Djokovic’s dance: what really matters to him in tennis after his 8th year-end number one
“Guantanamera” was playing. The song by Cuban Joseíto Fernández that has been a worldwide hit since the 1930s and has since been recorded in several languages and styles. And it was playing in Turin, in an Italian version for Novak Djokovic to dance to.
The Serb had a good reason to shake his hips, because he fulfilled, in his own words, “every tennis player’s dream” and achieved “the most difficult thing in tennis”… the 8th year-end number one.
Djokovic received the ATP trophy for finishing the year at the top of the ranking and this Monday, November 20th, he will score another symbolic mark when he completes 400 weeks at the top of the ranking.
The new cup for his collection is the simple confirmation of what was already stamped in New York with his US Open title. That Djokovic was the best of 2023 in an era where Grand Slams are worth far more than everything else. And Djokovic won three out of four.
He came within one set of getting the poker. Carlos Alcaraz made it big by beating him in an epic match at Wimbledon that will remain forever in the memory. In July, the era of the Spaniard began, although it coexists with the Serb’s, who has not lost since that fight in London.
In an era where minor tournaments are seen as simple preparation for major challenges and even Masters 1000s sometimes don’t seem to matter as much as they should, Djokovic explained that for the remainder of his career, only anything that will extend his record in Grand Slams will fit on his agenda. Or also to achieve the missing Olympic gold medal.
Because he is in Turin also thinking about the Davis Cup with Serbia, which in turn will be the access route to be able to compete in Paris 2024.
These are the decisions and plans of the more mature version of the most successful player in history, who is also embracing the role of villain. The one he did not want for many years. After the time when he earned the nickname “Djoker” thanks to his buffoonish imitations of Maria Sharapova, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Andy Roddick. There the laughter and the approval of the public were the paycheck he desired.
It was then at the peak of the “Fedalian” love when a lot of animosity began to brew. Someone was coming along to stop Federer and Nadal from extending their records.
There were those matches at the Phillippe Chatrier against Nadal in which almost the entire stadium cheered the 14-time Roland Garros champion and celebrated the Serbian’s mistakes.
Now Djokovic prefers to smile. Ironically or not, when the crowd wakes up against him. “More, more, more, more,” he shouted at Paris Bercy, asking for the boos and boos to be felt louder. As the contempt for him increases, so does his desire to win. And at this point he doesn’t seem to care what the people watching him in the stands or on TV think: Djokovic displays the attitude of a hungry competitor who cares about nothing more than walking off the court with a win. If rackets have to be smashed to get rid of frustration, let them be destroyed, just as they were against Holger Rune in his debut at the 2023 Masters Tournament.
He already owns 40 Masters 1000, 24 Grand Slams, and 400 weeks at number one in the ranking. Djokovic’s 2023 was outrageous, and he achieved it having played only 12 tournaments all season.
“It was one of my best years. I won three Grand Slams and played the final of the other one… and it still wasn’t the best season of my life. In 2011 or 2015 I won more tournaments. I mean I also played a lot more events in those years, and this time I faced different circumstances because I played a lot less tournaments, so I managed to peak at the right moments. That’s something that matters too much to me,” Djokovic said.
The 8th year-end number one in the face of those who are still in their twenties with a fresh body, those who played twice as many tournaments as he did.