Novak Djokovic added yet another record to his apparently endless collection as he became the first man to win the ATP Finals seven times.
What’s even more extraordinary is that Djokovic’s level in Sunday’s first set looked as high as anything he has produced in his career. Given his status as the most successful male of all time, this made it the ultimate display of artistry, athleticism and control.
The man on the wrong end of Djokovic’s latest schooling was Jannik Sinner, who had been impertinent enough to win their round-robin encounter earlier in the event.
After Sinner’s three-set win on Tuesday night, Djokovic had acknowledged that “in the important points, he was going for it, he was more courageous… I learned that in some moments I have to be a bit more decisive”.
There we see the tennis professor at work. No one has ever beaten Djokovic twice at the same tournament, and this must be one part of the explanation. As soon as you score a rare success against him, he analyses the match in the manner of a chess grandmaster and works out how to improve.
Djokovic opened this rematch with the strongest of statements: a service hold to love which featured two aces. This proved to be a harbinger of what was to come, because he kept firing down those aces like a shrunk-in-the-wash Pete Sampras. There were 13 of them in all, including a mind-boggling sequence of six in a row. At one stage, early in the second set, Amazon Prime’s boffins went to work and demonstrated that 80 per cent of Djokovic’s first serves were landing within one foot – yes, that’s one foot – of the line.
But it was not just the serve. Djokovic was ripping Sinner to pieces in his return game as well. In the early stages, his forehand was averaging 87mph and he was sending most of them down the line (which involves a lower margin for error). For context, the average forehand speed across the entire ATP tour is 75mph.
The fans tried to rouse Sinner, who had won all four of his previous matches in Turin in an attempt to become the first Italian champion of the ATP Finals. He pushed Djokovic closer in the second set, earning a couple of break points in the seventh game which could – on a different night – have turned things around.
The match got a little scrappy towards the end. Djokovic missed a chance to go a double-break up by the merest whisker, when his forehand pass clipped the net-cord. From then on, he lost his rhythm slightly – just enough to look human rather than immortal. But Sinner had played a lot of tennis this week, including four deciding sets, and he couldn’t raise his own level when opportunity knocked.
The comfortable winning margin – 6-3, 6-3 – will help Djokovic maintain his extraordinary locker-room power heading into 2024. He has played all three of his most threatening young challengers in Turin – Sinner, Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune – and put each of them in their place. It is an almost inexplicable achievement from a 36-year-old.
Earlier, Britain’s Joe Salisbury had lifted the doubles title for the second successful year at this event, alongside his American partner Rajeev Ram. This enduring partnership has now claimed 10 straight wins in Turin against the best teams in the world. Salisbury said afterwards that he would celebrate the victory on Sunday night, before travelling to Malaga on Monday for the Davis Cup finals.
Unfortunately for the British team, they have drawn Serbia in Thursday’s semi-final and are thus due to come up against Djokovic in the form of his life. Cam Norrie, the British No 1, is expected to draw the short straw here in the singles.