A rivalry that was born across late-round Wimbledon meetings in 2022 and 2023 hit new heights with three showdowns in quick succession at the end of this season.
Novak Djokovic lost a LexusATP Head2Head meeting with Jannik Sinner for the first time in the round-robin stage of the Nitto ATP Finals, but that was only the beginning of their end-of-season battles. Read on to relive the pair’s four memorable matches this season — or five, if you include their decisive Davis Cup doubles rubber in Malaga.
Wimbledon SFs, Djokovic d. Sinner 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(4)
One year after Djokovic beat Sinner in the 2022 Wimbledon quarter-finals, the pair met one round later at the All England Club. The Serbian produced a great escape to beat Sinner in 2022, fighting back from two sets down, but he was in command from the beginning on this occasion.
The match was not without its fair share of drama, as Djokovic saved all six break points against him, including two that doubled as set points for Sinner in the third set.
“In the semi-finals, it was always going to be a very tense, very close match,” Djokovic said after what was his 34th consecutive Wimbledon win. “Three very close sets. I think the scoreline maybe doesn’t give the reality of what was happening on the court. It was super close.”
Nitto ATP Finals RR, Sinner d. Djokovic 7-5, 6-7(5), 7-6(2)
Sinner scored his first win against Djokovic in the pair’s fourth Lexus ATP Head2Head meeting, thrilling the Italian fans in Turin with a dramatic triumph.
The home favourite led for much of the match, including at 4-2 in the final set, but a decisive tie-break was required to separate the fierce competitors. Sinner, who won nine straight points to claim the opening set, once again found his best tennis down the stretch of the third set to claim a hard-earned victory.
“I think I was really brave and intelligent in important moments, especially the third set,” said Sinner, who produced some of his biggest ground strokes of the match under pressure in the final-set tie-break.
“It means a lot to me. When you win against the World No. 1, who has won 24 Grand Slams, it’s obviously in the top [of my career results]… I felt like it was a really tactical match and I managed to win, so I’m very happy.”
Nitto ATP Finals Final, Djokovic d. Sinner 6-3, 6-3
Five days later, Djokovic had his chance for revenge in Turin. He took it with aplomb, playing a near-flawless match to win his record-breaking seventh Nitto ATP Finals crown.
The Serbian served his way to an early advantage, losing just two points in his first seven service games behind pinpoint deliveries. The World No. 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 arrived in the second set when Sinner, urged on by the Turin crowd, created two break points to level the set. Djokovic once again leaned on strong serving to escape, and he then held off one final charge from the Italian to secure a hugely satisfying title.
“To crown it with a win against a hometown hero in Jannik, who has played amazing tennis this week, is phenomenal,” Djokovic said after breaking a tie with Roger Federer for most trophies at the season finale. “I think I played different tactically than I did in the group stage against Jannik, and just overall it was a phenomenal week.”
Davis Cup SFs, Sinner d. Djokovic 6-2, 2-6, 7-5
Incredibly, there was still time for one final twist in the 2023 rivalry between these top talents. When Italy and Serbia both advanced to set a Davis Cup semi-final showdown, the tennis world readied for another high-stakes showdown between the No. 1 players from both countries.
While the tennis in this encounter may not have hit the heights of Turin, the drama was second to none. With Serbia holding a 1-0 lead in the tie, Djokovic was on the brink of sending his team to the final when he brought up three match points at 4-5, 0/40 in the final set.
But Sinner served his way out of trouble and — buoyed by his new lease on life in the competition — won the final three games of the match to level the tie at 1-1.
“It was a roller coaster,” Sinner said. “I was starting off really well. Second set he played much better than me. Third set I tried to serve really well, and also on match points down 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.