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Blockbuster Rematch: Will Djokovic Earn Revenge Against Sinner In Turin Final?

Nitto ATP Finals trophy on the line Sunday
November 18, 2023
Novak Djokovic leads Jannik Sinner 3-1 in their Lexus ATP Head2Head series.
ATP Tour/Getty Images
Novak Djokovic leads Jannik Sinner 3-1 in their Lexus ATP Head2Head series. By Andrew Eichenholz

Some of the biggest celebrities in the world have performed at the Pala Alpitour, from Bob Dylan and Madonna to U2 and Rihanna. But nobody rocks the 2006 Olympics venue like Jannik Sinner.

“Ole! Ole, Ole, Ole! Sinner! Sinner!”

The chants have shaken the facility for the past week as the Italian has taken the Nitto ATP Finals by storm to become the first Italian to reach the final at the event. In the bowels of the arena, the constant vibrations caused by the crowd have felt more like what you would expect from a rock concert than a tennis match.

Sinner is so popular around these parts that one of the streets that runs next to the Pala Alpitour is lined with dozens of Nitto ATP Finals banners sporting his image. It feels like this is the Italian’s moment to step into the sun and become even more of a national icon than he already is.

But after earning four impressive wins in Turin, Sinner has one major obstacle in front of him. Five days after winning a scintillating showdown against World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, he will need to do it again to capture the biggest trophy of his career.

“It doesn't really matter the matches before, how they have been. Especially with this format, you can win against one, but after you can lose. It's different,” Sinner said. “But still happy that I can go one more time on the court here in Turin. Good atmosphere. Hopefully I can show some good tennis.”

Sinner played some of the best tennis of his career on Tuesday against Djokovic, whom he defeated 7-5, 6-7(5), 7-6(2) in a gripping clash of wills that lasted more than three hours. The home favourite rode his supporting crowd’s energy to victory with an emphatic close.

Watch Sinner vs Djokovic Round-Robin Highlights:

Djokovic entered the final-set tie-break with a sensational 30-7 record in tie-breaks this season. It has become a given that when it matters most, the Serbian finds a gear in which he makes no mistakes and squeezes the fight out of his opponents.

But in one of the biggest moments of his life, Sinner rose to the occasion. Djokovic has neutralised many powerful ball-strikers in his career, but the 22-year-old was brave enough to keep firing and take what proved an unassailable 5/0 lead, stunning the six-time Nitto ATP Finals champion.

So many times Djokovic has dug out of deep holes — and he had rallied from a break down earlier in the final set — but his 19-match winning streak was over and his hopes of reaching the semi-finals nearly were, too.

“You have to just congratulate him. He just played a fantastic match. That's what I told him at the net,” Djokovic said at the time. “I think in the most important moments, he played his best game and he absolutely deserved to win.”

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When asked about the possibility of facing Sinner again at the end of the week, Djokovic brushed it off, saying “very long way to that”. And he was right. Had Holger Rune defeated Sinner in the last match of Green Group play, Djokovic would have been eliminated from the tournament.

Instead, after Sinner ousted World No. 3 Daniil Medvedev in Saturday’s first semi-final and Djokovic dispatched World No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, the 36-year-old will get his chance at revenge.

The 36-year-old will attempt to become the third player in six years to avenge a group defeat in the championship match. Alexander Zverev reversed group losses to Medvedev (2021) and Djokovic (2018) to win the title match. Djokovic has accomplished the feat once before, rebounding from a group loss to Roger Federer to take the 2015 title.

The 97-time tour-level champion, who will reach 400 weeks atop the Pepperstone ATP Rankings next Monday, will be fully motivated to break his tie with Federer for the most titles in Nitto ATP Finals history.

Despite his loss to Sinner earlier in the week, the World No. 1 carries a 3-1 lead in their Lexus ATP Head2Head rivalry. And since it was this year’s Toronto champion who triumphed Tuesday, the burden will be on the 22-year-old to defend his victory.

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The only thing more difficult than climbing the highest mountain is preventing someone from knocking you off the summit. Will the pride of Italy be able to hold off Djokovic again?

Sinner has shown that he is not afraid of pressure. From a young age, he has thrived under it. In 2019, he captured the Next Gen ATP Finals presented by NEOM title in Milan. Since losing in the Wimbledon semi-finals to Djokovic he has won eight consecutive matches against Top 10 opponents.

Sinner will also try to harness the support of the home crowd, including the Carota Boys, who have become a revelation themselves. Several fans in the crowd Saturday wore orange shirts or even reflective orange vests to show their support.

But on the world’s biggest stages, Djokovic has always used fans cheering for his opponent to his advantage. Knowing the Serbian, he will on Sunday not hear “Ole! Ole, Ole, Ole! Sinner! Sinner!” but “Ole! Ole, Ole, Ole! Novak! Novak!”

As far as the tennis itself goes, there was not a lot to differentiate between Djokovic and Sinner in their round-robin clash. They each won 109 points and Djokovic actually won a higher rate of first-serve points and second-serve points.

“I don't think I've done too many things wrong in terms of my game,” Djokovic said.

It was simply that his fellow former skiing sensation summoned his best tennis when it mattered most. He has not allowed the defeat to affect his own game since, thrashing Alcaraz for the loss of only five games on Saturday.

Will Sinner be able to rise again to prevent history and make his own, or will the all-time great earn his revenge? 

“He's been playing fantastic tennis, arguably his best tennis of his life on this stage against Top 10 players,” Djokovic said. “We played 7-6 in the third, very close match the other night. Atmosphere was unbelievable, I mean electric, obviously. I don't expect anything less than that, probably even louder than what we had in the group stage matchup.

“So it's finals. I've been in this situation before many times. I'm really happy with the way I'm feeling, the way I'm playing, so hopefully I can deliver my A game tomorrow.”

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