Sprezzatura and Self-Flagellation in Torino

Before the first ball was even struck at the ATP Tour Finals in Torino, Italy, something was noticeably different. Without Rafael Nadal to back up Novak Djokovic as senior statesman in this year’s field, it was as if the ATP had finally acquiesced to the fact that a new era at the very top of the game was here. This year, the three youngest — Holger Rune, Carlos Alcaraz, and Jannik Sinner — had never qualified and played in the year-end championships. The average age is just over 22 years old.

For this new era, tournament organizers went for an aesthetic that was decidedly younger and hipper. Instead of stern, statuesque player promo portraits of years past, the ATP and its media wing, Tennis TV, opted for playful cartoon superhero portrayals. For the official photo at the Musei Reali-Palazzo Reale di Torino, players were asked to leave at home what amounted to designer funeral attire from years past. Instead, they were to don smart casual wear for media day and the player’s reception in which denim, cashmere, and fashion sneakers have replaced a line-up of black suits, white shirts, and black ties.

In his slim-fit, understated Lacoste outfit in muted tones, Daniil Medvedev was unsurprisingly fashion agnostic. Some knocked Holger Rune for wearing what looked like sensible tourist gear, athletic sneakers and all. But another reading of it was that he came to Torino for no-nonsense business, not pleasure. Carlos Alcaraz and Novak Djokovic turned up on the blue carpet in nearly the same outfit — their big brand letterman’s jacket, jeans, and fashion sneakers. For some, it was an embarrassing choice for the oldest player in the draw to be dressed in the same youthful style as one just out of his teen years. But perhaps it was meant as a marker as to whom the Serb sees as his main rival.

But it was Stefanos Tsitsipas who stole the show by leaning into his messianic vibes. Sporting a $5,000 leather-trimmed, alpaca-blend Loro Piana bouclé poncho, Tsitsipas stood out. Whether you thought his look was a hit or a miss is immaterial. He was confidently himself and effortlessly fashionable. Sprezzatura, as Italians call it.

From day one on Centre Court of the Pala Alpitour, calming shades of blue that cascade outward from the court have belied a hint of irony to the action at the center of it all: moods were big. Players complained about the speed of the court. Djokovic curb-stomped rackets. Rune egged on jeering crowds. Tsitsipas was vilified after retiring against Rune. Carlitos smiled less. Rublev wept (and bled from self-flagellation). Perhaps that’s just the emotions of a tour final at the end of a long season. But for those who were able to evade illness, injury, and fatigue long enough to graduate from the group stage, thrilling semifinals await. Forza!

Allen McDuffee is a journalist and the creator of Court Theory.