The battle for No 1: How Jannik Sinner can usurp Novak Djokovic at French Open

Novak Djokovic Jannik Sinner
Jannik Sinner has a significant chance of knocking Novak Djokovic off the world No 1 ranking

It is one of the key subplots of the French Open this year.

Novak Djokovic has reigned supreme as the world No 1 longer than anyone else in history, but he could be dethroned by Jannik Sinner at Roland Garros.

Ahead of an intriguing second Grand Slam tournament of the year, we take you through how Sinner can become the first Italian singles No 1 in history.

As it stands

Djokovic’s participation at the Geneva Open has given him a slightly larger cushion at the top of the rankings.

With the Serbian reaching the last four in Switzerland, he will hold 9,960 ATP Rankings points next week, with weeks 427 and 428 as the world No 1 secured.

Having missed the chance to gain significant ground – or even usurp Djokovic – across Madrid and Rome, Sinner skipped any late match-play preparation, focusing on maintaining full fitness ahead of the second Slam of 2024.

The Italian will hold 8,770 points in next week’s ATP Rankings – 1,190 points behind the 24-time major winner.

That may seem a significant gulf on paper, but the world No 2 may have the odds in his favour come the start of action in Paris.

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Points pressure on Djokovic

Djokovic sensationally stormed to the 23rd of his 24 Grand Slam wins at Roland Garros 12 months ago, beating Casper Ruud in the final for a third title on the clay in Paris.

But that means there is significant points pressure on him when action starts at the French Open on Sunday.

With 2000 ranking points to his name, there is no way Djokovic can guarantee he stays at No 1 after the tournament; his best chance is to defend the title and stay on 9,960 points.

Take those title points away and Djokovic will sit on 7,970 points, earning just ten points in the live rankings for entering round one of the event.

Though a round-one early exit is unlikely, the Serbian will have to reach at least the semi-final to have any chance of holding onto the top spot.

Reaching the last four would put him on 8,760 points – but he would have to rely on Sinner losing in the first round and dropping to 8,735 points.

Sinner is in such a strong position because he lost early last year, and therefore only has 45 points to defend.

Jannik Sinner Novak Djokovic No 1
The ranking scenarios for Novak Djokovic and Jannik Sinner at Roland Garros

With the points allocation slightly altered this year, he can start earning points merely by reaching the second round.

Realistically, Djokovic needs to reach the final to have any chance of staying as No 1 – a defeat at that stage would put him on 9,260 points.

But Sinner can eclipse that by reaching the semi-final, as he would hold 9,525 points should he lose at that stage.

The Italian would not even need to go that far if Djokovic loses before the last four, with 8,360 points the best the Serbian can achieve with a quarter-final exit.

And, if they were to meet in the final, Sinner would be ensured of the No 1 ranking no matter what happened.

With Djokovic fixed on 9,960 points for winning the title or 9,260 for losing the final, Sinner would sit on 10,025 points with a final loss – or 10,725 if he wins the title.

The race is in Sinner’s hands – can he grasp the opportunity in front of him?

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