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Richard Pagliaro | @Tennis_Now | Wednesday, September 27, 2024

There's a beautiful battle brewing in Beijing even in Novak Djokovic's absence. 

World No. 1 Djokovic is skipping the Asian swing and is not expected to return until next month's Rolex Paris Masters.

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World No. 2 Alcaraz says surpassing Djokovic to regain the top spot is the fuel firing his motivation ahead of this week's China Open in Beijing.

Wimbledon winner Alcaraz has one clear goal for the rest of this season: Finish as year-end world No. 1 for the second straight season.

"As I said few times, we have really beautiful battle for the No. 1 spot after the great performance Djokovic had in the American season, let's say," Alcaraz told the media in Beijing today. "He's the No. 1 right now. I'm coming here with, as you said, extra motivation to try to recover it in the Race, of course, in the ranking.

"As I said, it's something that I have in my mind every time that I practice, in every tournament."

Currently, Alcaraz trails Djokovic by 770 points in the ATP Race to Turin.

The top-seeded Alcaraz, who faces German qualifier Yannick Hanfmann in his Beijing opener with the winner facing either Zhuhai champion Karen Khachanov or Lorenzo Musetti, said now is the time to gain ground on Djokovic.

"[It is] not obligatory for me to recover that, but of course you have to put the goals in the year. So for me No. 1 spot is one of the main goals for me," Alcaraz said. "In these great tournaments, I'm looking to do great to be able to be close or recover that number."

While champions ranging from John McEnroe to Rod Laver have touted Alcaraz's ability to carry the sport forward, he says pursuing joy on court is what drives him most.

"I don't feel that pressure. For me is great to be surrounded by legends and hear good words from them," Alcaraz said. "But I try not to take as important as it is. It's just be happy to hear that and try to simulate it on the court, you know, my joy."

Photo credit: Sebastien Bozon/Getty