Just before securing his final singles title of the season, Novak Djokovic double-checked one of his opponent’s balls. All of the approximately 12,000 spectators were probably convinced that Jannik Sinner’s ball had fallen over the line when he hit the ball. The video recording, which was then used as an aid, showed: There was a small space between the landing point and the touchline – out!
Djokovic smiled smugly to himself. Was there anything he couldn’t do that Sunday night? If he had spontaneously followed up his seventh triumph at the ATP Finals in Turin, with which he overtook the Swiss Roger Federer (six titles), with seven flick flacks on hard court at the Pala Alpitour, he would also have been capable of this feat. .
“A 36-year-old player has never played tennis at this level,” said former player Jim Courier
Novak Djokovic dominates men’s tennis like no one before. He has won 24 Grand Slams, three this year alone. To date he has won 40 titles in the Masters category. For the eighth time he finished this season first in the world rankings. Starting this Monday, he will enter his 400th week as the best in the sector.
Someone on the Internet had fun and calculated how long Djokovic had been number one if you could count the time he spent in that ranking position in his career. The result was March 2016. At the end of the tournament season for the top eight professionals, he achieved his 98th victory in the tournament – American Jimmy Connors still leads with 109, but hardly anyone can doubt that this mark will fall. Djokovic, and this makes his lifetime achievement even more special, is no longer the youngest. “A 36-year-old player has never played tennis at this level,” said former player Jim Courier on the Tennis Channel.
“It is without a doubt one of the best seasons of my life,” confirmed Djokovic after his dominant performance in Turin, where he defeated Sinner 6:3, 6:3. He has to use the plural, the selection is very large now. Even beyond sport, Djokovic is emerging as one of the biggest phenomena. Which individual athletes have been so successful in their discipline, over so long, across generations?
There is no end in sight to your work. “As long as I can beat them on the big stage, I’ll keep going,” he said, “why stop when you’re still there?” By “them” he meant all the younger opponents. “As soon as they start kicking me, I will think about taking a short or maybe permanent break from professional tennis.”
The challengers are now scoring one or two successes. In July, Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz defeated Djokovic in a memorable final at Wimbledon. In Turin, Sinner also beat the Serb in three sets. But that was in the group stage. Sinner, the friendly South Tyrolean with the shaggy red head, might even have knocked Djokovic out of the competition if he had lost to Denmark’s Holger Rune. But, feeling a little ill, he battled back to a three-set victory in front of a crowd of home fans. Djokovic was in the semi-finals – and corrected the old power situation in the final.
Your hunger for success comes from several 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 unvaccinated status against Corona. He is also a family man, his children Stefan and Tara motivate him, as he emphasized: “I always wanted to perform in front of them as soon as they reached the age where they knew what was going on. They are both aware of what is happening and I am so grateful to be a father to these two wonderful angels.” In Turin, he hugged them both right after match point.
Djokovic also seems to enjoy duels with the younger generation. From the looks of it, he loves showing them their limits. “When they play against me, they must feel like they have to give me the best tennis to win,” he revealed. “That’s definitely what I want to convey to my opponents, because it helps them mentally get into the game.” And Djokovic, the eternal strategist and mentalist, is more aware than ever of his experience. “I think the more I win on the biggest stage, the more this kind of aura grows, and I’m definitely happy about that. Of course, this won’t win you the game, but it can give you that small percentage, that little advantage.”
In fact, there are nuances that make him seem almost invincible, especially in the finals. Not only is his ambition and professionalism remarkable, he also dominates the game like no other. Many act excellently, but while professionals like the long-haired Alexander Zverev and Andrej Rublyov sometimes give the impression that they are continually confident in their high quality of play, regardless of the opponent, Djokovic looks for details that his opponents like. 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 perhaps his most underrated move. After all, everyone rightly praises his return when his opponent serves. Just with these two trump cards he immediately puts the other under pressure. Many times, opponents are unable to enter the play either with Djokovic’s serve or with his return, they are immediately pushed onto the defensive, they become stressed and make the mistake, if Djokovic has not yet hit the ball out of his reach. with his low-error topspin shots from the ball’s baseline. He sits there like a ball machine.
He once scored 14 points in a row against Sinner. The Carota Boys, a group of fans who support Sinner and wear carrot costumes, were also silent. “When you relax a little against the best player in the world, it seems like it makes a big difference,” the long-suffering Sinner said later.
Djokovic also immediately drew the right conclusions from the group stage defeat. In the second match against Sinner, in the final, he played tactically differently, more offensively, more under pressure, he said. Just like in the semi-finals, when he dismantled Alcaraz 6:3, 6:2. Yes, the master showed his students, and the question now is what else Djokovic can achieve this way. This week he is helping Serbia in the Davis Cup final in Malaga. And 2024? “Well, you can win four Slams and Olympic gold,” Djokovic said. “We will see.” His record-breaking journey will continue, however it unfolds.