Clay-court season to herald three-way battle for No 1 spot

Novak Djokovic, Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz are separated by just over 1,000 points heading into Monte-Carlo

Sinner, Djokovic and Alcaraz © Panoramic – © Tennis Majors

The clay-court season began in earnest on Monday, with events in Estoril, Houston and Morocco kicking things off on the dirt.

Next week, the first Masters 1000 of the clay-court season begins in Monte-Carlo, with the entire ATP Tour top 10 entered.

Jannik Sinner’s win in Miami at the weekend not only moved him up to the No 2 spot ahead of Carlos Alcaraz, but also ensured that Novak Djokovic will take a lead of only just over 1,000 points on both men into what’s sure to be a hotly-contested, physically demanding clay-court season. Daniil Medvedev, another 1,500 points behind on his worst surface, is probably too far back for now.

Sinner best placed to gain points

With three Masters 1000s on clay and then Roland-Garros, where 2,000 points go to the winner, everything’s possible over the next couple of months.

Djokovic has the most points to defend (2,315) through to the end of Roland-Garros but his chances of staying No 1 until Paris begins are good, because 2,000 of those points were at Roland-Garros itself, thanks to his brilliant victory there last summer. On the other hand, should he choose, he could play Madrid, having skipped it last year, while he has room to earn points in Monte-Carlo and Rome.

Alcaraz has 2,265 points in all to defend, having won Madrid (1,000) and Barcelona (500) last year and picked up 720 points from reaching the semi-finals in Paris, where his title hopes were famously ended by Djokovic and cramp.

So it’s Sinner who has the most to gain, having earned only 585 points across the entire clay-court season in 2023, most of them in Monte-Carlo, where he picked up 360 for reaching the semis. He didn’t play Madrid last year and won just 90 points in Rome and 45 at Roland-Garros.

TOTAL TO DEFEND23155852265


Being world No 1 is always a big motivation for the top players, so the race has to be seen with that in mind. Djokovic has spent more weeks at No 1 – this is his 419th – than either Alcaraz and Sinner have been on Tour and at 36, with his 37th birthday to come in May, chasing No 1 or trying to stay No 1 is no longer at the forefront of his mind.

Alcaraz has been No 1 already, the youngest man to achieve the feat when he won the US Open at 19 in 2022. Sinner, then, is the only one who has yet to taste glory but the way he’s started 2024, with a first Grand Slam title in Australia, and two more titles in Rotterdam and Miami, make him the hottest property on Tour going into the clay-court season.

It’s entirely possible the No 1 ranking could change hands a couple of times this year, not least because Djokovic has 2,000 points to defend at the US Open and Alcaraz the same at Wimbledon.

It seems only a matter of time, then, until Sinner hits No 1 and on current form, it could be sooner rather than later.

“Being No 2, it’s an amazing feeling,” Sinner said in Miami. “I never thought to come to this point. I come from a very normal family. My dad is still working, as my mom, too. For me, it’s, you know, sport is one thing, and life is different. I’m very happy to be in this position. I’m just enjoying every moment. These are special days winning a tournament.”

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