ATP Finals: Longevity unmatched for era-defining Djokovic

The world No.1 capped another record-breaking season with the prestigious silverware in Turin.

Novak Djokovic / Finales ATP Turin 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

Novak Djokovic's coach Goran Ivanisevic knows the Serbian better than most.

The charismatic Croatian, reflecting on his charge's latest spellbinding triumph, made a pretty bold revelation.

"I knew as soon as he got into the semi-final, he's going to win the tournament. The mentality changed," Ivanisevic told the media in Turin, Italy, late on Sunday night.

"When real Novak Djokovic arrives on the court, then the moment is nobody that can play with him."

The arguments against that dissolve by the week, as proven at the ATP Finals.

Novak Djokovic et son équipe / Finales ATP Turin 2023©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT

Seventh heaven for Nole

On his latest trip to the Pala Alpitour, the 36-year-old continued to defy his age and his rivals to chalk up even more history.

On Sunday 12th the Serbian clinched a record-extending eighth year-end No.1 trophy following an intense 7-6(4), 6-7(1), 6-3 scoreline over Holger Rune. That was "a monkey off my back," as he admitted he wasn't "mentally present" in Turin after capturing the year-end No.1 crown. 

On Tuesday, an inspired Jannik Sinner capitalised in a 'match of the season' contender to down Djokovic 7-5, 6-7(5), 7-6(2) in a three-hour thriller.

As a result, the world No.1 just about squeezed into the semi-finals (relying on Sinner defeating Rune), and back came the champion instincts, and the rest is history. 

On Saturday, Djokovic dismantled his Wimbledon final conqueror Carlos Alcaraz 6-3, 6-2. Into the final on Sunday and the top seed gained revenge over Sinner 6-3, 6-3 to retain his ATP Finals title.

More glory, more history, Djokovic went straight to hug his kids courtside, having broken clear of 'Big Three' rival Roger Federer (six) onto a record seventh ATP Finals crown (2008, 2012-15, 2022-23).

Djokovic agreed with his coach. With a semi-finals ticket booked – he felt he'd be champion.

"Yes, I did. I think the match against Alcaraz and the one tonight, probably two best matches under the circumstances that I've played this season. It's phenomenal," declared Djokovic, whose seven ATP Finals trophies have been collected across three decades, in three separate cities.

"Playing Sinner tonight in front of his home crowd, and the way I finished the tournament and finished the season, is amazing. I had to step it up and that's what I've done. I'm very, very proud of the performance."

Novak numbers from another planet

Three Grand Slams firing him to a men's record-extending 24th Grand Slam, a 40th Masters 1000 title secured, finishing with a 55-6 match record. It's been an almighty campaign from the gladiatorial Serbian.

His ATP Finals triumph sent his tally to 98 career titles and launched him into a 400th week as the world No.1.

"Very special, one of the best seasons I've had in my life, no doubt," stated the 36-year-old.

"That was one of the key turning points I think of the season for me, winning the 23rd slam in Roland-Garros. That kind of I think gave me really wings for the rest of the year. Since then, I lost two matches and won many tournaments."

Those two losses were the instant-classic Wimbledon final versus Alcaraz in July and then the round robin rollercoaster with Sinner in Turin. Two players Djokovic turned the tables on again when it mattered at the Pala Alpitour.

Djokovic continues dazzle and inspire

The final was the perfect portrayal of Djokovic's dominance. "I was pretty much playing flawless tennis a set and 3-2," suggested Djokovic, who lost just two points on serve in the opening set.

He revealed he got "tight" as a re-energised Sinner surged back, as both supreme athletes gave it their all. Break points came, chances were wasted on both sides, but ultimately Djokovic found a way.

Sinner, the first Italian to reach the final in the tournament’s 54-year history, paid tribute to his all-time great opponent.  

"I believe that he makes me a better player, like all the other players have done who I lost to. I now have to work on this," said the 22-year-old.

"His body is in an incredible shape. We're going to see him around for I don't know how many years still.

"He's an inspiration because he worked throughout the whole years before when he was younger in the right way to get to this point. That's also one of my goals, no?

"Also, mentally you have to understand really fast what is happening. That's what he's doing at the moment better than anyone else. He plays really, really good the important moments. He knows how to handle the situation, especially on semi-finals and finals."

Paris 2024 on the cards

All the accolades, all the numbers, all the history, Olympic glory still evades the Djokovic trophy cabinet.

The next chance for gold is in Paris next summer.

"I have always the highest ambitions and goals. That's not going to be different for the next year, that's for sure. The drive that I have is still there. My body has been serving me well, listening to me well. I have a great team of people around me.

"For me, obviously those are Grand Slams and World Tour Finals, and next year hopefully also Olympic Games. The mindset is the same. I'll keep going.

"I don’t know if I'll be as good next year… Rune, Alcaraz and Sinner are the next big three, if you want to call them. They are going to carry this sport.

"I will hang on for as long as I feel like hanging on, as long as I'm able to win against them on the big stage, I'll still keep going because why stop if you're still winning the biggest titles? Once they start to, yeah, kick my butt, then I will consider probably having a little break or maybe a permanent break from professional tennis."

For now, as for the majority of 2023, there has been no stopping Nole.