Greg Rusedski has asserted that, while Carlos Alcaraz has been ranked No 1 for “most of this year”, “all the players” still think Novak Djokovic is the best player in the world.
The 1997 US Open runner-up also thinks Djokovic still considered himself world No 1 when he did not hold the ranking, and he expects the Serb to reach “25-26 majors at least” next year.
Djokovic downed third-ranked Daniil Medvedev in straight sets in the final of the 2023 US Open earlier this month to win a fourth title at the New York major. The great Serbian has now secured a men’s record 24 Grand Slam crowns.
The 36-year-old has battled with Alcaraz for the world No 1 position since the 20-year-old topped the ATP Rankings for the first time after winning his maiden major at the 2022 US Open.
Djokovic overtook Alcaraz to regain top spot following this year’s US Open, where the Spaniard was beaten in the semi-finals by Medvedev. He won three of the four Grand Slam events this season, while he was edged by Alcaraz in a five-set Wimbledon final.
Speaking on an episode of the Tennis Channel Inside-In podcast, Rusedski discussed Alcaraz’s US Open title defence and why he thinks there is a consensus that Djokovic has been the real world No 1 throughout this year.
“It was the first time in his career that he (Alcaraz) had to defend a major. It’s not a bad effort making the semis. I mean most people if they get to the semis of a major, that’s career-defining,” assessed the British-Canadian.
“You talked about [Ben] Shelton right now making the semis, beating [Frances] Tiafoe in the quarters – ‘What a great result’. World No 1 loses in the semis — ‘What’s going on.’
“Let’s be honest, he (Alcaraz) was World No 1 for most of this year but all the players still think Novak is No 1 because he wasn’t allowed to play the Indian Wells, Miami, all the majors he missed as well because of his stance that he had with Covid as well, not getting vaccinated.
“So you gotta look at all those things that were around the whole situation for Novak. I think Novak felt he was No 1 even though the ranking didn’t say so.”
The former world No 4 – a tennis commentator and pundit for Amazon Prime Video – also highlighted the importance of Djokovic’s epic Cincinnati final win over Alcaraz to his US Open triumph.
“He was struggling with heat strokes during that match because it was really hot in Cincinnati. He knows how to manage those situations, took a little more time, had the trainer come out, won that second set, and then all of a sudden, he pushed his win to the third set,” said Rusedski.
“Novak knew how to handle bigger situations. That was the defining match that got him to win the US Open. Novak will be very pleased about 3-4 majors this year and number 24.
“But also, coming up next year he’s got the Australian Open, his most successful major, so I have a feeling 25-26 is in store for next year at least.”