Novak Djokovic celebrates Serbia's WC qualification
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Pete Sampras has declared Novak Djokovic the “greatest of all time” after the Serb surpassed his record for year-end No 1. The American previously held the record for the most Grand Slam titles won by a male singles player, 14, before Djokovic and his long-time rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal all surpassed him.
Djokovic is currently competing in his final tour-level tournament of the year at the Nitto ATP Finals.
He comes into the season-ending championship having already secured the year-end No 1 ranking at the recent Rolex Paris Masters, following his semi-final victory over Hubert Hurkacz.
The 34-year-old also broke the record for the most number of Masters 1000 titles won, as he picked up his 37th title by defeating his US Open conqueror Daniil Medvedev in the Paris final, surpassing the record of 36 titles he previously shared with Nadal.
Djokovic was then presented with the year-end No 1 trophy for a record seventh time following his opening round-robin match at the ATP Finals on Monday (November 15).
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The five-time champion at the year-end event defeated debutant Casper Ruud 7-6(4) 6-2 to open his campaign with a 1-0 match lead in the group stage.
He was then honoured in an on-court ceremony straight after the match, receiving the coveted ATP year-end No 1 trophy, after which Sampras declared Djokovic the ‘GOAT’.
The retired pro had previously set a record of six year-end No 1 finishes, equalled by the Serb last year, and broken this year.
Following his huge achievement, Sampras snubbed Federer and Nadal as he branded the current world No 1 who was the greatest male player, saying Djokovic had eclipsed even his own achievements.
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“Seven years for him, I’m sure he sees it as a bonus to all the majors that he’s won,” the 14-time Grand Slam champion said, speaking to the ATP Tour.
“But I think he’ll appreciate it more as he gets older. He did it at a time where he dominated two of the greats, in Roger and Rafa and he handled the next generation of players very well – all at the same time.
“I was ‘The Man’ for those number of years, and he’s been ‘The Man’ even more so.
“I think he’s been more consistent, he’s won more events, he’s got more majors. I could go on and on talking about his career. I don’t think you will see [seven year-end world number one ranking trophies] again.”
Although Djokovic currently sits tied with his fellow Big Three members in the Grand Slam race, with 20 titles each, Sampras said it was the 34-year-old’s consistency and record number of year-end No 1 finishes that set him apart.
The tennis legend continued: “I do think what Novak’s done over the past 10 years, winning the majors, being consistent, finishing No. 1 for seven years, to me it’s a clear sign that he is the greatest of all time.”
Djokovic himself has often heralded Sampras as his idol and, speaking during his year-end No 1 trophy ceremony in Turin, said it was the American who inspired him to pick up a racquet.
“I was four or five when I saw Sampras play at Wimbledon for the first time,” Djokovic said, speaking in Italian on the ATP Finals court.
“I asked for a racquet and fell in love with tennis. To know that I hold this record now, after Pete, it’s incredible.”
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