For Novak Djokovic, his 2008 season, just some years after he turned professional, was nice by any measure. It was his breakout 12 months.
He not solely gained his first of six ATP Finals, however he started 2008 taking the Australian Open, the primary of his 10 titles there and what would develop into 24 main championships total.
Within the semifinals he upset the highest seed, Roger Federer, and beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga within the closing. Djokovic additionally reached the semifinals on the French Open, the place he fell to Rafael Nadal, and the US Open, the place he misplaced to Federer, additionally within the semifinals. Djokovic was simply 21 on the time.
By season’s finish, Djokovic had gained two different tournaments, together with Masters 1000s in Indian Wells and Rome. That 12 months solidified Djokovic as a bona fide member of what was to develop into often known as the Large Three, alongside Federer and Nadal.
“He performed like a beast,” Nikolay Davydenko, who misplaced to Djokovic, 6-1, 7-5, within the 2008 closing in Shanghai, stated by e mail final month. “He’s a very good runner, had good management and the most effective focus on the tour. I had no likelihood.”
Now, 15 years later, Djokovic, 36, continues to be main the game and enters the Finals as the highest seed. This 12 months has as soon as once more been one among his finest. For the fourth time in his profession he gained three of the 4 majors and heads into the ATP Finals with a 51-5 report. 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 report seventh time. His chief competitors is the second seed, Carlos Alcaraz, who spoiled Djokovic’s likelihood to develop into the third man to realize the Grand Slam when Alcaraz beat him within the closing at Wimbledon in July.
However Alcaraz has not gained a event for the reason that summer time and was pressured to drag 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 closing in 2022.
“I clearly had a unbelievable 12 months thus far,” 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 might be the case.”
Djokovic enters the ATP Finals because the all-time chief in weeks ranked No. 1 with 398. He may attain a milestone 400 weeks the day after the occasion ends. He has ended the 12 months at No. 1 seven instances, 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 develop into this 12 months’s No. 1, forward of Alcaraz.
In three of the six years that Djokovic has gained the ATP Finals he ended the 12 months high ranked. The one time his year-end No. 1 rating got here all the way 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 instances, is aware of the vagaries of competing towards Djokovic on the year-end championships.
“For me, it was one thing particular to play Novak on the earth tour finals,” Wawrinka stated from the Paris Masters. “Enjoying him indoors, when he’s actually centered and motivated, was at all times an enormous problem. His sport is superb on all surfaces, however I might say indoors, that’s the place he’s at his finest.”