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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Monday November 20, 2023


AT 36, Novak Djokovic's invincible aura is as big as ever, and he aims to keep it that way.

Photo Source: Getty

Another ATP season has come and gone and Novak Djokovic still sits in his familiar perch, atop the ATP rankings, and on top of the young guns who aim to knock him off said perch.

Tennis Express

It took considerable effort for the 36-year-old veteran, but the Serbian legend has summoned his very best when it matters most in 2023, winning 56 of 62 matches and claiming three of the four Grand Slam titles on offer.

The 24-time Grand Slam champion has always taken pride in his ability to beat back players nearly half his age, and he made it a point to do just that in 2024. With Rafael Nadal off the tour due to injury, Roger Federer retired, and Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka seemingly on their last legs, Djokovic has set his sights on the ATP’s generation next, and his desire to school them is what is keeping pep in his step and glimmer in his game.

Each time he faces a Carlos Alcaraz, Jannik Sinner or Holger Rune, Djokovic isn’t just playing a match, he’s sending a message. He stubbornly refuses to give an inch, and if he slips up against one of them once (as he has against all three) he reliably seems to manage a more formidable reply that leaves the young guns scratching their head and wondering if the progress they had thought they made is actually a fluke.

“I want them to feel that kind of pressure,” Djokovic said on Sunday after defeating Sinner 6-3, 6-3 for his seventh ATP Finals title. “When they play me, I want them to feel that it's going to require the best tennis from them in order to win against me. That's what I want my opponents to feel, no doubt, because that helps mentally coming into the match.”

Sinner edged Djokovic in a thrilling three-setter that lasted over three hours earlier in the week, but when the chips were down on Sunday, it was Djokovic easing into pole position, using all his cunning and his vast tome of experience to dismantle the Italian.

And just like that, the larger than life aura of the world-beating Serbian got even bigger.

“I think the more I win on the biggest stage, the more this kind of aura grows, and I'm glad for it, no doubt,” Djokovic said. “Of course, that's not going to win you the match, but it might give you the little percentage, the little edge.”

Though Djokovic embraces this aura, he isn’t shy about admitting that players like Sinner, who thrilled the faithful in Turin with the type of tennis that many believe will one day make him a major champion, are the future of the sport.

“What I said on the court for Jannik, I really mean it,” Djokovic said, referring to words spoken in fluent Italian that referred to Sinner as a future No.1 and Slam champion. “Very nice guy. Great values. His family, entire team. He deserves his success. He needs to keep going because he's definitely on the right path.

“I'm not the only one who is saying he can win slams and be No. 1 in the world. I would be very surprised if that doesn't happen. I don't know if it's next year or the year to come. He's 22. He has a lot of time ahead of him.”

Djokovic is happy to be wrestling for supremacy with the three-headed monster that could one day rule men’s tennis. And, for now, he’s happy to be schooling the kids. He’ll do that for as long as he possibly can, and when he can’t do it anymore, he’ll know it’s time to hang up the racquets.

“Rune, Alcaraz and him are the big three, next big three, if you want to call them. They are going to carry this sport,” he said. “I will hang on for as long as I feel like hanging on, as long as I'm... I think as long as I'm able to win against them on the big stage, I'll still keep going because why stop if you're still winning the biggest titles.

“Once they start to kick my butt, then I will consider probably having a little break or maybe a permanent break from professional tennis.”


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