Alexander Zverev earned the biggest win of his young career beating the heavily-favored Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 in the title match at the ATP Finals in London on Sunday.
“This is the biggest title of my career so far. This trophy means a lot, everything, to all the players. I mean, you only have so many chances of winning it. You play against the best players only,” Zverev said after his 10th title. “How I played today, how I won it, for me it’s just amazing.”
The 21-year-old Zverev had lost to Djokovic earlier in the week, showed no signs of awe against the World No. 1. And there was no letdown after beating Roger Federer yesterday. The German he 20 winners while Djokovic registered just seven.
In fact, it was Djokovic who looked flat and fatigued. The Serb hadn’t dropped serve all week, holding 36 straight times until today when he was broken four times, including twice to start the second set.
“I wasn’t trying to overthink it. I just tried to go out there and enjoy the match as much as I can, enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy the moment. That’s what I did,” Zverev added. “My serve has been working well the whole week. I had a lot of confidence in it. It all worked out well.”
Djokovic, who was trying to equal Federer’s six ATP Finals crowns, was trying to put a cap on an incredible last six months on tour.
DJOKOVIC: ‘IT WAS A PHENOMENAL SEASON’
Novak Djokovic falls short of tying Roger Federer’s record of six Nitto ATP Finals titles. © Justin Setterfield/Getty Images
Novak Djokovic crashed to a low point this June after spending months struggling in his recovery from a right elbow injury, falling to his lowest ATP Ranking, No. 22, in more than 11 years. Just five months later, the Serbian is back at World No. 1. And en route to the championship match at the Nitto ATP Finals, Djokovic dominated, winning all 36 of his service games.
But Djokovic simply fell short in the final, losing against Alexander Zverev, who is the youngest champion at the season finale since a 21-year-old Djokovic in 2008.
“Finishing the year as No. 1 [in the ATP Rankings], that was the goal coming into the indoor season. I managed to achieve that,” Djokovic said. “Overall it was a phenomenal season that I have to be definitely very proud of.”
A 6-6 start to 2018 seems like a distant memory now, as Djokovic, who was trying to become the oldest winner in tournament history (since 1970) won 35 of his final 38 matches on the year to reassert himself as the best player in the world. The Serbian might not have tied Roger Federer’s record of six Nitto ATP Finals triumphs, but he has clearly announced that he is back in peak form.
One might never have imagined Djokovic being in this position after the Australian Open, when he underwent a procedure on his right elbow. But the 31-year-old did.
“Yes, because I always believe in myself. Really, as I said before many times, I kind of also expect myself to do very well,” Djokovic said. “But at the same time I would sign it right away if someone told me because at that time it was also looking quite improbable that that’s going to happen considering where I was [ATP] ranking-wise and also game-wise. I wasn’t playing even close to where I wanted to be at in terms of level of tennis.”
Entering the final at The O2, Djokovic won 14 consecutive matches against opponents inside the Top 10 of the ATP Rankings, dropping just six sets in those clashes. So while he could not complete the perfect ending to a fairytale season, this is just a small bump, and not a cause for concern in the grand scheme of things. He still reached his sixth consecutive championship match (did not play in 2017) at the Nitto ATP Finals, after all.
“Obviously no one likes to lose a tennis match. You try your best. But at the same time, as I said on the court, you put things in a larger perspective, see things a bit differently,” Djokovic said. “When you get out of this feeling of a little bit disappointment that you lost, all the positive things that I have to reflect on and also take from this season, especially the last six months.
“Finishing the year as No. 1, that was the goal coming into the indoor season. I managed to achieve that,” Djokovic said. “Overall it was a phenomenal season that I have to be definitely very proud of.
With his win, Zverev becomes the first player to beat both Federer and Djokovic in the same ATP Finals events, and the first to beat the Top 2 seeds in the semis and final of the event since Andre Agassi in 1990.
“It’s quite astonishing, winning this title, beating two such players back-to-back, Roger and Novak, in semi-finals and final,” Zverev said. “It means so much. I’m incredibly happy and incredibly proud of this moment right now.”
A day after being booed, Zverev stands as the last man to win a match on the 2018 ATP Tour season.
“[Djokovic and Federer] are still going to be the guys to beat at the big tournaments,” said Zverev. “ I will do everything I can to get better, to compete with them always. I feel like I’m doing that. But I still have a lot of things to improve. I’m still very young. Hopefully, next year, I’ll be able to play better tennis than I did this year, even though it’s been a good year.”
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