Published On: Sat, Nov 18th, 2023
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Novak Djokovic bites back at reporter before Alcaraz ATP Finals clash | Tennis | Sport

Novak Djokovic hit back at a reporter for labelling ATP Finals opponents Jannik Sinner and Holger Rune “kids” and hailed the pair, along with Carlos Alcaraz, as the leading figures in the future of men’s tennis. The Serbian scraped through to the semi-finals of the tournament after Sinner overcame Rune on Thursday in a close-fought battle, with the Italian preserving his 100 per cent record in the group stages with a three-set win.

It underlined the idea that Sinner will soon be fighting for Grand Slams along with Alcaraz, who already has two Majors to his name after beating Djokovic at Wimbledon earlier this year. Billed as two of tennis’ next biggest stars, Sinner, Alcaraz and Rune have moved out of teenager territory as they are all now in their 20s.

And Djokovic, 36, was keen to point out how they have matured after taking exception to a reporter’s remark in his press conference. Following his victory over Hubert Hurkacz, a reporter followed up a question about the Serb’s young children with one about Rune and Sinner.

The reporter asked: “Talking about kids, I think the feeling that they are chasing you, these kids. Now is different compare this moment to the past. In the past, at Masters or ATP Finals, we have some strange situation.

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“You know about the history of tennis. Someone decide to win or to lose or something to do. It’s not the case for sure because Holger Rune and Jannik Sinner are very, very good and correct players. Which sort of battle do you expect tonight?”

Slightly bemused by the framing of the question, Djokovic gave a considered response and heaped praise on the pair – explaining why he believes the gap may be closing between himself and his younger rivals.

“Well, I think it’s not nice to call them kids because they are not kids,” he replied. “They are above 18, so you’re officially not a kid anymore.

“The field is strong. I mean, the generation of Alcaraz, Rune, Sinner is very strong. It’s probably the three players that will carry this sport in the future but also in the present because they are right at the top of the game, all of them.

“Of course, it’s expected for young players to be hungry, to be motivated, and to constantly look for ways to improve, get stronger, faster, better, so they can beat the players, best players in the world, and clinch some [of the] biggest trophies in the game.”

About Sinner and Rune’s friendly rivalry, Djokovic added: “They are big rivals. I think that’s the kind of rivalries we’re going to see in the future. I’m sure they don’t want to lose against each other in any event, particularly this big. Let’s see what happens.”

Djokovic takes on Alcaraz in his semi-final on Saturday evening with Sinner due to face Medvedev in the day session. And that means the pair could be matched up for the second time in Turin after the Italian ended Djokovic’s 19-match winning run at the tournament this year.

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