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In Novak Djokovic’s words: ‘I have to admit, Rafael Nadal was the better player’

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In Indian Wells 2007, Novak Djokovic reached the first Masters 1000 final at the age of 19, beating David Ferrer and Andy Murray to set Rafael Nadal clash. Novak played well since the beginning of the season, winning the Adelaide title and losing to Roger Federer in Melbourne and Dubai, heading to Indian Wells with high hopes and proving his quality.

In the semis, Novak toppled injured Andy in just over an hour, hoping for another strong performance against Rafa and a chance to fight for the first Masters 1000 title. Still, the Spaniard proved to be too strong, adding the seventh Masters 1000 crown to his tally following a 6-2, 7-5 win in an hour and 34 minutes.

“Nadal was the better player today; I have to admit that and congratulate him. I didn’t play my best tennis; I’m aware that I wasn’t 100% fit, although that’s not the main reason for my tennis level today.

In general, I’m delighted and happy with my tournament and with the start of the season. It’s essential to play the best tennis during the most important tournaments. I was nervous at the beginning; this is my first Masters final after all.

After a couple of games, the stadium was more or less packed, with the crowd of some 15,000 watching the encounter; the atmosphere was great. Rafa started strong and I didn’t, making a lot of unforced errors. His forehand worked like a charm and that gave him control in the opener.

I tried to make a comeback in the second set, playing a little better since the end of the first. I had massive opportunities in that second set, especially with those three break chances in the fourth game and deuces at 4-3 and 5-4.

I wasted that all and I don’t think my backhand worked like I would want today, not moving great and making a lot of mistakes. Also, Rafa is more experienced than me, competing at some 20 Masters 1000 and Major finals at the age of 20.

I could have played better but I have to stay positive. I think I can compete against Rafa from the baseline; my shots are powerful too. With an improved backhand, I will stay in touch with him, just like in set number two.”

Competing in his first notable final, Novak Djokovic couldn’t match the rival’s pace in the opener, feeling nervous and making a lot of unforced errors.

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Novak Djokovic Set to Surpass Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in Another Elite Record

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All in all, it has been another fabulous year for World No.1 Novak Djokovic. One Grand Slam title, two Masters 1000 titles and he has consolidated his position at the number one spot in the ATP rankings. Djokovic is eyeing another record that he could match at the end of the 2020 season.

Djokovic now will most likely match Pete Sampras’ record of having the most number of year-end World No.1. Sampras has held the year-end number one ranking six times in his career. The ‘big 3’ of Novak DjokovicRafael Nadal, and Roger Federer are tied with five. So Djokovic could jump his arch-rivals and go equal with Sampras.

Novak Djokovic in the 2020 season till now

The Serbian jumped Nadal in the rankings early on in the season. After a bad Australian Open, Nadal lost a considerable amount of points and Djokovic won the Australian Open which helped him regain the number one ranking. After the season restart, Djokovic won the Cincinnati Masters which earned him points. Later he added the Italian Open and then by reaching the finals at French Open 2020, it helped Djokovic forge a huge gap from second-place Rafael Nadal. Djokovic is currently on 11,740 points to Nadal’s 9850.

Last year it was Nadal who held the year-end number one ranking which tied him level with Federer and Djokovic. Surprisingly Federer held the year-end number one ranking back in 2009 and since has reached the World No.1 ranking but has failed to stay on it till the end of the season.

Barring 2016, the big 3 have held the year-end number one ranking since 2004. In 2016 after a magical year from Andy Murray, the Brit held the number one ranking for the first time and ended the season ranked number one. He had won 9 titles including one Grand Slam title and he retained his Olympic gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

MASON, OH – AUGUST 19: Novak Djokovic of Serbis celebrates his win over Roger Federer of Switzerland during the men’s final of the Western & Southern Open at Lindner Family Tennis Center on August 19, 2018 in Mason, Ohio. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

With the year-end number one ranking almost a certain for Djokovic, the Serbian has a longer goal of surpassing Federer’s record of most weeks as World No.1. Djokovic is into his 291st week as World No.1 and he is just 19 short of Federer’s 310.

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