Match Preview

Defending Champ Djokovic Opens Against Rune On Day 1 In Turin

Serbian chasing record seventh title at year-end event
November 11, 2023
ATP Tour
By ATP Staff

The 2023 Nitto ATP Finals kick off on Sunday with a pair of heavy-hitting clashes at Turin’s Pala Apitour. Home favourite Jannik Sinner bids for a positive start to his campaign in Green Group when he takes on Stefanos Tsitsipas in the opening singles clash of the day, before defending champion and World No. 1 Novak Djokovic meets Holger Rune in the evening session.

[1] Novak Djokovic (SRB) vs. [8] Holger Rune (DEN)

In Sunday’s evening session, Novak Djokovic and Holger Rune bring their intriguingly poised rivalry to Turin just nine days after they played out a tough quarter-final battle at the Rolex Paris Masters.

It was World No. 1 Djokovic who prevailed on that occasion to level the pair’s Lexus ATP Head2Head series at 2-2. The Serbian went on to lift his record-extending 40th ATP Masters 1000 trophy in Paris-Bercy, and he begins his bid to become Nitto ATP Finals champion for a record seventh time on an 18-match unbeaten streak at Tour-level.

Djokovic’s three-set victory in Paris snapped a two-match losing streak against Rune. The 20-year-old Dane, who is making his Nitto ATP Finals debut this week in Turin, defeated the Serbian in the 2022 Paris championship match and in Rome earlier this year. He will hope to use those wins as a template for when he steps out on court Sunday inside the Pala Alpitour.

“You cannot wish that he misses a shot or wish that he has an off day,” Rune told ATP Media on Friday. “He loses probably four to five matches a year, so he doesn't have off days. The only wish you can have in yourself is to try to play your best tennis and be the most focused on the court in your life. You have to be ready to give everything.”

Djokovic will have extra motivation when he steps on court on Sunday in Turin. Should he defeat Rune, he will secure the coveted ATP Year-End No. 1 presented by Pepperstone honour for a record-extending eighth time.

“For me, the biggest goal right now is to end the season as the No. 1 player in the world, so hopefully I can clinch it,” said Djokovic. “I need one win, so hopefully that happens. Then of course, I would love to win the tournament as well. But that's the goal and then let's see what happens afterwards.”

Helping Rune in his bid to deny Djokovic a winning start in Turin is the Serbian’s former coach, Boris Becker. The ATP Tour legend joined Rune’s team last month, and he spent time speaking to both his former and current charges during Friday’s media day in Turin.

“Along with [Carlos] Alcaraz, they are the same generation, [Holger is] one of the leaders of the Next Gen and probably one of the players that will carry tennis in the decade to come,” said Djokovic. “We’re going to see a lot of him I'm sure in the future.

“He's got Boris Becker, the legend of the game, in his corner now and he's been improving himself as well. Every time we face each other, it's a close match, so I'll probably have to expect that one again.”

<a href=''>Novak Djokovic</a>/<a href=''>Holger Rune</a>/<a href=''>Boris Becker</a>
Novak Djokovic, Holger Rune and Boris Becker on Friday in Turin. Photo Credit: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour

[4] Jannik Sinner (ITA) vs. [6] Stefanos Tsitsipas (GRE)

Can the home fans help Jannik Sinner kick-start his Nitto ATP Finals campaign on Sunday in Turin?

The 22-year-old Italian takes on Stefanos Tsitsipas in his opening match in Green Group at the Pala Alpitour, where the Italian is competing at the season finale for the second time, but the first as a direct qualifier. Sinner will hope that the locals can cheer him on to victory against an opponent whom he trails 2-5 in their Lexus ATP Head2Head series.

“[I’m] happy that this event is here in Turin,” Sinner told ATP Media on Friday. “Hopefully it's something positive for me trying to have a great connection with the crowd and hopefully I can handle it and handle the situation with the right mentality, because I feel I have a little bit more pressure, which is a very positive sign for me.”

Despite his strong history in their matchup, the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion Tsitsipas will be wary of the threat posed by Sinner, who holds a 57-14 record for a year in which he has lifted four tour-level titles, including his maiden ATP Masters 1000 crown in Toronto.

“He tends to play very fearless tennis and he moves very well,” said Tsitsipas. “He has improved his movement a lot and his consistency in his shots. I do believe that he's a very athletic player. Not very [muscular], not very heavy. He has that lightness about him when he covers the court.

“He can kind of get anywhere in the court within a few seconds and his reaction is very good. He has very good abilities and talent when it comes to feeling the ball and getting behind it.”

Tsitsipas is 51-22 for the season, and bounced back from a mid-season blip with three consecutive semi-finals (Antwerp, Vienna, Paris) prior to Turin. The 25-year-old, who became an ATP Tour champion for the 10th time in Los Cabos in August, will hope to find rhythm behind his serve to keep Sinner on his toes on the historically fast surface at the Pala Alpitour.

“His strength is the serve and his high intensity,” said Sinner. “He puts a lot of intensity on the court. He also tries to go to the net a lot more, so it's not easy to play against him. I'm really looking forward to it. It is going to be the first match for both of us.”

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Top seeds Krajicek/Dodig Headline Opening Day In Doubles

The first match of this year’s prestigious season finale will see top-seeded doubles pair Ivan Dodig and Austin Krajicek take on Argentine duo Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni in Green Group. Dodig and Krajicek are chasing their first match win on their second appearance in Turin.

In the evening session, fourth seeds Santiago Gonzalez and Edouard Roger-Vasselin will look to extend their eight-match winning streak against Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos.

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