Novak Djokovic ends rollercoaster year on high with historic victory at ATP Finals

A record-equalling sixth title at the season-ending tournament also saw the Serb collect the largest winner's cheque in tennis history

Novak Djokovic celebrates with the ATP Finals trophy after defeating Casper Ruud in the final. Getty
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Novak Djokovic ended his rollercoaster season in the best way possible by defeating Casper Ruud to clinch the ATP Finals title and collect the biggest winner's cheque in tennis history on Sunday night.

The 35-year-old Serb beat his Norwegian opponent 7-5, 6-3 for his fifth title of the year, despite missing large parts of the season over Covid-19-related entry rules. Having won the season-ending tournament in Turin unbeaten, Djokovic earned $4,740,300.

Djokovic sealed victory in style with his ninth ace to win the title for the first time since 2015 in front of a rapturous crowd. The victory also pulled him level with Roger Federer on a record-equalling six ATP Finals titles.

"Got to stay focused the entire match, every single point, the momentum can switch to the other side really quickly," Djokovic said.

"The fact that I waited seven years makes this victory even sweeter.

The 23-year-old Ruud has enjoyed the best season of his career and battled toe-to-toe with the 21-time major winner early on but produced two clumsy errors to hand Djokovic the break at the end of the first set.

Djokovic put his foot on the accelerator from there on, harnessing his mighty forehand to break Ruud in the fourth game of the second set.

The Norwegian threw everything he had at Djokovic in a 36-shot penultimate rally but the Wimbledon champion was simply too sharp, outlasting his opponent in the marathon exchange and holding his arms out wide after clinching the title.

The 35-year-old Djokovic is the oldest player to win the title and said the tournament did not leave him unscathed after a gruelling three-set thriller against Russian Daniil Medvedev en route to the semi-finals.

"It was not easy to recover and to really be able to play well in the semis in less than 24 hours after that match," he said. "It's an internal battle with myself because there's one voice that is always telling you you can't do it, you're too tired, this and that, right? The bad guy and the good guy. You try to feed the good guy."

Djokovic ends the season on a high note after a year of ups and downs.

He was unable to defend his title at the Australian Open in January as he was deported from the country due to his refusal to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

His stance also meant he was barred from competing in the United States this year, including at the season's final major at the US Open.

"I look forward to having a couple of weeks off because I was really kind of on the needles an entire year whether it was for tournaments or waiting for permissions to go somewhere, so I'm really glad that I managed to end it in a positive way," said Djokovic, who collected a seventh Wimbledon title in July.

The defeat capped a disappointing end to Ruud's breakout year. The Norwegian had also reached the finals at Roland Garros and Flushing Meadows but came off second best.

"In the end it's been disappointing to end up losing these big finals," the 23-year-old world No 3 said.

"Overall if you gave me an offer to end the year at No 3, play the finals that I've played, at the first of January this year, I would probably sign the contract right away."

"I've overachieved compared to my own mind, so I'm very happy about that."

Both players will head to the UAE next month, with Ruud competing at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, while Djokovic will feature in the inaugural World Tennis League in Dubai.

Updated: November 21, 2022, 8:33 AM