Novak Djokovic received good news from Australia, and he played like it in “flawless” ATP Finals display
The Serbian served notice that his time at the top is far from over after Wednesday’s 6-4, 6-1 dismissal of Andrey Rublev in Turin.
The 2022 ATP season has ostensibly been one of change. Two teenagers, Carlos Alcaraz and Holger Rune, broke into the Top 10, and one of them went all the way to No. 1. Casper Ruud, 23, made his first and second Grand Slam finals. The leader of the Greatest Generation, Roger Federer, officially bowed out, and his longtime rival, Rafael Nadal, has struggled to make it to the finish line.
But if the men’s game was ready to move on, no one seems to have alerted Novak Djokovic.
So far the season’s year-end championships in Turin have had a throwback feel. The courts are slick, the points are short, and the ace count is high. And with Alcaraz absent due to injury, Djokovic, now 35 and ranked eighth, has reemerged as the tour’s dominant figure. On Monday he beat No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas in two competitive sets; on Wednesday, he beat No. 7 Andrey Rublev in two not-very-competitive sets, 6-4, 6-1. The win sent Djokovic into the semifinals at this event for the 13th time. Seven years after his last ATP Finals title, he’s looking like the favorite again.
“One of the best matches I played this year, particularly in the second set,” Djokovic said. “Just a flawless set, really.
Djokovic has now advanced to the semifinal stage 11 times at the ATP Finals.
“Flawless” is a lofty self-assessment, but I’m not sure anyone would argue with him. Djokovic had 12 aces. He made 81 percent of his first serves and won 94 percent of those points. He hit 19 winners and, according to the statisticians, made zero unforced errors. (Rublev apparently only made one, so I’m not sure how reliable that stat line is.) Djokovic didn’t face a break point. And he closed the first set with a perfectly struck backhand return winner that sent Rublev into a blind, racquet-slamming rage and left him thoroughly deflated the rest of the way.
“I started off really sharp in the match, served extremely well.” Djokovic said. “I had a lot of free points on the first serve.”
“Everything,” he said of the second set, “was flowing fantastically well.”
Djokovic’s trip to the semifinals in Turin wasn’t the only, or even the most important, positive development in his week. Australian authorities announced that they had overturned his three-year ban from their country, and will allow him to apply for a Visa—and a chance to play the Australian Open, where he is a nine-time champion.