Prior to the start of the ATP Finals in Turin last week, the tournament’s social media team asked each of the participants to make a bold prediction for the upcoming week. Many of the players mentioned the likelihood of intense matches, increased video reviews, and high numbers of aces.
Novak Djokovic expressed, “Whether I choose to be modest and truthful or not, I am still the victor of the tournament,” with a grin on his face. “Even if I choose to be humble, I still come out on top.”
Next, he emerged as the winner of the tournament.
In the past few years, Djokovic has added to his success in the later stages of his career by openly stating his goals and expectations. He is not just content with taking things one point at a time and seeing how they play out. He is determined to win and believes he is a stronger player than his opponents each time he plays. True to his words, he proved himself once again.
This year, not only has Djokovic had one of his most successful seasons at the age of 36, but it has also been a highly significant season in general. At the Australian Open, Djokovic tied Rafael Nadal’s record for the most men’s grand slam titles at 22 and also set a new record for himself by winning his 10th title in Melbourne. He has since surpassed Nadal with 23 and 24 grand slam titles. Djokovic has also broken numerous incredible records, including 40 Masters 1000 titles, spending 400 weeks as the world No. 1, and being the year-end No. 1 for eight different years. He has also won each major tournament three times. In the upcoming season, it is likely that Djokovic will continue to break age-related records.
Out of all his successes, the most insightful instance of the Serbian athlete’s season was during a loss. Djokovic’s intense and memorable Wimbledon final against Carlos Alcaraz was a rare occurrence of him visibly giving in to the pressure and being outmatched in crucial moments. These defeats can have a considerable impact on the mentality of older players, who are aware that they have limited chances remaining.
Despite the tough loss, Djokovic appeared satisfied. He had the unshakeable confidence to recognize that he had triumphed in numerous close matches throughout his career, so one defeat should not have a significant impact on him. He knew there would be more opportunities in the future.
As Djokovic revels in his victory, Alcaraz will surely be contemplating how a close competition for the top ranking turned into a one-sided affair. Despite facing challenges during the last few months due to the mental and physical demands of the season, this has still been an impressive year for the 20-year-old. After his breakout performance last year, the Spanish player struggled with injuries that caused him to miss the 2022 ATP Finals and the Australian Open. A decline in performance in his second year was a possibility.
His ability to quickly recover from being laid off and start winning titles was impressive, but even more impressive was how he learned from the few challenges he faced.
In the span of a month, Alcaraz experienced intense muscle cramps from the stress of competing against Djokovic at Roland Garros, followed by a close call against Arthur Rinderknech at Queen’s on grass, a surface he struggled to navigate. However, the following month, Alcaraz surprised everyone by winning the Wimbledon final.
The resurgence of Daniil Medvedev was another bright spark, with the former No 1 brilliantly re-establishing himself around the top of the sport after a difficult 2022 in the wake of his own breakout season in 2021. Aside from Medvedev, though, the continued dominance from Djokovic should lead to ample soul searching for much of the so-called “Next Gen” group at a time when the gap between him and his challengers only seems to be growing and, after so many defeats to him, their resistance has only weakened.
Following a successful start to the season with a final appearance at the Australian Open, Stefanos Tsitsipas’ year has been marked by a lack of progress, culminating in a disappointing retirement due to injury in Turin. His opponents have been able to capitalize on certain aspects of his game, such as his serve return, backhand shots, and use of the slice.
Alexander Zverev has made a good recovery from his achilles injury from last year. However, his current presence in the sport highlights a separate problem. The ATP, grand slams, and governing body have not acknowledged the fact that Zverev, one of the top players, received a penalty order for allegedly committing domestic violence. He will likely have to face a public trial in Germany after challenging the order. Zverev maintains his innocence and denies all accusations made against him.
Andrey Rublev made significant progress and achieved his first ever Masters 1000 victory in Monte Carlo. However, he still struggled with controlling his anger and was seen repeatedly hitting his knee with his racket, causing bleeding, during the ATP Finals. Félix Auger-Aliassime also faced challenges, going seven months without winning back-to-back matches between March and October. As Djokovic maintains a large lead over other players, it is possible that up and coming players like Jannik Sinner and Holger Rune may surpass their older counterparts and present a true challenge for Djokovic next year.