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Djokovic's Aura: 'I Want Them To Feel That Pressure'
Novak Djokovic defeated three of the ATP Tour's brightest young stars to win the Nitto ATP Finals title, downing Holger Rune in the group stage before dismissing Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner in the knockout rounds. Asked how the presence of such talented young challengers impacts his motivation, the Serbian's answer was as ruthless as his performance on the court.
"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," he said. "That's what I want my opponents to feel, no doubt, because that helps mentally coming into the match.
"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. Of course, that's not going to win you the match, but it might give you the little percentage, the little edge."
Djokovic was effusive in his praise for Sinner, Alcaraz and Rune, calling them "the next big three" who will "carry the sport" into the future. But for now, the Serbian is firmly established atop the Pepperstone ATP Rankings as the game's leading man.
"I will hang on for as long as I feel like hanging on," he said. "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."
But even after such a brilliant season — Djokovic has won seven titles this year, including three Grand Slams — the Serbian is hungry for more. On Monday, he will enjoy his 400th week as World No. 1, having secured ATP Year-End No. 1 presented by Pepperstone honours for a record-extending eighth time. Since Roland Garros, Djokovic is 35-2.
Asked how he could improve on such a strong campaign, the 36-year-old did not hesitate to raise the bar.
"Well, you can win four Slams and Olympic gold," he said with a smile, alluding to the upcoming Paris Olympics. "Let's see. I have always the highest ambitions and goals. That's not going to be different for the next year, that's for sure. The drive that I have is still there. My body has been serving me well, listening to me well. I have a great team of people around me.
"Motivation, especially for the biggest tournaments in sport, is still present. It still inspires me to keep going. In the end of the day, people see you performing in the big tournaments, but they don't see all the weeks and months of dedicated day-to-day, week-to-week work, trying to build your form so that you can peak where you want to peak. For me, obviously those are Grand Slams and the [Nitto ATP] Finals, and next year hopefully also the Olympic Games.
"The mindset is the same. I'll keep going. I don't know whether I'm going to have as good of a year next year, but I'm going to keep this freshness of mind and in a way motivation to do that."
Djokovic will next been in action for Serbia this coming week at the Davis Cup Finals. It will then be a short offseason before he opens his 2024 campaign at the United Cup and then returns to the Australian Open, where he will be favourite to win his 11th Melbourne title.
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