With a victory in Paris, Novak Djokovic once again secures first place in the end-of-year ranking

PARIS – When Novak Djokovic was 7 years old, the world of elite tennis was a distant place, visible only on the television screen of his...


PARIS – When Novak Djokovic was 7 years old, the world of elite tennis was a distant place, visible only on the television screen of his parents’ pizzeria in the Serbian mountains or in the modest family apartment in Belgrade.

Her two young children have much better eyesight.

On Sunday, as he rushed and reflected on his rematch with Daniil Medvedev, Djokovic’s son Stefan, 7, and daughter, Tara, 4, were in the front row with friends, family and animals plush.

When Djokovic finally won, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, to win the Paris Masters for the sixth time, he met Medvedev at the net and then walked beaming towards his children for them. kiss in the stands.

“A special day for me,” said Djokovic. “This is the first time that my two children have been together to watch one of my games.”

This is one of the benefits of lasting sporting excellence and one of the inspirations: to give your offspring a memory of you in full swing.

“It’s one of the main reasons I keep playing,” said Djokovic. “I have always dreamed of having my children in the stands.

Longtime rival Roger Federer, a father of four, reveled in the experience. So are many top athletes, from footballer Tom Brady to Christie Pearce in women’s football, at a time when more and more superstars have found a way to stay on top for longer.

At 34, Djokovic is riding the same wave and not yet ready to take off. He proved it in Paris, where he recovered from a demoralizing streak that could have left him reeling.

After again failing to win a medal at the Tokyo Summer Olympics in August, Djokovic came in a game of winning a Grand Slam to lose the US Open Final in two sets to Medvedev. Rod Laver remains the last man to win all four major singles titles in the same year. He finished the Grand Slam in 1962 and 1969, and judging by the constant improvement of Medvedev and the new generation of male stars, it’s hard to imagine that Djokovic will have another chance to join. Laver’s club.

But after a seven week absence from the tour, Djokovic reminded fans of his resilience, talent and ingenuity with his performance in Paris.

He reinforced his claim to be the best male player of this golden age by securing the end-of-year No.1 ranking for a record seventh year, breaking his tie with Pete Sampras. He also broke another tie with Rafael Nadal by winning his 37th Masters 1000 title and became the first man since Andre Agassi in 1999 to win Roland Garros and Paris Masters in the same season.

Medvedev, the lanky Russian shock absorber, had looked unstoppable as he knocked down a tired Alexander Zverev in Saturday’s semi-final, barely making an unforced error. Meanwhile, Djokovic had only passed an inspired Hubert Hurkacz in a tie-breaker in the third set of their semi-final, struggling for consistency on the pitch and in his own service plays.

But Djokovic found a new level and a new tactic against Medvedev, borrowing a yellowing page from the traditional tennis playbook by serving and stealing 22 times and winning 19 points when he did.

It was a clever attempt to take advantage of Medvedev’s extremely deep return position, but it still required Djokovic to do a series of brilliantly angled volleys and drop volleys to keep the ball out of Medvedev’s long range. Most impressively, the tactic continued to work throughout the game, even after Medvedev had a chance to adjust.

“It won the game at Novak for sure,” said Mark Petchey, the veteran coach and analyst. “This has been a strategy of change for Novak in the past, a surprise tactic, but Daniil knew it was coming and still couldn’t stop it.”

It helps that Medvedev is hitting relatively flat returns and passing shots compared to a player like Nadal, whose diving topspin can make decisive volleys more difficult. New paradigm? Probably not, but he certainly performed well indoors on Sunday despite the relatively heavy balls which, in theory, should have made the winners harder to produce.

“He puts a lot of comebacks on the line, and he’s so good at staying in the point and hurting you and forcing you to make a direct mistake,” said Djokovic. “So you’ve got to have some sort of controlled assault on him. “

He added: “I wanted to keep him on his toes so he doesn’t know what’s going to happen next, to be a little unpredictable.”

Surely it is easier to surprise Medvedev at this early stage in their rivalry than men Djokovic has faced for more than a decade, like Nadal and Federer. But although Djokovic and Nadal had a memorable duel this year in Paris, with Djokovic prevailing in a four-set semi-final, Djokovic against Medvedev has been the most convincing rivalry of the year.

Djokovic beat him in straight sets in the Australian Open final, lost in straight sets in New York, and then won his best game yet in Paris. It would not be surprising if they met again this year in the ATP final in Turin, Italy, which kicks off on Sunday on another hard covered court.

They have become more and more comfortable with each other and have even trained together recently near their Monte Carlo residences – a rare opportunity for a No.1 and No.2 player. Their meeting at the net after Sunday’s final was warm despite Medvedev’s disappointment, and Djokovic may never have cheered an opponent’s winners as often as for Medvedev in Paris. Partly that was because the standard was so high, especially when locked into core trades, that the two were able to expand far beyond the norm with their extraordinary defensive skills.

“He’s probably my biggest rival in tennis right now,” Djokovic said.

The question is whether either will make the long trip to Melbourne for the Australian Open, where the Victoria state government has indicated players will need to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. . According to the ATP Tour, 25% of the top 100 singles players are still not vaccinated. Djokovic, who contracted the coronavirus in 2020, and Medvedev, who tested positive for the coronavirus in April, declined to reveal whether they were vaccinated. Both have said in Paris that they will decide whether or not to play at the Australian Open once the tournament has clearly defined its formal policy.

“I don’t want to be part of the stories about assumptions and assumptions,” Djokovic said. “When the official conditions and requirements for traveling to Australia and playing in Australia become known, I will obviously see what I do with it personally, as well as the larger group of players. Because the situation is obviously different in Australia than in Australia. most parts of the world. ”

The announcement is imminent, according to Tennis Australia, which will officially launch the tournament next week with tickets on sale on November 19.

Skipping the trip wouldn’t be a small sacrifice for Djokovic, who is looking for a 21st Grand Slam singles title to break his three-way tie with Federer and Nadal. Nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic has won almost half of his majors on the hard courts in Melbourne. Although he remains No.1 after another brilliant and resilient season, he can feel the pressure from below from Medvedev, 25, and his peer group, who have no children yet.

“He is the leader of the next generation,” said Djokovic. “They’re already here, and they’re challenging the three of us old folks, and we’re going to try to hold on.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: With a victory in Paris, Novak Djokovic once again secures first place in the end-of-year ranking
With a victory in Paris, Novak Djokovic once again secures first place in the end-of-year ranking
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