Novak Djokovic confirmed on Sunday what many tennis observers have been thinking the past few months: The Serbian is at his best level.
Djokovic, speaking ahead of the Rolex Paris Masters, said when he reunited with coach Marian Vajda and fitness coach Gebhard Gritsch in April, the group planned to have the Serbian back at peak level by the US Open. But in August, Djokovic had already returned to his best. He beat Roger Federer in the Cincinnati final to become the first player to win the Career Golden Masters.
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This week, at the season’s final ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, Djokovic’s season could truly reach the top. Whoever advances further between No. 2 Djokovic and No. 1 Rafael Nadal will be No. 1 in the ATP Rankings on 5 November. If Djokovic and Nadal lose in the same round, the Spaniard will remain World No. 1.
Djokovic could also tie Nadal’s all-time Masters 1000 title record in France. Nadal has 33 Masters 1000 titles to Djokovic’s 32.
“We are very, very pleased with what was achieved in the last four, five months,” said Djokovic, who has won 18 consecutive matches, including his title run earlier this month at the Rolex Shanghai Masters. “With Rafa’s injury and him not playing China and so forth, it put me in a position to be very close to him in the [ATP Rankings] and to fight for a year-end No. 1. I’m aware of it, and I’m going to give my very best to try to achieve it.”
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Nadal is the top seed in Paris and is playing for the first time since 7 September, when he retired from his US Open semi-final against Juan Martin del Potro because of tendonitis in his right knee. Djokovic went on to beat Del Potro in the final for his 14th Grand Slam and second of the season (Wimbledon).
“In both the US Open and Shanghai, I’ve played as good as ever. So I really enjoy tennis at the moment and enjoy competing, because obviously when you’re winning that many matches you have a lot of confidence. When you have a lot of confidence, you approach the practice sessions and the tournaments and the matches in a just completely different way,” Djokovic said.
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“As I said, it was quite opposite extremes in terms of how I felt and how I played five months ago and today. So I do think that I’m playing at my best at the moment and, I always feel like I can improve, but I feel like this is a very high level.”
The Serbian has won the Rolex Paris Masters four times, including back-to-back-to-back titles from 2013-2015 (also 2009). But Djokovic hasn’t won the title since 2015, as Brit Andy Murray and American Jack Sock won the 2016 and 2017 editions, respectively.
“I do have high expectations for myself anywhere I go,” Djokovic said. “So we put a lot of hours on the practice court and it paid off.”