Forget what you may have seen on Tuesday when Jannik Sinner lost to Ben Shelton in the fourth round of the Rolex Shanghai Masters. I am talking about the long game here. The ATP tour needs some rivalries to develop among the young players, such as Carlos Alcaraz needing a worthy long-term foe, just as Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal versus Novak Djokovic developed.
I also don’t mean to imply that any of the players under 25 years old are going to be the equal of Nadal, Federer, or Djokovic, but some might be capable of getting close to the level, especially Alcaraz. Other players like Sinner, Holger Rune, and maybe Ben Shelton have the talent to be great, but they need to still grow their games and stay healthy. For tennis to stay in the high-level limelight the young players need to gain their own fame after Djokovic and Nadal are gone forever.
We might be in luck, though. According to Carlos Alcaraz, he thinks he and Sinner can form a rivalry that resembles Nadal and Federer. In an interview with Tennis TV last week, Alcaraz says he feels “different” when he plays the Italian.
Alcaraz said, “It would be the dream of ourselves and of course, from the tennis fans I think. But I don’t know. Rafa and Roger, Roger and Djokovic, Djokovic and Rafa, whatever it is. We (Alcaraz and Sinner) have a good rivalry honestly.
Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner could be the future of tennis
I’m a guy who doesn’t want to lose in every match but obviously against him, as I said, it’s different. I feel different. So every time that I beat him or I lose against him is kind of different for me. But it’s something that I learn from every match that we’ve played against each other.”
Carlos Alcaraz might have thought of Jannik Sinner first when naming potential rivals because Sinner seems to show no fear of Alcaraz, a 20-year-old who has already reached No. 1 on the ATP and won two Grand Slams (2023 Wimbledon and 2022 US Open). Sinner actually leads the head-to-head over Alcaraz 4-3, including Sinner being the winner the last two times the players have met.
Sinner also has the power in his groundstrokes to give Carlos Alcaraz fits and Sinner moves around the court well. The Italian is still finding himself a bit as he is fairly inconsistent, while Alcaraz found his game earlier. But both players could be playing high-level tennis for the next decade and their rivalry could become the best in tennis.