Slam legend on why Novak Djokovic remains the best despite Jannik Sinner being No. 1

On Monday, Sinner will officially replace Djokovic as the new world No. 1.

by Dzevad Mesic
Slam legend on why Novak Djokovic remains the best despite Jannik Sinner being No. 1
© Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

Former seven-time Grand Slam champion Mats Wilander acknowledges Jannik Sinner has been "exceptional" over the last several months but believes that Novak Djokovic is still "the best player in the world" in his eyes despite losing the top ranking to the Italian. 

After finishing his 2023 season on a high note, Sinner also became a Grand Slam champion at this year's Australian Open and also won the Indian Wells Masters and Rotterdam. 

On the other side, Djokovic failed to defend his Australian Open title after losing to Sinner in the semifinal and he still hasn't won a title in 2024. 

Due to Sinner's very strong start to 2024 and Djokovic's inconsistent first part of 2024, the 22-year-old Italian entered the French Open with a good chance of replacing the Serb at the world No. 1 spot. And after Sinner made the French Open quarterfinal and defending champion Djokovic withdrew injured from his quarterfinal match, the Italian officially secured the top ranking from Monday. 

While Sinner has undoubtedly had a much better season than Djokovic, Wilander is still not ready to proclaim as the absolute best since the Serb made a deep French Open run which ended due to an injury and not because of a loss.

“I know very well that Sinner has just had an exceptional first part of the season and that the computer is not lying,” Wilander told L’Equipe.

“But I also don’t forget that Novak remains the defending champion at the US Open and the Masters (ATP Finals), and that he was a finalist at Wimbledon a year ago. As long as he is there, for me, he remains the best.

“And we saw in his end of the match against Cerundolo that, even injured, when he goes into ‘Djoko mode’, he is almost unbeatable. In fact, he fell to second place in the world due to a health problem. Not on a defeat.”

Jannik Sinner and Novak Djokovic
Jannik Sinner and Novak Djokovic © Getty Images Sport - Julian Finney

How Sinner reacted to replacing Djokovic at the world No. 1 spot?

Before the French Open started, there were several scenarios in which Sinner could have replaced Djokovic from the No. 1 spot. Two potential scenarios were - if Djokovic won the French Open, Sinner needed a runner-up finish - if Djokovic finished as runner-up, a semifinal would be enough for Sinner. But after Djokovic's French Open run ended in the quarterfinal and he dropped a significant number of points, the No. 1 case was closed. 

After beating Grigor Dimitrov in the French Open quarterfinal and asked about being the new No. 1, Sinner acknowledged it was his dream but also wished a speedy recovery to Djokovic, who had an arthroscopic knee procedure in Paris. 

"What can I say? First of all it is every player's dream to become No. 1 in the world. In the other way, seeing Novak retiring here I think is disappointing. I wish him a speedy recovery," Sinner said after securing the world No. 1 position. 

Jannik Sinner
Jannik Sinner © Getty Images Sport - Tim Goode

For Sinner, this means he is continuing his ranking rise. After starting the 2023 season ranked at No. 4, Sinner improved to No. 3 in February before ascending to No. 2 on April 1st. Now, Sinner is the top-ranked player in the world.

What Djokovic said after having knee surgery?

A day after withdrawing from his French Open quarterfinal versus Casper Ruud, Djokovic had a procedure to address his right meniscus tear. On Thursday - a day after the surgery - Djokovic broke the silence on his surgery and released a statement through his social media.

"In the past day, I had to make some tough decisions after sustaining a meniscus tear during my last match. I’m still processing it all but I am happy to update you that the surgery went well," Djokovic announced on Instagram on Thursday.

"I am so appreciative of the team of doctors who have been by my side, as well as the overwhelming support I have received from my fans.

"I’m going to do my best to be healthy and fit to return to the court as soon as possible.

"My love for this sport is strong and the desire to compete at the highest level is what keeps me going."

Novak Djokovic
Novak Djokovic © Getty Images Sport - Clive Brunskill

While the initial news has been pretty encouraging and that Djokovic may just need three weeks to recover, the general belief is that the 24-time Grand Slam champion won't rush his comeback for Wimbledon because the grass is one of the most challenging surfaces to play on. 

Also, the fact that Djokovic's badly wants an Olympic gold is a big reason why many believe the Serb will give himself time to recover and then start practicing on clay again for the Paris Olympics, which start on July 26th.

Novak Djokovic Jannik Sinner