Novak Djokovic has already done well enough to hold back the rise of the so-called “Next Gen” by keeping players like Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev from winning more titles .
Now, for the first time at the ATP Finals, Djokovic is joined by the three players labeled “Young Gen”.
20-year-old Carlos Alcaraz, already a US Open and Wimbledon champion, is making his debut at the season-ending tournament for the top eight players of the year after his exit this year lost to injury.
Jannik Sinner, 22 and coming in red hot after recent titles in China and Vienna, he will play in front of a home crowd with the Italians ranked career-high number No.
Holger Rune, 20 and already with two more wins than Djokovic, will renew his new rivalry with the 24-time Grand Slam champion in the featured match when the tournament opens on Sunday on the fast indoor court at the Pala Alpitour.
“Thank you for reminding me of the age – the Next Generation, the Young Generation – I don’t know where I am, what kind of generation,” Djokovic, 36, said on Friday . “It’s always an added motivation for me to compete with the young guys, because I know they are hungry and have big goals and objectives to win these types of competitions. … so it motivates me more to play my best tennis.”
Djokovic has certainly been at his best of late, riding an 18-match winning streak that stretches back to his five-set loss to Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final in July.
Now Djokovic needs just one more win to reach the No. 1 at the end of the year for the record-breaking eighth time.
RIVALRY WITH RUN
Djokovic will meet Rune again nine days after defeating the Danish player in a nearly three-hour contest in the quarter-finals of the Paris Masters – which came a year after Rune beat Djokovic in the final of the same competition.
None of the four meetings between Djokovic and Rune have ended in straight sets, with the series tied at 2-2.
After their final match, Djokovic said that facing Rune feels a bit like looking in the mirror. In addition, Rune has Boris Becker – one of Djokovic’s former coaches – in his box.
“Our games and styles of tennis are very similar. We both move well, we defend well. He is a very complete player, and we both bring strength and energy to the court,” said Djokovic. “I’m looking forward to another close game.”
Added Rune: “The key word is keep fighting to the end, because tennis isn’t over until the last point.”
SUPPORT YOUR VOLUNTEER
Sinner played for the first time in the finals two years ago as a substitute after Matteo Berrettini was injured.
Having qualified this time with weeks to spare, Sinner has become the poster boy for the competition and has been attracting fans wherever he has gone since arriving in Turin.
“It’s obviously a big event here in Italy, to be an Italian player,” Sinner said. “I will try to take a lot of positive energy with the crowd. It will be a lot of fun – I have to enjoy this moment too. I know what I’m capable of.”
Sinner plays the opening game of the tournament against Tsitsipas on Sunday.
The top two winners from each group of four advance to the semi-finals.
Alcaraz missed last year’s finals with an abdominal injury and was also recently sidelined by a left leg injury and muscle fatigue in his lower back.
Roman Safiullin then beat Alcaraz in straight sets in his opening match at the Paris Masters.
“I’m feeling great now. I’m 100%,” Alcaraz said. “I’m very happy (to make) my debut here and to do it at 100%.”
GROUPS (seedlings in brackets)
Green group: Novak Djokovic (1), Jannik Sinner (4), Stefanos Tsitsipas (6), Holger Rune (8).
Red Group: Carlos Alcaraz (2), Daniil Medvedev (3), Andrey Rublev (5), Alexander Zverev (7).
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