Welcome to Tennis Elbow, the column that looks back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon reviews the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals.
In the end, Stefanos Tsitsipas stood tall and alone among the eight participants at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals, victorious against all odds—much like we had predicted. (Not.)
The Greek youngster took care of a relatively favourable draw in the ground stage and then overtook a strong Dominic Thiem in the final by the score of 6-7(6), 6-2 and 7-6(4) for the biggest title of his young career.
THE NEW KING OF LONDON ?
— ATP Tour (@atptour) November 17, 2019
And just like that, men’s tennis might have finally caught a lasting glimpse of the near future, one where the immortals finally show the signs of decline and mortality that we never ever thought we’d see of them and one where the next generation takes firm hold of the throne and never lets it go.
All that said, can we draw some conclusions from the past week? What have we learned from the ATP Finals? At least the following four things.
— ATP Tour (@atptour) November 16, 2019
The kids are here.
The 21-year-old Tsitsipas emerged victorious from a wild week at the O2 Arena in London, but really he was just the tip of the iceberg of winners. If you looked at the final four at a tournament where we had expected the likely year-end No. 1 player in Rafael Nadal, the current best player in the world in Novak Djokovic, and Roger Federer, well at that tournament the final four included Tsitsipas, 26-year-old Dominic Thiem, 22-year-old Alexander Zverev and, sure, Federer.
Tsitsipas’s win was his own but also one for every youngster currently knocking at the door. Sure, the youngsters have yet to break through at the Grand Slams but we’ve harped on the importance of an event like these ATP Finals for a while now. Winning this tournament is very much a big deal.
Thiem: ‘I still think that we see a new Grand Slam champion next year. It’s not 100% sure of course because the Big 3 are going to be still the favorites but I think that in 1 or 2 events, younger players will make a breakthrough’
— Ravi Ubha (@raviubha) November 17, 2019
Dominic Thiem is elite.
Tsitsipas might have won the final battle, but the Austrian stole the show in London and won the war, from his flawless takedown of the great Federer followed by his match-of-the-year-candidate victory over Djokovic on his way to controlling the group stage. Unfortunately, in what’s become a bit of a recurring theme for him as can attest his performances in taking down Nadal on clay in Rome in 2017 and at Madrid in 2018, Thiem couldn’t quite close the deal when it mattered most in the final—but he undeniably impressed.
Roger Federer is a sore winner and loser.
Throughout his career, the great Federer has been hailed as one of the sport’s greatest ambassadors, a great competitor and even better person for always, always, always playing the game the right way, for showing deference when deference was needed and spirit and fire where they were called for.
And yet? And yet, Federer showed the entire world his ass not once, but twice this past week in London. He started by rubbing it all in Djokovic’s face that he had lost the year-end No. 1 ranking with his victory head-to-head in the round robin stage by, like, making a parallel to the title he captured in Wimbledon? What?
Federer: “I knew there was a lot on the line for Novak today. If he wouldn’t have won Wimbledon, maybe he wouldn’t have even gotten to that, to be quite honest.”
— Ricky Dimon (@Dimonator) November 14, 2019
But perhaps worst of all, Federer dismissed Tsitsipas’s performance and mental toughness in defeating him in the quarterfinals by making a silly comment about his… tactics, or something?
Federer on Tsitsipas saving break points: “Spinning a second serve into the body and getting an error…I’m not sure that’s mental toughness.”
— Ricky Dimon (@Dimonator) November 16, 2019
Federer, classy in defeat and in victory. You hate to see it.
Rafael Nadal wins for losing.
Only one man left London having secured another piece of history with a fifth career year-end No. 1 ranking: it’s Nadal, who managed the feat despite being eliminated in the round robin stage because it was just about impossible for him not to leave London with the top spot on the rankings.
It’s not fair, and it doesn’t have to be.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG