Red is perhaps the most important color in China. It dominates the nation’s star-emblazoned flag. It’s omnipresent during the Chinese New Year. You see it on the gift-bearing envelopes that are passed around during holidays and other special occasions. It symbolises fortune and joy.
How apropos for Novak Djokovic.
The reigning World No. 1 is on a 38-1 run in China, including seven combined titles in Beijing and Shanghai, where on Sunday he put the finishing touches on his ninth title of 2015 and the 25th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 triumph of his career, a 6-2, 6-4 decision over Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Fortune? Joy? This Serb has plenty of it.
“I think in terms of the two tournaments in back‑to‑back weeks, this has been the best two weeks of my life, my career,” asserted Djokovic, who has now won 17 straight matches and 22 consecutive sets. “I think I’ve played the best tennis ever in these two weeks in terms of back‑to‑back. Honestly, that’s how I felt.
“Only one set where I got a tie-break in two weeks is quite incredible,” he continued. “So I’m very, very pleased with the way I’ve played. That’s something that encourages me to keep on going and hopefully maintain that high level of performance.”
Djokovic crossed the 70-win barrier (73-5) this week for the fifth time in his career, and he is now 10-0 lifetime in ATP World Tour finals in China. It seems that whatever his opponents throw at him these days, he always has an answer.
“That’s the kind of position you want to be in on the court,” he explained. “When you’re playing top players, requiring from you your best tennis, knowing that I can cover the biggest part of the court from each side allows me to gain more confidence in terms of when we get into the rally. Of course, I can’t expect to win every single rally, but percentage‑wise I have a very good chance against anybody because I know I can adjust to anybody’s game: players who are coming to the net or players who are staying back, playing flat or spin. I’ve played so many times against so many players, over the years you develop this kind of ability to adjust. But also I think specifically this year what I’ve done very well is I haven’t waited for other players to take initiative. I’ve taken initiative first. So the quality of my first shots has been better this year than I think ever been before.”
“It’s really difficult to do,” said Tsonga of Djokovic’s dominance in 2015. “He’s able to do it. Not many guys are able to do that. It’s really impressive. He’s playing a lot better than everybody, I think. He’s really consistent. You have to be in your best shape to beat him anyway, and everybody knows that it’s not easy to play your best tennis every match.”
Against Tsonga, Djokovic was appearing in his career-high 13th straight final since falling in the Doha quarter-finals to power-serving Croat Ivo Karlovic. The last player to reach 10 or more consecutive finals in a season was Djokovic’s longtime rival, Roger Federer, who strung together 11 straight in 2006. This is the second time in his career that the Belgrade-born baseliner has won five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 titles in a season. The last time he did it? In 2011. At the time, no one thought he’d ever surpass a season in which he prevailed in his first 41 matches, finished at 70-6 (.921) and came within a Roland Garros of the calendar-year Grand Slam. But he insists he’s done just that in 2015.
“It’s the best year of my life, no question about it,” he said at the Qizhong Tennis Center. “Everything is working great. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be able to play this well, to be successful. I don’t want to get carried away by success because I want to be playing on this level for many more years to come. I know that one of the things that you have to do in order to keep playing on a high level is stay committed and stay determined to this lifestyle that is not easy, traveling all the time. Now that I’m a father, that makes it a little bit more difficult. I have the support of the close ones, my wife, the most important one, but my brothers, my team. Everybody is behind me on the quest of being the best I can be.”
Now we know why the 28-year-old so often donned a red shirt these past few weeks in Beijing and Shanghai, his familiar gear striking a chord with the Chinese people. When you’ve got good fortune on your side, run with it.
Said Djokovic, “It’s my lucky charm.”