Djokovic Surges Past Alcaraz, Sets Sinner Final In Turin

  • Posted: Nov 18, 2023

Djokovic Surges Past Alcaraz, Sets Sinner Final In Turin

Serbian is one win from record seventh Nitto ATP Finals crown

Novak Djokovic capped a year of tense battles with Carlos Alcaraz in style Saturday at the Nitto ATP Finals, where the World No. 1 powered to a 6-3, 6-2 semi-final victory against the Spaniard.

Djokovic was at his rock-solid best throughout the 88-minute encounter in Turin to notch his third win in four Lexus ATP Head2Head clashes with Alcaraz this year. The Serbian offered few attacking opportunities to his powerful opponent by consistently striking deep and clinched a break of Alcaraz’s serve in each set to set a championship-match meeting with home favourite Jannik Sinner.

“After spending a lot of time on the court in the first three matches, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel tonight,” said Djokovic. “This year I wasn’t maybe as sharp in the second and third group matches, particularly, but I think tonight from the very beginning I felt the ball well.

“I approached the match with the right attitude, the right mentality, and I knew from the very first point it was going to be greatly intense. He had break points right away, 15/40 in the first game. That’s Carlos. He always brings out his best in these kinds of matches and starts with a lot of high quality tennis and intensity. You’ve got to match that, try to weather the storm, and I did that.”

Djokovic and Alcaraz’s previous meetings this year include the Spaniard’s stunning five-set win in the final at Wimbledon, and Djokovic saving match point to prevail in the Cincinnati championship match. The latest rendition of the rivalry never quite hit those levels of drama, however, as Djokovic clinically took his chances to triumph in the pair’s maiden meeting indoors.

Despite sending down plenty of big serves, including 10 aces, Alcaraz struggled to keep control behind his delivery. He won just 62 per cent (29/47) of points on first serves, an indication of how dialled in Djokovic was on return.

With his win, Djokovic moved within one match of becoming champion at the prestigious season finale for a record seventh time. The 36-year-old went 2-1 in group play in Turin, where his only defeat came against his next opponent: Sinner. The clash of a Nitto ATP Finals master with an in-form home favourite promises to be a blockbuster ending to the week in Turin.

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“He’s been playing fantastic tennis, arguably the best tennis of his life,” said Djokovic of Sinner. “On this stage, against Top 10 players. We played, 7-6 in the third, a very close match the other night. The atmosphere was unbelievable, electric really. I don’t expect anything less than that, probably even louder than what we had in the group-stage matchup.

“It’s the final, I’ve been in this situation before many times. I’m really happy with the way I’m feeling, the way I’m playing, so hopefully I can deliver my A game tomorrow.”

Djokovic will be attempting to become the third player in six years to avenge a group defeat in the championship match. Alexander Zverev reversed group losses to Daniil Medvedev (2021) and Djokovic (2018) to win the title match. Djokovic has accomplished the feat once before, rebounding from a group loss to Roger Federer to take the 2015 title.

Saturday night’s match did not start smoothly for Djokovic, who immediately found himself 15/40 down on serve in the opening game. Perhaps wary of Alcaraz’s power, the Serbian gambled with big second serves in a bid to escape, and it paid off as he won four straight points to hold.

A first set of narrow margins was ultimately decided in the eighth game, when Djokovic raised his level on return to claim a crucial break before serving out to love.

Despite sending down plenty of big serves, Alcaraz struggled to hit through Djokovic’s defences with any regularity on the fast Pala Alpitour court. The Serbian had opened a 3-2 lead with a break in the second set before Alcaraz began to find joy with some trademark big hitting, but Djokovic again rallied from 15/40 to hold for 4-2 before marching to victory.

“I served well in important moments and the match shifted when it was 4-3 and I broke with new balls,” said Djokovic. “He missed a couple of backhands, and it gave me the break. From that moment I really played flawless tennis.”

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