The 36-year-old has played well enough at the 2023 ATP Finals to win two matches, yet, that may not be enough to advance from the Green Group, as the Serbian can finish third behind two youngsters.
To have things under control, Djokovic needed to beat Hubert Hurkacz in two sets, but that didn't happen. The Serbian needed three sets against the Polish player, meaning his fate is now out of his hands.
After he lost a set to Holger Rune, and two days after that, also lost the match to Jannik Sinner, a very unique situation occurred, as he can be out of the 2023 ATP Finals despite winning two matches.
The key to that is simple. Holger Rune and Jannik Sinner will meet in the last match of the Green Group, and with his semifinal spot sealed, the Italian can decide whether he wants to see the 24-time Grand Slam champion in the semifinals.
There are multiple layers to this. The first one is, that despite beating him in front of the home crowd in Turin, Djokovic is still the biggest threat for everyone, including Sinner, having won the tournament unbeaten last year, and having the career and form that he has had.
Therefore, Sinner could play the long game, purposefully lose his last round-robin match to Rune, and therefore lose out on 200 ATP ranking points and over $300,000 in prize money, but in return, boost his chances to win the tournament without the Serbian in the draw.
But there is also a downside to this. Losing on purpose doesn't guarantee him that he will earn any additional ATP ranking points or prize money, as he can lose immediately in the semifinals, making the whole play meaningless.
On top of that, the Italian's relationship with the Serbian would probably take a significant hit, and so would his relationship with the crowd in Turin, which has been essential in both of his victories so far.
Fans pay hundreds of euros to see their home favourite, and if he lost the match on purpose, they would certainly be disappointed and wouldn't care about the fact that he has theoretically increased his chances of winning the tournament.
One thing is clear, regardless of the outcome, we will never know what Sinner's decision was. Even if he loses, he can be simply overpowered by Holger Rune, who has also shown his qualities this week.