Novak Djokovic expects No 1 battle to ‘go in circles’ as he names a trio of challengers

Novak Djokovic off court

Novak Djokovic appears set to extend his record-breaking tally as the world No 1 over the next few weeks, but the tennis great knows that it is inevitable that the rising stars will eventually replace him at the top.

The 22-time Grand Slam winner claimed top spot in the ATP Rankings on the back of his 10th Australian Open title in January and on Monday he set a new record for the most weeks spent at No 1 in both the men’s and women’s game as he hit 378 weeks at the top – one more than previous record-holder Steffi Graf.

He has held the record in the men’s game since March 2021 when he bettered Roger Federer’s mark of 310.

“As a seven-year-old in Serbia, I dreamt of only two things: winning Wimbledon and becoming number one in the world. I have been blessed to achieve both of my childhood dreams several times,” he said after his first-round win at the Dubai Tennis Championships.

But the 35-year-old is wary of the challengers as he named Carlos Alcaraz, Holger Rune and Stefanos Tsitsipas as three players who are likely to be in the mix for the top spot over the next few years.

The 19-year-old Alcaraz has already had a 20-week stint at the top as the Spaniard became the youngest world No 1 on the back of winning the US Open in September.

Rune, also 19, enjoyed a breakthrough season last year as he reached the top 10 for the first time after winning the Paris Masters, beating Djokovic in the final and Alcaraz in the quarter-final.

Tsitsipas is the oldest of the trio as he is 24, but the Greek has reached two Grand Slam finals. However, he was defeated by Djokovic on both occasions as he went down in three sets at this year’s Australian Open and lost in five sets at the 2021 French Open.

Djokovic, though, is determined to do all he can to hold onto top spot, but at the same time he is excited about the battle with the young guns.

“I work as hard as anybody else. I’m really, really committed to the sport. And I try,” the 35-year-old said.

“There’s a lot of challengers that are coming up in the new generations. Alcaraz being there, probably one of the leaders of the next generation. Rune. Then you have Tsitsipas. These guys are just playing on a high level constantly.

“They’re playing a lot of tournaments, a lot of weeks. I’m not playing as much, and I don’t plan to play as many weeks as they do.

“I guess eventually they’ll take the No 1, then I’ll bring it back again, then they’ll take it again, then we go in circles.”

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