Carlos Alcaraz confirms next event as he targets Novak Djokovic’s No 1 ranking

Kevin Palmer
A delighted Carlos Alcaraz
Carlos Alcaraz celebrates a thrilling point

Carlos Alcaraz suggested he needed time away from tennis after the US Open to allow his body to recover, but it has now been confirmed that his time away from the court will be brief.

Alcaraz pulled out of Spain’s Davis Cup team as he suggested his body was calling on him to take a step away from the game after a draining few weeks.

The 20-year-old reached the semi-finals of the French Open, beat Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final, played an epic Cincinnati final against the same opponent and then bowed out of the US Open at the semi-final stage.

Yet even though he has only had a couple of weeks away from the game, Alcaraz is now preparing to return at next week’s China Open.

His appearance in the ATP 500 event could be crucial in his bid to finish as the year-end world No 1 for a second successive year, with the prospect of overhauling Djokovic at the top of the rankings a realistic target for Alcaraz.

Even though his great rival has won three of the four Grand Slam events, Djokovic has over 3,000 ranking points to defend in the final weeks of the 2023 season after his impressive finale to last season.

Meanwhile, Alcaraz has only 360 points to defend after he missed the end of last season due to injury.

That points difference will open the door for the Spaniard to climb above Djokovic and it could serve up the enticing scenario of the two champions of this year going head-to-head in the ATP Finals with the No 1 ranking on the line.

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Djokovic has already decided to pull out of next month’s Shanghai Masters, where Alcaraz will have a chance to compete for 1,000 ATP ranking points in his effort to chase down the 36-year-old Serbian.

Currently, the gap between top-ranked Djokovic and second-placed Alcaraz is 3,260 points, with that lead set to shrink as points drop off from last year’s tournaments.

Djokovic will lose 500 points for his win at last year’s Astana Open as he is not playing in that event, while he has 600 points from his run to the Paris Masters final and 1,500 points from his ATP Finals win on his current record.

He will get a chance to defend the Paris and ATP Finals points as he expected to play in both of those tournaments, but Alcaraz has a real opportunity to end the year on a high by reclaiming the prestigious end-of-year ranking prize.

“The season has a lot of tournaments until the year is over,” said Alcaraz. “I’ll try to recover (No 1) ranking before the year ends.”

Djokovic has finished as the year-end world No 1 on the ATP rankings list on a record seven occasions, but he admits his focus is now on winning Grand Slam titles.

“After achieving the historic number one ranking for the longest weeks at number one, it’s going to be a relief for me because I’m going to focus all my attention on Slams, mostly,” said Djokovic

“When you are going for number one rankings, you kind of have to be playing the entire season.

“My goals will adapt and will shift a little bit, which means that I will have an opportunity to do that which, as a father and a husband, I’m really looking forward to.

“The focus now is the Slams, I have said that many times. Having family on the road with me will be a very difficult task, so I will play the tournaments that are right for me.”

The Grand Slam story may be over for this year, but Djokovic’s battle with Alcaraz still has some twists and turns left in it before the final big prize is handed out.