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Unanimous opposition to Premiership 2November 17, 2023
Get your popcorn ready for a dream semifinal lineup at the Nitto ATP Finals, featuring the top four players in the world: Novak Djokovic, Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev, and Jannik Sinner. It’s only fitting, too, as those four have been by far the best players on tour throughout the 2023 campaign.
Only one of the top two, however, will advance to the championship match; the top-ranked Djokovic and the second-ranked Alcaraz are going head-to-head in the semis on Saturday. That’s because Djokovic finished No. 2 in the Green Group, whereas Alcaraz topped the Red Group.
This marks the fifth meeting between the two players and the fourth this season. The only one of the first four encounters that wasn’t an instant classic was a 2023 French Open semifinal meeting that ended with Alcaraz hampered by cramps in sets three and four. Even that one had all the makings of an epic through two sets. The overall head-to-head series is all tied up at two wins apiece. Alcaraz triumphed 6-7(5), 7-5, 7-6(5) in the 2022 Madrid semis and 1-6, 7-6(6), 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 in the Wimbledon final, while Djokovic prevailed 5-7, 7-6(7), 7-6(4) in this summer’s Cincinnati title match.
Another blockbuster battle should be in the cards, as Alcaraz has found his game again just in time to give himself a chance of finishing the season on a high note. The 20-year-old Spaniard went into his debut appearance at the year-end championship on the heels of multiple disappointing losses earlier this fall in addition to some physical concerns. Alcaraz’s struggles continued with an opening loss to Alexander Zverev in three sets, but he righted the ship in emphatic fashion with straight-set victories over Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev.
Needing just a single win in Turin to lock up the year-end No. 1 ranking, Djokovic got it right away by beating Holger Rune 7-6(4), 6-7(1), 6-3. The 36-year-old then lost to Jannik Sinner 7-5, 6-7(5), 7-6(2) before wrapping up round-robin competition with a 7-6(1), 4-6, 6-1 defeat of Hubert Hurkacz.
As those scores suggest, Djokovic has been far from dominant this week–so it’s hard to see him winning this one with ease, especially since Alcaraz is looking healthy and rejuvenated. Still, the Serb is a six-time champion of this prestigious tournament and he surely wants a seventh title–one that would really cement his status as the year-end No. 1 ahead of Alcaraz.
Pick: Djokovic in 3