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Djokovic rounds off troubled year with 'sweet' ATP Finals title

China Daily | Updated: 2022-11-22 09:26
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Novak Djokovic kisses the ATP Tour Finals trophy on Sunday. [Photo/Agencies]

Novak Djokovic said winning a record-equaling sixth ATP Tour Finals title on Sunday was a "deeply satisfying" ending to his troubled and truncated year.

The Serb beat Norwegian Casper Ruud 7-5, 6-3 in Turin to match Roger Federer's record of six titles in the year-ending tournament for the top-ranked players.

"Seven years has been a long time," Djokovic said. "At the same time, the fact that I waited seven years makes this victory even sweeter and even bigger.

"A lot of nerves ... I missed a couple of forehands in the last game when I was serving for it. I had nerves, but I am really grateful to be able to serve the match out. I had a big ace to close out."

The 35-year-old Serb, the oldest player to win the Finals, ended in style after a season in which he missed two majors because of his COVID-19 vaccine status.

"It feels deeply satisfying and, at the same time, a huge relief because of the circumstances that I have been through this year, situations earlier this year, of course, with Australia," he said.

"We don't need to go back. We know what happened."

In January, Djokovic was detained and deported from Australia over his non-vaccinated status and missed the Australian Open.

"That had an effect obviously on my start of the year," he added. "For the first several months, I was trying to find that balance game-wise but also mentally in order to be able to come back to the court and find that tennis level that I need."

Djokovic was initially barred from returning to Australia before 2025, but last week the new government in Canberra said the nine-time Australian Open champion would be free to compete in January's tournament.

"I don't know what the future holds but I know that what I hold in my mind is a huge hunger still to win trophies," said Djokovic.

The win in Turin, which also brings a check for $4.7 million, came seven years after his last ATP Finals victory and lifts him from eighth to fifth in Monday's new rankings at the end of a season in which he also won Wimbledon. Spain's Carlos Alcaraz, who missed the ATP Finals through injury, is No 1.

"In my mind I always see myself as the best player in the world, of course," he said.

"I'm not. I'm fifth. This week I probably am. Overall the rankings are showing who had the best year, and Alcaraz is the No 1 in the world."

Djokovic and his wife brought their 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter to Turin.

"Extremely special for me," Djokovic said. "I don't get to have these moments on the tour with them so much.

"I took both of my children, particularly my son, a lot to the tennis training sessions, warm-ups, matches. He was very loud, I must say. I was very surprised. I could hear his voice the entire time.

"They both are now aware of what's going on, what the father is doing."

And his coach, former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, had a stark warning for Djokovic's rivals.

"He's practicing even harder than when he was 22," Ivanisevic said. "That's why he's still so good and that's why he's still going to be even better."


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