The clock is ticking. In just one month, the world of tennis will be back in the streets of Melbourne, anxiously awaiting the draws of the Australian Open. Right now — the period between the US Open and the Australian Open — is the time when men’s tennis players prepare for the end of the hard court season, marked by the Australian Open.
The 2022 Nitto Association of Tennis Players (ATP) Finals, which took place from Nov. 13 to Nov. 20 in Turin, Italy, was the end-of-the-year major hard court tournament for the ATP season, with both singles and doubles draws.
This year’s singles tournament featured next-generation players like 23-year-old Norwegian Casper Ruud and 25-year-old Russian Andrey Rublev, and of course, featured two tennis greats: 22-time Grand Slam title winner Rafael Nadal of Spain and 21-time grand slam title winner Novak Djokovic of Serbia. And who came out on top this time?
Well, you probably aren’t surprised, considering he’s floated as one of the greatest tennis players of all time: Novak Djokovic, who was the seventh seed. This is his record-breaking sixth ATP Nitto Finals Title in his long, unbelievable career, tying with Roger Federer of Switzerland, another all-time great who recently retired from professional tennis.
On Sunday, Nov. 28, Djokovic battled it out with Ruud clinching the victory in straight sets, 7–5, 6–3. Djokovic demonstrated yet again why he is considered by the tennis community to be one of the greatest returners of all time, taking control of every single break point over the course of the match.
Ruud was on his usual high-performance game, no doubt, but the mental match toughness of the great Djokovic remained unparalleled and unbreakable. Djokovic left Italy a staggering $4.7 million wealthier (in prize money) that day. But you know what makes the victory even sweeter? That he closed the match out with an ace.
The road to the final for both Djokovic and Ruud wasn’t easy — they themselves, like any high-performing, rock-solid professional athlete would probably say it never is. Djokovic first had to get through Greek player and second seed Stephanos Tsitsipas and sixth seed Rublev, then secured the victory in three sets with someone who many consider one of his greatest rivals at the moment, Russian and world number five Daniil Medvedev. If that wasn’t enough already, he avoided a third set with young American star Taylor Fritz, putting him in the final.
Ruud, on the other hand, had an equally challenging path to the final, having to defeat his formidable opponent and rival Rublev in the semifinal. Keep in mind though, that Djokovic and Ruud may have played the same opponents, given the way the group stage round-robin process of the Nitto ATP Finals.
Djokovic’s post-match interview revealed that given how well Ruud has been playing his previous matches, he expected a tough, uphill battle and thought that the match was essentially decided by just a couple of crucial serves and returns here and there, especially on the breakpoints.
His goal throughout the match was to keep the aggressive baseliner mentality going for as long as he could to try to best Ruud. Ruud, the first Scandinavian player in a while to make it to the finals of the tournament, is poised to maintain his spot at number three in the international ATP rankings.
Both Djokovic and Ruud are very excited about next year’s season, with both players’ eyes on the prize at the Australian Open. This year, the Australian government will allow Djokovic to participate in the 2023 Australian Open, unlike in the 2022 Championships when he was deported from the country due to lack of vaccination,
On the doubles side, American Rajeev Ram and British Joe Salisbury took the finals win against Croatian duo Mate Pavić and Nikola Mektić, with a final score of 7–6, 6–4. This wasn’t the first time the pairs had met in a professional match, however.
Going into the match, the pressure was on, as both pairs had an impeccable 4–0 win-loss record. Ram and Salisbury certainly have doubles chemistry, and they’ve been on quite a roll this year, winning the US Open Doubles Championship, as well as the ATP Masters 1000s in both Cincinnati and Monte Carlo. They too look ahead to the Australian Open, hoping to keep the momentum going.
The world of tennis now waits anxiously for the Australian Open, wondering if any player is capable of stopping Djokovic’s quest for grand slam number 22.