Novak Djokovic joins the debate on whether he is the true world No 1

Novak Djokovic wins the ATP Finals Credit: Alamy
Novak Djokovic wins the ATP Finals Credit: Alamy

Novak Djokovic has been knocked off his perch at the top of the ATP rankings, but it is hard to dispute that he is still the best player in the world.

Djokovic beat Casper Ruud in straight sets to claim the Nitto ATP Finals title for a record-equalling sixth time in Turin on Sunday, as he turned in another sublime display.

The Serbian was pushed hard by 23-year-old Ruud but emerged after the 93-minute contest with a 7-5 6-3 triumph.

Ruud saved two break points in his first service game of the opening set to hold, but it set the tone for the match, with the Norwegian regularly forced onto the back foot.

There were a number of lengthy rallies during the match, including a 36-shot one in the final game to set up a championship point for Djokovic who then clinched the title with an ace.

In securing the crown for the first time since 2015, Djokovic equalled Roger Federer’s record for ATP Finals championships.

Djokovic has moved back up to No 5 in the ATP rankings after collecting a bumper 1,500 points for his five wins en-route to his win in Turin, but many have suggested his form in recent weeks has confirmed he is the true world No 1.

To finish fifth in the ATP rankings this season is a remarkable effort after missing out on around 12,000 ranking points.

Banned from playing at the Australian Open and US Open and four ATP 1000 events in North America due to his refusal to take a Covid vaccine.

Djokovic was also denied the 2,000 rankings points he would have collected for his Wimbledon win in July after the ATP took points away from the tournament after All England Club officials banned Russian and Belarusian players from the event in response to the war in Ukraine.

When asked after his record-equalling sixth win at the ATP Finals whether he felt like the best player in the world, he offered a swift response.

“I always see myself as the best player in the world,” said Djokovic. “I have that kind of mentality and that kind of approach.

“Regardless of who is across the net, regardless of what the surface is, regardless of what season it is, what number of the professional season in my career we’re facing. It’s always the same. The ambitions are as high as possible.

“I had an amazing finish to the season with most of the tournaments that I played indoors I won. Indoors has been historically very successful for me.

“Playing in Italy, in a country where I love to play, where I have really special connection with people, makes this trophy and this win even more special.”

Djokovic’s motivation appeared to be enhanced by the presence of his young children in Turin, but there were still some worrying signs in his final against Ruus.

In a repeat of the scenes during his match against Daniil Medvedev on Friday, Djokovic appeared to be unsteady on his feet and his right arm was shaking uncontrollably at a change of ends in the first set.

It was a mysterious and somewhat worrying scene, but Djokovic has insisted his body is just responding to tiredness after a tough week.

“I was just fatigued from grueling battle,” Djokovic said. “That’s all I can say.

“I mean, there was no illness. There was no particular part of the body that was bothering me. It was just overall physical exhaustion from the rallies and from the length of the play.

“I had a day off between the first two matches always, so I felt fresh coming into the match.

“Of course, when you’re going through physical struggles, it affects the game, it affects how you feel mentally, it affects your body language.

“Of course, the opponent likes seeing you down, and he’s trying to dominate in the rallies, he’s trying to get the upper hand of the match, which was kind of the situation that was happening today.

“But I think the biggest battle, as I’ve said before, is always the inner battle.

“If you manage to find yourself in that optimal state of mind and body as often as you possibly can, I feel you can extract the best and reap the best results for yourself in every moment, every point, every match.”

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