Djokovic’s Pursuit Of Perfection
The second seed was leading Italy's Matteo Berrettini 6-2, 4-0, only two games away from a near-flawless performance to begin his bid to recapture the No. 1 ATP Ranking and finish as year-end No. 1 for a record-tying sixth time.
But then Djokovic hit a forehand into the net, and Berrettini had his first break point. Suddenly, things were going terribly. Djokovic shouted and gestured at his coaching team.
He was broken in the next point. But the Serbian recovered quickly to win 6-2, 6-1 in only 64 minutes. So why the outburst?
“No other reasonable explanation than trying to play as perfect as possible,” Djokovic said. “Everyone is different. Throughout my career, I always intended and always tried to perfect my game and, in the midst of a battle and heat of the moment, sometimes you just get frustrated with certain things regardless of the results.
“Sometimes I really don't mind the results as much as I care about the execution of certain shots or tactics or whatever it is. That's all it is.”
Djokovic must reach the final for a chance at finishing in the top spot for a sixth time, which would tie American Pete Sampras' all-time mark (1993-98). Nadal starts his stay at The O2 on Monday night against defending champion Alexander Zverev in Group Andre Agassi.
The eighth-seeded Berrettini was making his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals, which can be an overwhelming feeling, as Djokovic remembered. The Serbian first played at the season finale in 2007, failing to advance out of his group, which included Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Richard Gasquet.
“I lost all three matches in the group,” Djokovic said. “I was tense. I was happy that I was there, of course. I was very proud to be part of this elite eight guys, but it's an environment which is kind of new to you. Even though it's a tennis court, a tennis match, it's still different, knowing that you're there for the first time and that you're going to play against a Top 10 player every match in the group.
“It's a lot of pressure mentally, that you have to deliver your best, where for us guys that have been playing on the top level for many years, we have the experience. We know how to handle these kind of situations emotionally, mentally.”
Djokovic will rely on that experience all week.