Novak Djokovic led the Green Group at the Nitto ATP Finals as the top seed. But by the end of Thursday, the Serbian could be eliminated while 22-year-old Jannik Sinner and 20-year-old Holger Rune advance.
Djokovic had nothing but praise for his younger rivals after defeating Hubert Hurkacz to move to 2-1 at the season finale.
“The field is strong. I mean, the generation of Alcaraz, Rune, Sinner is very strong. It’s probably the three players that will carry this sport in the future but also in the present because they are right at the top of the game, all of them,” Djokovic said. “Of course, it’s expected for young players to be hungry, to be motivated, and to constantly look for ways to improve, get stronger, faster, better, so they can beat the best players in the world, and clinch some [of the] biggest trophies in the game.”
Djokovic Downs Hubi, Now Waits To Learn SF Fate
If Sinner defeats Rune on Thursday evening, Djokovic will qualify second in the group and advance to the semi-finals. If Rune wins, Djokovic will miss his chance of earning a record seventh Nitto ATP Finals title. What kind of a battle does he expect?
“I don’t know. I don’t know what Jannik is thinking about. Obviously knowing he has qualified even before he enters the court, I think it’s a big relief. Knowing him, he’s going to try to win every match that he plays. He’s playing great. Rune, on the other hand, is playing great, too,” Djokovic said. “It will be an interesting matchup because they are the same generation, more or less. They are big rivals. I think that’s the kind of rivalries we’re going to see in the future. I’m sure they don’t want to lose against each other in any event, particularly this big.”
Djokovic also reacted to the news from Rafael Nadal that the Spaniard “genuinely believes” he will return to action. They have played a record 59 times in their Lexus ATP Head2Head series (Djokovic leads 30-29).
“I think it would be nice for the sport to have at least one more match between Nadal and me. That’s the biggest rivalry in terms of the amount of matches played that this sport ever had. Hopefully that can happen,” Djokovic said. “He’s a big warrior. He’s somebody that really never gives up. With all the injuries that he had, keeps going. That’s definitely something that you have to respect and admire about him and his spirit.
“For the world of tennis, no doubt that it’s amazing news that he’ll be back.”