“Djokovic is a champion,” emails Simonetta Vallone. “But it was great to see this young Italian player give us all these emotions!”
“Very special,” says Djokovic on Amazon Prime. “One of the best seasons I’ve had in my life, and to crown it with a win against the hometown hero Jannik, who’s played such great tennis this week, it’s phenomenal.
“I’m very proud of these performances these last two days against the best two players in the world, Alcaraz and Sinner, next to me.”
“Once again he showed us how powerful his mind is,” says the Amazon Prime pundit, Hantuchova, of Djokovic.
“It’s a hard lesson for him (Sinner) to learn today … He needs to improve his mind under pressure,” says Greg Rusedski alongside.
“He’ll be super proud … and he’ll so confident going into 2024,” adds Hantuchova of Sinner.
The story of that match, in a way, was how much character Sinner showed to at least slow the momentum of Djokovic, who started like a runaway train. Djokovic served with utter ruthlessness in that first set in particular – Sinner could not put any pressure on when he was returning. But anyway, that is Djokovic’s seventh ATP Finals title – he surpasses his old rival Roger Federer, who won six. He is out there on his own.
At 15-15 Sinner directs an ugly volley into the tramlines, not the sort of error you can afford when Djokovic can smell blood. Impressively, Sinner is back on it next up, spanking a clean ace down for 30-30. Another error from Sinner, though, and it’s championship point for the iconic Serb … And Sinner double faults, and that’s the lot!
*Sinner 3-6, 3-5 Djokovic (*denotes next server)
There are cracks appearing the Djokovic game when it had previously looked close to perfect. He hits another volley long for 0-15. It’s soon 0-30, and there is tension in the air when some noise from the crowd causes Djokovic to stop his service action. Sinner dumps the next return tamely into the net, and then hits long, and Djokovic has wrestled it back to 30-30. Sinner errs wide again, with an arguably excessively high-tariff attempted winner, but at 40-30 some more accurate hitting from Sinner draws an error from his opponent, who nets from the baseline. Djokovic, nevertheless, rounds off the hold and Sinner has to serve to stay in this.
Sinner 3-6, 3-4 *Djokovic (*denotes next server)
That was a marathon. Djokovic misses what looks an easy volley, Sinner belts down an ace, and Sinner holds after a long, long battle! That was huge. Sinner is still in this – but only just. Can he exert any pressure on the Djokovic serve next up? The players sit down for a drink.
Sinner 3-6, 2-4 Djokovic (*denotes next server)
Sinner draws a round of applause from Djokovic when he pegs his opponent back to 15-15 after losing the first point. Sinner hits high and wide next up and his body language is suddenly indifferent at best, slumping his shoulders and picking at his racket. But he unloads an accurate forehand on the next point to bring it back to 30-30. A sweet ace down the middle and that’s 40-30, but again Sinner can’t press home his advantage, coughing up an error into the net for deuce.
Some determined defence keeps Sinner in the next point, before a somewhat mishit forehand loops over the net and in, leaving Djokovic motionless! A deuce battle ensues, with Sinner having a couple of looks at game point … The third one comes when a Sinner forehand sneaks over the net off the cord.
The deuce battle turns out to be lengthy indeed, with Djokovic fighting back against some accurate serving by Sinner, who has noticeably raised his game since that first set. And still the deuce battle goes on …
*Sinner 3-6, 2-4 Djokovic (*denotes next server)
Sinner, for the first time, has a glimmer on the Djokovic serve at 0-30. He aims down the line on the next point, going for the jugular, but veers out wide and that’s 15-30. The crowd is up, anyway, hoping the home favourite can get this break back … and they roar with delight when Djokovic hits wide next up! That’s 15-40! Do we have a ball game?
Djokovic serves up a booming wide serve that Sinner can’t get back. 30-40. Another chance for Sinner to break … the crowd yell out their encouragement even when Djokovic is about to serve. Sinner hits long, throwing away another precious break point. and gives it the double-handled teapot stance to show his disgust.
Djokovic, having been on the back foot on serve for the first time, rounds off the hold. Sinner goes to the corner of the court for his towel, and is visibly annoyed at having let that chance slip.
The Eiffel 65 classic “Blue” rings around the auditorium. It’s a classic in the sense it’s very old, anyway. Djokovic to serve again …
Sinner 3-6, 2-3 *Djokovic (*denotes next server)
A Djokovic forehand, fizzing down the line like a particularly well-directed firework, makes it 15-15. But Sinner keeps his head up and finds a way to win the game, eventually rounding it off with a cathartic smash. “A couple of very gritty holds,” says Petchey on commentary of Sinner’s recent efforts.
*Sinner 3-6, 1-3 Djokovic (*denotes next server)
Djokovic cracks an opening ace down the middle. Then one out wide. 30-0. Then down the middle. 40-0. Sinner has won two points against the Djokovic serve at this stage. It’s a quite phenomenal display of serving. Another big serve – Sinner gets the frame of his racket on this one – but the ball flies almost straight upwards. And that’s the game.
Sinner 3-6, 1-2 *Djokovic (*denotes next server)
It’s quickly 0-30, and Sinner is teetering. But he brings a roar from the crowd by ending a run of 14 points in a row for Djokovic with a well-struck forehand as his opponent tries to regain position in the centre of the court. Next up, there is a lengthy baseline exchange and Djokovic blinks first, sending the ball wide. Sinner pumps up the crowd, shaking his fist and demonstrating that he has not lost hope. But on the next point a fearsome forehand to the corner is simply too good from Djokovic. Sinner stretches for it as best he can but can only get the frame of his racket on the ball.
Break point Djokovic – Sinner wrestles it back to deuce – but more high-class hustle from the Serb earns him another break point. The Italian does remarkably well to commit to his shots despite being break point down. Djokovic tries to pass him down the line but the ball flicks off the net and out. Djokovic looks stunned! He soon has another break point, but Sinner battles with spirit yet again, earns himself a game point, and then thumps a big serve down the middle which wins him the game. He shakes his fist and roars. Could he find a way? Physically, Sinner has looked a bit off the pace, but perhaps he’s beginning to warm up?
*Sinner 3-6, 0-2 Djokovic (*denotes next server)
Another collection of top-drawer Djokovic serves to which Sinner simply has no answer. The love hold is sealed with a crisp ace out wide. Djokovic pumps his fist. Can he break his opponent again, next up?
Sinner 3-6, 0-1 *Djokovic (*denotes next server)
Uh-oh. Sinner falls a break down immediately in this second and potentially final set, and it’s a break to love. At 0-30 Sinner is distracted by some movement in the crowd when he’s about to serve. He then opts to challenge but the ball from his opponent is comfortably on the line. That’s 0-40. On the next rally it’s Djokovic who is in total control again – Sinner floats a backhand long – and the Serb is well on the road to victory here unless Sinner can stage some kind of spectacular recovery.
Sinner puts up a fight on the first point, but Djokovic wins another attritional rally, and he roars and pumps his fist like he’s just won a grand slam. He’s up for this one. At 40-0 on Djokovic’s second serve, Sinner tries a spinning forehand but it drops wide. And that’s the first set. The straight-sets predictions are looking good right now. Djokovic is dominating, serving and returning with utter conviction and accuracy.
“The controlled aggression, the consistency, the power,” says Henman of Djokovic. “Sinner looked a little bit flat when he was down a break in that first set, but he’s got to retain his belief, which is easier said than done.”
“Why did he beat Rune?” asks Kevin Mulherrin. “It (throwing the game against Rune and eliminating Djokovic) would have been a perfectly valid tactic. The object is to win the tournament and beating Djokovic once is difficult enough but TWICE!
“Under similar circumstances I suspect Djokovic and a lot of other players would have been more calculating.”
Sinner 3-5 *Djokovic (*denotes next server)
Sinner fires a huge serve down the middle for 30-0, but misdirects a big forehand into the net for 30-15. Djokovic, unquestionably, is the player hitting the ball with more authority. Sinner fluffs a backhand from the baseline and it’s 30-30. Djokovic has yet to miss with a second-serve return, and he is exerting serious pressure on Sinner in every facet of the game. Still, the 22-year-old produces an excellent first serve for 40-15, then smacks an ace down the middle for the game. The crowd chant and cheer, but Djokovic can serve for the first set.
*Sinner 2-5 Djokovic (*denotes next server)
Djokovic has his game face on. A succession of pinpoint-accurate serves, and a clumsy mishit from Sinner, helps him to a love hold. Sinner has to serve to stay in the first set. At this rate Djokovic is going to make short work of this final. The players sit down for a drink, the DJ drops the latest rework of The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall into My Mind) by the Bucketheads.
Sinner 2-4 *Djokovic (*denotes next server)
Sinner makes it 15-0 with a solid wide serve and winner into the open court. Djokovic gifts him the next point, hitting into the net, and at 40-0 Sinner tries to crush a forehand winner, inside-out, but only finds the net. However, Djokovic hits long next up, and Sinner reduces his first-set deficit, still a break down.
*Sinner 1-4 Djokovic (*denotes next server)
The Djokovic forehand is like a sledgehammer. He’s hitting it with complete authority, and Sinner is very much being forced on to the back foot, furrowing his brow and wondering how he can get a foothold in this first set. At 30-15, Djokovic cracks an ace down the middle, and easily wins the next point after a brief rally to seal the game.
“Novak Djokovic, the immovable force,” says Mark Petchey on commentary. I think he means immovable object?
Sinner 1-3 *Djokovic (*denotes next server)
After an unreturnable serve for 15-0, Djokovic leans into a hugely powerful forehand that would make most players crumble, but Sinner bravely stays in the point. Having gained the upper hand the Serb eventually hits a clean winner for 15-15. Sinner then mixes things up beautifully, crushing a big serve for 30-15, then hitting a delightly drop shot for 40-15 that Djokovic applauds.
Sinner comes to the net and volleys for the game, but Djokovic has his measure and hits a brilliant lob to peg him back to 40-30. Sinner unloads from the baseline on the next point, but can only find the net, and it’s deuce … then there is a break in play as it seems someone’s mobile phone is going off in the crowd. There’s always one.
At deuce, a powerful rally from both players ends with Sinner hitting long – it looks in – the Italian decides not to challenge, but hawkeye indicates it did indeed clip the line. Oh well – Sinner coughs up an unforced error next up, hitting wide with another attempted big hit – and Djokovic is a break up.
*Sinner 1-2 Djokovic (*denotes next server)
At 30-0, Djokovic whips a powerful backhand wide – a sloppy error by his exacting standards. He’s back on it on the next point, bending an ace beyond the reach of Sinner for 40-15. The Italian is wayward with his next return, sending it wide, and that’s another easy enough hold for Djokovic. Time for a drink and a tune or two from the in-house DJ.
Sinner 1-1 *Djokovic (*denotes next server)
Whoah. There’s a helluva rally on the first point of Sinner’s service game. Sinner looks to have hit a winner cross-court, after a lengthy exchange from the baseline, but Djokovic hunts it down and returns with interest. Sinner holds on for 15-0. But the Serb is striking the ball imperiously. Djokovic hits long – 30-0 – then Sinner flops a shot into the net from the baseline for 30-15. Sinner thumps a massive wide serve for 40-15 which Djokovic, somehow, gets a racket on, but Djokovic hauls him back to 40-30. A lovely drop shot by Sinner seals the game and he pumps his fist, relieved to have avoided a deuce battle with his tenacious opponent.
*Sinner 0-1 Djokovic (*denotes next server)
A solid first serve down the middle sets up Djokovic to win the first point of the match. Then an ace, and it’s quickly 30-0, and another ace shaped out wide for 40-0. Sinner manages to get into a rally on second serve at 40-0, but is never really in the point, and that’s a very strong hold for Djokovic to kick things off.
“I don’t think this is going to be a straight-sets match, I think this is going the distance,” says Greg Rusedski. “Today’s going to be a lot about belief. How much does Jannik Sinner really believe he can beat Novak Djokovic?”
“For me, I just think Djokovic is going to be a different animal,” says Tim Henman, court-side for Amazon Prime. “I think he’s going to find that way to play a little bit better and get across the line.”
Henman adds he thinks it’ll be Djokovic in straight sets, and Hantuchova agrees.
Sinner’s out on court first, bouncing up and down on his toes, shaking hands with the officials, all that jazz. Djokovic soon joins him. The Serb wins the toss and elects to serve first. Time for a quick photo and we are ready to go.
Here come the players. The young Italian, ranked No 4, is out first.
Are you a Sinner, or are you a winner? Maybe he can be both.
And now here’s Djokovic, walking out to suitably dramatic music.
Here we go, then. Well nearly. The Amazon Prime coverage has fired up, and the pundits are having a chat. “If he stays injury free, he should be lifting a grand slam next year,” says Daniela Hantuchova of Sinner’s progress.
My prediction is that this will definitely go to three sets.
In doubles news, Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury retained their ATP Finals title earlier on, beating Marcel Granollers and Marc Ceballos 6-3, 6-4 in the final.
Andy Murray has been forced to withdraw from the Davis Cup and end his season after suffering a shoulder injury in training. He had been training at the National Tennis Centre this week and preparing for the final event of the year when he suffered the injury. Great Britain face Serbia on Thursday in Málaga at the Final 8 knockout stage of the Davis Cup finals.
Forget the tennis. A much bigger match will take place in Wimbledon next week as the All England Lawn Tennis Club takes on another local council over its plan to build an 8,000-seat stadium on a Grade II*-listed park.
The AELTC will on Tuesday night attempt to convince Wandsworth’s planning committee to vote through its proposal to build the 10-storey show court and 38 other grass courts on Wimbledon Park. Campaigners have described the proposals as an “industrial tennis complex”.
“I predict Sinner to win,” emails Abdul. “He has the momentum.”
After losing the semi-final, Medvedev predicted that Sinner – if he keeps up this form – will become world No 1 and win multiple grand slams. So perhaps Medvedev would agree with you, Abdul.
Then again, it’s Djokovic isn’t it? I didn’t see the semi-finals but it sounds like he fairly blew Alcaraz off the court.
For me, a tough one to call, but a match that both players will want to win. More searing insight coming up soon.
Will Sinner repeat the feat of earlier in the week and beat Djokovic a second time? Or will the Serb grind his precocious opponent into the dust? You can email me with your predictions.
This final, by the way, is best of three sets, just like all the other matches in the tournament.
Djokovic, it is fair to say, was not a happy customer on Thursday afternoon after he beat the alternate, Hubert Hurkacz, in three sets. The dropped set meant that qualification was put out of his hands and he proceeded to give some distinctly snippy post-match interviews. But it turned out all right when Rune was defeated by Sinner later that night.
The tale of the tape: Djokovic leads Sinner 3-1 in their head-to-head.
Djokovic won at the Monte Carlo Masters in 2021, in two sets, then at Wimbledon in 2022 and 2023. The quarter-final in 2022 was a five-setter when Djokovic hit back from two sets down in typically tenacious style. The semi-final this year was in straight sets.
But Sinner, of course, had Djokovic’s number earlier this week, which is what makes today’s match so fascinating.
Australia have just beaten India by six wickets to win the ODI Cricket World Cup!
Novak Djokovic has today’s opponent, Jannik Sinner, to thank for the fact he’s still here. Following the Serb’s group stage defeat by the Italian, Djokovic would have been eliminated had Holger Rune beaten Sinner on Thursday night.
As things turned out the home favourite won in three, which meant Djokovic joined him, Daniil Medvedev and Carlos Alcaraz in the semi-finals of this season-closing event in northern Italy. Djokovic blew away Alcaraz (the man who beat him in an epic Wimbledon final) while the Russian, Medvedev, was dispatched by the increasingly confident Sinner.
Which brings us to today’s final. Djokovic already has the Australian Open, French Open and US Open in the trophy cabinet this year. Can the world No 4 find a way past the irrepressible Serb and prompt a smattering of erroneous ‘changing of the guard’ headlines? We’re about to find out.
Match start: 5pm UK time