ATP Finals: Can anyone halt Djokovic dominance?

The world No.1 is within reach of more record-breaking glory at the season-ending finale.

Novak Djokovic ATP Finals 2022©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

An elite eight has landed in Turin, which can only mean one thing. It’s time for the ATP Finals.

11 gruelling months on the Tour have built to a crescendo, with this prestigious year-end prize offering up $4,801,500 to an undefeated champion through the round-robin groups to lifting the title on November 19. The stakes are high, it's simply unmissable action…

Djokovic the heavy favourite once again

2023 has witnessed Novak Djokovic become an almost unstoppable force once again. 

Three Grand Slam titles, launching him to a men's record 24th major, alongside his record-extending 40th Masters 1000 triumph recently at the Rolex Paris Masters.

The relentless 36-year-old has perfected the art of peaking at the right time and will be hunting down another record in Italy. If the Serbian can defend his crown, Djokovic will win his seventh ATP Finals title and break clear of Roger Federer's tally of six.

The top seed is set to finish as the year-end No.1 for an eighth time, should he fend of Carlos Alcaraz. The Spaniard hotshot has to take the title, as well as Djokovic losing all three round-robin matches. In current form that looks highly unlikely.

Since falling to Alcaraz in an instant-classic Wimbledon final, Djokovic has won his past 18 matches to rule in Cincinnati, New York and Paris.

"I had the perfect score in Torino last year, five out of five matches. I like playing there. I think I connect well with the Italian crowd," stated the reigning champion.

"I'm going there with good feelings, with a lot of confidence. I'm really excited to hopefully finish off the season on a high… on the highest note possible."

Joining the 36-year-old in the Green Group is Jannik Sinner (3-0 head-to-head for Djokovic), Stefanos Tsitsipas (11-2 Djokovic) and Holger Rune (2-2).

Home favourite Sinner opens the action on Sunday over the net from Tsitsipas, before Djokovic and Rune lock horns once again in the evening session following their compelling clash in Bercy last week.

Alcaraz to take his bow

A year ago, Alcaraz turned up in Turin to receive his year-end No.1 silverware. The Spaniard had qualified, but succumbed to injury in the build-up.

12 months on, a second Grand Slam in the cabinet, the 20-year-old is set to make his ATP Finals debut.

The Wimbledon winner arrived at the Pala Alpitour on Wednesday to fine-tune his game with junior world No.1 Joao Fonseca.

Alcaraz has blazed to six titles in 2023, however, there are recent concerns having pulled out of Basel last month citing left foot and lower back issues. On top of that the world No.2 fell to the very underrated Roman Safiullin at the first hurdle in Paris.

Far from ideal preparation, but Alcaraz has the athleticism and skillset to spark into life at any moment.

The 20-year-old headlines the Red Group with Daniil Medvedev (2-2 versus Alcaraz), Andrey Rublev (0-0) and Alexander Zverev (3-3).

It promises to be a finely-poised group. On Monday, Alcaraz begins his campaign facing Zverev, whilst close friends Medvedev and in-form Rublev will duel in the night encounter.

Previous champions in contention

As well as Djokovic three other players have proven ATP Finals pedigree.

Take the resurgent Zverev, who lifted the trophy in 2018 and 2021. Sixth seed Tsitsipas, topping 50 wins for the third consecutive season, was hailed champion back in 2019.

Then there is Medvedev. The mercurial 27-year-old has been embroiled in a collection of mind-boggling matches this campaign en route to totting-up a career-best 64 wins.  

That tour-leading tally has yielded five titles this season, the 2020 ATP Finals champion has to be included in the contender conversation.

"Tennis is such a… let's call it a cyclic thing. Last year, I lost three matches, and three of them were really close in the decisive tie-break, I think two of them I was serving for the match," recalled the world No.3.

“So for sure this year coming there, I want to try to be better. And that's exactly what happened a couple of years ago, when I managed to win it. So let's hope it's going to be the same story.”

Home comforts for 'The Fox'

 How about this for a fitting finale for the year ? Its home soil for Italy's talisman Sinner. 

The 22-year-old continues to produce big-time performances in the Box Office moments. Cast your mind back to his Miami thriller against Alcaraz, or more recently his human highlight reel victory over Medvedev in the Vienna final. Both are 'match of the year' contenders.

The world No.4 has prevailed in nine of his past 11 matches against Top 20 opposition, including his past four over the net from rivals in the Turin roster.

Alternate in 2022, Holger Rune, who is now under the coaching guidance of 1988, 1992 and 1995 champion Boris Becker, will make his ATP Finals debut in Turin.

The Danish youngster has shrugged off a patch of early losses to spring back into life during the indoor swing to reach the last four in Basel and Paris quarter-finals.

20-year-olds Alcaraz and Rune are the first 20-and-under pair to compete in the same edition of the ATP Finals since 2000 when a teenage Lleyton Hewitt (19) and Marat Safin (20) took their bow.

"It's definitely a tough field out there," said Rune. "You cannot just be at your level. You need to improve every day to be able to just stay there, and if you want to go even more up, you have to do big things in your game, in your physicality and everything.

"So it's a constant process. It's more and more fun. Every day I play, the more fun it gets."