The Nitto ATP Finals take over Torino
On November 21st, Turin brought the curtain down on the 2021 Italian edition of the Nitto ATP Finals. The year-end climax to the ATP Tour season featured the world’s top eight qualified singles players and double teams.
The eight-day tournament saw Alexander Zverev emerge as the singles champion and Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert as the best doubles team.
The journey to Torino
The ATP, the men’s professional tennis circuit, starts its season in Australia, moving on to Europe, the Americas and Asia.
Throughout the year players battle to gather titles and points, climbing the ranking and securing their place in the Finals.
The prestigious event started in 1970 with the Masters in Tokyo, celebrating legends such as Nastase, Borg and McEnroe.
Over the years the tournament was renamed four times, juggling through a variety of different playing surfaces and going through format changes. In the end, all roads led to the ATP Finals, the much-contested hard-court indoor meeting.
London hosted the event for the longest amount of time, from 2009 to 2020. In April 2019 the city of Turin made the cut, becoming the new venue for the 2021-2025 tournaments.
The singles players of the 2021 tournament
The Nitto ATP Finals is a round-robin tournament consisting of two groups of four players playing against each one of the others in their group. The two players with the best record in each group then progress on to the semifinals. The 2021 edition saw some surprising developments starting with the first announcement of the top eight players.
With Nadal forced to rest because of a foot injury, the unexpected new entry was Casper Ruud (the World Number Eight), making history as the first Norwegian player to ever earn a spot in the event.
The final list saw the Green group: Djokovic, Tsitsipas, Rublev and Ruud and the Red group: Medvedev, Zverev, Berrettini and Hurkacz.
Substitutions in midstream
The world’s annual tennis circuit is long and arduous, draining energy away from the players along the way.
Even if the event had started off smoothly, it soon faced the first withdrawal. Matteo Berrettini (World Number Seven) had to abandon the competition.
After a tight first-set lost at the tie-break against Zverev, the Italian player started to feel abdominal pain. Following a medical time-out and attempts to continue, the match ended with a 6-7(7) 0-1 result.
Shedding tears, Berrettini saw the opportunity to keep playing on home soil vanish right in front of him. He confirmed the withdrawal the day after.
[…] I am devastated and I never thought I would have to give up the most important tennis event ever held in Italy like this.
The same thing happened just one day later to the Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas. An elbow injury caused the heartbroken player to confirm his retirement from the tournament.
Both players were respectively replaced by the first two substitutes, the Italian Jannik Sinner and British Cameron Norrie.
Sinner debuted with a straight 6-2 6-2 win over Polish player Hurkacz, captivating the Italian fans and confirming himself as one of the most promising young hopefuls of world tennis.
Norrie, after a successful 6-1 opening set, had to surrender to Rudd, losing the following two sets 3-6 4-6.
After a week full of emotion, the first semi-final took place on the Saturday between World Number Two Daniil Medvedev and Casper Rudd.
The odds and his position seemed to favor the Russian player, the ATP Finals defending champion. Arriving as winner of the Red group, Medvedev secured the final in a straight 6-4 6-2.
Rudd lost the match but gained the admiration of the circuit, having reached a semi-final on his first event appearance.
The tensely-awaited second semi-final saw Novak Djokovic once again clashing with Alexander Zverev. Respectively, World Numbers One and Two had already faced each other in the closing stages of the Tokyo Olympics and the U.S Open.
Djokovic was arriving from a successful season that had almost brought the Serbian player his first Calendar Grand Slam (he was beaten by Medvedev in the U.S Open final). Zverev was coming in as the Tokyo Olympic champion.
The match lasted two-and-a-half hours, and in the end, Djokovic’s strength and solid ability to handle long rallies were not enough to beat the 24-year-old German.
Zverev took advantage of every opportunity and with a first-serve percentage of 74 percent closed the games with a result of 7-6(7) 4-6 6-3.
The closing match
The final was the week’s second encounter between the Russian and German player. On the previous Tuesday, as one of the matches of the Red group, Medvedev beat Zverev.
Coming from an effortless two-set victory in the semi-finals, Medvedev was still the favorite. On the contrary, Zverev was resting from a tough match which had asked the best of his tennis skills to eliminate the World Number One.
But just as tennis has shown over the years, sudden twists are commonplace.
Zverev didn’t seem tired at all, he showed his best tennis, putting in every single first serve. With sets of powerful forehands and strategic angles, the World Number Three put on an impeccable performance leaving no opportunity to Medvedev.
The Nitto ATP Finals celebrated with a 6-4 6-4 win the victory of Alexander Zverev.
Turin embraced the event from the very first moment the players arrived. The tournament was promoted throughout the city with a campaign of announcements and signboarding, a fixed fan village in Piazza San Carlo and the Nuvola Lavazza as the venue for meeting and tournament events.
Tennis fans had the opportunity to feel the passion and newcomers got the chance to appreciate a new sport.
Hosting the event until 2025, fans are already waiting for the upcoming 2022 season and its master.