May 20, 2024

For Novak Djokovic, his 2008 season, only a few years after he turned professional, was nice by any measure. It was his breakout yr.

He not solely received his first of six ATP Finals, however he started 2008 taking the Australian Open, the primary of his 10 titles there and what would turn into 24 main championships general.

Within the semifinals he upset the highest seed, Roger Federer, and beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga within the remaining. Djokovic additionally reached the semifinals on the French Open, the place he fell to Rafael Nadal, and america Open, the place he misplaced to Federer, additionally within the semifinals. Djokovic was simply 21 on the time.

By season’s finish, Djokovic had received two different tournaments, together with Masters 1000s in Indian Wells and Rome. That yr solidified Djokovic as a bona fide member of what was to turn into often known as the Massive Three, alongside Federer and Nadal.

“He performed like a beast,” Nikolay Davydenko, who misplaced to Djokovic, 6-1, 7-5, within the 2008 remaining in Shanghai, stated by e mail final month. “He’s a very good runner, had good management and the perfect focus on the tour. I had no probability.”

Now, 15 years later, Djokovic, 36, remains to be main the game and enters the Finals as the highest seed. This yr has as soon as once more been certainly one of his greatest. For the fourth time in his profession he received three of the 4 majors and heads into the ATP Finals with a 51-5 file. Final Sunday, he captured his seventh Paris Masters championship and fortieth profession Masters 1000 title with a straight-sets win over Grigor Dimitrov.

The ATP Finals start Sunday on the Pala Alpitour in Turin, Italy, the place Djokovic will attempt to win the occasion for a file seventh time. His chief competitors is the second seed, Carlos Alcaraz, who spoiled Djokovic’s probability to turn into the third man to achieve the Grand Slam when Alcaraz beat him within the remaining at Wimbledon in July.

However Alcaraz has not received a event because the summer time and was pressured to tug out of an ATP occasion in Basel, Switzerland, final month due to foot and lower-back issues. He was then upset in his opening match on the Paris Masters by the qualifier Roman Safiullin.

The six different singles gamers within the round-robin competitors are Daniil Medvedev, Jannik Sinner, Andrey Rublev, Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev and Holger Rune. Djokovic is the defending champion, having overwhelmed Casper Ruud within the remaining in 2022.

“I clearly had a unbelievable yr to date,” Djokovic stated simply earlier than the beginning of the Paris Masters final month. “I couldn’t ask for a greater season. One match away from profitable all 4 Slams is one thing I might signal [up] straight away at the start of the season if somebody informed me that may be the case.”

Djokovic enters the ATP Finals because the all-time chief in weeks ranked No. 1 with 398. He might attain a milestone 400 weeks the day after the occasion ends. He has ended the yr at No. 1 seven occasions, another than Pete Sampras, who did it from 1993-98. All he has to do is win one round-robin match on the Finals to turn into this yr’s No. 1, forward of Alcaraz.

In three of the six years that Djokovic has received the ATP Finals he ended the yr high ranked. The one time his year-end No. 1 rating got here right down to the championship match on the ATP Finals was in 2016, when he misplaced to Andy Murray, who took the year-end No. 1.

Lately, Djokovic stays motivated by the majors and by retaining his rating. Stan Wawrinka, who has performed Djokovic virtually 30 occasions, is aware of the vagaries of competing in opposition to Djokovic on the year-end championships.

“For me, it was one thing particular to play Novak on the planet tour finals,” Wawrinka stated from the Paris Masters. “Enjoying him indoors, when he’s actually centered and motivated, was all the time an enormous problem. His recreation is wonderful on all surfaces, however I might say indoors, that’s the place he’s at his greatest.”

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