Novak Djokovic and Stefanos Tsitsipas enter the Internazionali BNL d’Italia after semi-final losses in Madrid, but both men are feeling good about their games in Rome. Both have also fallen victim to the red-hot Carlos Alcaraz in recent weeks, Djokovic in Madrid and Tsitsipas in Miami and Barcelona.

With the young Spaniard the talk of tennis following his second ATP Masters 1000 win at the Mutua Madrid Open Sunday, the World No. 1 and No. 5 were asked for their perspectives on his rapid rise during their Monday press conferences. Alcaraz is up to a career-high of No. 6 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings, just behind Tsitsipas.

“He definitely is special,” Djokovic said, answering the first question of his presser. “Already he’s breaking a lot of records as a teenager, winning two Masters events this year, a couple of 500s. So far he’s the best player in the world, no question, this year with the results that he’s been doing.”

Tsitsipas made similar comments, revealing that he looks up to the Spanish star nearly four-and-a-half years his junior.

“His tennis is very impressive,” said the 23-year-old. “I think he puts a lot of energy into every single shot. He is quick. He has a good reaction time. He reads the game well. He inspires me a lot. I really want to be like him. I look up to him.

“I know he’s at a young, early stage of his career. I can see him becoming big in a very short time. I’d really like to get to the level he is right now. I think he’s one of the best players in the world, to be honest. He has proved it with consistent results, thriving in the biggest tournaments. There is nothing you can take away from that.”

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Both Djokovic and Tsitsipas also commented on Alcaraz’s fearless mentality as he ascends to the top of the game.

“The way he was dealing with the pressure… In our match few days ago, how calm he was all the way till the [end] was impressive,” said Djokovic, who called the Spaniard “one of the main favourites” at Roland Garros. “He deserved to win the trophy. Everything about his game is really impressive. He’s a really complete player, can play equally well offensively and defensively. He’s the talk of the sport.”

Added Tsitsipas: “He plays very fresh and hungry, like has nothing to lose. It kind of reminds me of my early days when I was introduced to the ATP Tour. I didn’t really know what to expect along the way. I was just playing carelessly, completely free-spirited. It’s a nice thing to see.

“But with him in most of the draws, the lineup is getting even tougher. I will for sure have to work harder to get the results that I ever wanted.”

Djokovic will also be working hard to make sure he can level his ATP Head2Head against Alcaraz in their next meeting. After two strong weeks, reaching the Belgrade final and the Madrid semis in succession, the Serbian is edging closer to top form as he seeks a sixth title in Rome.

“I think it’s closer to [my] desired level every week,” he explained. “Madrid, even though I lost in the semi-finals, I still think I played really good tennis. Felt physically 100 per cent, even after an almost three-and-a-half-hour battle against Alcaraz. I recovered well the next day, was ready to go. That’s a positive and encouraging factor prior to Rome and also, of course, the big goal, which is Paris.

“I think I’m in the right direction. I know I can always play better, and I know that I’m very self-critical on the court. At the same time, realistically looking, I think the tennis, quality of tennis, level of tennis, is really high now. Hopefully I can maintain that level throughout this week and build, go deep in this tournament hopefully — that’s the goal — and come to Paris well-prepared.”