The top two players in the world will meet at the Accord Hotel Arena to decide who will end the week wearing the Rolex Paris Masters crown with the year-end top ranking safely decided at the semi-final stage when Novak Djokovic defeated Hubert Hurkacz in a tightly fought contest, thereby denying his rival Daniil Medvedev the opportunity to overtake him.
It's difficult for me to understand the magnitude of these achievements, you know, not just for myself but for the sport while I'm still an active player Novak Djokovic
It is the seventh time Djokovic has ended the year as world No.1 and he now becomes the sole record holder of that particular stat.
The 34-year-old Serbian had jointly held the record of six with Pete Sampras, his tennis idol, but took sole possession when he beat Poland’s Hurkacz 3-6 6-0 7-6(5) to realise his objective having returned to the fray after failing to complete a rare calendar Grand Slam at the US Open by Medvedev, and then taking a seven-week break.
“It is a dream for me as Pete was my idol when I was a young boy,” Djokovic had revealed following his quarter-final defeat of Taylor Fritz.
“To arrive at this moment is not just my achievement, but my team’s. It is wonderful to be in this position.”
And there was no hiding his swagger as he continued.
“I am very proud to finish number one and what a match to do it in. It was so tight right to the last point, but I am a very happy man now obviously.
“I am overwhelmed with all the beautiful positive emotions.
“Being historically No. 1 ranked player in the world is probably the paramount achievement of our sport,” he continued.
“It’s difficult for me to understand the magnitude of these achievements, you know, not just for myself but for the sport while I’m still an active player.
“Probably when I retire, I’ll be able to reflect on that a little bit more and appreciate it a little bit more.
“Very, very intense.”
The chances of Medvedev overtaking him had always been slim but Djokovic, who wants to go down as the All Time Great of the sport, couldn’t take any chances as he continues his quest to shatter and establish new ones in his name, like earlier this year, breaking Roger Federer’s record of weeks at No.1.
The Serbian’s biggest threat over the next 12 months will be the man he faces today, Sunday, for the Paris title, namely Medvedev who has already denied him a couple of records, namely as already mentioned, a career Grand Slam, but also at New York, his 21st Grand Slam title which would have put him ahead of Federer and Rafa Nadal on that particular honours board.
His best chance to achieve that would be at the Australian Open in January but he refuses to reveal whether he is vaccinated in accordance with the Australian Health authority’s rules and it is currently very doubtful whether he will defend the Aussie title he has won 9 times.
Medvedev, who lost to Djokovic at last January’s Aussie Open, defeated Alexander Zverev in the second semi-final 6-2 6-2 as he continued his successful run in defence of his Paris title, whom he also beat in last year’s final.
Zverev, with six titles to his name this year, the last of which was picked up in Vienna a week, plus Stefanos Tsitsipas, the Greek world No.3, and Medvedev, will no doubt be pushing for all the major crowns in years to come.
Medvedev is leading that group and Djokovic is aware of the threat he poses and hopes to put up a better performance than he did in New York last September.
“Last time we played, he outplayed me,” Djokovic admitted.
“I outplayed him in the finals of the Australian Open. It was quite straightforward matches, both of them.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to turn the tables around this time, learning from that experience in New York.
“But he is back to his best and seems to be in the groove.”
Medvedev said he was sure the Serbian would have learned from the US Open defeat.
“Of course winning the US Open would give me maybe some tactical things I want to try to repeat or use against Novak,” Medvedev said.
“At the same time, we all know who Novak is. If he would not adapt to circumstances, he would not be where he is now.
“So he’s definitely going to try to change something. I cannot know what it is he’s going to try to do, so I’m going to try to think about this,” the 25-year-old Russian added.
Meanwhile Hurkacz has had a breakout season, winning the Miami Masters, reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals and on Friday, becoming the first Pole to qualify for the season-ending ATP Finals.
The 24-year-old from Wroclaw, admitted the Serbian just had the edge on him when it came to big moments, but he did have his chances.
“Novak is such a great player, great competitor,” Hurkacz said.
“He’s just super solid in the very important moments.
“His return is really amazing. So just puts a lot of pressure on you. I always have to fight for every single point. It’s very, very intense.”
And fans can expect a lot more intensity when Djokovic and Medvedev, the respective world Nos.1 and 2, face each other for the tenth time with the Serb leading the Russian 5-4.