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Unstoppable Djokovic downs Ruud for record-equalling sixth ATP Finals title

The 35-year-old is the oldest winner of the season-ending event and pulls alongside Roger Federer with six wins

Novak Djokovic ATP Finals trophy AI / Reuters / Panoramic
Nitto ATP Finals •Final • completed
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Novak Djokovic ended his season on a major high as he beat world No 3 Casper Ruud 7-5, 6-3 in Turin on Sunday to win the ATP Finals for a record-equalling sixth time.

The 35-year-old broke once at the end of the first set and early in the second as he joined Roger Federer on six wins and ensured he ends 2022 back in the world’s top five. He’s the oldest winner of the season-ending event and he wins a record $4.7 million in prize money, not to mention the 1500 ranking points for winning the title undefeated.

“Usually these matches are decided in very small margins, one break of serve was enough in both sets,” said Djokovic, who won the event for the first time since 2015. “I just managed to put a few returns back in play. I was really pleased the way I was playing from the back of the court, it worked great.

“Seven years, it’s been a long time, but the fact that I waited seven years makes this victory even sweeter, even bigger. It’s just a a big relief and satisfaction and I look forward to having a couple of weeks off.

“I was on the needles the entire year, whether it was for tournaments or waiting to go somewhere. so I am really glad I could end it in a positive way.”

Djokovic’s statement of intent

For world No 3 Ruud, who reached the French and US Open finals this year, it was a missed opportunity to win the biggest title of his career but in truth, he never stood a chance.

But for Djokovic it was a statement of intent that after a year which saw him unable to play the Australian Open and US Opens, and saw him win Wimbledon without picking up any ranking points, he will go into 2023 as the man to beat yet again.

Right from the start it was obvious that Djokovic, who had outlasted Daniil Medvedev in his last group match and recovered in time to beat Taylor Fritz in the semis, was dialled in.

The Serb had two break points in the opening Ruud service game but the Norwegian did well to shut him out. The 23-year-old stayed with Djokovic for as long and saved another break point at 4-3 with a smart kick serve. But at 6-5, 30-30, Djokovic successfully challenged a serve that had been called in. A little luck with a net cord gave him set point and the 21-times Grand Slam champion snatched the set when an under-pressure Ruud sent a backhand long.

Djokovic such a strong front-runner

Ruud had not won a set in the three previous battles between the two, which included a victory for the Serb in the group stages in Turin last year.

And the Norwegian just could not get a handle on the Djokovic serve. He dropped just five points on serve in the opening set (and only 11 overall) and was so comfortable, all the pressure was on Ruud.

At 1-2, a missed volley gave Djokovic two break points and the former world No 1 never looked missing, his backhand return finding the backhand of Ruud and then working over the Norwegian’s backhand before finally yielding the error.

At 5-3, Djokovic made a couple of unforced errors when trying to serve out the match but at 30-30 he won an epic 36-shot rally, before banging down a ninth ace to clinch victory.

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