Carlos Alcaraz has fallen in his opening game of the ATP Finals to Alexander Zverev in Turin, Italy. The 20-year-old has been on a shaky run of form at the end of the year, with the loss to the German his third straight defeat.
Alcaraz missed last year's tournament through an abdominal injury and despite taking out the first set tie-break he went on to lose the match. Alcaraz has now lost his last three to Grigor Dimitrov in the fourth round of the Shanghai Masters, to Roman Safiullin in his first match at the Paris Masters and now to Zverev in the opening match of the ATP Finals.
Following his loss Alcaraz took exception to the surface, saying it was the fastest he had played on all year and questioned why organisers chose the courts in Turin. "This is the fastest court on the circuit. I don't understand why they've chosen such a fast court at the end of the year, especially after playing a lot of tournaments on very slow hard courts," Alcaraz said.
"We arrive here and find this. I don't understand why they've set the speed so high for this tournament when we have never played on a surface like this all year."
Novak Djokovic all but ended Alcaraz's chances of finishing the year No.1 in the world, defeating Holger Rune, and securing the top spot for a record eighth time. Alcaraz took the honour last year but Djokovic bounced back winning three of the four majors and finishing runner-up to Alcaraz at Wimbledon.
"Finishing the year as No. 1 in the world is a dream of every tennis player," Djokovic said. "It's one of the most difficult things to do in our sport. Winning grand slams and being No. 1 in the world are probably the pinnacles."
Djokovic takes new look team into ATP Finals and beyond
Earlier this month Djokovic confirmed he had split with long-time agent Edoardo Artaldi after winning his 24th grand slam title. The tennis great decided to switch his 'off-court approach', confirming the pair have gone their separate ways during the Paris Masters.
Djokovic and Artaldi worked together since early 2008 and it remains unknown whether Artaldi, a close friend of Djokovic, would stay on his team in a different capacity. "We stay friends but professionally we decided to go different ways. I’m entering a new chapter about the off-court approach," Djokovic said when speaking on the split with Artaldi. "The transition is not easy but I’m moving forward."
The exit of Artaldi is a major one as he has been by Djokovic's side for 15 years, following the Serb taking out his maiden major title, the 2008 Australian Open. Artaldi previously told SBS that he and Djokovic basically lived together as the World No.1 toured the world. “Jelena (his wife) and I try to create the atmosphere he needs, given how much time he spends around the world and away from his family," Artaldi previously said.
Djokovic went through a massive overhaul of his team in 2017 where he changed Artaldi's role from coach to physio and then to agent. However, the pair have now parted ways completely as Djokovic looks to make changes to help him dominate the world tennis stage once again.
- with AAP
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