ATP Finals preview: Auger-Aliassime hopes to impress at year-end event

It’s the last event on the ATP calendar and it features the best in the world.

The year-end ATP Finals are set to begin in Turin, as the top eight players descend on the beautiful Italian landscape and quickly adapt to the conditions and prepare for the showdowns ahead.

Felix Auger-Aliassime successfully qualified for the peloton, becoming the first Canadian to reach the event since Milos Raonic in 2016.

Veteran superstars Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are both returning to the field after stellar seasons, while new world number one and recent US Open winner Carlos Alcaraz has been forced to retire with a torn abdominal .

The event kicks off with two groups of four competing in a round robin format, before the top two finishers from each side advance to the semi-finals.

Let’s preview the action ahead of us:

green group

Rafael Nadal, Casper Ruud, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Taylor Fritz

Rafael Nadal, a 22-time Grand Slam champion and world number two, is the main title for the green group, despite limping, almost literally, towards the end of his 2022 campaign.

The first half of the season was fantastic for the Spaniard as he opened a 20-match winning streak and claimed a second Australian Open crown.

Despite problematic foot injuries during the clay-court season, he still won a record 14e French Open title too.

Since then an abdominal injury forced him to pull out of Wimbledon ahead of the semi-finals, he suffered a surprise round of 16 exit against Frances Tiafoe at the US Open and lost his only indoor match on hard court fall against Tommy Paul at the Paris Masters.

Despite Nadal’s incredible and record-breaking achievements in sports, he was never able to win the ATP Finals.

He finished runner-up twice – in 2010 and 2013 – but struggled at times to adapt to the conditions on the pitch (Nadal has only two of his 92 career titles on indoor surfaces).

Nadal has a path to finish number one at the end of the year, if he wins the title in Turin, or reaches the final and gets some help.

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Meanwhile, Norway’s Casper Ruud has again qualified for the event after a career year.

Previously labeled as a clay-court specialist, Ruud has proven his versatility again in 2022.

He finished second at Roland Garros and the US Open, and won three ATP titles during a formidable campaign.

Ruud’s ground coverage and footwork are among the best in the game, and he has a powerful, heavy forehand that he can unleash when needed.

In Canada, all eyes will be on Montreal’s Félix Auger-Aliassime, who will close his best season on tour in Turin.

Auger-Aliassime produced one of the finest streaks in Canadian tennis history in October.

The 22-year-old has won three consecutive ATP singles titles, with victories at the Florence Open, Antwerp Open and Swiss Indoors Basel.

He also held a 16-game winning streak before finally falling in the semi-finals of the Paris Masters.

Such a streak is the best in Canadian tennis since Bianca Andreescu won 17 consecutive matches in 2019.

Auger-Aliassime is now excited to challenge and fight against the best in the world.

« It’s excitement, but it’s also motivation, » said the Canadian.

“We have a good mix of legends with Rafa and Novak and then everyone else is 26 and under. It is also different.

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With Carlos Alcaraz on the mend, American Taylor Fritz takes last place in Turin and is a worthy contender for the peloton.

Fritz won the Indian Wells title earlier this season, recently won the Japan Open and reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals, the best Grand Slam result of his career.

Fritz and Nadal open the Sunday night session in Turin (start time 3 p.m. ET).

Red group

Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Novak Djokovic, Andrey Rublev

Novak Djokovic, a 21-time Major winner, is the class of the red group and perhaps the favorite of the whole event, and the Serb is certainly motivated to add one more trophy before the end of the season.

Djokovic is one of the most accomplished players in tennis history, and despite an abbreviated season in which he missed two of the four majors, he still managed to win Wimbledon for the seventh time in his career. and earned enough ranking points on his own merit to qualify for Turin.

Djokovic is a five-time ATP Finals champion, winning title trophies in 2008 and 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015.

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While Djokovic mainly plays elite tennis wherever he goes, he still thrives on indoor surfaces, where he has won 16 titles.

He should be brimming with confidence heading into Turin.

After missing the US Open due to his vaccination status, Djokovic quickly embarked on a tennis slump, winning back-to-back titles in Tel Aviv and Astana, Kazakhstan.

Last week he reached the final of the Paris Masters before finally being stopped by rising Danish star Holger Rune in an epic three-setter.

He may technically be ranked eighth in the ATP rankings, but for all intents and purposes Novak looks like a world number one.

Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas once again returns to the ATP Finals, which is the site of the best title of his career.

Tsitsipas won the year-end championship in 2019, his first appearance at the event.

Since then, he has been in the top 10 on the ATP Tour.

He has nine career ATP singles titles, a second-place finish at the 2021 French Open and two Masters 1000 trophies in Monte Carlo.

Tsitsipas has had a somewhat disappointing 2022 for his high standards, but is coming off two second-place finishes in Stockholm and Astana.

Russian Daniil Medvedev no longer holds the world ranking he briefly grabbed in early spring, despite being more than capable of playing at this level of tennis.

Medvedev has appeared in the ATP Finals championship game for two consecutive seasons, winning it in 2021.

The tall, thin talent reached the final of the Australian Open to start the season, before undergoing surgery for a hernia and missing a block of the clay-court season, sitting out at Wimbledon due to his nationality ( the Russians and the Belarusians were excluded from the tournament), and suffered a loss of form for part of the season on hard ground.

Medvedev bounced back three weeks ago, winning his second title of the season at the Vienna Open, beating Canadian Denis Shapovalov in the final.

Medvedev’s speed and length on the court are sublime. If he serves well, he is a candidate to make a deep run in Turin.

Fellow countryman Andrey Rublev feels like the odd man in a packed group and is yet to make it past the round robin stage of the tour finals.

However, the clean-hit baseliner has one of the deadliest forehands in the game and can certainly train with the best players in the world when dialed in.

Rublev is a combined 6-11 in 17 games against the other three players.

The red group opens play on Monday as Rublev meets Daniil Medvedev to start, and Novak Djokovic takes on Stefanos Tsitsipas.

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