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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, November 19, 2023


World No. 1 Novak Djokovic did not drop serve dismissing Jannik Sinner 6-3, 6-3 to capture his record seventh ATP Finals title and 98th career crown.

Photo credit: Getty

Playing the piano helps Novak Djokovic destress from the highs and lows of the pro circuit.

Orchestrating oppression, a masterful Djokovic tuned up home hero Jannik Sinner 6-3, 6-3 to capture his record seventh ATP Finals crown in Turin today.

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The 36-year-old Serbian superstar backed up his 6-3, 6-2, semifinal sweep of world No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz hitting all the right notes avenging a 7-5 6-7(5) 7-6(2) loss to Sinner on Tuesday night.

In that loss, Djokovic jokingly conducted Italian fans during the changeover as they serenaded Sinner with “Ole! Ole! Ole! Sinner! Sinner!”

Today, Djokovic muted the crowd and stifled Sinner with a virtuoso performance in a season that has seen him sweep three of the four Grand Slam crowns for the fourth time in the same year.

"I think the match against Alcaraz last night and the one tonight, probably two best matches under the circumstances that I've played this season against two players that are in fantastic form," Djokovic told the media in Turin. "I mean, obviously the quality of Alcaraz and Sinner we all know.

"Playing Sinner tonight 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."

A dominant Djokovic served 70 percent, won 29 of 32 first-serve points, did not drop serve and slammed 13 aces against no double faults.

Sinner is one of the cleanest ball strikers in the sport, but the depth of Djokovic's drives limited the lanky Italian's offensive opportunities and rattled more framed forehands in this final than we saw from the Italian the entire tournament.

Extending his record as the oldest ATP Finals champion, Djokovic captured his 98th career championship, including his ATP-best seventh title of the season in 12 events played.

"One of the best seasons I've had in my life, no doubt," said Djokovic, who improved to 50-18 lifetime at the ATP Finals snaring his seventh title to break the record he previously shared with rival Roger Federer.

Tennis Express

How can the world No. 1 possibly top this superb season?

Djokovic offered a glimpse into his competitive character raising the prospect of playing for the Golden Slam in 2024 when the tennis Olympic event will be staged at Roland Garros where Djokovic is reigning champion.

"Well you can win four Slams and Olympic gold," Djokovic said with a smile. "Let's see. I mean, 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. In the end of the day, people see you performing in the big tournaments, but they don't see all the weeks and months of dedicated day-to-day, week-to-week work, trying to build your form so that you can peak where you want to peak. For me, obviously those are Grand Slams and World Tour Finals, and next year hopefully also Olympic Games."

Ironically, Sinner secured Djokovic’s semifinal spot by beating Holger Rune in his final round-robin match. Had the 22-year-old Italian lost to Rune, Djokovic would have been out of the tournament.

Extended a semifinal spot by that Sinner win, Djokovic denied the world No. 4’s bid to become the first Italian man to win the ATP Finals singles crown handing him just his second indoor defeat of the season.

This tournament showed us the rising young stars—22-year-old Sinner and 20-year-old phenoms Alcaraz and Rune—are rising fast, but Grand Slam king Djokovic remains the one, true ruler of the sport and will try to ride this winning wave into the Davis Cup finals for Serbia.

Consider the challenge Sinner faced bidding to beat the 24-time Grand Slam champion twice in a five-day span. Sinner tried to impose his offense and hit one more winner than Djokovic, but tripled the top seed's error total (30 to 10) as Djokovic amped up his aggression at critical stages.

"I think today he played really, really good, especially in the back of the court," Sinner said. "But I think today 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."

The top seed smacked 20 aces in his three hour, nine-minute loss to Sinner Tuesday night.

Serving with command at the outset in today’s rematch, Djokovic drilled four aces in his first two service games winning eight of the first nine points he served for a 2-1 lead.

The six-time champion’s shotmaking touch—and Sinner’s reluctance to challenge an incorrect line call—created the first break of the match. Sinner led 40-15 when he serve-and-volleyed only to see Djokovic pull a perfect rainbow lob into the corner. Rattled by that winner, Sinner netted a forehand to face deuce.

In the ensuing rally, a Sinner drive was called out. He did not challenge, replay showed the shot touched the back edge of the line so instead of a game point the fourth seed faced break point. When Sinner jerked a forehand wide, Djokovic snatched the first break.

An assertive Djokovic backed up the break at 15 for 4-1. Leaning into his fluid serve, Djokovic stamped his second love hold for the set to stretch his lead to 5-2.

By then Djokovic was serving 83 percent, had not dropped a second-serve point and wasn’t giving Sinner a sniff of his serve.

Serving for the set, Djokovic drilled his seventh ace wide for 30-love. Djokovic coaxed an errant backhand wrapping up his third love hold to cap a dominant set of clean tennis.

The US Open champion swept seven aces against no double fault, won 20 of 22 serve points and did not face a break point in the 39-minute opener.

A sliding Djokovic smacked a forehand right off the baseline to begin the second set with a triple break-point bang. Moving Sinner side-to-side, Djokovic drew a backhand error for the love break—his fourth shutout game in the first 10 games—to go start the second set with a break at the 45-minute mark.

Launching up and out into his serve, Djokovic lashed his ninth ace out wide surging through 14 consecutive points seizing a one-set 2-0 lead.

"The match, it's really physical now because the balls are getting so fast, you have to be physically ready," Sinner said. "Also mentally you have to understand really fast what is happening. That's what he's doing at the moment better than anyone else. He won three Grand Slams out of four. He won end-of-year championship. He won Masters events.

"He played really, really good the important moments. He knows how to handle the situation, especially on semifinals and finals. This is good for him."

Credit Sinner with fending off three break points with a hard-fought hold for 1-2 that kept him in the match.

Blistering a barrage of aces, Djokovic extended his lead to 3-1 hammering his 12th ace along the way.

Still, a stubborn Sinner gained double break point in the sixth game—his first break points of the match—at the 70-minute mark. Djokovic stared down stress with the wide serve and an off-pace body serve. Rapping a series of deep drives, Djokovic elicited errors snuffing out the threat and extending to 4-2.

Fighting through a draining game, Sinner tried the drop shot but Djokovic made him pay with a scramble and smash for another break point. Sinner caught the sideline saving break point to force a sixth deuce. Sinner again played the drop shot. Djokovic ran it down and was right on top of the net, but shoved an open-court backhand volley long. Sinner to that gift and slid his seventh ace ending an arduous 16-minute hold to stay close at 3-4.

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Confronting a love-30 hole, Djokovic locked down the baseline to bring it back to deuce. Sinner scampered up to a mid-court ball, had a clear expanse of court down the line, but slapped a forehand crosscourt into the tape. Djokovic jumped on that miscue mashing his 13th ace down the T for 5-3.

A thrilling tournament came to an abrupt end as Sinner scattered his first double fault of the day off the tape ending a one hour, 43-minute final that solidified the Serbian's status as tennis king.

Key Stat
A dominant Djokovic served 70 percent, won 29 of 32 first-serve points, did not drop serve and slammed 13 aces against no double faults today after smacking 20 aces in his three-set loss to Sinner five days ago.

Turning Point
 A free-flowing Djokovic stormed through 14 consecutive points—three straight shutout games—serving out the first set and taking a 2-0 lead in the first.


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