Djokovic targets Tour Finals history to cap golden year
LONDON: Novak Djokovic has history in his sights as the world number one aims to cap the greatest year of his life by winning a fourth successive ATP Tour Finals title. Even by Djokovic’s already sky-high standards, 2015 has been a golden period for the 10time Grand Slam winner, who has cemented his position as the sport’s preeminent force with one of the best single-seasons in the Open era. With 78 wins from his 83 matches over the last 11 months, the 28-year-old Serb has amassed 10 titles including the Australian and US Opens, Wimbledon and a record six Masters tournaments.
The prize money from that haul has swelled Djokovic’s bank balance by $16.7 million and underlined his right to be regarded as the world’s best, yet he has shown no signs of slowing down in the closing weeks of the campaign. Since losing to Roger Federer in the Cincinnati final in August, Djokovic has embarked on a 22match winning run that has brought him the US Open, the China Open and Masters titles in Shanghai and Paris. Now Djokovic arrives at London’s O2 Arena hoping to win the prestigious season-ending Tour Finals for a fifth time.
Djokovic, who opens his Tour Finals challenge against Japan’s Kei Nishikori on Sunday, would become the first player to win the event four years in a row if he lifts the trophy on November 22 and, ominously for his rivals, he claims he feels in the form of his life. “I feel this season is even better than 2011. I’m in love with the game. I really don’t find it that difficult to go out on the practice courts and prepare myself in the off-season,” Djokovic said. “I always look to set up new goals to try to get as far as possible in terms of my abilities and achievements.”
With a fearsome record of 37 successive indoor match wins, including 14 at the Tour Finals, few would bet against Djokovic, even with an early showdown against Federer looming in the group stage. World number three Federer, who starts his 14th straight Tour Finals campaign against Tomas Berdych on Sunday, has a record six Tour Finals titles and has reached the final four times in the last five years. The 17-time Grand Slam champion, defeated by Djokovic in the Wimbledon and the US Open finals, pulled out of last year’s final against Djokovic just hours before the scheduled start due to an injury, but he expects to mount another strong challenge for the title.
“I’ve never had issues getting motivated for this event at the end of the season,” Federer said. “It’s a massive priority for me and because it’s a priority it helps me play better. “Indoors has helped my game throughout my career and the idea of playing fellow top 10 players gets me really excited.” The other group in the round-robin tournament, which features the world’s top eight players, features Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and David Ferrer. Most of the interest in that group will focus on former Wimbledon champion Murray, who has made it clear his main priority is Great Britain’s attempt to win the Davis Cup for the first time since 1936.
Britain face Belgium on clay in Ghent less than a week after the Tour Finals and Murray has spent most of this week practicing on that surface at Queen’s Club. But the world number two, who starts against Spain’s Ferrer on Monday, hopes to make the best of a difficult situation. “It’s been tricky with my preparation being mainly on the clay but it was never going to be perfect,” Murray said. “But I would have signed up to be in this situation at the end of the year in comparison to last year and hopefully I can play some good tennis here and in the Davis Cup.”—AFP
BRUSSELS: Italy’s Stephan El Shaarawy (right) fight for the ball with Belgium goalkeeper Simon Mignolet during a friendly soccer match at the King Baudouin stadium in Brussels on Friday, Nov 13, 2015. Belgium won 3-1. —AP