ATP Finals 2022: a balanced edition (or maybe not …)

The Pala Alpitour in Turin

Nadal, Ruud, Auger-Aliassime and Fritz in the green group. Tsitsipas, Medvedev, Rublev and Djokovic in the red one. These are the “magnificent eight” of the ATP Finals 2022, starting today at the Pala Alpitour in Turin, the second edition of the end-of-season Master in Italy. Last year an excellent edition was staged, historic in many ways, especially for our tennis which managed to bring on the field two blues, the unfortunate Matteo Berrettini and the substitute Jannik Sinner, good at giving a show against Hurkacz and Medvedev. This year there will be only the playing field, too many obstacles and difficulties for our players in the season. And let’s be honest too: it’s great to get used to winning and excelling, we all hope that 2023 will be the “good” year to finally raise a men’s Grand Slam after more than 40 years from Panatta ’76 in Paris, but having lived the exploits of 2 Italians in the Finals was a splendid exception, not the rule. We hope it can become.

Returning to the edition that is about to shoot with Ruud vs. Auger-Aliassime in the afternoon session, what tournament will it be? The various protagonists are very cautious. Nobody is unbalanced, also due to the fact that many of the protagonists at the start arrive in this season finale so-so, or at least with some doubts about their condition. “Everyone can win, never like this year” says Medvedev. He is right? Yes, because no one starts beaten, and when you get in the top eight it means that you have absolutely done something important this season. However, by analyzing how the various protagonists present themselves at the start in Turin, we can trace a plausible hypothesis of what we will see, waiting for the confirmation (or denial) of the field, and the feeling is that of balance, in reality , there will be much less than what the protagonists say.

Auger-Aliassime is the number 3 of the green group, but he is absolutely the most “launched” and in the form of the four protagonists. His incredible streak of victories this fall wrote a small page of history, swept that aura of loser in the finals out of his “bio” and hoisted him with full credit among the best in the world. Improved in the serve, more continuous and incisive in return, Felix has become a tough and complete player, with a game not so brilliant but terribly linear and effective. Few weak points, a lot of substance and intensity. A-la-Nadalthe mantra that Uncle Toni managed to instill in the Canadian 2000 class. It is perhaps risky to say that he will dominate the group, but he is certainly in better shape than Ruud and Nadal. Against the Norwegian he is clearly the favorite; against Rafa it will be assessed how his clean tennis will impact the rounded and complex balls of the very strong rival. He could pay the price of the debut, but he seems mature and ready to win even in such a tournament.

Ruud has dropped dramatically after months and months of great performances. A hammer. Classic that arrived in November with dead batteries after so much substance. He has shown several times that he is competitive against the big boys, but I struggle to see him winning in the tournament, and also in the group. It is possible that a success will be played against Fritz, the other rookie in the green group tournament. Fritz has nothing to lose, a great serve but also precise character limits who have made it collapse several times on great occasions. We wish him to pull out his claws and surprise, but it is plausible that the only possible match to win in the group will be played with Ruud.

Nadal… it’s Nadal. Very champion, immortal, even in putting his hands forward. It is true that he has never won this tournament, for various reasons. It is true that he obviously does not get there in shape, but Fr.Before giving it up for dead, it is always good to think about it a thousand times. Indoors, the others have a better chance of beating him, his curls hurt less. His physique is no longer that of the good times, but his head will accompany him until the last ball of his career. It is possible that he will arrive first or second in the group, and in the semifinals his destiny will be seen. If he finds Medvedev or Djokovic, then his tournament could end there.

In the red group there is a trio in full swing and a “crock pot”. Rublev is obviously the weak link, he will hardly win a match. In the year that is ending is among the seasonal disappointments, not so much for the results but for the distinct difficulty of evolving and completing his game. By now everyone has understood how to unhinge his pressing, too monochord and mono dimensional to be truly winning. It seems difficult to see him beat Medvedev, Tsitsipas or even a Djokovic who is as silent as he is very strong. Yeah, Djokovic.

Novak returned in the fall and won immediately. Convincing. He came one step away from finishing his return to the tour undefeated, reassembled by an indomitable Rune in Paris. Very good Holger, a real hammer in amazing psychophysical conditions, but it doesn’t happen every day that “Nole” gives the side to the comeback. The feeling is that Djokovic, barring physical problems, is the strongest in the competition and the favorite of the tournament. It would not be a surprise at all to see him in the final against Medvedev, so much so that the challenge between the two in the group could be decisive to understand who will close him from # 1 and who from # 2. Tsitsipas permitting.

Indoor Greek plays well, it could be the factor that messes up the odds. If he takes a great day in the serve, he can defend the left side and close many flying points after a substantial attack with the forehand, Stef could beat both Novak and Daniil, or at least one of them and therefore be fully in the race for the semifinal. Daniil indoor is very strong, but this year he has suffered several times from mental and physical declines that have cost him dearly. How can we forget the Australian Open final, “Gently” questioned and therefore lost thanks to an indomitable Nadal but also with a lot, a lot of complicity from the Russian, lost in the maze of his complex psyche and tending to self-destruction. If Daniil finds rhythm on the serve, he could bring down the curtain on the group, and on the tournament.

The red group is undoubtedly the toughest and most competitive. The passage from n.1 or n.2 could be decisive, due to the usual complicated intersections of this event. The combinations on the table are many, and complex. Tsitsipas vs. Djokovic and Djokovic vs. Medvedev will be the key games. Unless the “Djoker” drops the ace, he plays his max and everyone agrees. Good Finals to all.

Marco Mazzoni

ATP Finals 2022: a balanced edition (or maybe not …)