TURIN, Italy: Novak Djokovic closed in on a record-breaking seventh ATP Finals title on Saturday after sweeping past Carlos Alcaraz 6-3, 6-2 in a dominating semifinal display he hailed as his best of the tournament.
World No. 1 Djokovic will face home favorite Jannik Sinner on Sunday in the final in Turin, as the 36-year-old attempts to cap an age-defying year with yet another major triumph.
“The best match of the tournament for me, without a doubt. It came at right time really, after spending a lot of hours on the court in the first three matches,” said Djokovic.
“Tonight, from the very beginning, I felt the ball well. I approached the match with the right attitude, the right mentality.”
The Serb came into the Finals at the end of a year which has brought three Grand Slams, taking his total to an all-time best of 24, and a 40th Masters 1000 title.
Now only Sinner stands between Djokovic and victory, which would take him past his old foe and retired great Roger Federer for season-ending tournament titles.
Sunday’s final promises to be a tough proposition for Djokovic as he lost to Sinner in the group stage and will have to deal with a partisan Italian crowd that, unusually for him, won’t be on his side.
“He’s been playing fantastic tennis, arguably the best tennis of his life. On this stage, against top 10 players,” added Djokovic.
“We played a very tight match the other night, the atmosphere was electric. I don’t expect anything less than what we had in the group stage matchup.”
Djokovic now has the better of his five matches with Wimbledon champion Alcaraz, who at 20 is already a two-time Grand Slam winner and was bidding to become the youngest finalist since Pete Sampras won the title back in 1991.
Saturday’s match didn’t live up to the previous four dramatic clashes, however, as Djokovic put on a show of force which put pretender Alcaraz firmly in his place.
“I feel like I am not on his level on indoor courts,” a dejected Alcaraz told reporters.
“He has more experience than me playing in these tournaments, in these courts. But he’s unbelievable.”
Sinner said he has the recipe for glory after his convincing 6-3, 6-7 (4/7), 6-1 win over Daniil Medvedev made him the first Italian to ever reach the final.
The Italian has risen to fourth in the world rankings in 2023, and backed by passionate home support, the 22-year-old has a chance to cap the best season of his young career with what would be his biggest title to date.
“It’s like the first time you cook pasta with tomato sauce, maybe it’s not that good. You realize that it needs more salt so the next time you add it. Then you might start using fresh tomatoes, and then add in basil,” Sinner told reporters.
“You learn things as you go along, until you get the dish right. That’s what I’m doing. But you have to be careful, you can’t just keep adding new things, because if you put in too many ingredients the dish won’t be good any more. There’s always a balance to be struck.”
He faces Djokovic after his third straight win over world No. 3 Medvedev, who he also beat in finals in Vienna and Beijing.
Medvedev predicted big things for Sinner after Saturday’s defeat, saying that the Italian will win Grand Slams and top the world rankings if he keeps playing as he has in Turin.
“Right now he’s, let’s call it, riding a wave. You can see it,” said Medvedev.
“If he plays like this, like he played in the last weeks, all the time, he’s going to have slams, No. 1 … The question is how often is he going to ride it. When he’s not on the wave, how good he plays.”