From closing in on the Grand Slam record to making Masters 1000 history—as well finishing the year at No. 1 for the sixth time, tying his childhood idol’s record—2020 was another history-making year for Novak Djokovic. And with 2021 right around the corner, the Serb is primed for even more.
Like he’s done so many times before, Djokovic came out of the blocks strong this year. He went 13-0 in Australia, including wins over everyone else in the Top 5—Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Dominic Thiem and Daniil Medvedev. He led Serbia to the ATP Cup title and won a record eighth Australian Open, which took his career haul to 17 majors—just three behind Federer (and now Nadal) for the record.
A few weeks later he won Dubai for the fifth time, beating No. 6 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final.
“I’m trying to embrace the moment,” he said after improving to 18-0 on the year with a 6-3, 6-4 win over the Greek. “I think this has been one of the best starts of all seasons I’ve had in my career.”
Once the tour resumed in August, it didn’t take long for Djokovic to get right back to winning—and even making history. He won the first ATP event back at Cincinnati (in New York), which made him the first player ever to win a double career Golden Masters, which is winning every Masters 1000 event multiple times. And no other player has even completed a first career Golden Masters yet.
Then, after stretching his start to the year to 26-0 with three more wins at the US Open—his second-best start to a year ever, after beginning 2011 at 41-0—Djokovic had a low point, getting defaulted in the fourth round in Flushing Meadows when he accidentally struck a lineswoman with a ball. But less than two weeks later, he won his 36th Masters 1000 crown in Rome, passing Nadal for most Masters 1000 titles ever.
Though he didn’t lift any more trophies after that fourth season triumph, Djokovic went deep at his last three tournaments of the year, reaching the final of Roland Garros, the quarterfinals in Vienna and the semifinals at the Nitto ATP Finals in London. He would finish as the year-end No. 1 on the ATP rankings for the sixth time, matching his hero, Pete Sampras, for the all-time record.
“It’s been a strange year for all of us with a six-month gap,” Djokovic said. “We restarted the season in August, and I continued where I left off before lockdown and had a terrific run.
“I’m very pleased with the way things went.”
For Djokovic, 2021 will present multiple opportunities to make even more history. Not only can he continue to catch up with Federer and Nadal in the Grand Slam race, but if he manages to hold onto the No. 1 ranking, he’s on track to pass Federer’s record for most career weeks at No. 1 in March.
Djokovic will start his 297th week at No. 1 on Monday—13 weeks shy of Federer’s record 310.
“I’m aware of the amount of weeks, and I don’t know exactly the date, but I know it’s going to be in probably the first or beginning of the second quarter of next year if I maintain my No. 1 ranking,” he said. “I’m getting closer. I feel like I’m in a very good position. I’ve also been playing really well and I’ve been healthy, which is great. The Grand Slams and No. 1 are the two biggest professional goals that I have at the moment. The historic No. 1 ranking goal is something that is on the horizon.
“I’m going to give my all and very best that I can possibly give to achieve that.”