Shortly before securing his final singles title of the season, Novak Djokovic had his opponent control a ball again. Probably all of the approximately 12,000 spectators were convinced that Jannik Sinner’s ball had ended up on the line when he hit the ball. The video recording, later used as an aid, showed: There was a small gap between the landing spot and the sideline – out!
Djokovic smirked to himself. Was there anything he couldn’t do that Sunday night? If he had spontaneously followed his seventh triumph at the ATP Finals in Turin, with which he overtook the Swiss Roger Federer (six titles), with seven flick flacks on the hard court of the Pala Alpitour, he would have been capable of this feat too.
“A 36-year-old has never played tennis at this level,” said former top player Jim Courier
Novak Djokovic dominates men’s tennis like no one before. He has won 24 Grand Slam tournaments, three this year alone. He has so far won 40 titles in the Masters category. For the eighth time he finished this season in first place in the world rankings. Starting this Monday, it will enter its 400th week as the best in the business.
Someone on the Internet had fun and calculated how long Djokovic had been number one if only one could count the time he spent in that ranking position in his career. The result is March 2016. At the end of the season-ending tournament for the best eight professionals, he achieved his 98th victory in the tournament: American Jimmy Connors is still leading with 109, but almost no one can doubt that this milestone will fall. Djokovic, and this makes his life achievement even more special, is no longer the youngest. “A 36-year-old has never played tennis at this level,” former top player Jim Courier told television station Tennis Channel.
“It is undoubtedly one of the best seasons of my life,” confirmed Djokovic after his dominant performance in Turin in which he defeated Sinner 6:3, 6:3. He has to use the plural, the choice is so wide now. Even beyond his sport, Djokovic is emerging as one of the greatest phenomena. Which individual athletes have ever been so successful in their discipline, over such a long period and across generations?
There is no end in sight to his work. “As long as I can win against them on the big stage, I’ll keep going,” she said, “why stop when you’re still there?” By “them” he meant all the younger opponents. “Once they start kicking my butt, I’ll think about taking a small or maybe permanent break from professional tennis.”
Challengers are now even achieving a success or two. In July, Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz defeated Djokovic in a memorable final at Wimbledon. In Turin Sinner also got the better of the Serbian in three sets. But that was in the group stage. Sinner, the friendly South Tyrolean with the hairy red head, could have even eliminated Djokovic from the competition if he had lost to the Dane Holger Rune. But, slightly ailing, he battled his way to a three-set victory in front of a roaring crowd of home fans. Djokovic was in the semi-final and in the final he corrected the old power situation.
His hunger for success comes from various components. There is no formula that explains this athlete. Even today Djokovic made it clear in Italy that he was using last year’s circumstances “as fuel for this year”. At that 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 a person who had not been vaccinated against Corona. He is also a family man, his children Stefan and Tara motivate him, as he pointed out: “I always wanted to perform in front of them as soon as they reached the age where they know what’s going on. I think that’s the age now. They are both aware of what is happening and I am so grateful to be the father of these two wonderful angels.” In Turin he hugged them both immediately after the match point.
Djokovic also seems to appreciate duels with the younger generations. Apparently, he loves to show them the limits. “When they play against me, they should feel that they have to give me the best tennis to win against me,” he revealed. “This is undoubtedly what I want to convey to my opponents because it helps mentally going into the match.” And Djokovic, eternal strategist and mentalist, is more aware than ever of his experience. “I think the more I win on the biggest stage, the more that kind of aura grows, and I’m definitely happy about that. Of course it won’t win you the game, but it might give you that little percentage, that little advantage.”
In fact, there are nuances that make him seem almost invincible, especially in the final. Not only are his ambition and professionalism exceptional, but he also masters the game itself like no other. Many perform excellently, but while professionals like the long-haired Alexander Zverev and Andrei Rublyov sometimes give the impression of always relying on their high quality of play, regardless of the opponent, Djokovic looks for details that his opponents might appreciate . bad.
Others can regularly serve at 210 km/h – Djokovic serves more precisely, more disgustingly, because he usually uses a light cut. In the first set of the final against Sinner, Djokovic won 20 of 22 service points. His serve is perhaps his most underrated shot. After all, everyone rightly praises his response when the opponent serves. Only with these two trump cards does he immediately put pressure on the other. Often the opponents are unable to enter the rally either with Djokovic’s serve or with his return, they are immediately pushed onto the defensive, they get stressed and make the mistake, if Djokovic has not already hit the ball out of their reach with his low-error topspin shots from the baseline of the ball. He stands there like a ball-throwing machine.
He once scored 14 points in a row against Sinner. The Carrot Boys, a fan group that supports Sinner and wears carrot costumes, also remained silent. “When you give up a little against the best player in the world, it seems to make a big difference,” the ailing 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 tactically differently, more offensive, more pressing, he said. Just like in the semi-final, when he dismantled Alcaraz 6:3, 6:2. Yes, the master showed it to the students, and the question now is: what else can Djokovic achieve in this form. This week he will help Serbia at the Davis Cup final in Malaga. And 2024? “Well, you can win four Slams and Olympic gold,” Djokovic said. “We see.” His record-breaking journey will continue, no matter what.