Seven glorious years: Novak Djokovic as the year-end No 1

A look back at the seven years in which Novak Djokovic has ended the year sitting proudly on top of the rankings

Novak Djokovic Paris Masters

Novak Djokovic clinched the year-end world No 1 ranking for a record seventh time on November 6, breaking himself clear of a tie with Pete Sampras, who was top of the pile each year from 1993 to 1998.

The 34-year-old, who won three of the four Grand Slam titles in 2021 and came so close to completing the calendar-year Grand Slam, first became world No 1 in 2011 and more than 10 years on, he’s still the man at the top.

Here are a few memories of his seven glorious years as the year-end world No 1:

2011 – Unbeaten start to year, wins first Wimbledon

  • 2011 win-loss: 70-6
  • Titles: 10
  • Grand Slams: 3

Having ended 2010 by helping Serbia win the Davis Cup for the first time in their history, Djokovic was a player transformed in 2011, starting the year on fire by winning the Australian Open and staying unbeaten for 43 matches until he ran into a red-hot Roger Federer in the semi-finals of the French Open.

Djokovic bounced back immediately to win his first Wimbledon title, which also made him world No 1 for the first time, and then added the US Open title in a stellar year.

“I had an incredible run that lasted for almost five, six months to French Open,” he said. “Every single one of them gave me a lot of confidence. I was building that confidence with every trophy that I have won. Like everything in life, in tennis as well, you need to have a high confidence level.  When you’re playing on it, it feels like nothing can stop you.”

Djokovic defeated Nadal in the final at Wimbledon in 2011

2012 – Another Australian Open win; runner-up in Paris and New York

  1. 2021 win-loss: 75-12
  2. Titles: 6
  3. Grand Slams: 1

Djokovic began the year in epic fashion, beating Rafael Nadal after five hours, 53 minutes of pure attrition to win the Australian Open for the third time. The Serb was narrowly beaten in the French Open final by Nadal and then by Andy Murray in the US Open final but still ended up on top of the pile.

“It means a lot,” he said. “To all of us from our team, we are very proud of what we have achieved in 2012.  It’s definitely not easy ending the year at No 1, considering the competition that we had this year. I’m very happy.  I’m very proud.  This can serve only as a great confidence boost for me to upcoming years.”

Djokovic 2012 Australian Open
The 2012 Australian Open final lasted five hours, 53 minutes

2014 – Second Wimbledon title crowns another superb year

  • 2014 win-loss: 61-8
  • Titles: 7
  • Grand Slams: 1

Seven more titles went Djokovic’s way in 2014, by far the biggest of all coming at Wimbledon, where he tasted the All England Club grass again, thanks to a five-set win over Roger Federer in the final.

“I had a nice bite,” he said. “I thought that there was less grass today than it was few years ago, so I had a little bit of a spoil, as well. But nevertheless, it tastes like the best meal that I ever had in my life probably.”

Djokovic 2014 Wimbledon (Panoramic)
Djokovic celebrates his second Wimbledon title (Panoramic)

2015 – Most dominant year yet, wins three slams, loses in RG final

  • 2015 win-loss: 82-6
  • Titles: 11
  • Grand Slams: 3

If Djokovic was dominant in 2011, then he was utterly rampant in 2015 as he won three of the four Grand Slams, his only relative disappointment coming in Paris where Wawrinka again stopped him from winning the title for the first time.

After his US Open win over Federer, Djokovic had 10 Grand Slam titles to his name, half of the number he owns now.

“I’ve got to double digits now and I’m obviously flattered and honoured to be a part of elite group of players, legends of our sports to manage to win this many Grand Slam trophies in their lives and careers,” he said. I have always valued the care for my body, and, you know, my mind and had this holistic approach to life. I always thought this is utmost importance for my tennis.

“I will continue on with the same kind of lifestyle, same kind of approach. I think that kind of approach brought me to where I am today. Hopefully this kind of approach will give me longevity and that I can have many more years to come, and as I said, many more opportunities to fight for these trophies.”

2018 – Bounces back after elbow problems

  • 2018 win-loss: 53-13
  • Titles: 4
  • Grand Slams: 2

Having required a medical intervention in his right elbow in early 2018, Djokovic was back to his best in 2018, winning Wimbledon and the US Open again.

“If you told me in February this year when I got the surgery that I’ll win Wimbledon, US Open, and Cincinnati, would be hard to believe,” he said. “But at the same time there was always part of me that imagined and believed and hoped that I can get back on the desired level of tennis very soon.”

Djokovic 2018 US Open
Djokovic beat Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3 to win the 2018 US Open (Panoramic)

2020 – Wins Australian Open for eighth time in Covid-hit year

  • 2020 win-loss: 41-5
  • Titles: 4
  • Grand Slams: 1

Despite the problems associated with Covid-19 and the subsequent five-month shutdown of the Tours, Djokovic sealed the year-end No 1 ranking thanks in large part to his work at the start of the year, when he won yet another Australian Open.

“I probably won’t be able to comprehend the achievements I had in my career, especially Grand Slams, until I retire from tennis,” he said. “The intensity of the tennis season, especially if you’re committed to play full season, which I am for many years already, it doesn’t allow you to kind of reflect and enjoy the success of a Grand Slam trophy. Already in a few weeks’ time I’ll be playing a tournament somewhere else in a different part of the world. I don’t take it for granted.”

Djokovic 2020 Australian Open
Djokovic beat Dominic Thiem to secure the Australian Open title in 2020 (Panoramic)

2021 – Total domination, almost completes calendar-year Grand Slam

  • 2021 win-loss: 48-6 (up to and including Paris Masters semi-finals)
  • Titles: 4 (at start of Paris Masters)
  • Grand Slams: 3

Not since Rod Laver in 1969 had any man had a genuine chance to win all four majors in the same year, the coveted calendar-year Grand Slam. But after wins in Australia, in Paris and at Wimbledon, Djokovic got within one victory of achieving the magic four, losing to Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final. He bounced back to secure the year-end No 1 ranking for a record seventh time, though, surpassing his idol, Pete Sampras, in the process.

Missing out was frustrating but also a relief thanks to all the stress that came with talk of the Grand Slam. And Djokovic was also touched by the incredible reception he received from the New York crowd as the match drew to a close.

“Part of me is very sad,” he said. “It’s a tough one to swallow, this loss, I mean, considering everything that was on the line.

“But on the other hand I felt something I never felt in my life here in New York. The crowd made me feel very special. They pleasantly surprised me. I did not know, I did not expect anything, but the amount of support and energy and love I got from the crowd was something that I’ll remember forever. I mean, that’s the reason on the changeover I just teared up. The emotion, the energy was so strong. I mean, it’s as strong as winning 21 Grand Slams. That’s how I felt, honestly. I felt very, very special.”

Noval_Djokovic_Rolex-Paris_Masters_win
Djokovic clinched the year-end No 1 ranking for a record seventh time

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