Djokovic hungry for more after latest triumph



The Japan Times


Novak Djokovic has no intention of slowing down after capping another incredible year with his record-breaking seventh ATP Finals victory on Sunday. Djokovic is 36 and is still tennis’ No. 1 player by a good margin. He racked up a host of new records this season, including taking his Grand Slam tally to 24 and finishing on top of the yearend world rankings for the eighth time. He swept past young stars Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner on his way to another triumph in Turin. After beating Alcaraz in the semifinals, Djokovic swept aside local hero Sinner 6-3, 6-3 in the final. Sinner was bidding to become the first Italian to win the ATP Finals and looked like the right man to do it after his impressive win over Djokovic in the group stage. But the 22-year-old, like Alcaraz in Saturday’s semifinal, simply could not handle Djokovic, a man on a mission who hit his best form at exactly the right time in the tournament. Djokovic took control early in the match, breaking Sinner at the first opportunity in the fourth game and comfortably serving out the opening set. He was so dominant that he silenced a partisan crowd that had been rambunctious for all of Sinner’s matches, and immediately broke serve again at the start of the second set. Sinner looked like he was going to be walked over but he showed heart and brought the crowd to its feet when he held serve in the seventh game, a 15-minute mini-epic in which Djokovic had two break points, to stay at 4-3. He couldn’t stay with Djokovic in the end, however, and surrendered the match in disappointing fashion with a double fault. Djokovic moved past Roger Federer to stand alone as the most successful player in the tournament’s history. Rather than rest on his achievements, Djokovic is gunning for more glory in 2024, when Paris hosts the one major event he has not won — the Olympics. When asked what else he can accomplish in tennis, Djokovic joked: “Well, you can win four Slams and Olympic gold.” Steffi Graf is the only player to have achieved the ‘Golden Slam’, winning the Australian, French and U.S. Opens, Wimbledon and a gold medal at the Seoul Olympics in 1988. “I have always the highest ambitions and goals,” he said. “That’s not going to be different for the next year, that’s for sure. The drive that I have is still there,” he added. “Motivation, especially for the biggest tournaments in sport, is still present. For me, obviously those are Grand Slams and Finals, and next year hopefully also Olympic Games.” The Olympics will take place from July 26 to Aug. 11, beginning less than two weeks after Wimbledon and ending shortly before the U.S. Open. It is a major career goal sandwiched into an already long, draining season, one which will take its toll on all the top players, let alone one heading towards his late 30s. “It is definitely one of the major goals for next year, other than Grand Slams,” Djokovic said. “It’s going to be a very congested schedule with going from the slowest to the fastest surface in sport back to the slowest. Clay, grass, clay, then hard court. Obviously that’s a very demanding, challenging stretch of the year.” Sinner hailed Djokovic as an “inspiration” during the trophy ceremony and is using the Serb as a model for his own bid for the sport’s top honors. Both Djokovic and his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, predicted Sinner, who claimed four tour-level titles this season, will one day win Grand Slams and top the world rankings. “He’s an inspiration because he worked throughout the whole years before, when he was younger, in the right way to get to this point. That’s also one of my goals,” Sinner told reporters. “It’s not only about watching one season. You watch this season, and you say, OK, I played good. But you have to play well every season, and you have to get to a certain age, which is 35, 36, 37, whatever, and you can still feel the body in the right way.”