The 2023 season started with a few ups and downs for Novak Djokovic, but the year ended on an incredible high as he continued to set records and make history. Novak Djokovic broke a tie he had with Roger Federer and now stands alone as the player with the most season-ending championship titles.
Djokovic won the ATP Finals for a record setting seventh time - in the three years the event has been held in the Northern Italian city of Torino, he has won it the last two years. Along with it being a new record at the tournament, it is also his 98th career title which sets him just five behind Federer who is in second place and is headed only by Jimmy Connors who is on 109 career titles. This was also Djokovic's seventh title of the year and that broke the tie he shared with world No.2 Carlos Alcaraz.
On top of that he ends the year No.1 for the eighth time and the day after the Rolex Shanghai Masters he started his 400th week at the top of the rankings.
Djokovic faced Jannik Sinner in the final. Just a few days before during the round robin competition and in one of the best matches of the year, Sinner scored his first win over the Serb 7-5, 6-7, 7-6. And it was thanks to Sinner that Djokovic managed to reach the elimination semifinal because Sinner beat Holger Rune in the round robin section which on the win-loss allowed Djokovic in. However, had Rune won Novak would not have got in.
So, what does Novak do to thank Jannik, well he goes and beats him 6-3, 6-3 with the pressure getting to Sinner on championship point as he double faulted.
"I think the match against Alcaraz and the one (against Sinner), probably two best matches under the circumstances that I've played this season against two players that are in fantastic form. I mean, obviously the quality of Alcaraz and Sinner we all know," Djokovic said.
"Playing Sinner in front of his home crowd, and the way I finished the tournament and finished the season, is amazing. I'm very, very proud of the performance.
"I started very aggressively against Jannik, which was the different to the group stage match we had against each other. I think that match helped me prepare myself better for the atmosphere, the crowd. Obviously, I analysed the match, and I looked what I could have done better. I think I've done it very well for the entire match."
Although disappointed Sinner should still feel proud of his efforts. To reach the final in his first year direct in and the only Italian man to achieve that in the tournament's 54-year history and he has won more matches, 61, than any Italian man has achieved in a season during the open era. On top of that he will end the year as No.4.
"He played really, really good, especially in the back of the court," Sinner said, but I think I was not that - how you say - sharp in certain moments. Felt like also that I dropped this little bit physically. When you drop a little bit against the best player in the world, he makes it look like it's a big difference, no?
"I tried to stay there. I tried to serve good. I made couple of mistakes. Also maybe some concentration mistakes because like on 40-All on 4-3, I missed easy forehand and everything. Still there was a lot of tension.
"For one and a half sets, he served really, really good. It was tough to play. But in the other way, I was enjoying out there, no? It was obviously final. It is something different. He deserved to win today, no? He played better in the important moments, and that's it.
"But I think generally I saw that I still have to improve, for sure. I believe that he makes me a better player, like all the other players have done who I lost to. I now have to work on this."
In fact many players feel that in 2024 Sinner could win a major and/or reach No.1, but the competition will be from several players including Djokovic who said this is one of his best years ever but he could do more in 2024.
"Well, you can win four slams and Olympic gold," he said smiling. "I have always the highest ambitions and goals. That's not going to be different for the next year, that's for sure. The drive that I have is still there. My body has been serving me well, listening to me well. I have a great team of people around me.
"Motivation, especially for the biggest tournaments in sport, is still present. It still inspires me to keep going. For me, obviously those are Grand Slams and World Tour Finals, and next year hopefully also Olympic Games. The mindset is the same. I'll keep going."
The doubles championship was won by Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury over Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos 6-3, 6-4.