May 27, 2024

Top-ranked Novak Djokovic will bid for a record-breaking seventh ATP Finals title when he takes on home favorite Jannik Sinner in Sunday’s final after both won their semifinal matches.

Djokovic, 36, took less than 90 minutes to beat Carlos Alcaraz 6-3, 6-2 in a match between the top two players in the rankings Saturday night, after Sinner had earlier dispatched Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-1.

Djokovic is currently tied with Roger Federer with six titles at the season-ending tournament for the year’s top eight players, while Sinner is the first Italian player to reach the final.

Earlier this week, Sinner, 22, recorded his first-ever victory over Djokovic, who will also have to contend again with a passionate, partisan crowd — including the orange-clad “Carota Boys” — that showed Sinner plenty of support Saturday. With many fans chanting his name between points, Sinner raised his arms to the joyous crowd after serving the match out to love against 2020 champion Medvedev.

“It is a privilege to have this kind of pressure,” Sinner said. “The crowd has given me so much energy.

“It was a very difficult match. He started better than me, then I somehow managed to get the break and then I felt a bit better.”

Sinner has won all four of his matches at the ATP Finals, including that mesmerizing victory over Djokovic.

“He’s been playing fantastic tennis, arguably the best tennis of his life,” Djokovic said. “We played a very close match the other night. The atmosphere was unbelievable, electric really. I don’t expect anything less than that, probably even louder than what we had in the group-stage matchup.

“It’s the final. I’ve been in this situation before many times. I’m really happy with the way I’m feeling, the way I’m playing, so hopefully I can deliver my A game tomorrow.”

Alcaraz and Djokovic had played each other four times previously and won two each. Djokovic won their most recent encounter in the final in Cincinnati in August, while Alcaraz claimed the Wimbledon final with a five-set victory.

The latest battle between the two never hit those levels of drama, as Djokovic clinically took his chances after recovering from having to stave off two break points in the opening game.

“I approached the match with the right attitude, the right mentality, and I knew from the very first point it was going to be greatly intense,” Djokovic said. “He had break points right away, 15-40 in the first game.

“That’s Carlos. He always brings out his best in these kinds of matches and starts with a lot of high quality tennis and intensity. You’ve got to match that, try to weather the storm, and I did that.”

Djokovic nosed in front in the eighth game as Alcaraz — playing in his first ATP Finals — saved one break point but then hit a backhand into the net to leave Djokovic serving for the set. He duly did so to love, seeing it out with an ace.

Djokovic had won his past 15 matches after taking the opening set, and the writing appeared on the wall for Alcaraz when his opponent went a set and a break up early in the second set.

Alcaraz had the chance to level the set in the sixth game, but Djokovic saved two break points, the second with a sumptuous crosscourt forehand that had the crowd roaring its approval. Djokovic lapped it up, raising his arms out before cupping his hand to his ear, nodding his head and pumping his fist.

Djokovic broke in the next game and then duly served for the match. He will attempt to improve on his 6-2 record in ATP Finals title matches.

Sinner is already up to No. 4 in the rankings — the highest an Italian man has risen since Adriano Panatta nearly a half-century ago. His win over the third-ranked Medvedev also saw him become the Italian with the most victories over top-five players (10), breaking Panatta’s record.

Medvedev had won all six of his matches against Sinner before last month, but the Italian player had ended that streak with victories in the finals at Beijing and Vienna.

Sinner took the solitary break in the first set — after fending off an earlier break point — but Medvedev appeared to get stronger as the match drew on.

Medvedev stormed through the second-set tiebreaker and leveled the match on the second of three set points when Sinner hit a forehand long.

There was a lengthy delay before the deciding set as Medvedev had off-court treatment, but Sinner managed to keep his focus during the pause and broke his opponent’s serve in the second game following a rare double-fault from the Russian player.

The nerves appeared to be setting in for Medvedev, and moments later, he lost a scintillating rally and hurled his racket at the boards before remonstrating with the crowd as the boos rang out.

Medvedev managed to avoid a complete meltdown, but Sinner dominated the decider and broke again in the sixth game before serving out the win.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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