Novak Djokovic’s first ATP Finals opponent is revealed as he eyes up No 1 ranking

Kevin Palmer
Novak Djokovic wins the ATP Finals
Novak Djokovic wins the ATP Finals

The draw for the ATP Finals has been revealed and defending champion Novak Djokovic is facing two of his biggest tests in a demanding Group A.

Djokovic heads to Turin as the red-hot favourite to retain the title he won in Italy last year, with the Serbian eyeing up just one win in the group stages to wrap up the year-end world No 1 ranking.

His battle to secure that title with Carlos Alcaraz has been all-but won after slump in form for the Spaniard was followed by Djokovic’s dominant win at last week’s Paris Masters event.

It means just one victory will do the job for Djokovic in the final event of the regular season and now it has been confirmed that Holger Rune will be his first opponent in Turin.

Djokovic will also face matches against Jannik Sinner and Stefanos Tsitsipas in a powerful Group A line-up, with the Serbian confirming his eyes have been set on sealing the year-end world No 1 ranking since his US Open win in September.

“I need one win to clinch the year No 1, so that was the biggest goal other than, you know, Davis Cup for the end of the year,” he said in Paris last week.

“I really leave the racquet aside and just spend time with the family and recharge, and then go to Torino, where every match is going to be like finals of a big tournament, because you play a top-8 player. You know, every match carries a lot of points, carries a lot of importance.

“It’s a group stage format which we don’t get to experience in any other tournament, so even if you lose a match or even two, in a round-robin system you can still go through semis. I had the perfect score in Torino last year, five out of five matches. I like playing there. I think I connect well with the Italian crowd.

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“I’m going there with good feelings, with a lot of confidence. You know, I haven’t lost a match since Wimbledon final, so I’m really excited to hopefully finish off the season on a high.

“But yeah, clinching the year No. 1 and Davis Cup are the two biggest goals.”

Rune has beaten Djokovic on two occasions in their four meetings, winning the Paris Masters final last year and backing that up with a victory against the Serbian at the Rome Masters last May.

He lost against Djokovic at the Paris Masters event last week but pushed the Serbian all the way before finally going down to a narrow defeat.

Now the young Dane will be keen to make an impact in his first appearance at the ATP Finals.

“It’s definitely a tough field out there,” he told the ATP website. “You have to be good. You cannot just be at your level.

“You need to improve every day to be able to just stay there, and if you want to go even more up, you have to do big things in your game, in your physicality and everything. So it’s a constant process.

“It’s more and more fun. Every day I play, the more fun it gets.”

The first singles match of the ATP Finals will see Sinner take on Tsitsipas in the afternoon game on Sunday, before Djokovic and Sinner take to centre stage for the night session in Turin.