Will Nadal finish the year N.1 world? Will Djokovic beat Federer’s record? Will Tsitsipas end a dull year with a bang? The eight best players of the year are gathered from Sunday at the Turin Masters to battle it out for the last time of the season.
The place of N.1
Only Carlos Alcaraz, who at 19 became the youngest N.1 in ATP history (since 1973) after his title at the US Open in September, is missing due to an abdominal injury. contracted at the Masters 1000 in Paris. The absence of Alcaraz opens a small door for Rafael Nadal (2nd) and Stefanos Tsitsipas (3rd). The Greek, who at the age of 24 occupies the best ranking of his career, must win the competition by remaining undefeated (five wins out of five games). The Spaniard would become N.1 again at 36 by winning the competition or remaining undefeated until the final, provided he did not lose it against Tsitsipas who would have achieved a clear round.
If none of these scenarios occur, Alcaraz will end year N.1. For Nadal, it’s an opportunity to end a sixth season as world No.1 (after 2008, 2010, 2013, 2017, 2019) like Pete Sampras. Only Novak Djokovic did better (7). But the record holder of 22 Grand Slam titles has never won the year-end Masters in ten appearances so far (since 2005) despite two finals (2010, 2013).
Tsitsipas played in seven finals (including the Masters 1000 in Rome and Cincinnati) but only won two: Monte Carlo (where he retained his title) and Mallorca. In Majors, after his half in Melbourne, he failed in 8th at Roland-Garros, in the 3rd round at Wimbledon and from the 1st round at the US Open. So winning the Masters for the second time in his career (after 2019) would add luster to his season.
Winner at Wimbledon before a long break during the North American summer tour due to his refusal of the anti-covid vaccine, the Serb then won in Tel Aviv and Astana before losing in the final of the Masters 1000 in Paris. Falling back to 8th in the world, he does not hide his hunger for victories. “I try to win all the tournaments I play, it’s no secret, and it’s in this state of mind that I come to Turin”, he underlined after his unexpected defeat in the final at Bercy facing Holger Rune.
“My level of play is high and I think I have a good chance” at the ATP Masters, he insisted. In addition to adding a 91st title to his list and demonstrating to the best players of the year that he is better than his current ranking, Djokovic is aiming for the record of six Masters titles held by Federer.
Give relief to the season
A bit like Tsitsipas, the Russians Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev are looking for a title likely to give relief to their season. Medvedev reached the world No.1 spot in February 2022. But between a final at the Australian Open and a ban on playing Wimbledon like all Russian and Belarusian players because of the war in Ukraine, he went down ranked 5th in the world with only two small titles added to his list to date (Los Cabos and Vienna). Rublev (7th) has won four tournaments (Marseille, Dubai, Belgrade, Gijon) but still dreams of a big title.
Cherry on the cake
For the last three participants, on the contrary, these Masters look like the icing on the cake, to crown an already spectacular season. Casper Ruud (4th) reached the Grand Slam final twice, at Roland-Garros and at the US Open, where he demonstrated that his game could be formidable on surfaces other than clay.
Félix Auger-Alissime (6th) finally splashed with his class at the end of the season by chaining three titles in as many weeks (Florence, Antwerp, Basel) before falling in the semi-finals at Bercy. Taylor Fritz (9th), benefited from the package from Alcaraz to join the tournament and Holger Rune, winner of the Masters 1000 in Paris, is now the first substitute in the event of a package.