After three Grand Slam victories, Novak Djokovic started the ATP Finals in 2023 as the undisputed number one, the tournament he has already won six times. There are plenty of challengers, but do they have the qualities to beat him?
Carlos Alcaraz (Spain, 20 years)
Score Djokovic-Alcaraz: 2-2
It felt like the final takeover: the victory in the Wimbledon final of twenty-year-old Carlos Alcaraz against Novak Djokovic, sixteen years his senior. On Center Court in London, where Djokovic had not lost a match in ten years, the Spanish super talent gave shape to his motto: if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.
But in the past year, Alcaraz, who is making his debut at the ATP Finals, discovered that it takes more to be the best. The two-time Grand Slam winner transformed from a talented tennis player without injuries into a new star whose body had to get used to the demanding sport of tennis. Alcaraz won six titles in the first half of the season, but was also regularly sidelined. He had a thigh injury and a hand injury, was overcome by a cramp and withdrew from the Basel indoor tournament last month injured.
“I feel better every day and will play the masters in Paris and the ATP Finals in Turin,” he reported two weeks ago on X. At the prestigious masters tournament in Paris, the current number two in the world was eliminated in the eighth finals. It fit the pattern of the second half of his season: Alcaraz took part in six tournaments after his title at Wimbledon, but was unable to win any. “I am keen to end the year on a good note.”
Daniil Medvedev (Russia, 27 years old)
Score Djokovic – Medvedev: 10-5
Daniil Medvedev said he had the best season of his career, although the 27-year-old Russian did not manage to win a Grand Slam title. At the US Open he won against Alcaraz in the semi-finals, but was no match for Djokovic in the final.
“The problem with Djokovic is that he is always better than the last time you played against him,” said Medvedev, who won his only Grand Slam title at the expense of the Serbian in 2021 in New York. “If he loses, he knows how to adapt for next time. It is the reason he has won so many Grand Slam titles.”
The current number three in the world won five titles this season. He won, among others, the highly populated masters tournaments in Miami and Rome. The hard court specialist experienced a first in the Italian capital: he won his first title on clay.
The question is whether Medvedev, who won the ATP Finals in 2020, has now been surpassed by the promising young twenty-somethings Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner and Holger Rune. The fact is that Medvedev is the only player of his generation who is still competing at the top and managed to win a Grand Slam title. Stefanos Tsitsipas (Greece), Andrei Rublev (Russia) and Alexander Zverev (Germany), who are also participating in Turin, have not yet succeeded.
Holger Rune (Denmark, 20 years) Score Djokovic – Rune: 3-2
A rough diamond that needs to be cut. This is how tennis legend Boris Becker described the equally talented and controversial Holger Rune when he announced last month that he would coach the twenty-year-old Dane. “I have always followed him with great interest, because he is on the court with commitment and temperament,” said Becker.
The six-time Grand Slam winner not only wants to help Rune, but also wants to polish his own reputation after spending eight months in prison last year. The 55-year-old German, who was Djokovic’s coach for three years and won six Grand Slam titles with him, was convicted of hiding his assets during his bankruptcy.
With Becker at his side, Rune got up. The extrovert and youthful number ten in the world reached the quarter-finals at Wimbledon, but then won only one of his next eight matches. “It is never easy to break a negative spiral, but Boris helped me,” said Rune, who is participating in the ATP Finals for the first time.
At the masters tournament in Paris last week, he showed again why he is seen as one of the growth brilliants. After an exciting battle in the quarter-finals, he narrowly lost in three sets to Djokovic, who won his seventh title at the indoor tournament. On Sunday in Turin, the Dane only cracked after more than three hours (7-6, 6-7 and 6-3).
Jannik Sinner (Italy, 22 years)
Score Djokovic – Sinner: 3-0
Jannik Sinner, together with his contemporaries Alcaraz and Rune, is considered the new star of tennis. But where Alcaraz catapulted himself to Grand Slam winner and number one in the world in a short time, the 22-year-old Italian’s path is more gradual.
Sinner can end this year in the top five of the ATP rankings for the first time. At the start of the prestigious end-of-year tournament he was in fourth place, thanks to a strong autumn season. On his way to his titles at the ATP tournaments in Beijing and Vienna, the slender hard hitter defeated both Alcaraz and Medvedev.
They weren’t the only signs of his development. Sinner won four tournaments, including his first masters tournament. This season he also won against players from the global top ten more often than he lost to them (8-5). A significant improvement compared to previous years, when he was often unable to compete with the best tennis players (9-21).
Sinner also experienced a first at Wimbledon: he reached the semi-finals of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time. In London he lost to Djokovic. Sinner and Djokovic faced each other three times, but the young Italian was still unable to beat the best tennis player of all time. Tuesday evening maybe?