TURIN: For the second time this year, Alexander Zverev has denied Novak Djokovic the chance to play for a big trophy.

Following up his win over the top-ranked player in the semi-finals of the Tokyo Olympics, Zverev overcame late nerves to secure a 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-3 victory over the world number one at the same stage of the ATP Finals on Saturday.

“Every time we play against each other, it’s very high level,” Zverev said. “This year we played each other five times. ... Every time we played for multiple hours and it was very physical.”

The result means Djokovic can’t match Roger Federer’s record of six titles at the season-ending event for the top eight players. At least not this year.

Instead, Zverev will play second-ranked Daniil Medvedev in the final.

“He’s the greatest player of all time and I think people forget that sometimes,” Zverev said of Djokovic, who shares the record of 20 Grand Slam titles with Federer and Rafael Nadal.

It was a disappointing end to a remarkable season for Djokovic, who fell one match short of becoming the first man to win a calendar Grand Slam since Rod Laver in 1969 when he lost the US Open final to Medvedev.

World number two Medvedev beat first-time qualifier Casper Ruud 6-4, 6-2 earlier on Saturday as he seeks to defend his title in the first edition of the tournament in Turin after 12 years in London.

VACCINE DEMAND

Djokovic said he has not yet decided whether he would compete at January’s Australian Open after organisers confirmed that all players must be vaccinated against Covid-19 if they want to compete at the season’s opening Grand Slam event.

The nine-time Australian Open champion, has refused to say if he’s vaccinated or if he intends to get vaccinated.

“We’ll see. We’ll have to wait and see,” he told reporters after his semi-final defeat. “I haven’t been talking to them, to be honest. I was just waiting to hear what the news is going to be and now that I know we’ll just have to wait and see.”

If he does go to Australia, Djokovic can attempt to break a tie with Federer and Nadal and win a record 21st Grand Slam singles title.

The tournament is scheduled for Jan. 17-30. Melbourne, where January’s Grand Slam is held, has spent more than 260 days under lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic and the government of the state of Victoria made clear last month there would be no concessions for unvaccinated players.

Published in Dawn, November 22nd, 2021

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