Carlos Alcaraz emulates Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, but for the wrong reason

Carlos Alcaraz in action

Carlos Alcaraz followed in the footsteps of tennis greats Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at the ATP Finals this week, but it remains to be seen if he will end up emulating Djokovic or Nadal when all is said in done.

After missing last year’s ATP Finals due to injury, Alcaraz finally made his debut at the showpiece tournament in Turin on Monday and his end-of-season woes continued as he lost against Alexander Zverev.

The two-time Grand Slam winner followed up his early exit from the Paris Masters a fortnight ago with another defeat as he was beaten 7-6 (7-3), 3-6, 4-6 by Zverev on Monday.

All is not lost for the world No 2 though as the tournament starts off with a round-robin phase so he could still qualify for the knockout stage if he wins his next two matches in the Red Group.

But Alcaraz is not alone when it comes to losing a debut match at the ATP Finals as Nadal and Djokovic suffered similar fates back in 2006 and 2007, respectively. If you were wondering, Roger Federer won on his debut in 2002.

Nadal made his debut at the ATP World Tour Finals (as it was known back then) in Shanghai in 2006 and he suffered a 4–6, 6–7 (0–7) defeat at the hands of American James Blake.

The Spaniard, who was seeded second at the tournament, won his next two group matches to qualify for the semi-finals where he lost against the top-ranked Federer in straight sets.

Interestingly, Nadal and Alcaraz have another thing in common as the former was due to make his debut in 2005 but missed the tournament due to injury, much like Alcaraz did in 2022.

Back in 2007 it was Djokovic’s turn to make his debut and he lost 6-4, 6-4 against David Ferrer. In fact, Djokovic failed to win any matches at the tournament as he also went down in straight sets against Richard Gasquet and Nadal.

Djokovic and Nadal at the ATP Finals since their debuts

But there are more interesting stats as Djokovic went on to win the title at his second tournament in 2008 – losing only one match – before winning four consecutive titles from 2012 to 2015. His most recent title came last year when he won a record-equalling sixth trophy.

For Nadal, an ATP Finals title is one of the trophies missing from his brilliant CV as his best performances came 2010 and 2013 when he finished runner-up.

Will Alcaraz follow in Djokovic’s footsteps and win a title or two at the ATP Finals or will he end up empty-handed like Nadal?