Tennis: Djokovic aiming to end 2021 with a bang
Novak Djokovic fell one win short of completing a calendar Grand Slam in 2021, but claiming victory in the ATP World Tour Finals would go some way to nullifying the pain.
The Serb faces Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals in Turin on Saturday evening and will be hoping he gets a shot of exacting revenge on his US Open conqueror Daniil Medvedev in Sunday's title decider.
Djokovic and Medvedev could continue their burgeoning rivalry in the final of the year-ending celebration, providing the Serb sees off Zverev and the Russian takes care of Casper Ruud, and for one of them it will be the perfect way to close out a successful campaign.
World number one Djokovic is 20/21 to claim further silverware in Italy, while second seed Medvedev is an 8/5 chance. Zverev is 9/2 and Ruud is 22/1 to spring a surprise.
So close yet so far for Djokovic
World number one Djokovic went agonisingly close in his bid to become the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win all four majors in the same year.
The super Serb readily clinched his ninth Australian Open crown in February and followed up four months later in the French Open, where he came from two sets to defeat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.
In the semi-finals, Djokovic had dethroned King of Clay Rafael Nadal, who was chasing an unprecedented 14th title in Paris.
In thwarting Tsitsipas, Djokovic became the first male player in the Open Era to win all four Grand Slam titles twice and carried that form with him into Wimbledon.
The 34-year-old overcame improving Italian Matteo Berrettini in a four-set final to lift his sixth title at the All England Club and move level on 20 Grand Slam titles with old foes Nadal and Roger Federer.
The world number one headed to September's US Open with high hopes of breaking those records but was brushed aside 6-4 6-4 6-4 by Medvedev, suggesting the exploits of a busy season were beginning to take their toll.
But in the style of a true champion, Djokovic bounced back and after a six-week break returned with victory in the Paris Masters, where he downed fierce rival Medvedev in the final.
With Nadal likely to put all his focus on regaining the French Open crown, Djokovic is 9/4 to follow up this season's somewhat surprise triumph.
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Medvedev makes his mark
It was a case of third time lucky for rising Russian star Medvedev who, after defeats in the finals of the 2019 US Open and the 2021 Australian Open, eventually got the Grand Slam title his consistent performances have merited.
There are surely going to be many more top tier successes to come for the 25-year-old, whose season also featured title triumphs in Canada, Mallorca and Marseille.
With Nadal and Federer both spending much of the year on the treatment table and in the twilight of their careers, Medvedev carries the hopes of the next generation and there could be even bigger things to come in 2022.
Now a 13-time winner on the ATP Tour, Medvedev is Djokovic's chief threat in many of the showpiece events and he is 3/1 to win the US Open again next year.
The Russian hotshot, who is very much a hard court specialist, is available at 6/4 kickstart the season with Australian Open glory.
Zverev strikes gold
Zverev faces a tough task in the ATP World Tour Finals against a fired-up Djokovic but, whatever the outcome of that semi-final showdown, it has been another productive campaign for the German.
The 24-year-old moved up to third in the world rankings after claiming five titles - four of those successes came on a hard court - which includes his Olympic gold-medal triumph in Tokyo in July.
A Grand Slam title still evades the big-serving German but he made the semi-finals in Paris and the States, as well as the quarter-final in Australia, so is edging ever nearer to breaking down that barrier.
Hard courts appear the most likely destination for Zverev to strike Major glory next season and he is 3/1 for the Australian Open and 9/1 at the US.
Tsitsipas lively candidate in Paris
With clay court specialist Dominic Thiem enduring an injury-hit campaign, Tsitsipas was many people's idea of the man most likely to serve it up to Nadal at this season's French Open.
The Greek star went agonisingly close to backing those feelings up as he threw away a two-set lead in the final against Nadal's conqueror Djokovic.
However, that was a first Grand Slam title decider for the 23-year-old and 2022 could be a year when the Athens ace makes his breakthrough at the top table.
Tsitsipas won two titles this year in Lyon and Monte Carlo - both successes came on clay - and if the ageing Nadal falters again then he could be the player to capitalise. The Greek star is 9/2 for French Open glory.
While clay looks a perfect fit for Tsitsipas, a grass surface looks like a match made in heaven for Italian star Berrettini.
The Rome native was forced to withdraw from the ATP Tour Finals through injury but showed plenty of promise over the summer, culminating in a run to the final at Wimbledon.
Berrettini was no match for Djokovic but he did claim the opening set and if the Serb fails to fire next season, he is an obvious candidate to capitalise.
The 25-year-old was a winner at Queen's Club and he also claimed silverware on Stuttgart's turf last year. He is 8/1 to go one better at Wimbledon in 2022.