In Making History In Turin, Djokovic​ Showed He’s Still Hungry, Still Playing Unbelievable

Novak Djokovic (photo: Corinne Dubreuil/ATP Tour)

TURIN/WASHINGTON, November 21, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Novak Djokovic is fascinated by the history of tennis – especially the history he has helped create. He speaks fondly and unapologetically about what he achieved during his history-making evening Sunday in Turin, Italy, in which he won a record-tying sixth Nitto ATP Finals singles title.

With Djokovic’s 7-5, 6-3 victory over Casper Ruud of Norway, the former World No. 1 from Serbia tied Roger Federer for the most titles won at the year-end tournament. He also became the oldest ATP Finals champion at age 35, surpassing Federer (who was age 30 when he won at London in 2011), and by being an undefeated champion (going 5-0), he collected the biggest payout in tennis history of more than $4.7 million in prize money. Djokovic, who began the week ranked eighth, will finish 2022 as the new World No. 5.

During Djokovic’s run to the Turin title, in which he dropped just one set, he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas, Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev in group play, and Taylor Fritz in the semifinals. Against Ruud, he struck nine aces and 31 winners, faced no break points on his serve and capitalized on his solid return game that yielded two breaks of his opponent in five opportunities. He outpointed Ruud 64-48 to wrap up his fifth victory of the tournament and first Nitto ATP Finals crown since 2015.

“I always see myself as the best player in the world,” Djokovic said during his final Turin press conference after winning 25 of his last 26 matches, going back to the start of Wimbledon, to finish 42-7 in 2022. “I have that kind of mentality and that kind of approach. Regardless of who is across the net, regardless of what the surface is, regardless of what season it is, what number of the professional season in my career we’re facing. It’s always the same. The ambitions are as high as possible.

“I had an amazing finish to the season with most of the tournaments that I played indoors I won. Indoors has been historically very successful for me. Playing in Italy, in a country where I love to play, where [I] have really special connection with people, makes this trophy and this win even more special.”

In lifting his 91st career tour-level trophy, Djokovic has now won the year-end finale in three different cities after also triumphing in Shanghai (2008), and in London (2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015). Additionally, Djokovic has won the Nitto ATP Finals in three different decades, which speaks volumes to not only his longevity in the sport but also his fitness and desire to excel against the best and brightest players in tennis.

“Look at Novak,” said Hall of Famer Goran Ivanisevic, who has been Djokovic’s coach since 2019. “He’s still hungry, he’s still winning the tournaments, playing unbelievable tennis. He’s still already thinking now about preparation for next season.”

Meanwhile, Ruud made some history of his own Sunday. He became the first Scandinavian to appear in a Nitto ATP Finals championship match since Sweden’s Stefan Edberg in 1989. Despite losing the title match, the Norwegian will finish the season ranked No. 3 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings after going 51-22 plus winning three titles, at Buenos Aires, Geneva, Gstaad. He was also a finalist at two majors, the French Open and US Open, and at the Miami Open.

“It gives me motivation and a hunger to maybe next time, if I ever get to another final like this,” Ruud said in his post-match press conference.  “I hope I can learn from what I have done this year and not been able to do and see how it goes. I just feel like I still have room for improvements, even though I’m very happy with my game and how things have turned out this year.”

After Djokovic was feted on Centre Court at the Pala Alpitour and cheered by an appreciative crowd that included his wife, Jelena, and his two children, Stefan and Tara, he admitted in his press conference that he did not know what the future holds for him, “but I know that what I hold in my mind is a huge hunger still to win trophies.

“Make history of this sport, compete on the highest level all around the world, bring good emotions to sports fans, tennis fans. That’s what drives me a lot,” he said.

“I have a lot of different motivational factors, and I don’t lack any motivation for the moment. Of course, we all have bad days or bad weeks. But generally, the feel is still there.”

By the numbers

Novak Djokovic‘s victory over Casper Ruud on Sunday was the 1,031st of his career. He finished the 2022 season with five titles – Rome, Wimbledon, Tel Aviv, Astana and the ATP Finals. The Wimbledon title was his 21st major, and Rome represented his 38th ATP Masters 1000 crown. Djokovic has won a total 91 titles, including 17 indoors.

“Quotable …”

“I’m very grateful to my wife and my children for coming. I don’t get to have these moments on the Tour with them so much, so I of course try to enjoy it as much as I possibly can. I took both of my children, particularly my son, to a lot of the tennis training sessions, warmups and matches. He was very loud [during the final]. I was very surprised. I could hear his voice the entire time. He was very much into it.

“They make my life on Tour easier. The pressures, the expectations, the tensions that you normally go through in a big tournament like this, when they’re around, it lowers a bit so I can have that time off, quality time with my family. That really soothes me and gives me serenity in order to recalibrate and play my best tennis the next day. I cherish these moments a lot. Hopefully, as they grow older, they’ll realize even more what special moments we’re living together.”

Novak Djokovic, during his post-match press conference in speaking about the importance of having his family with him all week in Turin.