ATP

Sinner and Schwartzman set for Antwerp showdown, Karatsev to face Cilic in Kremlin Cup final

By Sports Desk October 23, 2021

The top two seeds will do battle in the European Open final following commanding victories for Jannik Sinner and Diego Schwartzman on Saturday.

Sinner, the number one seed, moved into his fifth final of the season with a 6-2 6-2 defeat of Lloyd Harris in Antwerp.

The 20-year-old Italian, who is in the hunt for a maiden ATP Finals spot, dominated Harris from the baseline and saved all three break points he faced.

There were only 16 unforced errors from the racket of the composed Sinner, who will be bidding to win his fourth title of the season on Sunday.

Sinner said: "I am very happy to be in the final. I just love playing here and love playing indoors, so hopefully I can play a great match again tomorrow."

Schwartzman ended 20-year-old American Jenson Brooksby's impressive run with a 6-4 6-0 victory.

The Argentinian struck 15 winners and secured five breaks as he marched into the championship match.

Russian second seed Aslan Karatsev will come up against Marin Cilic in his first final on home soil after knocking compatriot Karen Khachanov out of the Kremlin Cup.

Karatsev beat Khachanov 7-6 (9-7) 6-1, while sixth seed Cilic – a two-time winner of the tournament in Moscow – got the better of Ricardas Berankis 6-3 6-4.

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    The so-called 'Big Three' of tennis have long dominated the ATP Tour, with all three sitting on 20 major titles after Djokovic collected three from a possible four in 2021.

    Djokovic, who secured a year-end number one ranking for a record seventh time, would have completed a clean sweep if it were not for Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final.  

    Nadal, by contrast, missed large parts of the season with a foot injury, while Federer was similarly ruled out for a substantial period after requiring a third knee operation in the space of 18 months.

    Nadal could make a return for the Australian Open in January, an event that the world number one may miss due to a vaccine mandate, but he still expects Djokovic to hold the record for major titles when the trio has retired.

    "Djokovic is best positioned to be the [men's] player with the most grand slams," Nadal said to Movistar.

    "You don't have to fool yourself – Federer is where he is and I am where I am. However, Djokovic is playing well and in a good moment.

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    Nadal triumphed at Roland Garros in 2020 but has only appeared at two majors since, while Federer – who hopes to return to tour-level action in 2022 – last collected a grand slam title at the Australian Open in 2018.

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    Peng made sexual assault allegations in early November against Zhang Ghaoli, the ex-vice-premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee, and has not been seen in public since.

    She posted the allegations on Chinese social media site Weibo, though her post has since been removed and her whereabouts have been unclear.

    The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has held two video calls with Peng, including one on Thursday, but the WTA chairman Steve Simon said neither the first call nor an email allegedly received from the tennis player alleviated concerns.

    The WTA, who run the women's tennis tour, suspended its upcoming tournaments in China on Wednesday amid continuing concerns over Peng's safety and Djokovic agrees with the organisation's stance.

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    In a statement issued on Thursday, the Olympic body repeated a previous message that it was taking a "quiet diplomacy" route and speaking to Chinese sport bodies about what it described as "the difficult situation she is in".

    Peng made allegations in November of sexual assault against Zhang Gaoli, the ex-vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee. The two-time doubles grand slam winner posted the allegations on social media site Weibo, though her post has since been removed and her whereabouts since have been unclear.

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    International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach was pictured in conversation by video link with Peng last month, and now the IOC says there was further contact on Wednesday with the 35-year-old former French Open and Wimbledon doubles winner.

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    "There are different ways to achieve her well-being and safety. We have taken a very human and person-centred approach to her situation. Since she is a three-time Olympian, the IOC is addressing these concerns directly with Chinese sports organisations.

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    "The IOC's efforts led to a half-hour videoconference with Peng Shuai on 21 November, during which she explained her situation and appeared to be safe and well, given the difficult situation she is in. This was reconfirmed in yesterday's call. Our human and person-centred approach means that we continue to be concerned about her personal situation and will continue to support her."

    Beijing, China's capital, is due to host the Winter Olympics in February. There could be a heightened focus on Peng should the situation not be satisfactorily resolved by then.

    There has been no suggestion of the Games being in any doubt due to the global concern over Peng, but the women's tennis tour will not be visiting China for the foreseeable future, barring a change in circumstances.

    WTA chairman Simon said on Wednesday: "In good conscience, I don't see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault."

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