No 1 ranking has an asterisk against it as Novak Djokovic reclaims top spot

Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz joking
Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz speak

There has been an asterisk against the world No 1 spot in the ATP rankings for most of the last year and it won’t be removed until Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz settle it on court.

That was the case when Carlos Alcaraz snatched the top spot from Novak Djokovic after his US Open win last September and the same has been true as the duo exchanged the prestigious position at the top of the ATP rankings in the last month.

Djokovic fans had every right to suggest their man was the world’s top player when he lost the No 1 spot after he was denied entry into America last year.

In total, the 22-time Grand Slam champion missed out on the chance to contest for over 10,000 ranking points in 2022 and still finished the year in the top ten of the rankings after winning the end-of-year ATP Finals.

Djokovic return to the top of the rankings after his sublime victory in the Australian Open in January, as he dominated the tournament to claim his 10th title in Melbourne.

Intriguingly, Djokovic won that title without having to face Alcaraz, who missed the first major of the year due to injury and given the form he has shown over the last few weeks, his absence was hugely significant.

There was to be another twist in this story as Djokovic was denied entry into America for the Indian Wells and Miami Masters events due to his Covid vaccine status, with the Serbian surrendering the No 1 spot to Alcaraz as the young Spaniard won the first of those two ranking events that offer 1,000 points to the winner.

Now Djokovic will resume his residency at the top of the rankings on Monday after Alcaraz’s defeat against Jannie Sinner in a stunning Miami Open semi-final confirmed another change at the top.

Each and every change in the No 1 ranking has been sparked by the absence of either Djokovic or Alcaraz for a variety of reasons.

So now we want a conclusive answer to who is the best player in the world.

Alcaraz won the first and so-far only meeting between the top two in Madrid last year, but it was a closely contested contest that could have swung either way.

Recent evidence suggests Alcaraz has improved since that clash, while Djokovic may need time to get back up to top speed after his latest vaccine-inspired absence from the tour.

Who wins the first big Djokovic v Alcaraz clash of 2023?

It is the biggest talking point in tennis, yet Alcaraz has insisted his focus is not on a battle with Djokovic as he is lamenting missing out on the chance of winning the Indian Wells/Miami Open double.

“I don’t think about losing the number one, I lost the Sunshine Double,” Alcaraz said after his defeat against Sinner.

“Of course, it’s a shame, but I think I’m going to have more years to try to get it (win Indian Wells and Miami back to back). But all I can think about is to improve my level to beat Jannik.”

Alcaraz’s coach Juan Carlos Ferrero, who was a former world No 1 himself, also played down the importance of the battle for the top spot.

“I don’t think that Carlos being No 1 or No 2 influences him too much in terms of how he approaches matches,” Juan Carlos Ferrero told the ATP.

“It’s true that as you get higher, you often feel the pressure around you, of being a favourite, that you have to win almost all your matches.

“But if Carlos has his mind on that all the time, his tennis won’t flow. That’s why we’ve tried to focus on this aspect of his growth so that everything goes well in terms of flowing on court.”

For now, we can only speculate on who deserves to be hailed as the best player on the men’s tour and hopefully we won’t have to wait long to see Djokovic and Alcaraz lock horns on court to settle the debate.

READ MORE: WATCH: Every winner from Carlos Alcaraz during his Miami Open victory over Taylor Fritz