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By Richard Pagliaro | Thursday, November 16, 2023


Novak Djokovic defeated Hubert Hurkacz at the ATP Finals and needs Jannik Sinner to beat Holger Rune tonight to advance to the semifinals.

Photo credit: Getty

Urgency carried Novak Djokovic to victory today.

Now, the world No. 1 will play the waiting game—with his ATP Finals fate in Jannik Sinner’s hands.

Kyrgios: Sinner Can Win Maiden Slam in 2024

The top-seeded Djokovic defeated alternate Hubert Hurkacz 7-6(1), 4-6, 6-1, in his final round-robin match in Turin.

Djokovic extended his perfect head-to-head history over Hurkacz to 7-0, but home hero Sinner was the immediate winner here continuing his record run.

By virtue of Hurkacz taking a set today, Sinner made history as the first Italian to advance to the single semifinals in the 54-year tenure of the ATP Finals.

The 22-year-old Sinner not only defeated Djokovic for the first time in Tuesday night’s 7-5 6-7(5) 7-6(2) thriller, he now holds the Serbian’s semifinal fate in his hands.

If Sinner loses to Holger Rune in his final round-robin match tonight, then the Dane will win the Green Group and join the Italian in the semifinals eliminating Djokovic from the final four.

If Sinner beats Rune for the first time in three meetings tonight, then six-time champion Djokovic will advance to his 12th semifinal in 16 ATP Final appearances.

While you’d think that might make the world No. 1 the world’s biggest Sinner fan tonight, Djokovic said he's more interested in embracing his kids than hanging with the Carota Boys after his two hour, five-minute win.

“I will not be his fan," Djokovic said of Sinner. "If he wins, I'll qualify. If he doesn't, I'll still finish the season with a win and look to Davis Cup. That's all I feel now. 

"I was focused to win the match, so I did. The outcome of tonight's match is not in my hands, so... That's it. I'm really not thinking about it. I'm just thinking about hugging my kids at the moment."

Of course, the Tour incentivizes players with $390,000 prize money and 200 ranking points for each round-robin victory. Furthermore, Sinner should be pumped to try to beat Rune for the first time in three meetings—and if he does it he will sustain a dual dream.

Sinner is not only bidding to become the first Italian man to raise the season-ending title trophy, if he goes undefeated capturing the ATP Finals he will cash a champion’s check of $4,801,500—the most lucrative payday of the year for any man.

That said, if you’re Sinner or his coaches—Simone Vagnozzi and Darren Cahill—surely you’d have to feel the path to the title is clearer if eight-time year-end world No. 1 Djokovic is out of the picture. Yes, Sinner showed courage and conviction—and enjoyed massive crowd support—out-dueling Djokovic in a three-hour, nine-minute epic, but do you really want to potentially have to beat the six-time champion twice to take the title?

These are all the calculations Team Sinner will make before he squares off vs. Rune tonight.

Tennis Express

Djokovic withstood 24 aces from Hurkacz by pounding the Pole’s second serve. Djokovic won 25 of 37 points played on the ATP ace leader’s second delivery and broke twice in the final set to prevail in two hours, nine minutes, improving to 53-6 on the season.

“I think he really handed me the third set,” Djokovic said. “He missed a lot of first serves and I got myself in a position to get into the rally I think in the rally I had the better chance. But a very sluggish second-set break that I lost. But anyway a win is a win so I did my job.”

Stepping in as an alternate for Stefanos Tsitsipas, who withdrew from the tournament due to a back injury, Hurkacz hammered a flurry of aces working through a deuce hold to open.

Facing one of the sport’s sharpest returners, Hurkacz used the fast blue hard court to his advantage, slashing successive aces—his fifth and sixth of the match—for 2-1.

Tested to deuce in the fourth game, Djokovic showed strength in his left side sliding a backhand pass crosscourt eliciting a thumbs-up from his opponent. Djokovic held firm for 2-all.

Torching serves in excess of 130 mph, Hurkacz was playing bold first-strike tennis pumping 10 aces through his first five service games in building a 5-4 lead.

The top seed slammed a love hold to force the tiebreaker.

Djokovic, who dropped a third-set tiebreaker to Jannik Sinner losing to the home hero for the first time on Tuesday night, made a fast start in today’s tiebreaker.

Earning the mini break to open, Djokovic struck with precision stretching the lead to 3-0. The Hurkacz forehand is the weaker wing and forehand frailty showed as he shoveled a forehand into net then trampolined a forehand off the tape as Djokovic extended to 5-0.

A red-hot Djokovic ran off 10 consecutive points earning a fistful fo set points at 6-0. Hurkacz briefly stalled the free fall planting a volley right back at the Serbian and offering an apology. Djokovic was too tuned in to really notice.

The six-time champion finished with a flourish seizing a one-set lead after 55 minutes. Persistently picking on the Pole’s forehand wing, Djokovic won 11 of 13 second-serve points in the opening set. Djokovic improved to 32-9 in 2023 breakers.

Looping a perfect rainbow lob that barely cleared the outstretched racquet of the 6’5” Pole helped Djokovic hold for a 2-1 second-set lead.

Two games later, Turin fans were chanting “Hubi! Hubi!” as Hurkacz detonated a diagonal forehand for triple break point. Djokovic’s first serve was initially ruled an ace, Hurkacz successfully challenged, and after that delay the Serbian spit up his first double fault of the day. Out of nowhere, Djokovic gift-wrapped the first break at love and a 3-2 second-set lead to Hurkacz.

The ninth-seeded Hurkacz stormed through 13 consecutive points going up 4-2.

Resetting, Djokovic gained double break point in the eighth game. Hurkacz launched successive rocket aces—including a 142 mph missile—erupting for three aces to end the uprising and hold for 5-3.

Serving for the set, Hurkacz did not flinch.

The alternate won all 15 first-serve points in the second set—as well as eight of nine trips to net—forcing a decider after 96 minutes.

Hurkacz not only pushed the world No. 1 to a third set, he ensured world No. 4 Jannik Sinner’s semifinal spot.

Dialing in his return game, Djokovic drove a backhand return that handcuffed Hurkacz rattling out his first break of the match for a 3-1 lead in the decider. Curling a crosscourt forehand winner, Djokovic confirmed the break, stretching his lead to 4-1.

Djokovic coaxed another forehand error securing his second break and never looked back, raising his hard-court record to 35-2 in 2023.


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