A rivalry that was born in Wimbledon’s final round matches in 2022 and 2023 reached new heights with three clashes in quick succession at the end of this season.
Novak Djokovic lost a LexusATP Head2Head match against Jannik Sinner for the first time in the group stage of the Nitto ATP Finals, but that was just the beginning of their late-season battles. Read on to relive the pair’s four memorable matches this season – or five, if you include their decisive Davis Cup doubles match in Malaga.
SFs De Wimbledon, Djokovic d. Sinner 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4)
A year after Djokovic beat Sinner in the 2022 Wimbledon quarterfinals, the two met a round later at the All England Club. The Serbian achieved a great comeback against Sinner in 2022, coming back from two sets down, but this time he was in control from the beginning.
The match was not without drama, as Djokovic saved all six break points he faced, including two that became set points for Sinner in the third set.
“In the semifinals, it was always going to be a very tense and close match,” Djokovic declared after his 34th consecutive victory at Wimbledon. “Three very close sets. I think the score does not reflect the reality of what was happening on the court. It was very close.”
RR Nitto ATP Finals, Sinner d. Djokovic 7-5, 6-7(5), 7-6(2)
Sinner achieved his first victory against Djokovic in the fourth Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting between the two, thrilling Italian fans in Turin with a dramatic victory.
The local favorite led for much of the match, even at 4-2 in the final set, but a decisive tie-break was necessary to separate the competitors. Sinner, who won nine consecutive points to win the first set, once again found his best tennis in the final stretch of the third set to claim a hard-fought victory.
“I think I was very brave and smart in the important moments, especially in the third set,” said Sinner, who hit some of his best groundstrokes of the match under pressure in the final tie-break.
“It means a lot to me. When you win against the world number 1, who has won 24 Grand Slams, he is obviously at the top [de los resultados de mi carrera]… I felt like it was a very tactical match and I managed to win, so I’m very happy.”
Final Nitto ATP Finals, Djokovic d. Sinner 6-3, 6-3
Five days later, Djokovic had the chance to exact revenge in Turin. He capitalized on it with aplomb, playing a near-flawless match to win his record seventh Nitto ATP Finals crown.
The Serbian broke through on serve, losing just two points in his first seven service games. The world number 1 was on the front foot in almost every rally, making a concerted effort to attack and play the match on his terms.
But the tension came in the second set, when Sinner, encouraged by the Turin audience, created two break points to equalize the contest. Djokovic once again relied on his powerful serve to escape, then held off a final attack from the Italian to secure a hugely satisfying title.
“To top it off with a win against a local hero like Jannik, who has played incredible tennis this week, is phenomenal,” Djokovic said after breaking a tie with Roger Federer for most trophies in the season-ending tournament. “I think I played tactically differently than I did in the group stage against Jannik, and overall it’s been a phenomenal week.”
SFs Copa Davis, Sinner d. Djokovic 6-2, 2-6, 7-5
Incredibly, there was still time for one last twist in the 2023 rivalry between these top talents. As Italy and Serbia advanced to the Davis Cup semi-final, the tennis world prepared for another high-level showdown between the No. 1 players from both countries.
Although the tennis in this match did not reach the levels of Turin, the drama was unsurpassed. With Serbia holding a 1-0 lead in the tie, Djokovic nearly sent his team to the final when he had three match points at 4-5 and 0/40 in the final set.
But Sinner served his way out of trouble and, buoyed by his newfound momentum in the competition, won the final three games of the match to level the tie at 1-1.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” Sinner said. “I started very well. In the second set, he played much better than me. In the third set I tried to serve very well, and also in the match points against I served well.”
The rivals then returned to the court for a decisive doubles rubber, Sinner teaming with Lorenzo Sonego and Djokovic pairing with Miomir Kecmanovic. In a pressure-packed match that included 10 combined break points in the second set, the Italians booked their final place with a 6-3, 6-4 victory. They would go on to win their first Davis Cup title since 1976 by beating Australia, with Sinner scoring the clinching point by beating Alex de Minaur in the championship round.
Both players returned to the court for the decisive doubles, Sinner paired with Lorenzo Sonego and Djokovic with Miomir Kecmanovic. In a pressure-packed match, which included 10 combined break points in the second set, the Italians clinched their place in the final by winning 6-3, 6-4. They would win their first Davis Cup title since 1976 by beating Australia, with Sinner scoring the decisive point by beating Alex de Minaur in the championship round.