Alexander Zverev dominates to claim ATP Finals trophy

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TURIN, Italy – If Alexander Zverev’s performance is any indication, a lot can be expected from the third-ranked German in 2022.

Zverev beat the top two players in consecutive matches to earn his second title at the ATP Finals.

After eliminating No. 1 Novak Djokovic over three sets in the semifinals, Zverev put on a dominant performance in Sunday’s final, beating No. 2 Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 6-4.

Medvedev, the U.S. Open champion, won this event last year and had beaten Zverev five consecutive times.

“There’s no better way to end the season than winning here,” Zverev said. “I’m also now very much looking forward to next year already.”

The title culminates quite a year for Zverev, who also won the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics and who has now finished 2021 with more wins on tour – 59, one more than Medvedev – than anyone else.

The main thing missing in Zverev’s trophy collection is a Grand Slam title, having lost an epic final to Dominic Thiem in last year’s U.S. Open final, when Zverev served for the title in the deciding fifth set.

“He is a great player that is capable of beating anybody. He definitely can win a Grand Slam because it’s just obvious,” Medvedev said. “But he’s not the only one. That’s where it gets tough. … You need to win seven matches to be a Grand Slam champion. Is he capable? Yes. Is he going to do it? We never know.”

The final was a rematch of a round-robin encounter on Tuesday, when Medvedev beat Zverev in a third-set tiebreaker.

This one went Zverev’s way from the start, as the 6-foot-6 (1.98-meter) player crushed a huge backhand to the corner then gained from a net-cord winner to break Medvedev’s serve in the third game of the match.

Helped by fast conditions inside the Pala Alpitour, Zverev was virtually untouchable on his serve, winning 20 of 25 points with his serve in the first set.

Zverev broke again in the opening game of the second set then grew so confident that he began executing audacious swinging-volley winners as he followed his serve to the net on occasion.

Zverev closed it out with an ace out wide on his first match point – on a second serve.

This marked the first edition of the season-ending event for the top eight players in Turin – after 12 years in London, where Zverev won his first finals title in 2018.

“Obviously London was an incredible event but I think … Italy has topped it,” Zverev said.

“What makes it so special here in Italy is the fans, because the fans are absolutely insane,” Zverev added. “It’s the loudest crowd, it’s the most energetic crowd.”

Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut won the doubles title by beating Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury 6-4, 7-6 (0).

French players get life bans for fixing

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LONDON — Two low-ranked French players were banned from the sport for life after being found guilty of match-fixing by a hearing officer.

Jules Okala, a 25-year-old with a career-best ATP ranking of No. 338, and Mick Lescure, a 29-year-old with a top ranking of No. 487, “admitted multiple charges,” the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced.

Neither player is allowed to compete at – or even attend – any sanctioned event again.

Okala was found guilty of seven match-fixing charges and fined $15,000 in addition to the permanent suspension. Lescure was found guilty of eight charges and fined $40,000 on top of the ban.

The punishments come after both players were involved in law enforcement investigations in France and Belgium, according to the sport’s integrity agency.

Ash Barty wins Australia’s top sports award for second time

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Ash Barty’s Australian Open singles title in January was enough to ensure the former top-ranked player won Australia’s most prestigious annual sports award — despite retiring from the game less than two months later.

Barty has been given The Don Award, named after its most accomplished and famous cricketer Don Bradman.

Barty shocked the tennis world in March when she announced her retirement at the age of 25. The three-time major winner was the No. 1-ranked female player at the time of her retirement decision.

The Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s Don Award is given to an athlete or a team “which has provided the most inspiration to the country through performance and example in the past year.”

Barty (2019, 2022) joins Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sally Pearson (2012, 2014) and Olympic champion pole vaulter Steve Hooker (2008, 2009) as a multiple winner of the award.

Barty said she had decided before the Australian Open started that it would be her last major tournament.

“This year was certainly my most enjoyable Australian Open . . . because it felt free,” Barty said in a television interview. “I played without consequence, I played like a little kid. In my eyes, there was no pressure. It was just about me trying to redeem myself, in a way, and playing how I’d always wanted to play – go out there and play like the kid that fell in love with sport.”

Barty said she has no plans to return to tennis.

“In my mind there was never going to be a perfect ending, but it was my perfect ending,” Barty said of her retirement. “It was never about finishing on a win or on a really high emotional feeling. It was just about collectively, I felt it was right.

“Now (that decision) has led to nine months of just an incredible life off the court. It’s been amazing.”

Barty married her long-time partner Garry Kissick in late July. She also golfs frequently and is reported to be playing off a handicap of low single figures.