Thursday, September 23, 2021

Djokovic expects return to number one

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Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates beating Belgium’s David Goffin during their round robin stage men’s singles match on day five of the ATP World Tour Finals tennis tournament in London on November 17, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / Glyn KIRK

Novak Djokovic insists he won’t be surprised if he wins his battle with Andy Murray and returns to the top of the world rankings just two weeks after surrendering pole position.

Djokovic’s 122-week reign as number one was ended by Murray when the Scot won the Paris Masters, but the race to secure first place in the year-end rankings is set for a dramatic conclusion at the ATP Tour Finals.

Djokovic is through to the semi-finals with three successive victories after drubbing Belgium’s David Goffin 6-1, 6-2 at London’s O2 Arena on Thursday.

The world number two has to wait to discover his opponent in Saturday’s semi-finals, but it will be one of Murray, Stan Wawrinka or Kei Nishikori.

Murray has won both his matches but still needs a victory against Wawrinka on Friday to avoid meeting Djokovic before the final.

Regardless of what Murray does, Djokovic has his fate in his own hands as he is certain to overtake Murray if he wins the Tour Finals for a fifth successive year and record-equalling sixth time.

That turn of events would be the perfect way to round off an oddly inconsistent season for Djokovic, who has struggled since winning the Australian and French Opens earlier this year.

Asked if he would be surprised to regain the top ranking so soon after losing it, Djokovic said: “Well, I have not the same perception of ‘surprise’ as you do. To me, that wouldn’t be a surprise.”

Djokovic has lost just one match at the Tour Finals since 2012, while Murray has never reached the final.

– Marathon –
The Scot might not be best placed to hold off Djokovic’s charge as he will have to play three days in a row following his three-hour marathon win against Nishikori on Wednesday, while his rival has a day to rest.

“That’s obviously something that you wish for as a player, to have everything in your hands, not to depend on other players,” Djokovic said.

“In this particular case, I’m glad that it’s like that. Everything has been going in a positive direction.

“I’ve been playing better and better as I proceed in the tournament. I have now a day of rest. I’m looking forward really.

“It’s the last couple matches of the year hopefully. One thing is for sure: I’m going to give it all on the court and see what happens.”

Djokovic also took the chance to criticise the International Tennis Federation for not listening to top players over the Davis Cup format.

The ITF have put forward plans to alter the competition, including staging the final at a neutral venue and reducing matches from best-of-five sets to best of three.

Djokovic, who is a member of the ATP Player Council, feels more radical changes are needed to entice the top players back.

“This format is not working for the top players because it’s just completely at the wrong time in the schedule,” he said.

“If you go back five years, you see the amount of the top players that played at the later stages of the Davis Cup, you see that it lost value.

“Of course, they have to change. In my opinion, the only way to work is, once a year, one or two weeks, have a round-robin format, four, five, six groups, have teams play in different locations, then come together in one location and play a knock-out stage, quarter-finals, semi-finals, final four, whatever.

“It’s a no-brainer. I’m not the only one to have this kind of opinion about it. Many of the players have been talking about this format and the schedule, top players especially, because it just comes right after Grand Slams, right after World Tour Finals.”

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