For most of this season, Carlos Alcaraz has been the only player to have faced Novak Djokovic to an equal extent in the biggest tournaments around the world. But while the pair have combined to create several great classics and Alcaraz has enjoyed an incredible year in his own right, in the end Djokovic is still alone.
On Saturday evening in Turin, the world number one confirmed his undisputed status as the best player in the world by putting in a stunning performance when he easily beat Alcaraz 6-3, 6-2 to reach his ninth ATP Finals final. If he wins, it will be his seventh title.
Thus, the last important meeting of the ATP season will be decided by a fascinating rematch as Djokovic faces his group stage victor, Jannik Sinner. The Italian continued his amazing form by defeating Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-1, to reach the biggest final of his young career.
In a regular knockout tournament, the top two players will not face each other in the semi-finals. Their presence at this stage was a result of Djokovic almost being eliminated in the group stage before qualifying in second place behind Sinner.
As has often been the case in Djokovic’s career, when it really mattered, he was there. The opening set between the two best players in the world was played at a breathless pace, with both players striking the ball clearly and attacking without hesitation.
But Djokovic was simply playing at a higher level. With Alcaraz serving at 3-4, the Serbian successfully parried his opening shot and as the exchange of blows continued, he relentlessly targeted Alcaraz’s backhand until it collapsed. With a break guaranteed, Djokovic served the set brilliantly.
After a set and a break with defeat quickly approaching, Alcaraz made his final confrontation. At 2-3, Djokovic gave his all as he served, giving himself a lifeline by reaching break point twice with a series of powerful forehands. From 15 to 40, Djokovic responded by raising his level to the stratosphere. He saved the second break point with a stunning cross-court forehand after a high-octane 23-shot rally before finishing off a stunning clutch winner. With Alcaraz’s morale shattered, Djokovic raced to victory.
In the end, Djokovic’s celebration was subdued after the win itself said it all. This has been a great season for Alcaraz. He backed up his maiden finish, maintained his runner-up spot and remains a worthy contender for the top ranking at 20 years old. But right now, even after all these years, Djokovic is better.
In almost every other scenario this year, with Alcaraz out of the tournament and Djokovic competing at such a high level, the 36-year-old would be the favorite to win it all. But the main character of this tournament was already waiting for him in the final until now.
Sinner arrives in Turin on the back of a stunning autumn run that has earned him two titles and a career-high as high as No. 4 in the world rankings. In front of his home fans, the 22-year-old gained further momentum as he plotted his position. Road to the final with an unbeaten record of 4-0. Not only has Sinner paired his powerful, perfectly timed groundstrokes with an increasingly three-dimensional game, but he has also found a mental toughness and decisiveness that has sometimes eluded him.
Beating Djokovic in an important tournament is one of the most significant achievements in modern men’s tennis, yet Sinner has somehow set himself a tougher challenge.
After defeating Djokovic 7-5, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2), and then ensuring the top seed’s qualification for the semi-finals with a three-set win over Holger Rönn on Thursday night, closing out the tournament of his dreams, he must become Sinner is the only player in history to defeat Djokovic in singles twice in the same tournament.
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