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Rankings race Novak's No 1 priority

China Daily | Updated: 2021-11-02 09:11
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Novak Djokovic. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Serb bidding to surpass Sampras by ending another season at the summit

PARIS-Novak Djokovic is looking to set more records in his first tournament since his US Open final defeat, while the 20-time Grand Slam champion again declined to confirm whether he would play at the Australian Open in January.

Djokovic will play both singles and doubles at the Paris Masters, which started on Monday.

The top-ranked Serb can break a tie with American great Pete Sampras with a record seventh year-end No 1 finish. Djokovic currently has a lead of 1,900 points over No 2 Daniil Medvedev in the Race to Turin and could clinch the year-end No 1 spot in Paris before the end of the season.

"The year-end No 1 is on the line between Medvedev and myself, and I'm in a pretty good position in terms of the ranking points and the Race," Djokovic told a news conference Sunday, "so that's obviously the goal for the end of the season, other than trying to do well in the Davis Cup with the national team. So hopefully I can have a strong finish of the season and clinch that year-end No 1."

Both Djokovic and Medvedev will compete at the Paris Masters and the ATP Finals. The Paris Masters champion will earn 1,000 points while the winner of the ATP Finals can earn up to 1,500 points with a perfect run.

Although the current ATP rankings still include some results from 2019 and 2020 to take into account the COVID-19 situation, the year-end No 1 is based only on 2021 results as the ATP Tour wants it to reflect the world's best performer of this calendar season.

Djokovic will play doubles to build up his fitness and prepare for the year-end Davis Cup with Serbia. There are questions marks about Djokovic's fitness levels as he looked exhausted in the Tokyo Olympics and has not played any competitive match since Sept 12.

"The season was very draining for me and demanding in every aspect," Djokovic said, "but I have had similar situations before where I was just super tired, but somehow managed to find the strength and finish the year and finish the season strong. Hopefully that will be the case again."

Djokovic has lifted the Paris Masters trophy a record five times. He could overtake Rafael Nadal for the most Masters 1000 titles won. Nadal and Djokovic have won 36 Masters 1000 titles each, eight more than Roger Federer.

Djokovic did not confirm whether he would play at the Australian Open due to vaccination-linked regulations.

"I'm going to decide on whether I go to Australia or not after I see the official statement from Tennis Australia," Djokovic said.

Djokovic, who has won the Australian Open a record nine times and shares the men's Grand Slam record of 20 titles with Federer and Nadal, hasn't confirmed whether he has been vaccinated for COVID-19. If he is not vaccinated, he risks missing the tournament he has won for the last three years.

Despite missing out on the first calendar-year Grand Slam in men's tennis since 1969, Djokovic has turned the defeat against Medvedev in New York into a positive moment.

"I feel that the US Open loss in the final has arrived, you know, arguably at the worst or at the best time for me, in a way," Djokovic said.

Djokovic hid his tears during a changeover in the last set by covering his face with a towel as the crowd at Flushing Meadows vocally supported him.

"That kind of energy that I received from the crowd from the moment I stepped in the court until I stepped out is a win for life," Djokovic said.

Djokovic got a first-round bye at the Paris Masters and starts with a match against either Marton Fucsovics or Fabio Fognini.


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