Novak Djokovic Wins 90th Career Title Over Tsitsipas, Looks Like Player To Beat At World Tour Finals

Novak Djokovic may have missed the U.S. Open, but he is making the most of the fourth quarter of his year.

The 35-year-old Serb won his second straight title this fall — and 90th of his career — by beating Stefanos Tsitsipas, 6-3, 6-4, in the Astana Open final in Kazakhstan.

With back-to-back titles in Tel Aviv and Kazakhstan, Djokovic has now qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals, joining world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz, Rafael Nadal, Casper Ruud and Tsitsipas, who fell to 0-9 in ATP 500 finals.

“I dared to dream, actually,” Djokovic said. “I always hoped that I would be going to have a great career. Obviously, didn’t know the amount of finals I was going to play, the amount of tournaments I was going to win, but my intention was always to reach the highest heights in our sport.”

He added: “I’m just very grateful and blessed to be able to play this well at this stage of my life. You know, 35 is not 25. But I think the experience, probably, in these kinds of matches and big occasions helps as well to approach mentally in the right way.”

The 21-time Grand Slam champion won his fourth title this season including the Italian Open and Wimbledon. He was not allowed to play at the Australian Open and the U.S. Open due to being unvaccinated against Covid-19, and he lost to Nadal in the quarterfinals at Roland Garros.

Djokovic won his 90th career title, trailing only Jimmy Connors (109), Roger Federer (103), Ivan Lendl (94) and Nadal (92).

Djokovic said being away from the tour for nearly three months made him hungrier to win titles.

“Well, it did,” Djokovic said. “I could not ask for a better re-start of the season. I’m super-pumped and motivated to end the season as well as I have done these past couple of weeks.”

Djokovic’s route to the title included a strange semifinal victory over former world No. 1 Daniil Medvedev on Saturday in which the Russian retired from the match after winning the first set 6-4 and losing the second in a tiebreaker, 7-6(6).

“It’s the second time in my life I retired like this with a pulled muscle,” Medvedev explained later. “So here, on the second point of the tie-break, I felt a little bit [of a] strange pop in my adductor. I first thought maybe it is cramp and after the point I was like, `No, probably not a cramp.’

“And during the tie-break, I felt I can play like five, 10 more points but that’s it. If I play one more set, you can do it, but you can probably miss half a year instead of one month.”

The 26-year-old had not dropped a set en route to the semi-final clash against Djokovic and looked strong against the Serbian in their 11th meeting before he was forced to retire.

“I actually have no idea what is fair,” Medvedev said when discussing his decision to retire. “If I won, I would not play the final. I was like, ‘OK, I just try to hit some shots’. If I manage to win, well I cannot do anything, I will retire. If I lose, congrats to Novak, he’s still in great shape. Good luck to him in the final.”

Djokovic now looks like the player to beat as he looks ahead to play the Paris Indoors at the end of the month and then the ATP World Tour Finals in Turin Nov. 13-20. He is also slated to play in the new World Tennis League in Dubai in December.