite forehand lob in the second set. That level of sound isn't unfamiliar to regular visitors to The O2, but this time there were no microphones, drums or guitars.

The opening singles match of the tournament provided the second loudest moment of the event, as Dominic Thiem fired a cross-court forehand winner late in his epic second-set tie-break against Kevin Anderson. Despite falling to the South African in straight sets, Thiem won the hearts of the crowd, who responded with an impressive 108dB for his fearless efforts. Thiem almost beat that figure in his following match, notching 106 dB with a solid overhead under pressure in the second set against Federer.

Runner-up Novak Djokovic makes two appearances in the list, hitting 107dB and 106dB in his first and final Group Guga Kuerten encounters, respectively. The five-time champion impressed the London crowd with a backhand winner down the line against Isner in his opening match, before stunning Marin Cilic with his phenomenal defensive skills as he completed group play with a 3-0 record.

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No list would be complete without an entry from the champion in the final match of the ATP World Tour season. With 104 dB, Zverev earned his spot in the Top 10 late in the first set of the championship match. The German became the first man to break Djokovic's serve throughout the tournament as the World No. 1 misfired on his forehand side.

Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori complete the Top 10, lifting the crowds in their fourth appearances at The O2. The 2014 US Open finalists proved finesse can be just as effective as power, with Cilic clocking 105dB for a stellar drop volley against Zverev and Nishikori hitting 104dB for an imaginative slice backhand in his round-robin loss to Anderson.

Challenger Q&A: Opelka Caps Top 100 Climb With Champaign Crown

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 9:18pm

Finishing the season inside the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings is a special achievement for those competing on the ATP Challenger Tour. It marks the culmination of a year of hard work and often signals a turning point in a player's career.

But few Top 100 ascents are as dramatic as this. Reilly Opelka opened the month of September at No. 173, with a mountain to climb to crack the century mark. Having struggled with a bout of mononucleosis over the U.S. summer, the 21-year-old needed to find his form in a hurry. What resulted will go down as one of the most memorable storylines of the Challenger season.

Opelka had claimed just 17 match wins during the year, as he stepped on the hard courts of windy Chicago in the first week of September. He would double that total in the coming months, capping his Top 100 ascent with a stunning 17-4 stretch. It all kicked off with back-to-back finals in Chicago and Cary and culminated with consecutive titles in Knoxville and Champaign. That's four final appearances in just six tournaments following the US Open. 

On Saturday, Opelka blasted to a career-high No. 98 in the ATP Rankings behind a 7-6(6), 6-3 win over Ryan Shane in the final of the JSM Challenger of Champaign-Urbana. He needed to sweep both indoor events in Knoxville and Champaign to conclude his season and he did just that, reeling off nine straight matches with aplomb. Playing with poise and maturity from the baseline, the 6'11" American did not only rely on his seismic serve. Armed with a more consistent and patient ground game, coaches Jay Berger and Jean-Yves Aubone have guided their young charge to new heights.

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Opelka Fast Facts
- Concludes the season in second place among Challenger win-loss percentage leaders (.756), behind only Vasek Pospisil (.784).
- One of six players to win at least three titles in 2018, joining Guido Andreozzi (4), Pablo Andujar (3), Hugo Dellien (3), Christian Garin (3) and Jordan Thompson (3).
- First American to win three titles in a single season since 2014 (Bradley Klahn and Sam Querrey).
- Joins Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz as Americans aged 21 & under to feature in the year-end Top 100.

After winning in Champaign, Opelka spoke to broadcaster Mike Cation...

You said last week that Top 100 didn't really matter to you, because of the long-term goals. That being said, now you're there and you've guaranteed yourself Australian Open main draw. That has to mean something at this point.
Yeah, being in the main draw of Australia is huge. It allows me to go there and play two tournaments before the Australian Open. Usually I'll have to play qualies the week before and it's a long trip over there just for that. You might just play one match and then qualifying, which is brutal. From that standpoint, it's huge. Like I said last week, Top 100 is not something I'm celebrating, but yes, I'm stoked to be there.

Two straight titles to get there is pretty hard to do. In your first couple matches in Champaign, your game wasn't entirely there. What turned on as the week progressed?
I was focused, but I just played another guy [Lloyd Glasspool] with a big serve. And then [Kaichi] Uchida was playing insane in the second round. The tough moments in the tournament were early on and then in the quarter-finals it was just a great match-up for me. On Friday, it was extremely physical [against Tommy Paul], so I wasn't 100 per cent confident in my body today. But I knew that playing Ryan, he would be serving big and looking to end points quick. I didn't have to rely on moving and being physical to win the match.

Tommy Paul is a very close friend of yours. How awkward was it to play him for the first time as pros, in the semi-finals?
I didn't feel it was awkward, actually. We know each other so well and have practised a ton together. We know each other's games, but it did take me a while to get going in that match. I started slow. Once that happened, we played great tennis. From 2-all in the second set until the end of the match, it was high quality. I didn't serve my best, so I won a lot of points from the baseline and was just scrapping. We had a 40-ball rally on the first match point. I had to win in a different way from how I'm used to winning. 

✅ Back-to-back #ATPChallenger titles
✅ Top 100 debut
✅ First

Sock & Bryan Reflect On 'Fairytale' Doubles Run, London Title

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 8:44pm
Jack Sock and Mike Bryan talk about winning the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals title to cap off their incredible run as a pair in the second half of 2018, also winning Wimbledon and the US Open. Sock looks ahead to his doubles schedule in 2019 and Bryan discusses the status of his brother, Bob Bryan.

Highlights: Bryan/Sock Clinch Nitto ATP Finals Crown

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 6:27pm
Watch highlights as Mike Bryan and Jack Sock save one championship point to defeat Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut in the Nitto ATP Finals championship match. Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.

Story Of The Nitto ATP Finals

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 6:20pm
Relive the best moments from the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals in London, where Alexander Zverev defeated Novak Djokovic to lift his maiden trophy at the season-ending event. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com. Photo credit: Simon Owen/Wunderhatch.

Zverev: "It's Just Amazing"

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 6:11pm

Alexander Zverev’s holiday in the Maldives will be that much more enjoyable next week after the 21-year-old followed in the footsteps of fellow German Boris Becker, who won the last of his three season finale titles in 1995, with victory over Novak Djokovic at the Nitto ATP Finals on Sunday. Zverev has also finished the year among the Top 4 in the ATP Rankings for a second straight season.

Zverev, who was emotional and admitted to being dazzled by the silver trophy in his post-final press conference, admitted, “This trophy means a lot, everything, to all the players. I mean, you only have so many chances of winning it. You play against the best players only. How I played today, how I won it, for me, it's just amazing.”

As the youngest singles champion at the season finale since Djokovic clinched the crown in 2008, aged 21, when the event was played in Shanghai, Zverev fell to his knees in celebration on court after beating World No. 1 and five-time former titlist Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 at The O2 in London.

“I fell to my knees, so my knees kind of hurt,” said Zverev. “Apart from that, I was very happy. Obviously, it's quite astonishing, winning this title, beating two such players back-to-back, Roger [Federer] and Novak, in semi-finals and final. It means so much. I'm incredibly happy and incredibly proud of this moment right now.”

Zverev recovered from a 6-4, 6-1 round-robin loss to Djokovic on Wednesday to become the first player to beat Roger Federer (in Saturday’s semi-finals) and Djokovic at the Nitto ATP Finals. He is the first player since 1990 to beat the top two seeds, replicating the feat of Andre Agassi who knocked out Becker in the semi-finals and Stefan Edberg in the final.

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In his eighth tournament since teaming up with Ivan Lendl, Zverev reflected on the influence of the former World No. 1. “He obviously analysed the match that I played with him a few days ago [and] told me a few things I had to do different,” said Zverev. “I was more aggressive today. I tried to take the ball earlier… But my Dad is the one that gave me the base. My Dad is the one that taught me the game of tennis. My dad deserves the most credit out of everyone… I'm very thankful to him for that. Obviously [with] Ivan, the experience he has on and off the court, is amazing. That helped me, as well, to kind of play the two matches that I played back-to-back now.”

Zverev completed the season with an ATP World Tour-best 58 match wins on the season (58-19 overall), which includes three other trophies at the Mutua Madrid Open (d. Thiem), the BMW Open by FWU (d. Kohlschreiber) and the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. (d. De Minaur).

“[Djokovic and Federer] are still going to be the guys to beat at the big tournaments,” said Zverev. “[But] I will do everything I can to get better, to compete with them always. I feel like I'm doing that. But I still have a lot of things to improve. I'm still very young. Hopefully, next year, I'll be able to play better tennis than I did this year, even though it's been a good year.”

Sascha's Launchpad To London Glory

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 6:05pm

The first set was from another world.

Alexander Zverev defeated Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 in the championship match of the Nitto ATP Finals in London on Sunday on the back of one of the best sets of tennis he has ever played.

Zverev was soundly defeated by the World No. 1 6-4, 6-1 in round robin stage at The O2 earlier in the week, and also lost 6-2, 6-1 in the semi-finals of Rolex Shanghai Masters last month.

Then this set roared to life…

Zverev’s overall first-serve percentage this season is 64 per cent (3277/5117), but he made an eye-opening 86 per cent in the first set. He averaged 135 mph on his first serve in Set 1, which was simply on another level from Djokovic’s 123 mph average.

Zverev crushed seven aces in the opening set, and just three in the second set. He hit no double faults in Set 1, but three in Set 2. Zverev won a remarkable 86 per cent of his first-serve points in the opening set, and just 67 per cent in the second set.

Set 2 was solid. Set 1 was the launch pad to end-of-season glory.

Djokovic reached the London final on the back of putting so many serves back in play - but 48 per cent of Zverev’s first serves were unreturned in Set 1, which was much higher than the 33 per cent in Set 2.

As good as Zverev’s first serve performed in the opening set, his second serve metrics may have been better. Zverev averaged 104 mph on his second serve against Djokovic in the Round Robin stage, but that elevated to 109 mph in Set 1 on Sunday evening. In Set 2, it significantly dropped down to 98 mph. Zverev won a dominant 67 per cent of his second-serve points in the opening set, but that fell away to just 50 per cent in the second set.

Zverev brought the farm in Set 1, and it paved the way to the biggest title of his career.

Once the rally matured past the serve and return stage into a baseline contest in Set 1, Zverev employed a very aggressive down-the-line strategy that was aimed at making Djokovic have to hit the ball on the run.

Zverev Groundstroke Direction
• Set 1 = 33% line / 67% cross
• Set 2 = 21% line / 79% cross

Zverev’s return of serve was also much more dominant in Set 1 over Set 2. Zverev put 81 per cent of Djokovic’s first serves back in play in the opening set, but just 69 per cent in the second set.

Zverev stepped into returns in the opening set and blasted them back at Djokovic at will.

Zverev Average Return Speed
• 1st Serve Return Speed - Set 1 69mph / Set 2 61mph
• 2nd Serve Return Speed - Set 1 78mph / Set 2 76mph

In the opening set, Zverev was dominant in points won under nine shots, winning that metric 25-17. In Set 2, he lost it 23-24.

After two recent lopsided losses, Zverev had to make an adjustment. He had to come out swinging, and land as many punches as he possibly could. Almost every single one of them landed in the opening set and paved the way to victory.

Editor’s Note: Craig O’Shannessy is a member of Novak Djokovic’s coaching team.

Flashback: Alexander Zverev, 17, A Star Of Tomorrow

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 5:33pm

A 14-year-old Andy Murray is taking a two-minute break from his practice session with Germany’s Mischa Zverev. As the pair get a drink of water, Mischa’s tiny four-year-old brother, Alex, rushes from his vantage point at the side of the court to hit some balls with his parents. Even then, he didn’t miss much.

Fast forward 13 years and Alexander Zverev is looking to follow in his big brother’s footsteps and make his own way on the ATP World Tour. Standing at 6’6’’, the tables were turned in Cincinnati over the summer as the German looked down on Murray when the pair reunited on the practice court. A huge fan of Miami Heat, Zverev could easily have looked at home on the basketball court. 

“I saw him for the first time in a long time a few months ago and I couldn't believe how tall he was,” exclaims Murray. 

Tossing wavy blonde hair out of his eyes, Zverev recalls in his American twang, "I was practising with Andy in Cincinnati and he told me, 'I've known you since you were this high!’ 

“I've known Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray since I was four years old. I didn't realise who they were. They were like little kids for me. I was just playing with them. I played soccer with them, basketball, tennis. Now, they're at the top of the game, practising with them and getting the opportunity to get to know them better is unbelievable. I'm really thankful to them for giving me the chance.”

Being around a tennis court is pretty much all that Zverev, who goes by the nickname ‘Sascha’, has known. Born in Hamburg to tennis coach parents, Sascha looked up to Mischa, watching on as his big brother went on to reach the Top 50. Aged seven, Sascha joined his brother at Florida’s Saddlebrook Tennis Academy for the first time and has returned every year for his winter training. Of late, the place he refers to as his “second home” has given him the chance to practise with leading Americans, John Isner and Jack Sock.

“I think he's very good,” says Isner. “He's very tall, which I like, obviously nowhere near as tall as me. When I practise with him, you can tell he's pretty under-developed. And that's a good thing. He's got so much room to improve. Being a tall kid, he hits the ball extremely well from the baseline. He's got a lot of weapons. I think when he grows into his body, he's going to be a force. I really think he's a good tennis player.”

For the past year, Zverev has employed the services of physical trainer, Jez Green, who was largely credited with two-time major champion Murray’s physical transformation from skinny teen to one of the Tour’s leading athletes. It’s an addition to his team that the Scot feels can only be beneficial to Zverev as he grows into his gangly body.

“Jez can help him for sure,” says the Dunblane native. “[Zverev is] very different physically to me, we're very different people, so Jez will have to do some different work with him. We've obviously worked together for a long time. He has a lot of experience on tour. I'm sure he'll do a good job."

In an era when the average age of the Top 10 is 28, it is rare to see the likes of Zverev and fellow 17 year old Borna Coric having success on the ATP World Tour. But both have managed to make their mark in 2014, with the promise of great things to come as they continue to develop physically and gain experience.

Having started the season winning the Australian Open junior title, former junior World No. 1 Zverev was outside the Top 800 in the Emirates ATP Rankings but looks set to finish it inside the Top 150 as he plays his final tournament of the year this week at the Swiss Indoors Basel. Admitting he doesn’t care much for running around the baseline, World No. 135 Zverev has managed to impose an aggressive game in leaping more than 650 spots in the rankings.

Having felt disheartened by losses in the qualifying rounds of ATP Challenger Tour events in the weeks after his Melbourne victory, things finally “clicked” for the right-hander as he seized his opportunity on home soil in the spring to make his breakthrough. He won his first ATP Challenger Tour title in Braunschweig with victory over former World No. 12 Paul-Henri Mathieu. Then, at the invitation of Michael Stich, he beat four Top 100 players en route to the semi-finals of the ATP World Tour 500 in Hamburg. His run eventually came to an end in a 6-0, 6-1 defeat to David Ferrer.

"It was definitely a great run,” remembers Zverev. “Winning Braunschweig was unbelievable, then being in the semi-finals of an ATP 500, in my hometown, that was the greatest feeling I've ever had on a tennis court. Winning matches there in front of my home crowd, knowing half the people in the stadium. I'm really thankful to Michael Stich for giving me the opportunity there. 

"After the first couple of matches I was pinching myself, but then I tried not to think about where I was, compared with where I had been half a year ago. When I got in the semi-finals, I was definitely nervous. Against David, you want to play your best tennis, otherwise you're not going to win, especially on a clay court. Hopefully one day I can play like him and maybe win another couple of games!”

One player who knows all about finding his feet on the ATP World Tour is 21-year-old Dominic Thiem, who has taken 100 places off his ranking this year to break the Top 40. The Austrian and Zverev fast became firm friends after playing doubles together last week in Vienna. Thiem, who reached his first ATP World Tour final in Kitzbuhel in July, is only too happy to pass on to Zverev the same advice that friend and mentor Ernests Gulbis bestowed on him in the early stages of his professional career.

"He's a really good guy. There are not that many young guys from Austria and Germany, so I really enjoy [his friendship]. We speak the same language and have interests in similar topics,” says Thiem. One of those topics is surely hair styles. The pair could easily be in a boyband with their coiffed locks.  

"If he ever wants any help, I will give him some," continues Thiem. "Ernests gave me a lot of advice, a lot of help, because he likes me. And I like Alex, maybe I can give him some advice if he wants it. Ernests told me everything about how it works on the Tour, how it is after a loss, how it is after a win. Usually you have one defeat every week because you're playing against the best players. You cannot win every tournament, which is a little bit different from juniors or the Futures where you win a lot. I think you have to learn to lose also a lot.”

Zverev is certainly not one to get too carried away with his early success. Practice sessions with Murray and Djokovic in North America gave the German insight into what he needs to bring day in, day out, to make it with the best on the ATP World Tour.

“Their practise is just way more intense than other guys, their work ethic,” he says. “If you see them in the gym, they're there an hour before practice and and then they do another hour in the gym after. How they work is unbelievable. It's probably talent as well, but most of it is hard work and I hope I can work as hard as them and we'll see where I can get.

“My Dad has the biggest role in my tennis. We both know that we have to keep on working. This is just the beginning for me. I'm only 17 years old. We hope we can have better results than Hamburg in the future. We're trying to work even harder. We just have to see what the future brings us.

“I need to improve everything. I've been hitting with Andy a little bit, Novak. Their games are so much more complete than mine. What they do on the court, I can't at the moment. So I'm trying to get better in every part of my game.”

His performances in practice and on the match court over the summer have certainly left Murray in no doubt that Zverev has the potential to be one of the world’s top players. “He's a very good player. He's obviously grown a lot over the past couple of years, so physically he needs a bit more time to mature and develop because he's a very big guy. 

“He's going to be a very good player. I don't want to say how good. You never know with injuries or any distractions. I don't know how hard he works, or anything like that. But just from watching his game, I could tell he's going to be very good.”

Highlights: Stunning Sascha Overcomes Djokovic To Lift Trophy At The Nitto ATP Finals

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 4:58pm
Watch highlights as Alexander Zverev defeats Novak Djokovic in straight sets to win the Nitto ATP Finals. Photo credit: Julian Finney/Getty Images. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.

Zverev Reflects On Biggest Win At The Nitto ATP Finals

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 4:47pm
Watch as Alexander Zverev discusses beating Novak Djokovic to win the Nitto ATP Finals and his motivation heading into the 2019 season. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.

Djokovic: 'It Was A Phenomenal Season'

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 4:46pm
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Novak Djokovic crashed to a low point this June after spending months struggling in his recovery from a right elbow injury, falling to his lowest ATP Ranking, No. 22, in more than 11 years. Just five months later, the Serbian is back at World No. 1. And en route to the championship match at the Nitto ATP Finals, Djokovic dominated, winning all 36 of his service games.

But Djokovic simply fell short in the final, losing against Alexander Zverev, who is the youngest champion at the season finale since a 21-year-old Djokovic in 2008.

“Finishing the year as No. 1 [in the ATP Rankings], that was the goal coming into the indoor season. I managed to achieve that,” Djokovic said. “Overall it was a phenomenal season that I have to be definitely very proud of.”

A 6-6 start to 2018 seems like a distant memory now, as Djokovic, who was trying to become the oldest winner in tournament history (since 1970) won 35 of his final 38 matches on the year to reassert himself as the best player in the world. The Serbian might not have tied Roger Federer’s record of six Nitto ATP Finals triumphs, but he has clearly announced that he is back in peak form.

[BODY IMAGE]

One might never have imagined Djokovic being in this position after the Australian Open, when he underwent a procedure on his right elbow. But the 31-year-old did.

“Yes, because I always believe in myself. Really, as I said before many times, I kind of also expect myself to do very well,” Djokovic said. “But at the same time I would sign it right away if someone told me because at that time it was also looking quite improbable that that's going to happen considering where I was [ATP] ranking-wise and also game-wise. I wasn't playing even close to where I wanted to be at in terms of level of tennis.”

Entering the final at The O2, Djokovic won 14 consecutive matches against opponents inside the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings, dropping just six sets in those clashes. So while he could not complete the perfect ending to a fairytale season, this is just a small bump, and not a cause for concern in the grand scheme of things. He still reached his sixth consecutive championship match (did not play in 2017) at the Nitto ATP Finals, after all.

“Obviously no one likes to lose a tennis match. You try your best. But at the same time, as I said on the court, you put things in a larger perspective, see things a bit differently,” Djokovic said. “When you get out of this feeling of a little bit disappointment that you lost, [you can enjoy] all the positive things that I have to reflect on and also take from this season, especially the last six months.”

It’s been an interesting journey for Djokovic in 2018 to say the least. Nine months ago, the Serbian was on an operating table. Now, he’s back at the top of the sport once again.

“When I went on the table for surgery, I knew it was going to be a different season because it never happened. Whatever the outcome in the end of the year, I knew that I'm going to learn a lot from this season,” Djokovic said. “Fortunately for me, it ended up in the best possible way. Yeah, I'm just grateful.”

Hot Shot: Zverev Overpowers Djokovic To Earn Break At The Nitto ATP Finals

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 4:01pm
Watch as Alexander Zverev earns an early break of serve in the second set, ripping a forehand down the line to end an extended rally against Novak Djokovic at the Nitto ATP Finals. Photo credit: AFP/Getty Images. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.

Stunning Sascha Beats Novak For His Biggest Title

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 2:36pm
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Alexander Zverev became the youngest champion at the Nitto ATP Finals in a decade on Sunday, stunning World No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 to lift the biggest title of his career.

The 21-year-old, the youngest player to triumph at the season finale since Djokovic in 2008, was already the first German to reach the championship match at the season finale since 1996, when Boris Becker did it. And now Zverev is the first player from his country to lift the trophy since Becker did so in 1995, dashing Djokovic’s hopes of a perfect ending to a fairytale season in which he returned from a right elbow injury back to No. 1 in the ATP Rankings.

"This is the biggest title of my career so far. This trophy means a lot, everything, to all the players. I mean, you only have so many chances of winning it. You play against the best players only," Zverev said. "How I played today, how I won it, for me it's just amazing."

One year ago, Zverev made his debut at The O2, falling short of reaching the semi-finals. But the 10-time ATP World Tour champion showed his growth, beating six-time champion Roger Federer in straight sets on Saturday and now Djokovic for the victory. It's the first time a player has beaten both Djokovic and Federer at the same Nitto ATP Finals. Zverev's the first player to beat the Top 2 seeds in the semi-finals and final of the event since Andre Agassi in 1990.

"It's quite astonishing, winning this title, beating two such players back-to-back, Roger and Novak, in semi-finals and final," Zverev said. "It means so much. I'm incredibly happy and incredibly proud of this moment right now."

[BODY IMAGE]

Entering the match, all signs were pointing to Djokovic tying Federer’s record of six triumphs at the season finale. The Serbian had won 35 of his previous 37 matches entering the final, and all 36 of his service games this week at The O2. Four days ago, he had beaten Zverev with the loss of just five games in round-robin play, and he walked on Centre Court having won 14 consecutive matches against opponents inside the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings, dropping just six sets in those clashes.

But from the first point of the match, Zverev showed no fear, standing on the baseline and trading blows with Djokovic, who for the first time all tournament appeared to be scrambling, and not the in-control defensive wall that had diffused attacks from the very best players in the world.

"I wasn't trying to overthink it. I just tried to go out there and enjoy the match as much as I can, enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy the moment. That's what I did," Zverev said. "My serve has been working well the whole week. I had a lot of confidence in it. It all worked out well."

Zverev was especially solid with his two-handed backhand, using good depth to keep Djokovic on the back foot. And perhaps surprisingly, it was the German left standing in many of the longer rallies, refusing to overplay and succumb to the top seed’s defensive pressure as other players had at The O2 this week.

The German earned the only two break points Djokovic faced in his first four matches at the event in their round-robin match, but could not convert either of them. In the final, however, Zverev broke serve four times in 10 return games.

"I'd like to congratulate Novak on a great week and the second half of the season. You've barely lost a match and I'm actually very thankful you lost to me today," Zverev said. "We've played twice this week. Everyone knows how good of a tennis player you are, but I want to mention how good of a person you are. We've had a lot of good talks on life. I appreciate you letting me win the title today."

Zverev, who earns $2,509,000 and 1,300 ATP Ranking points for his efforts, will finish the year at World No. 4 for the second season in a row. 

"I'd like to thank my Dad, who has coached me all my life. He won't stop crying until next year, probably. Thanks Ivan [Lendl] for joining the team. I think it's working out for now!"

Djokovic entered the match having won 81 per cent of his second-serve points at the year-end championships. But for the first time at the event, he did not dominate neutral rallies, claiming just 35 per cent of his second-serve points against Zverev.

While Djokovic fell short of matching Federer’s record, he has still enjoyed a tremendous rise in the second half of 2018. In June, the Serbian fell as low as No. 22 in the ATP Rankings, his lowest point in more than 11 years. But starting with Wimbledon, Djokovic won four tour-level titles to claw his way back to the top spot of the ATP Rankings.

Did You Know?
Zverev finishes the season with an ATP World Tour-leading 58 tour-level wins, surpassing his previous career-high of 55.

Jack Sock: "This Is Special"

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 1:38pm
Jack Sock reacts to winning the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals doubles crown on Sunday with Mike Bryan. Watch ATP tennis streams live on Tennis TV.

Sock/Bryan Clinch Nitto ATP Finals Doubles Crown

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 1:05pm

After beginning their partnership across the city at the Fever-Tree Championships in June, Mike Bryan and Jack Sock ended their season in style in South East London at the Nitto ATP Finals on Sunday. The American duo, who end the season with a 20-6 record, saved one championship point at 10/11 in the Match Tie-break to beat Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut 5-7, 6-1, 13-11 in just over 90 minutes.

Bryan and Sock have lifted three trophies in just eight events as a team, adding the Nitto ATP Finals crown to Grand Slam trophies at Wimbledon and the US Open. Earlier this season, the American duo became the first team to win Wimbledon and the US Open in the same season since Jonas Bjorkman and Todd Woodbridge in 2003. Bryan, who becomes the oldest champion in tournament history (40), improves to 5-2 in championship matches at the season-finale, having previously reached the final on six occasions alongside brother Bob Bryan.

Said Bryan, "This is how you want to start a partnership and end one. To win here is just an epic experience. To finish a great year off the right way, winning here, against some of the best teams in the world. The way we did, it went down to the wire. It was pretty exciting.

"[I have had] unreal memories with Jack this year. We're kind of closing the book on our partnership because Bob is coming back. But we're always going to be great friends and hang out in the off-season. We're going to spend the off-season together training."

"For me, this is special," said Sock. "Big thanks to Mike for the phone call earlier this year to play. Honestly, all these moments are for Bob. I've known these guys for a long time, we are very good friends. I know he has been watching everything... This is for you Bob, I hope you are watching and I'll see you guys in the off-season."

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The American duo were presented with the title by Hideo Takasaki, President, CEO and COO of Nitto. ATP Executive Chairman and President Chris Kermode handed Herbert and Mahut the runner-up trophies.

In a first set which featured six deuce deciding points in 12 games, small margins decided the outcome. Mahut and Herbert appeared to make the crucial move at 3-3, breaking serve with a perfectly weighted lob from Mahut, but Bryan and Sock quickly responded.

With a driven backhand return, Bryan earned his team a fifth break point of the set, which they converted, courtesy of a double fault from Mahut. Herbert and Mahut soon re-established their advantage, breaking serve for a second time at 5-5 after inspired returning, before saving three break points from 15/40 down to clinch the set.

A series of uncharacteristic errors from Herbert gifted Bryan and Sock a 2-0 lead in the second set. With strong serving, the Americans maintained that advantage and soon extended their lead with a second service break in the sixth game as Sock continued to create problems for Herbert and Mahut with his forehand.

With a Match Tie-break required to decide the outcome. A series of mini-breaks early in the title decider placed Bryan and Sock one point from victory at 9/6. But Herbert and Mahut battled their way back, saving three championship points to reach 9/9. The Frenchmen soon held a championship point at 11/10, but after Bryan held firm at the net, the Wimbledon and US Open champions eventually claimed the title as Herbert fired long on his second serve.

"At 40 you really appreciate these moments a lot more," said Bryan. "You're looking around trying to soak in as much of these great feelings as possible because you don't really know if you're ever going to feel that feeling again. This is all unexpected. At 40, to win two Grand Slams and finish the year like this is totally a thrill.

"This one was wild. We've been playing these Match Tie-breaks for more than 10 years. We've seen it all... We were up 9/5 in the Match Tie-break, they started creeping. They won one point on my serve, one on Jack's serve. All of a sudden we're down championship point. Yeah, that's the way it goes."

Herbert and Mahut, who entered the tournament with two wins from eight matches at The O2, have compiled a 23-11 tour-level record this season. The eighth seeds were bidding to become the first French team in 13 years to lift the trophy at the season-ending event. Earlier this year, Herbert and Mahut lifted titles at the AMN Amro World Tennis Tournament and Roland Garros.

Having ended Group Knowles/Nestor with a 2-1 record, Bryan and Sock receive 1,300 ATP Doubles Rankings points and will share $479,000. Herbert and Mahut earn 800 points and split $279,000.

Did You Know?
Bryan becomes the sixth player in tournament history (since 1970) to win Nitto ATP Finals crowns with at least two partners.

Finals Club Celebrates Stars Of The 2000s

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 11:39am
Learn more about The Finals Club, as former Nitto ATP Finals champions are celebrated at the season-ending finale. This year, players from the 2000s are being honoured as the 2018 ATP World Tour season draws to a close at The O2. Photo credit: Peter Staples/ATP World Tour.

Kuerten, Hewitt, Nalbandian, Davydenko Lead 2000s Finals Club Celebrations

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 11:25am

Former players from the 2000s involved in the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals were welcomed to The O2, venue of the season finale in London, this week. Two former singles World No. 1s, Gustavo Kuerten, the 2000 champion, and Lleyton Hewitt, the 2001-02 titlist, plus 2005 winner David Nalbandian, and 2009 champion Nikolay Davydenko took part in this week’s celebrations.

More than 30 players, who featured in the year-end singles and doubles championships from the 2000s, travelled to the English capital as part of The Finals Club, an initiative established in 2015 that welcomes some of the game’s former greats from the past 48 years to return to the season-ending tournament, where they will be able to reconnect with the sport, their peers, as well as the world’s best players of today.

Those accepting the ATP World Tour’s invitation this year also included Paul Haarhuis and Jared Palmer, who had both been No. 1 in the ATP Doubles Rankings. Simon Aspelin, Jonas Bjorkman, Jeff Coetzee, Frantisek Cermak, Guillermo Coria, Lukas Dlouhy, Jonathon Erlich, Gaston Etlis, Mariusz Fyrstenberg, Paul Hanley, Thomas Johansson, Robbie Koenig, Johan Landsberg, Marcin Matkowski, Michal Mertinak, Piet Norval, Andrei Olhovskiy, Petr Pala, Andy Ram, Olivier Rochus, Robin Soderling, Tom Vanhoudt, Pavel Vizner were also honoured.

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“The Finals Club is a fantastic idea to reconnect former players,” said Nalbandian, who was urged by his family to travel to London to join the celebrations. “My young children don’t know I was a tennis player, so it is great to have them here too. It’s a real reunion as there’s a lot of former rivals and friends, ATP staff members who I haven’t seen for years.”

Davydenko, who was joined in London with his wife, Irina, said, “I’m very happy to be here and to reconnect with former players that I used to compete against. It was a privilege to play at the season finale for five straight years, culminating in my 2009 triumph.”

Johansson, who took part in the 2002 season finale, admitted, “It’s an honour to be invited to play here as it’s really the first time when the former players have been able to sit down and talk openly about their careers, socialise away from the competition and find out what each other is up to away from the sport. It’s great to spend time here, and also watch the current pros – especially Roger [Federer], who continues to compete and inspire young children globally.”

The group took a boat ride from the London Eye to The O2, then enjoyed a Moët & Chandon toast and were welcomed by Chris Kermode, the ATP Executive Chairman and President. Having been presented with personalised Moët & Chandon bottles, the former players enjoyed a sumptuous lunch, prior to taking their seats courtside for the 2018 singles and doubles title matches at the Nitto ATP Finals.

The Finals Club this year has been highlighted by the renaming of Groups A and B for both the singles and doubles in honour of players who made an indelible mark on the tournament in the 2000s. In singles, Group A was named after Kuerten and Group B after Hewitt. The doubles groups were named Group Knowles/Nestor and Group Llodra/Santoro, after 2007 champions Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor and Michael Llodra and Fabrice Santoro, who won the year-end championships in 2005.

Singles Final Preview: Bjorkman And Wilander Talk Tennis At Nitto ATP Finals 2018

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 11:13am
Jonas Bjorkman and Mats Wilander, both former participants at the Nitto ATP Finals, preview the 2018 singles title match at the Nitto ATP Finals with Rob Curling.

Match Point: Zverev Claims Biggest Title Of Career In Style At The Nitto ATP Finals 2018

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 3:37am
Watch as Alexander Zverev outlasts Novak Djokovic, firing a backhand passing shot winner down the line to win the biggest title of his career at the Nitto ATP Finals. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.

The Earthquake-Resistant Challenger Stadium In Japan

Sun, 11/18/2018 - 2:31am

In the landscape of Japanese tennis, the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships has set the standard for the last 45 years. The country's lone ATP World Tour event continues to shine brightly in Tokyo.

But on the ATP Challenger Tour, three tournaments have maintained their own standard of excellence since the late 1990s. The $50,000 event in Kyoto has thrived for more than 20 years, while the $75,000 tournament in Yokohama celebrated its 13th edition in February.

The newest tournament of the group is the Hyogo Noah Challenger in the city of Kobe. Founded in 2015, the indoor-hard court event has featured John Millman and Hyeon Chung among its champions. 

A bustling metropolis in southern Japan, Kobe is the sixth-largest city in the country and a thriving financial centre. Also one of the busiest ports in the country, many companies are headquartered there, including more than 100 international corporations. It is also the point of origin of Kobe beef, a delicacy around the world.

But venture a bit outside the city and you will find an integral part of Kobe's sporting culture. Drive 40 minutes west and you'll arrive at the Miki Disaster Prevention Park, home to this week's ATP Challenger Tour event. 

On 17 January 1995, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake rocked Japan. Its epicentre was located just 20 km from the Kobe city centre. More than 6,000 people lost their lives on that day and, with the city residing on an active fault line, officials announced the necessity for a disaster prevention mechanism. At the time of the Great Hanshin earthquake, the city was ill-prepared to assist the thousands of people impacted. 

The Miki Disaster Prevention Park was constructed shortly thereafter, serving as a relief centre for rescued people from nearby disaster areas. One of the most sophisticated earthquake research facilities also sits next door and includes the world's largest indoor earthquake simulator. Also a multipurpose sports facility, it features two football stadiums and a running track, in addition to the tennis arena.

Made to give shelter to those in need, the arena was built with massive concrete walls and foundations burrowing deep into the earth below. Walk through its doors and you'll think you've stumbled into an airport terminal or a spaceship from the future. The 'Beans Dome' was constructed by renowned architect Shuhei Endo and is encased in a stainless steel shell mostly covered with grass. 

“Square buildings are too strong,” Endo explained. “Rounded, curved forms are more continuous and blend in better with nature.”

In the event of an earthquake or typhoon, supply trucks can drive directly into the 174,000-square-foot building, thanks to movable glass panels at four locations around the perimeter. The stadium holds nine tennis courts, with four on either side of a sunken centre court. Surrounding the courts are 10-inch-thick layers of reinforced concrete that rise from the floor and serve as the back wall and ceiling. 

It is a sight to behold on the ATP Challenger Tour and one of the lesser-known gems on the circuit. No tickets are sold throughout the tournament, as organizers only request donations for the disaster fund as patrons walk through the door. On Saturday, the locals were well aware of the star power on display, with four Japanese semi-finalists competing for spots in the championship. A combined 4,000 people packed the tennis centre for both matches.

And on Sunday, a home hopeful lifted the trophy for the first time, as Tatsuma Ito defeated Yosuke Watanuki in the final. It was the 30-year-old's sixth title and first since 2012, snapping a streak of 10 straight finals lost. Ito has now won titles in three different Japanese cities, also including Kyoto and Toyota.