Shortly before securing his final singles title of the season, Novak Djokovic once again checked one of his opponent’s balls. All of the approximately 12,000 spectators probably believed that Jannik Sinner’s ball had landed on the line when he hit the ball. Video footage that was then used to help showed: There was a small space between the landing site and the sideline – out!
Djokovic smiled smugly to himself. Was there anything he couldn’t do this Sunday evening? If he had spontaneously followed up with his seventh triumph at the ATP Finals in Turin, which saw him overtake Swiss Roger Federer (six titles) with seven flicks on the Pala Alpitour hard court, he would also be capable of this feat.
“The 36-year-old has never played tennis at this level,” said former top player Jim Courier
Novak Djokovic is dominating men’s tennis like no one before. He has won 24 Grand Slam tournaments, including three this year. So far, he has won 40 titles in the Masters category. He finished this season in first place in the world rankings for the eighth time. Starting next Monday, it will celebrate its 400th week as the best in the industry.
Someone on the Internet had some fun and calculated how long Djokovic has been number one, if you can count the amount of time he has spent in that ranking position in his career. The result was March 2016. At the end of the tournament season for the best eight professionals, he achieved his 98th tournament victory – American Jimmy Connors still leads with 109, but few people can doubt that this result will drop. Djokovic, making his lifetime achievement even more special, is no longer the youngest. “The 36-year-old has never played tennis at this level,” former top player Jim Courier told Tennis Channel.
“This is undoubtedly one of the best seasons of my life,” Djokovic confirmed after a dominant performance in Turin, in which he defeated Sinner 6-3, 6-3. Must use plural, there are so many choices now. Even outside of sports, Djokovic is becoming one of the biggest phenomena. Which individual athletes have ever been so successful in their sport, over such a long period of time, across generations?
There is no end in sight to his work. “As long as I can beat them on the big stage, I will continue to do so,” he said. “Why stop if you’re still there?” By “they” he meant all the younger opponents. “When they start kicking me in the ass, I will think about a short, or maybe permanent, break from professional tennis.”
Nowadays, challengers even achieve one or two successes. In July, Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz defeated Djokovic in a memorable Wimbledon final. In Turin, Sinner also defeated the Serb in three sets. But that was in the group stage. Sinner, an affable South Tyrolean with a red, fluffy head, could even eliminate Djokovic from the competition if he loses to Dan Holger Rune. However, slightly ill, he fought his way to victory in three sets in front of a roaring home crowd. Djokovic was in the semi-finals and improved the old power situation in the final.
His hunger for success consists of various elements. There is no single formula that would explain this athlete’s performance. Even today, Djokovic made clear in Italy that he was using last year’s circumstances “as fuel for this year.” During this time, he missed several tournaments such as the Australian Open and the US Open because he was not allowed to enter the country due to his status as someone who had not been vaccinated against Corona. He is also a family man, he is motivated by his children Stefan and Tara, as he emphasized: “I always wanted to perform in front of them as soon as they are old enough to know what is going on. I think this is the age now. They are both aware of what is happening and I am very grateful to be the father of these two wonderful angels.” In Turin, he hugged them both immediately after the match.
Djokovic also seems to enjoy clashes with the younger generation. From the sounds of it, he loves showing them the limits. “When they play against me, they should feel that they have to give me their best tennis so that they can beat me,” he revealed. “I definitely want to pass this on to my opponents because it helps them mentally go into the match.” And Djokovic, the eternal strategist and mentalist, is more aware of his experiences than ever. “I think the more I win on the biggest stage, the more that kind of aura grows and I’m undoubtedly happy about that. Obviously it won’t win the game, but it might give you that little percentage that little bit of an advantage.”
In fact, there are nuances that make him seem almost invincible, especially in the finals. Not only are his ambition and professionalism exceptional, but he has also mastered the game like no one else. So many play brilliantly, but while professionals like the long-haired Alexander Zverev and Andrej Rublyov sometimes look like they rely on their high-quality play over and over again, regardless of the opponent, Djokovic looks for details that his opponents might like to get hurt.
Others can regularly serve at 210 km/h – Djokovic serves more precisely, more disgustingly, because he usually uses a slight cut. In the first set of the final against Sinner, Djokovic won 20 of 22 service points. His service is probably his most underrated hit. After all, everyone rightly praises his comeback when his opponent serves. With these two advantages alone, it immediately puts pressure on the other. It often happens that opponents cannot enter the court either after Djokovic’s serve or after his return, they are immediately put on the defensive, stressed and make a mistake if Djokovic has not already hit the ball beyond their reach his topspin shot with a low error from the Baseline ball. It stands there like a ball machine.
He once scored 14 straight points against Sinner. The Carota Boys, a fan group supporting Sinner and wearing carrot costumes, also went silent. “When you give up a little bit against the best player in the world, it seems to make a big difference,” a long-suffering Sinner said later.
Djokovic also immediately drew the right conclusions from the defeat in the group stage. In the second match against Sinner, in the final, he played differently tactically, more offensively, more offensively, he said. Just like in the semi-final, when he defeated Alcaraz 6-3, 6-2. Yes, the master showed it to his students and now the question is what else Djokovic can achieve in this form. This week he is helping Serbia during the Davis Cup final week in Malaga. And 2024? “Well, you can win four Grand Slams and an Olympic gold,” Djokovic said. “Let’s see.” His record-breaking journey will continue no matter what.