Novak Djokovic is the ninth player in ATP World Tour history to reach the “100 weeks at No. 1” milestone
He joins Andre Agassi (101 weeks), Rafael Nadal (102), Bjorn Borg (109), John McEnroe (170), Jimmy Connors (268), Ivan Lendl (270), Pete Sampras (286) and record holder Roger Federer (302).
It is a remarkable achievement for a player who, less than four years ago, experienced his professional low.
But his subsequent rise to the summit of men’s professional tennis in the space of 18 months, following a quarter-final exit to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the 2010 Australian Open, speaks volumes for his character, work ethic and talent.
“I was taught to dream big and to dream to be No. 1 in the world,” says Djokovic. “It takes years of hard work and dedication. It is a long process to become a champion. Tennis is a very specific and unique sport, where you take all the credit or all the blame.”
At present, Djokovic is facing one of his toughest-ever tests to finish year-end No. 1 for a third straight year.
Rafael Nadal (11,015 points) has a 2,905 points lead over Djokovic (8,110) in the Emirates ATP Race To London, which not only determines the eight qualifiers for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, at London in November, but is also an indicator of who will finish year-end No. 1.
By conquering long-term maladies in mid-2010 with a gluten-free diet – which saw him drop 11 pounds in weight – the Serbian’s off-court work started to reap dividends.
He went on to put together a series of confidence-boosting victories that subsequently broke the duopoly of Federer and Nadal at the top on 4 July 2011.
It was the day after his Wimbledon title success, which marked a career-high and fulfillment of a childhood dream.
That year, Djokovic won 10 titles (including three majors and five ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crowns) and compiled a 41-match winning streak – the best start to a season since McEnroe’s 42 in 1984. He went 21-4 against Top 10 opponents in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
Though Federer regained No. 1 on 9 July 2012, for 17 weeks to surpass Sampras’ record of 286 weeks in top spot, Djokovic’s consistency on multiple surfaces ensured that he could not be denied a second stint (starting on 5 November 2012 and currently at 47 weeks) as the sport’s leader.
“There are still a lot of tournaments to come,” says Djokovic, who has compiled a 120-20 match record and won seven titles from 13 finals as World No. 1. “Calculations are not on my mind right now. I am trying to feed on the confidence that I have.”
If Djokovic is to extend his stay at No. 1, he must win the Beijing title for a fourth time in order to retain 500 Emirates ATP Rankings points.
Should Nadal reach the final, he will once again reach the summit of men’s professional tennis.
Here’s a recap of Djokovic’s recent history, and his climb to the top achievement in men’s tennis: