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2019 Nitto ATP Tennis Finals Sets The Stage For Grand London Finale In 2020

By Ricky Dimon

Without fail, the year-end championship brings plenty of intrigue at the end of every tennis season. How could it not? After all, it is the top eight players in the world going head-to-head against each other match after match.

Over the past five years or so, those matches had become largely unwatchable. Straight-set beatdown after straight-set beatdown was often the story, starting in round-robin play and continuing even into semis and finals. Heck, even Andy Murray once got erased 6-0, 6-1 by Roger Federer (2014 round-robin). The championship match did not even take place that year, as Federer withdrew due to a back injury prior to facing Novak Djokovic.

There were, of course, some exceptions. Federer vs. Stan Wawrinka in the 2014 semis was a huge story for various reasons, Murray’s thrilling semifinal win over Milos Raonic in 2016 was one of the most dramatic contests in recent memory factor all tournaments into the equation, and it kept the Scot in contention to finish that year No. 1 in the world (he eventually did, beating Djokovic in the final). Grigor Dimitrov and David Goffin put on a good show in a surprising 2017 title tilt.

But when you can count on one hand the number of thrillers in a span of five-plus years, you a tournament has problems.

There are problems no more.

The 2019 installment of the Nitto ATP Finals delivered the goods from start to finish. In round-robin competition, three contests went to three sets, another saw Dominic Thiem beat Federer 7-5, 7-5, and one other produced an amazing display by Federer to defeat Djokovic and clinch Rafael Nadal the year-end No. 1 ranking for Rafael Nadal. Thiem’s 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(5) victory over the second-ranked Serb two days earlier was arguably the best ATP match (non-Grand Slam) of the entire season. Nadal’s shocking recovery from 1-5, 30-40 down against Daniil Medvedev to triumph 6-7(3), 6-3, 7-6(4) was probably the comeback of the year. Nadal beating Stefanos Tsitsipas–the eventual champion–via a 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-5 scoreline was also one of the most entertaining three-setters of 2019. The week ended in incredible appropriate fashion, too, as a third-set tiebreaker had to decide the title between Tsitsipas and Thiem. It was the 21-year-old Greek who finally triumphed 6-7(6), 6-2, 7-6(4).

“I played this legendary match against Novak,” Thiem reflected upon the conclusion of his tournament. “It’s a very disappointing loss (in the final); very hard to digest. But [at the same time] I had some amazing wins also; they get me in this situation even to play the finals.”

Perhaps we should have seen amazing matches coming. After all, the season was a fun one from start to finish. Djokovic and Nadal, who recovered from various physical problems much faster than usual, split the four slams to cement their statuses alongside Federer in GOAT discussions. Federer came within one point–twice–of taking down Djokovic in a historic Wimbledon final. Thiem and Medvedev took turns finishing runner-up at majors (the French Open and U.S. Open, respectively). Medvedev’s summer run, especially, has people excited for the young generation’s future–and present, for that matter–potential.

“It seems like me, Novak, and Rafa are healthy; healthier than maybe in previous years,” Federer said following his semifinal loss to Tsitsipas inside the O2 Arena. “[The younger players] have proven their point this year by qualifying for the [ATP] Finals…. Dominic, what he showed again at this [ATP] Finals (and also) winning five titles, beating all of us top guys….”

If the year-end championship was a bright spot on the 2019 tennis calendar, the future is even brighter. It bodes well for 2020, when this event takes place in London one final time before moving to Turin, Italy. That grand finale is only 12 months away! Get your popcorn ready!

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

Editors Note: Our guess is Ricky already has it in his calendar. Tickets are already in sale. This is a don’t miss event. And yes Ricky we got you covered (LJ)

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