Novak Djokovic is making his long-awaited return to action this week at the Rolex Paris Masters, and immediately he has a chance to make history.
In his first tournament since losing in the US Open final against Daniil Medvedvev, the Serbian superstar has an opportunity to clinch his seventh year-end No. 1 finish in the FedEx ATP Rankings, which would break his tie with Pete Sampras for the most year-end No. 1 finishes in history.
There are three scenarios in which Djokovic can clinch the achievement in Paris. The 34-year-old will do it if he reaches the final, if he advances to the semi-finals and Medvedev does not win the title, or if the Russian does not make the championship match.
“The year-end No. 1 is on the line between Medvedev and myself, and I’m in a pretty good position,” Djokovic said. “That’s obviously the goal for the end of the season other than trying to do well in the Davis Cup with the national team. So hopefully I can have a strong finish of the season and clinch that year-end No. 1.”
Djokovic will take confidence knowing he is a five-time Rolex Paris Masters champion. In his past six appearances, the Serbian has lifted the trophy four times, made another final and advanced to the quarter-finals.
“I’m pleased to be back. I have been training really well [the] past couple of weeks. And I have had plenty of success in Paris-Bercy over the years, so that gives me enough reason to believe that I can do well, and I can go far in the tournament,” Djokovic said. “But having said that, the lack of match play could be dangerous, so I have to really make sure that I start off my first match very well with a good intensity and build my form as that match passes on and hopefully get a win and get myself more comfortable on this court and just getting that match play in.”
The 36-time ATP Masters 1000 winner will begin his run against Italian Fabio Fognini (8-0) or Hungarian Marton Fucsovics (3-0). But Djokovic knows that he will not just have to deal with tough opponents. This is his first event since his disappointing defeat at Flushing Meadows, where he fell one victory short of completing the Grand Slam.
“I have learned over the years to deal with losses in such way that I treat them as great opportunities for growth. I feel that the US Open loss in the final has arrived arguably at the worst or at the best time for me, in a way,” Djokovic said. “Of course I’m disappointed that I lost the match, but I feel like I was blessed to experience love from the crowd and support from the stadium that I have never experienced before in my life in New York, and actually not in many places around the world.
“That kind of energy that I received from the crowd from the moment I stepped on the court until I stepped out is a win for life.”
As tough as that defeat was, Djokovic is trying to take the positives from it. Not only did he win the year’s first three majors, but the loss also taught him lessons from which he feels he can get better.
“In a most ideal scenario, I would [have won all] four of them. But knowing I was so close gives me great encouragement for the future, but it also makes me feel humble about my game, about my career,” Djokovic said. “It gives me a kind of reality check where I have to go back to the practice court and really understand what needs to be done so that I could improve.”
Djokovic added that he has learned to deal with losses and grow from them. And he hopes that is the case again on this occasion as he attempts to finish his year on a high in Paris and at the Nitto ATP Finals in Turin.
“This was not an ordinary loss considering the circumstances,” Djokovic said. “The season was very draining for me and demanding in every aspect, but I have had similar situations before where I was just super tired, but somehow managed to find the strength and finish the year and finish the season strong. Hopefully that will be the case again.”
Did You Know?
While the 2021 year-end FedEx ATP Rankings will continue to potentially include some results from 2019 and 2020 in a player’s rankings breakdown under the “best of” rankings system due to COVID-19, the 2021 year-end No. 1 will be based off 2021 results alone (i.e., the FedEx ATP Race To Turin) and will continue until the end of the Nitto ATP Finals. This will ensure that the No. 1 accolade accurately reflects the world’s best performer of the 2021 calendar season.