Djokovic On Potential To Finish Year-End No. 1: 'That Would Be Fantastic'
Novak Djokovic’s victory on Sunday at the Rolex Paris Masters was not big just because it was his 34th ATP Masters 1000 title and a record-extending fifth at this tournament. By triumphing instead of finishing runner-up, the Serbian gained an additional 400 ATP Race To London points, pulling him within 640 of leader Rafael Nadal as the battle for year-end World No. 1 heats up heading into the Nitto ATP Finals.
Entering the week, Djokovic could have seen his year-end No. 1 chances slip away. But now, his dreams to claim his sixth year-end No. 1 finish and tie Pete Sampras’ record are very much alive.
“That puts me in a better position after this week. But, again, I have to keep on winning. There's always a chance that I win all my matches in London, that I play well,” Djokovic said. “I have done it in the past, and I like playing there. But it's [an] extremely difficult task considering who my opponents are going to be. You're playing a Top 10 player every single match.
“So that's a big task on my end that I have to focus on. And as a consequence, if I manage to get the year-end No. 1, that would be, of course, fantastic.”
If he lifted his first Paris trophy, Nadal would have clinched his fifth year-end No. 1 finish, which would have tied Djokovic, Roger Federer and Jimmy Connors for second all-time. But the Spaniard was forced to withdraw in the semi-finals due to an abdominal injury, allowing Djokovic to gain ground.
“I’m sad to see that he's injured because that's not what you want to see, not for Rafa, not for any other athlete. I know how that feels. Obviously I went through major injuries in my life as well,” Djokovic said. “I hope he can recover and compete in London. Because with or without him, obviously, also the battle for No. 1 but also the tournament itself is different. He's a great champion and obviously lots of respect for him.”
Djokovic is not salivating at the opportunity ahead of him in London. Instead, he’s focussing on one match at a time, knowing he needs to go undefeated at The O2 to earn 1,500 points, which would give himself the best possible chance to claim his sixth year-end No. 1 finish.
“It's not possible for me now to assume anything. It is not a reality. I have to wait and see what happens in London, to see if I can reach that goal,” Djokovic said. “It wouldn't be correct to presume with regard to Nadal and the others.”
For the moment, Djokovic is ecstatic with his performance in Bercy. At the start of the week, he admitted to being ill. But that did not stop the Serbian from lifting the trophy — his fifth of the year, matching Dominic Thiem for the ATP Tour-lead — without losing a set.
Djokovic extended his FedEx ATP Head2Head series lead against Shapovalov to 4-0 with his 66-minute championship victory. But the Canadian was the second #NextGenATP player to reach a Masters 1000 final in 2019, joining Stefanos Tsitsipas (Madrid). And with 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals competitor Daniil Medvedev winning two Masters 1000 trophies this year, Djokovic recognised that younger players are on the rise.
“I don't think there's any big difference in terms of the game. Next Gen guys have won Masters 1000s like Zverev some years ago. And so it has happened and it's going to happen more,” Djokovic said. “The new generation is already there. And guys like Medvedev and Khachanov and Rublev, the Russians, and Tsitsipas and Zverev and Thiem, and you know, Denis, Felix, this generation, it has already established themselves in the first Top 20 of the [ATP Rankings].
“And now these guys are starting to believe, more and more, that they can actually fight for the biggest trophies with the other guys. So I think it's a matter of time, it's a matter of when things come together in terms of experience, in terms of a good given day, I guess, as well.”
But for now, Djokovic, Nadal and Federer maintain the top three slots in the ATP Rankings. And while Nadal will climb to No. 1 on Monday as Djokovic’s 2018 Nitto ATP Finals points drop off, the Serbian will head to London with confidence that he could earn himself an opportunity to take that spot right back.