Jannik Sinner not yet ready to be compared to the saints of tennis

Jannik Sinner plays a forehand return during a Monte Carlo Masters match against Stefanos Tsitsipas. Picture: Valery Hache / AFP

Jannik Sinner plays a forehand return during a Monte Carlo Masters match against Stefanos Tsitsipas. Picture: Valery Hache / AFP

Published Apr 24, 2024


Jannik Sinner on Tuesday dismissed the idea that he is the best player in the world right now, saying he should not be compared to his fellow top-three rivals, Novak Djokovic and Carlos Alcaraz.

The Italian world number two can come within touching distance of the top-ranked Djokovic in the standings should he triumph in Madrid this fortnight and he arrives in the Spanish capital brimming with confidence and carrying an impressive 25-2 win-loss record for the season.

The reigning Australian Open champion, who owns a tour-leading three titles in 2024, is ranked number one in the ATP's Race to Turin, and is 1,650 points ahead of second-placed Daniil Medvedev.

"I think it's a tough question to answer. We always see only this moment and I think that sometimes it's good but also not good," the 22-year-old Sinner told reporters in Madrid.

"I still believe that you cannot compare myself with Novak with all that he has done. And the same goes for Carlos. Also Carlos won more than me.

"I have a lot of respect for both of them. I just try to play my game, trying to understand what works best for me and then we see what I can achieve."

Sinner has never made it past the third round in either of his previous two appearances at the Caja Magica and will be looking to change that this time around.

In the absence of Djokovic, who has pulled out of the tournament, Sinner is the top seed in Madrid, where he faces Richard Gasquet or Lorenzo Sonego in the second round.

"I used to struggle quite a lot in the previous years, finding my level here, so it's going to be interesting to see how I'm going to play this year," he added.

Alcaraz back from injury

Meanwhile, Alcaraz had no qualms describing Sinner as the game's best and the Spanish world number three acknowledges it will be tough trying to stop his good friend and rival from taking over the top spot in the rankings.

"He's dangerous, he's really dangerous. He's the best player in the world right now," said Alcaraz, who is the two-time defending champion in Madrid.

"Probably everybody thinks that his tennis doesn't suit very much clay but he makes good results on clay as well, he can win every tournament he goes to, and I'm fighting with him, with Novak, to be in the first spot and I'm trying not to let them stay there.

"Honestly it's going to be difficult. They deserve to be there and let's see what's going to happen the next tournaments."

The 20-year-old Alcaraz is coming off a right arm injury that forced him to skip the tournaments in Monte Carlo and Barcelona.

He said he managed to increase the intensity of his training since his arrival in Madrid and is hoping to be 100 percent ready for his opener on Saturday against Arthur Rinderknech or Alexander Shevchenko.

On the eve of the tournament, Alcaraz attended the Laureus World Sports Awards and presented Real Madrid star Jude Bellingham with the Breakthrough of the Year award, giving an impressive speech, in English, in front of a marquee audience.

"I didn't feel comfortable on the stage. I was so nervous. I practised that speech during the week almost 50 times just to make sure it's going to be perfect and I was shaking, my legs were shaking. I'm not used to giving a speech in front of legends of the sports and in front of that kind of people," confessed Alcaraz.

Elsewhere, world number four Medvedev is hoping to avoid another on-court tantrum if faced with questionable officiating after his fiery reaction to disputed calls in Monte Carlo made headlines.

While most big tournaments have adopted electronic line-calling, many clay events still use line judges, given the mark of the ball should be easy to see on the red dirt.

Monte Carlo witnessed numerous issues with officiating though, and Medvedev is aware he has to find a way to control his temper throughout the clay season.

"Mistakes can happen. I wish I hadn't reacted like this, so let's see if next time it happens, I cannot promise anything, but hopefully I can focus more on the match than on the mistake itself," said the 28-year-old Russian.