Without dominating outrageously, Novak Djokovic proved to be more effective than Stefanos Tsitsipas to launch his quest for a sixth Masters title on Monday in Turin where Andrey Rublev won a terrible showdown against his Russian compatriot Daniil Medvedev.
“Every player says it: every game is a final in this tournament, and to be honest, there is no obvious favorite. You have to be very good from the start. And I was that tonight,” commented the Serb.
In addition to complicating the task of the Greek, 3rd in the world, who will now have to beat Rublev and Medvedev to reach the semi-finals, this defeat deprives Tsitsipas of any chance of becoming world N.1 at the end of the tournament.
“I think in my heart of hearts to be able to reach this ranking one day. But I’m not in such a rush. Obviously it would have been better if it had happened this week”, he commented after his loss 6 -4, 7-6 (7/4).
To take the place of Carlos Alcaraz, absent in Turin due to an abdominal injury, the Greek had to win the title, his second after 2019, without losing a single match.
Only Rafael Nadal (2nd) can now dethrone his compatriot and current N.1 this year, he still has to reach the final. But he started his tournament badly on Sunday by conceding a defeat to Taylor Fritz.
“The problem is that I started with this bad first game, that I missed my entry into the game and that I caught up very late”, analyzed Tsitsipas.
– Seize opportunities –
Sure enough, unlike him, Djokovic entered the game immediately and seized opportunities when they presented themselves.
He thus managed the break from the first game of the game and then quietly maintained his advantage.
In the second round, the Serbian world No.8 offered his opponent his only break point of the game by committing two double faults in a row, but Tsitsipas (3rd) failed to seize his chance and the two men have come to the tie break.
And there again, Djokovic took the right shot at the right time: a magnificent backhand passing shot to create a mini gap (3/1). Momentarily stunned, his Greek opponent fell behind 5/1 and never caught up, bowing to a service winner from Djokovic.
With this victory in two sets, the man with 21 Grand Slam titles takes the lead of the Green group ahead of Rublev (7th) who beat Medvedev (5th) in three sets.
Powerful and in control of his nerves, Rublev took more than two and a half hours to beat the 2020 winner and runner-up last year 6-7 (7/9), 6-3, 7-6 (9/7) on his fifth match point.
– Improbable scenario –
For his third participation at 25, Rublev could have given up after losing the first set despite seven set points. Especially since Medvedev was able to achieve his first.
“In general, when it happens like that, I don’t win the match,” he readily admitted.
“Being able to turn the game around and win, what’s more, 9/7 in the tie break of the last set when I was leading 6/3 (with three match points in a row, editor’s note), that doesn’t bother me. had never happened,” he savored.
“I have already beaten many top players (…) but never at the end of such a scenario”, he insisted.
Faced with the full confidence achieved by Rublev, Medvedev could only regret not “having been able to play better tennis”, explaining that he entered the court “not being very sure” of himself.
Nonetheless, he feels he showed ‘the right attitude’ throughout the game.
And if his serve has sometimes betrayed him a little, despite 24 aces, the winner of the US Open 2021, who is missing a big title this year, wants to be confident for the rest of the tournament.
“I’m pretty happy with my game in general and I’m looking forward to the next two to try to win them and get out of the group,” he said.