Tennis: Djokovic through to semis of ATP Finals after beating Rublev

Novak Djokovic returning a shot to Andrey Rublev during their ATP Finals round-robin match on Nov 16, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

TURIN – Novak Djokovic booked his place in the last four of the ATP Finals with a crushing 6-4, 6-1 defeat of Russian Andrey Rublev at the season-ending showcase in Turin on Wednesday.

After the first nine games went with serve, the Serb switched on the afterburners to outclass his opponent.

Rublev, 25, who like Djokovic had won his opening match in the Red Group, capitulated when serving to stay in the opener, losing the set as the 35-year-old thumped a backhand return winner.

The second set was a non-event as five-time champion Djokovic roared to victory in a little more than an hour.

“I played very, very well. One of the best matches of the year, without a doubt,” he said.

“He is a tough opponent. A great competitor. He possesses a lot of strengths in his game. I managed to find the right attitude and the right game.

“He went down in his energy a little in the second (set) and I wanted to use the momentum and energy from my side in the first few games and it was a flawless second set.”

Djokovic will also be glad that Australia has cleared the way for him to seek his 22nd Grand Slam title at the upcoming Australian Open, lifting a three-year ban from the country that was imposed in January when he was deported over his failure to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Officials confirmed on Tuesday that the cancellation of his visa – a decision made by Australia’s previous government, on the eve of the last event – had been revoked by Immigration Minister Andrew Giles. Djokovic also confirmed after his win over Rublev that he has received a new visa to travel to Melbourne.

The decision reflects how much has changed since Australia in July dropped its requirement that visitors be vaccinated.

Over the past few weeks, Djokovic and the organisers have signalled that they hoped the episode could be put behind them, but tournament officials also said they would not lobby the government to make an exception for Djokovic.

On Monday night in Turin, after winning his ATP Finals opening match against Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Serb told reporters that he and his team were still hoping for a green light for him to be able to compete.

Winning a 22nd Grand Slam title in Australia would tie Djokovic with Rafael Nadal, who won the 2022 crown, for the most singles wins in men’s tennis.

At Wimbledon, Djokovic won his seventh singles title, his 21st overall, putting him one ahead of Roger Federer. REUTERS, AFP, NYTIMES

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