After falling to Jannik Sinner in a three-hour-plus epic on Tuesday, Novak Djokovic’s chances of qualifying for the semifinals of this year’s ATP Finals were up in the air—it would all come down to the last wave of round-robin matches from the Green Group on Thursday to see which two of Sinner, Djokovic and Holger Rune would make the cut.

Well, with Sinner and Djokovic both winning their matches on Thursday—and improving to 3-0 and 2-1, respectively—they finished first and second in the group and thus advanced to the semifinals.

And now a new phase of the tournament will begin with the single-elimination semifinals and final, and if history is anything to go by, it’s clear that a round-robin loss has no negative correlation with who goes on to win the title—in fact, a round-robin loss may even help.

In 26 of the 47 previous editions of the ATP Finals that held a round-robin format that fed into single-elimination semifinals and final, the player who won the title had actually lost a round-robin match.

That’s more than half of the time—55.3%, to be exact.

And even more relevant, Djokovic has done it twice himself—in 2008, when he lost a round-robin match to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 1-6, 7-5, 6-1, but went on to win the title, and in 2015, when he fell to Roger Federer in the group stages, 7-5, 6-2, but ended up lifting the trophy.

Djokovic is one of five players who’ve won the ATP Finals multiple times after having lost a round-robin match:

~ 5 times: Pete Sampras [1991, 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999]
~ 3 times: Boris Becker [1988, 1992, 1995]
~ 2 times: Alexander Zverev [2018, 2021]
~ 2 times: Novak Djokovic [2008, 2015]
~ 2 times: Ilie Nastase [1973, 1975]

Djokovic will go for a record-breaking seventh ATP Finals title this weekend. He's currently tied with Federer at six.

Djokovic will go for a record-breaking seventh ATP Finals title this weekend. He's currently tied with Federer at six.


The ATP Finals was first staged in 1970, and this is the 48th of 54 years in its current format. In 1970 and 1971 it was round robin only, and it went to a single-elimination draw format from 1982 to 1985.

Here are the 26 times in the previous 47 years of the current format where the champion had lost a round-robin match:

1973: Ilie Nastase (l. to Gorman in RR)
1975: Ilie Nastase (l. to Ashe in RR - defaulted)
1976: Manuel Orantes (l. to Fibak in RR)
1977: Jimmy Connors (l. to Vilas in RR)
1980: Bjorn Borg (l. to Mayer in RR)
1988: Boris Becker (l. to Edberg in RR)
1989: Stefan Edberg (l. to Becker in RR)
1990: Andre Agassi (l. to Edberg in RR)
1991: Pete Sampras (l. to Becker in RR)
1992: Boris Becker (l. to Sampras in RR)
1994: Pete Sampras (l. to Becker in RR)
1995: Boris Becker (l. to Sampras in RR)
1996: Pete Sampras (l. to Becker in RR)
1997: Pete Sampras (l. to Moya in RR)
1998: Alex Corretja (l. to Henman in RR)
1999: Pete Sampras (l. to Agassi in RR)
2000: Gustavo Kuerten (l. to Agassi in RR)
2002: Lleyton Hewitt (l. to Moya in RR)
2005: David Nalbandian (l. to Federer in RR)
2007: Roger Federer (l. to Gonzalez in RR)
2008: Novak Djokovic (l. to Tsonga in RR)
2009: Nikolay Davydenko (l. to Djokovic in RR)
2015: Novak Djokovic (l. to Federer in RR)
2018: Alexander Zverev (l. to Djokovic in RR)
2019: Stefanos Tsitsipas (l. to Nadal in RR)
2021: Alexander Zverev (l. to Medvedev in RR)