Novak Djokovic "feels amazing" after surpassing Pete Sampras for the year-end number one record on the ATP Tour.

Djokovic was presented with the trophy for finishing the year ranked number one for the seventh time after defeating Casper Ruud 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 in his ATP Finals opener on Monday, breaking a tie with idol Sampras.

A 20-time grand slam champion – a joint record held alongside Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, Djokovic revelled in his latest achievement.

"It feels amazing and it feels even better when you win a match and then get your hands on the trophy that I have been blessed to lift seven times," Djokovic said in Turin.

"[I have won] one more than Pete Sampras, who was my childhood hero. He was the one that got me into tennis. He was also an inspiration to me and I dreamt of being a Wimbledon champion and World No. 1 like he was.

"Fast forwarding to today, it is quite amazing to be in this position. I am very grateful. It is something I am very much appreciating and not taking for granted."

World number one Djokovic is looking for his sixth ATP Finals title, though his last success came in 2016.

Djokovic produced a confident performance in his opening match against Ruud, dropping just four points behind his first serve and rallying from a break down in a tight opening set.

The top seed – who tied Ivan Lendl for second-most wins (39) in the history of the ATP Finals – will also face Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev in the Green Group.

"It was a really terrible start, but also funny because I’m still trying to figure out what happened," Djokovic said. "Casper started strong. He was serving well. The altitude, fast court, fast balls – it favours big servers. I knew he had a solid serve, but maybe not as good as Medvedev or Zverev. 

"He did positively surprise me with this serve, particularly in the first set. I just managed to read it better in the second set. But it was a close one."

Djokovic, meanwhile, expressed his shock amid the unknown whereabouts of WTA player Peng Shuai.

The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) has opened an investigation into Peng's sexual assault allegations against a former China leader.

Shuai, 35, posted on Chinese social media site Weibo allegations against Zhang Gaoli – the ex-vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee – claiming he had forced her to have sexual relations with him.

In the post, published on Tuesday before subsequently being deleted, the 2013 Wimbledon doubles champion alleged that the pair had extramarital relations and she had developed feelings for him.

All of Peng's content has since been removed from Weibo and numerous reports suggest she has not been seen in recent days.

"I did hear about it a week ago. Honestly, it's shocking that she's missing, more so that it's someone that I have seen on the tour in the previous years quite a few times," said Djokovic.

"It's not much more to say than hope that she will be found, that she's okay. It's terrible … I can imagine just how her family feels that she's missing."

Andrey Rublev returned to form by downing Stefanos Tsitsipas in their first match of the ATP Finals in Turin on Monday. 

Rublev had only won two of his past seven contests before arriving at the season-ending tournament at the Pala Alpitour but saw off fourth seed Tsitsipas 6-4 6-4. 

The fifth seed from Russia gained sweet revenge, having lost to his Greek opponent in this event in London last year. 

Rublev did not face a break point as he levelled his head-to-head record with Tsitsipas at 4-4 with a statement win. 

The Moscow native won 90 per cent of points behind his first serve and broke Tsitsipas once in each set, sealing victory in an hour and a half. 

Rublev joined world number one Novak Djokovic at the top of the Green Group on a night to forget for Tsitsipas. 

 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS 

Rublev – 31/7
Tsitsipas – 31/17

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 

Rublev – 9/3
Tsitsipas– 12/2

BREAK POINTS WON 

Rublev – 2/7
Tsitsipas – 0/0

Paula Badosa's winning start at the WTA Finals came to an end as she prepared for her semi-final with a straight-sets defeat to Iga Swiatek in a group-stage dead rubber.

Badosa, playing on her 24th birthday, was already assured of a last-four meeting with fellow Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, while two defeats had seen Swiatek eliminated.

A low-stakes encounter allowed both women to play with a little freedom, although Swiatek was a deserving 7-5 6-4 winner.

The pair traded early breaks in the opener, with Badosa immediately ceding her initial lead and finding herself on the back foot for the remainder of the set.

The semi-finalist survived a set point on her serve at 5-4 but had no answer when Swiatek went on the offensive again two games later, stepping forward with a stunning backhand to create her opportunity before retreating to the back of the court to put her forehand to good use and leave Badosa rooted once more.

Badosa again broke first in the second and this time looked to have control when she fought off seven break points to this time consolidate her lead in a gripping 12-minute game.

But Swiatek would not relent, breaking at the first attempt next time with powerful hitting from the centre of the court. Then a wayward Badosa backhand teed up match point for the 20-year-old, whose smart return completed the job.

 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS 

Swiatek– 16/20
Badosa – 18/33

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 

Swiatek – 0/3
Badosa– 5/5

BREAK POINTS WON 

Swiatek – 4/13
Badosa – 2/2

Novak Djokovic made a confident start to his ATP Finals with a straight-sets victory over Casper Ruud in Turin.

The world number one is looking for his sixth ATP Finals title, though his last success came in 2016, and he overcame his Norwegian opponent 7-6 (7-4) 6-2 on Monday.

Ruud showed glimpses of the form that saw him become the first Norwegian to qualify for the season-ending tournament, but despite coming close to edging the first set, he never looked like upsetting the Serbian, who recently clinched the year-end number one ranking for a record seventh time.

It started well enough for the 22-year-old, breaking Djokovic in the first game and going 2-0 up before the crowd had settled.

His opponent soon recovered to break back, showing some of his trademark steel to come out on top in the longer rallies. Ruud was able to take the first set to a tie-break, but Djokovic secured it with a beautiful forehand-winner down the line.

Ruud pulled off some impressive winners himself on occasion, with some nice drop shots in particular, but he was rarely able to keep up with the number one seed's pace and power.

Djokovic won 20 of 21 first-serve points in the opening set, and his overall performance stepped up another notch in the second as he returned the favour to Ruud by breaking him in the first game.

The result was never in doubt from there, with Djokovic dominating on his serve again, only failing to get his first serve in once in the second set.

Ruud did not manage another break point after the opening game of the match and was forced to see his opponent comfortably serve out to open his tournament with a victory.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS 

Djokovic – 23/13
Ruud – 23/20

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 

Djokovic – 10/0
Ruud – 9/4

BREAK POINTS WON 

Djokovic – 3/5
Ruud – 1/1

Karolina Pliskova stayed in the hunt for a place in the last four of the WTA Finals with a 0-6 6-4 6-4 victory over Barbora Krejcikova, though her hopes hinged on Anett Kontaveit defeating Garbine Muguruza later in the day.

World number three Krejcikova did not have a win to her name in Mexico, losing to Kontaveit and Muguruza, but raced into the ascendancy on Sunday as she claimed the first set in just 26 minutes of an all-Czech tussle.

Pliskova, who had won both prior singles meetings between the pair, responded brightly in the second set before Krejcikova broke her fellow Czech's serve to take a 3-2 lead and seemingly edge closer to victory.

However, world number four Pliskova fought back by breaking in consecutive Krejcikova service games to level the match. The contest then teetered in the balance in the decisive set but, despite producing a double fault in the penultimate game, Pliskova downed Krejcikova to maintain hopes of an appearance in the final four in Guadalajara.

Wimbledon runner-up Pliskova won earlier in this tournament against Muguruza, who was set to face Kontaveit later on Sunday.

The 29-year-old Pliskova was sure to be paying close attention to that match. She needed Kontaveit, already through to the last four, to beat Muguruza and that would be enough to confirm the Czech's place in Group Teotihuacan's top two.

However, a win for Muguruza would see the Spanish sixth seed go through alongside Kontaveit, with Pliskova eliminated.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS 

Pliskova – 10/30
Krejcikova – 21/21

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 

Pliskova – 11/12
Krejcikova – 4/8

BREAK POINTS WON 

Pliskova – 3/8
Krejcikova – 4/11

There was agony for Matteo Berrettini as he was forced to retire in his first match of the ATP Finals against Alexander Zverev on home soil.

Italian Berrettini appeared to suffer an abdominal injury when trailing 1-0 in the second set after Zverev won the first 7-6 (9-7) in their opening Red Group match in Turin on Sunday.

Sixth seed Berrettini dropped his racket and put his head in his hands as he grimaced after crashing a forehand into the net and underwent lengthy treatment to his left side.

The world number seven attempted to continue, but was clearly in pain as he served and duly brought the contest to an end at the Pala Alpitour.

Berrettini cut an emotional figure and was embraced by Zverev before being given a great ovation as he trudged off the court, with his opponent standing to applaud.

Zverev had saved two set points in the opening set and came from 5-3 down in the breaker to edge in front before the match came to a premature end.

 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS 

Zverev – 21/9
Berrettini– 16/23

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 

Zverev – 10/1
Berrettini – 5/0

BREAK POINTS WON 

Zverev – 0/5
Berrettini – 0/2

The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) has opened an investigation into Peng Shuai's sexual assault allegations against a former China leader.

Shuai, 35, posted on Chinese social media site Weibo allegations against Zhang Gaoli – the ex-vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee – claiming he had forced her to have sexual relations with him.

In the post, published on Tuesday before subsequently being deleted, the 2013 Wimbledon doubles champion alleged that the pair had extramarital relations and she had developed feelings for him.

All of Peng's content has since been removed from Weibo and numerous reports suggest she has not been seen in recent days.

The WTA's chairman Steve Simon addressed the matter on Sunday in a statement that said: "The recent events in China concerning a WTA player, Peng Shuai, are of deep concern. As an organisation dedicated to women, we remain committed to the principles we were founded on – equality, opportunity and respect.

"Peng Shuai, and all women, deserve to be heard, not censored. Her accusation about the conduct of a former Chinese leader involving a sexual assault must be treated with the utmost seriousness.

"In all societies, the behaviour she alleges that took place needs to be investigated, not condoned or ignored. We commend Peng Shuai for her remarkable courage and strength in coming forward.

"Women around the world are finding their voices so injustices can be corrected.

"We expect this issue to be handled properly, meaning the allegations must be investigated fully, fairly, transparently and without censorship.

"Our absolute and unwavering priority is the health and safety of our players. We are speaking out so justice can be done."

Daniil Medvedev got his ATP Finals title defence started in impressive fashion as he came from behind to defeat Hubert Hurkacz.

In the first match of the singles draw in Turin, Medvedev overcame a difficult start to ultimately cruise to a 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4 win over the Wimbledon semi-finalist.

Hurkacz showed flashes of his quality, but made 17 unforced errors to Medvedev's eight as the second seed did not offer up a single break point.

Medvedev, who did not win a match in his debut at the tournament in 2019, tops the Red Group, which also includes Alexander Zverev and Matteo Berrettini.

Hurkacz's aggressive net play saw him make the breakthrough in the first set tie-break, with neither player having offered up a single break point during the opener.

The Pole did lose three successive points to go from 6-2 up to 6-5 before eventually taking the set at the fourth time of asking.

Yet Medvedev controlled things in set two, breaking early to nose himself ahead, with Hurkacz losing the composure he had shown in the opening exchanges.

Medvedev took the set at the third opportunity, and Hurkacz's frustration followed into the decider as the Russian breezed into a 2-0 lead.

Hurkacz offered a reminder of his class with a deft volley that left Medvedev with too much to do, yet the world number nine slipped up with a similar shot in the next game to give his opponent the edge.

Despite battling back from 0-30 down to hold serve and keep himself in the match, Hurkacz did not have an answer for Medvedev's power, as the world number two served out a relatively routine win.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS 

Medvedev – 31/8
Hurkacz – 31/17

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 

Medvedev – 15/1
Hurkacz – 12/0

BREAK POINTS WON 

Medvedev – 2/4
Hurkacz – 0/0

Roger Federer is unlikely to compete at next year's Australian Open, but the 20-time grand slam champion is not yet thinking of retirement, so says coach Ivan Ljubicic.

Federer has endured an injury-hit two seasons. After reaching the semi-finals at the 2020 Australian Open, the Swiss star underwent knee surgery, with a complication in his recovery leading him to take the rest of the year off.

That prolonged rehabilitation, plus the strict COVID-19 regulations in Australia, meant he did not compete in Melbourne earlier this year, but Federer returned to the ATP Tour in Qatar in March.

He went on to reach the last 16 of the French Open, losing to Matteo Berrettini, and the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, where he went out to Hubert Hurkacz.

However, he has not featured since then after undergoing surgery for another knee problem sustained on the grass-court circuit.

With Australia's tight coronavirus restrictions still in place, it is unclear whether Novak Djokovic, who has tied level with Federer and Rafael Nadal on 20 major wins, will compete in Melbourne early in 2022.

Nadal, too, has not yet confirmed his participation, and with Ljubicic suggesting Federer will not be fit in time, all three greats could be missing from next year's first grand slam.

"I think there are very few chances, he is still recovering and knowing him he wants to be sure he can play to win the tournament and be at 100 per cent," Ljubicic said.

"So I think Australian Open is not a real possibility right now. But he will go step by step because he is 40 years old and he needs to be patient. He cannot recover as quickly as he used to."

 

Despite doubts over his participation in Australia, and the time he has spent away from the court in the past two years, Federer is not considering retirement just yet.

"We have spoken and I can guarantee he wants to return playing tennis," Ljubicic added. "When he will decide to stop, he will retire, but I don't think it's going to happen all of a sudden."

Ljubicic is only two years Federer's senior and, as a player, reached a high of world number three back in 2006. He has coached Federer since 2016, helping him to three grand slam titles.

"Many times I found myself wondering what am I doing here? But in the end I hope and I think I was able to help him in those few moments he needed in the right way at the right time," Ljubicic said.

"There's always a risk when you meet your idol in person, as you may discover something you don't like, but with him, it is not the case. With him, there are no risks, he really is an extraordinary person. 

"I have been lucky enough to live beside him in the past six years and I enjoyed it very much. I really have fun with him. Is it difficult? No, it's just beautiful. When we discuss tennis, I ask myself: why he is paying me?"

Top seed Aryna Sabalenka bounced back from a disappointing defeat in her opening match at the WTA Finals to rally past Iga Swiatek in Guadalajara. 

Sabalenka steadied herself after dropping the opening set and prevailed 2-6 6-2 7-5 Saturday to keep alive her hopes of reaching the semi-finals in her maiden appearance at the event. 

Swiatek, the youngest player in the field at age 20, broke Sabalenka in her final two service games of the first set but could not maintain the momentum as the Belarusian returned the favour in the second. 

Sabalenka entered Saturday with a 9-13 record in three-set matches compared to 35-4 in two-setters but maintained her nerve after the pair traded breaks early in the decider. 

The world number two broke Swiatek to take a 6-5 lead, then served the final game out at love for the victory. 

With Sabalenka's win, Paula Badosa advances to the semi-finals as winner of the group, while the winner of Monday's match between Sabalenka and Maria Sakkari also will advance. Swiatek is out of contention for the semis. 

History is not necessarily on Sabalenka's side, as the top seed has failed to advance from the group stage at three of the past five WTA Finals. 

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS 

Sabalenka – 16/27
Swiatek – 15/18

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 

Sabalenka – 8/16
Swiatek – 2/3

BREAK POINTS WON 

Sabalenka – 4/7
Swiatek – 3/7

Paula Badosa made it two wins from two at the WTA Finals as she saw off a battling Maria Sakkari in straight sets.

In-form Badosa triumphed 7-6 (7-4) 6-4 in two hours and four minutes to win her eighth straight match, having come into the tournament on the back of her triumph at Indian Wells.

Permutations for the last round of group-stage matches in Guadalajara will become clearer after Aryna Sabalenka has taken on Iga Swiatek later on Saturday.

But after beating Sabalenka and Sakkari without dropping a set, Badosa looks all but certain to reach the semi-finals on her debut appearance at the event.

In the first meeting between the two players, Badosa led 5-2 only to be forced into an opening-set tie-break by Sakkari, who then undid her hard work by losing the first four points of the breaker, with the Spaniard ultimately sealing the first set courtesy of a fine forehand.

Badosa struck first again with a break early in the second set and although Sakkari was able to level matters at 4-4, her opponent broke decisively immediately after before serving it out, converting her third match point with a backhand winner.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS 

Sakkari – 25/49
Badosa – 23/22

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 

Sakkari – 1/4
Badosa – 10/6

BREAK POINTS WON 

Sakkari – 2/5
Badosa – 3/12

Carlos Alcaraz rounded off a superb 2021 by claiming the ATP Next Gen Finals title with a straight-sets victory over Sebastian Korda.

Alcaraz produced a performance in keeping with a breakthrough year for the Spaniard, prevailing 4-3 (7-5) 4-2 4-2 in Milan.

It marked Alcaraz's 32nd tour-level win of a year that also saw him reach the quarter-finals of the US Open.

The 18-year-old is the youngest player to claim 32 wins in a year since 1992, when Andrei Medvedev achieved the feat at 18.

Alcaraz faced five break points in his first two service games but had to stave off just one more the rest of the way.

He did fall 0-30 behind when serving for the match, yet Korda could not deny Alcaraz his second Tour title of the year.

"It is amazing," Alcaraz said in his on-court interview. "To be able to win this tournament means a lot to me.

"I am so excited right now and emotional. I was very, very nervous at the start.

"I had to be calm to save the break points. I know Korda is serving very well, so I had to play my best in those moments.

"It went 0-30 on my serve. So I had to be focused in that moment and I had to stay calm. It was really, really tough."

Carlos Alcaraz produced a dominant performance to seal a straight-sets semi-final victory against Sebastian Baez 4-2 4-1 4-2 at the Next Gen ATP Finals, and will now face Sebastian Korda in the final on Saturday.

The Spaniard, who is both the top seed and the youngest participant in the tournament, followed up his three wins in the round-robin stage in Milan by sweeping past his Argentine opponent in just 62 minutes on Friday.

Baez had become the first South American in the tournament's history to reach the semi-finals, but struggled to live with Alcaraz's power and footwork at the Allianz Cloud.

The 18-year-old will play Korda in the final after the American came through a five-set showdown in his semi-final with compatriot Brandon Nakashima.

Korda had to come from two sets to one down but eventually sealed his victory 4-3 (7-3) 2-4 1-4 4-2 4-2 in an hour and 54 minutes.

The 21-year-old admitted he had to change his approach to overcome the excellent form his opponent had shown in the first three sets.

After his win, Korda said on court: "Brandon was playing some unbelievable tennis, but I stayed with him and had some chances in the fourth and fifth sets, and took them and ran.

"I got more aggressive. I tried coming into the net more and placing my serves more, and that opened up the court for me."

Anett Kontaveit stormed into the last four of the WTA Finals by securing a hugely impressive 6-4 6-0 victory over Karolina Pliskova on Friday. 

Estonian eighth seed Kontaveit overcame Barbora Krejcikova in her opening match and became the first player to reach the semi-finals in Guadalajara by racking up a career-best 12th straight win in just 57 minutes. 

Pliskova was victorious in each of the pair's previous three meetings and applied some early pressure but was unable to convert any of the three break points she engineered in game three of the opening set. 

Kontaveit, meanwhile, pounced on her first opening, showing the clinical touch that has seen her pick up recent titles in Moscow and Cluj-Napoca with a winner to take the set. 

The world number eight reeled off the next six games to guarantee a top-two finish in Group Teotihuacan and secure a tour-leading 38th hard-court match win this year. 

Pliskova could yet salvage a place in the semi-finals by overcoming Barbora Krejcikova in her final round-robin match, though.

WINNERS/UNFORCED ERRORS 

Kontaveit – 20/16 
Pliskova – 9/18 

ACES/DOUBLE FAULTS 

Kontaveit – 6/3 
Pliskova – 4/2 

BREAK POINTS WON 

Kontaveit – 4/6 
Pliskova – 0/3 

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