Driven Djokovic boosts ATP Finals hopes with Tel Aviv silverware

The Serb completed a dominant week in Israel to build momentum towards the Turin-based season finale.

Novak Djokovic / ATP Finals Turin 2021©Corinne Dubreuil / FFT
 - Alex Sharp

He might not be the top dog on Tour right now, but make no mistake, Novak Djokovic is fiercely determined to have his say at the end of the 2022 campaign.

The 21-time Grand Slam champion fired a signal of intent for his rivals by collecting an 89th career title at the Tel Aviv Open.

“I still want to play tennis even though I achieved pretty much everything that you can achieve in tennis. I still have passion and hunger to play at a highest professional level,” declared the 35-year-old in Israel, aware of the challenge ahead.

“I always want to progress. Especially when you have guys like (Carlos) Alcaraz, who is full of power and adrenaline. You always have to figure out how to improve and take yourself to a higher level.”

Djokovic brimming with confidence

His week in Tel Aviv had all the trademarks of a Djokovic title tilt - pouncing on the return, applying the pressure in key moments, composure in tricky spots. It was a clear sign the world No.7 is regaining his peak powers.

Three victories over Top 150 talents in the shape of Pablo Andujar, Vasek Pospisil and Roman Safiullin encountered two tie-break sets, but the progress was pretty routine. In his first hard court final since his triumph at the 2021 Rolex Paris Masters, Djokovic commanded proceedings 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday facing world No.14 Marin Cilic.

“My approach is to win tournaments wherever I am and I’m glad that I have a team of people around me that makes sure that I am in the best shape in order to be a contender to win titles,” stated the Serbian, the first man to win trophies on hard, clay and grass courts this season.

“I played some very good tennis, I think, didn’t drop a set the entire week. I hadn’t played a tournament in three months, so it was really extra motivation for me to really do well… I’m taking some great confidence into next week as well.”

Turin ticket in his own hands

The former world No.1 claimed 250 valuable ranking points in Israel to enhance his chances of qualifying for the ATP Finals next month.

Djokovic, a Grand Slam champion at Wimbledon in July, will secure a berth at the season finale if he remains in the Top 20 of the ‘Race To Turin.’ The 35-year-old has his ATP Finals fate in his own hands as he’s currently 15th in the race.

Next up, the five-time ATP Finals champion heads to Astana, Kazakhstan, to go up against a blockbuster field including world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Novak Djokovic / Rolex Paris Masters 2021©Nicolas Gouhier / FFT

Sherif digs deep for historic milestone

Mayar Sherif will never forget last week in Italy. 

The world No.49 edged top seed Maria Sakkari 7-5, 6-3 in the Parma Open final to become the first woman from Egypt to lift a WTA Tour trophy.

Due to rain erasing Friday’s schedule, Sherif had to prevail in a three-hour 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 semi-final tussle with Ana Bogdan prior to duelling with Sakkari both on Saturday.

"It means a lot for my country," stated the exhausted 26-year-old. "It means a lot for the people back home, my family, all the hard work, all the mental struggles in the last weeks. I'm just thrilled and happy. This was never expected."

Meanwhile, world No.41 Yoshihito Nishioka claimed his second ATP title with a hot-shot laden final at the Seoul Open, posting 6-4, 7-6(5) against Denis Shapovalov.