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 develop into 24 main championships general.
In the semifinals he upset the highest seed, Roger Federer, and beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga within the last. Djokovic additionally reached the semifinals on the French Open, the place he fell to Rafael Nadal, and the United States 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 develop into often called the Big Three, alongside Federer and Nadal.
“He played like a beast,” Nikolay Davydenko, who misplaced to Djokovic, 6-1, 7-5, within the 2008 last in Shanghai, mentioned by e mail final month. “He’s a good runner, had good control and the best concentration on the tour. I had no chance.”
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 one among his finest. For the fourth time in his profession he received three of the 4 majors and heads into the ATP Finals with a 51-5 document. Last 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 document seventh time. His chief competitors is the second seed, Carlos Alcaraz, who spoiled Djokovic’s probability to develop into the third man to realize the Grand Slam when Alcaraz beat him within the last at Wimbledon in July.
But Alcaraz has not received a match for the reason that 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 last in 2022.
“I obviously had a fantastic year so far,” Djokovic mentioned simply earlier than the beginning of the Paris Masters final month. “I couldn’t ask for a better season. One match away from winning all four Slams is something I would sign [up] right away at the beginning of the season if someone told me that would 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 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 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 solely 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.
These days, 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 something special to play Novak in the world tour finals,” Wawrinka mentioned from the Paris Masters. “Playing him indoors, when he’s really focused and motivated, was always a big challenge. His game is amazing on all surfaces, but I would say indoors, that’s where he’s at his best.”