This week, ATPTour.com continues its annual season-in-review series, looking back at 2022’s best matches, biggest upsets, most dramatic comebacks and more. In this installment, we look back at Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner’s rivalry this year. On Monday we will focus on Andrey Rublev and Stefanos Tsitsipas’ rivalry.
Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner are poised to compete against each other for the game’s biggest prizes for the next decade, with the 19-year-old Spaniard and 21-year-old Italian two of the most exciting and talented young players on the ATP Tour.
The pair opened its ATP Head2Head series at the end 2021, when Alcaraz scored a 7-6(1), 7-5 win at the Rolex Paris Masters. After three meetings in 2022, the matchup is now a bona fide rivalry built on mutual respect — particularly after the five-set US Open quarter-final epic which set a record for latest finish in New York.
ATPTour.com looks back on their three matches this season, which also included meetings in the Wimbledon fourth round and the Umag final.
Wimbledon, R16, Sinner d. Alcaraz 6-1, 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-3
Just hours after Wimbledon looked back to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Centre Court, Sinner and Alcaraz provided a glimpse of the future with their first Grand Slam meeting. It was the youngest match by combined age at SW19 since 1985.
In the first Centre Court match for both men, Sinner took control with his pure ballstriking and had two match points to wrap up the win in straight sets before Alcaraz found his rhythm to take the third-set tie-break. After converting on his fourth set point, the Spaniard raised his racquet as he soaked in the crowd’s roar.
As the match grew more physical, Sinner stemmed the tide with two battling holds to open the fourth set, then scored the decisive break to edge ever closer to his third major quarter-final. After missing out on three further match points on return at 5-3, Sinner saved a break point as he served out one of the most entertaining matches of the fortnight. A forehand winner — Sinner’s 35th of the match — completed the victory after three hours, 35 minutes.
“Carlos is a very tough opponent and a very nice person, so it is always a huge pleasure for me to play against him,” the Italian said in his on-court interview. The respect between the pair was on full display as Alcaraz checked on his opponent at net after Sinner fell while chasing a drop shot, the encounter sealed with a good-natured fist bump.
”It’s tough when you have match point, and you still have to play [on],” Sinner continued. “I tried my best. It is just part of the game, part of tennis.”
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Photo Credit: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images
Plava Laguna Croatia Open Umag, Final, Sinner d. Alcaraz 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-1
Sinner claimed his lone title of 2022 with a win against Alcaraz in Croatia, showing his resilience to dominate the final two sets of the match after dropping an opening set of razor-thin margins. With the rivals squaring off for the second time in four weeks, Sinner backed up his Wimbledon victory with a stylish win at the clay-court ATP 250.
Despite the scoreline, Sinner had to work hard for his comeback win as he saved all nine break points against him in the match. Six of those break chances came in the second game of set two, as Alcaraz looked to take command of the match.
But a few untimely unforced errors helped Sinner to hold, and the Italian was able to lift his game as he “found a solution” against the Spaniard — particularly on return, where he relentlessly attacked — to run away with the match.
“I am obviously very happy,” Sinner said after clinching his sixth tour-level title in his first clay final. “I have [had] a tough year until now, I had some unfortunate moments, but we worked every time to play better, to be a better player, to be a better person. I’m very happy to be finally lifting a trophy this year, but I know that I still have a lot of things to improve… It’s all about the process.”
Sinner’s win made it two final losses in as many weeks for Alcaraz, who fell to Lorenzo Musetti in the Hamburg title match the previous Sunday.
US Open, QF, Alcaraz d. Sinner 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-7(0), 7-5, 6-3
In a match that topped our list of best Grand Slam matches of 2022, Alcaraz and Sinner battled later into the New York night than any before them. Across five hours, 15 minutes of twists and turns, the only constant was elite tennis and tireless effort from both men.
With Alcaraz and Sinner flashing their tremendous athleticism and power in equal measures, sensational rallies were the norm. From baseline blasts to surreal angles and deft drop shots, they took turns lighting up Arthur Ashe Stadium.
After he dominated the third-set tie-break to take a two-sets-to-one lead, Sinner carried his momentum into the fourth as he scored an instant break. But the fearless Alcaraz erased a match point with Sinner serving at 5-4 and went on a run of four straight games to force a fifth set. Again trailing by a break in the fifth, the Spaniard repeated that feat by winning four games in a row to claim a victory that will live long in the memory of both men and every fan who had the privilege to watch.
“Honestly, I still don’t know how I did it,” Alcaraz said of his great escape. “You have to believe in yourself. I believed in my game. It was really difficult to close out the match. I tried to stay calm, but it is difficult in the moment.”
He later added: “The energy I received in this court at 3 a.m., it was unbelievable. Probably in other tournaments, everybody [would go] to their house to rest. But they [stayed] in the court, supporting me. It was unbelievable.”
Just as unbelievable was the energy poured into every pulsating point by Alcaraz and Sinner in the standout match of what promises to be a long-running rivalry. Their ATP Head2Head is finely poised at 2-2 heading into 2023.
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Photo Credit: Corey Sipkin/AFP via Getty Images
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