For the fourth consecutive year, appropriately, Novak Djokovic is your Barclays ATP World Tour Finals champion.
That’s something no one else has ever achieved.
The world No. 1 wrecked Roger Federer 6-3, 6-4 in 80 minutes Sunday evening at the O2 Arena in London.
Djokovic was just too strong for the six-time year-end champion. In the often overlooked area of second serves, Djokovic was dazzling. He won 16 of his 19 offerings (84 percent), twice as good as Federer’s 9-for-21 (42 percent).
And in the critical category of break points, Djokovic, who has won 18 of his past 19 matches at the year-end championships, converted three of nine; Federer was 0-for-2.
Djokovic, thus, completes one of the greatest seasons in recent tennis history. Among the highlights:
” Won three of four Grand Slam titles, bringing his total to 10 — four behind Rafael Nadal and seven fewer than all-time champ Federer.
” Won 27 of his 28 matches in 2015.
” Went 82-6 (.932), officially the fifth-best winning percentage since the inception of rankings in 1973.
” Won 11 titles and a record six Masters championships.
Afterward, Djokovic was asked if this season he’s begun to put himself in the conversation regarding the greatest players ever.
“Well, obviously with wins that I had this season and throughout my career, especially in the last five years, I put myself in a very good position, knowing that I made a lot of records and history,” Djokovic said to the press. “Of course, it does flatter me, inspire me. It makes me very satisfied and happy. That I don’t care about it? Of course, I care about it.
“This is a sport I love truly with all my heart. Because I love the sport, that’s why I started playing it. As a kid you dream to be in a position to win Grand Slams, win the season finale and be the best in the world. I managed to achieve that for many times.”
If not for an upset in the French Open final against Stan Wawrinka, Djokovic would have achieved a breathtaking single-season Grand Slam.
Djokovic played the big points and the big matches better than anyone this season, hitting incredible angles from awkward defensive positions. After his latest title to close out 2015, the overarching question is whether he can follow this up next season.
Given his dominance for the past 12 months, it seems like a rhetorical question.
“I can’t predict the future,” Djokovic said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in next years to come. But what I can do for myself is continue respecting the kind of training regime and lifestyle that I had and keeping that mindset. Because of that package, I got myself in this position.
“I’m convinced with this dedication to the sport, I can achieve more. How much, I don’t know. I don’t have a sense of urgency. I don’t chase anything. I just try to be in the moment and see where it takes me.”
Some other Barclays takeaways:
Watch out for Rafa in 2016
Hard to believe, but Nadal turns 30 at next year’s French Open.
And the physical style he plays means he’s got way more miles on those tires than most 30-somethings. But …
At the end of a disappointing season in which he failed to capture a major title for the first time in 11 years, Nadal had a spring in his step. In round-robin play, he beat two players ranked above him, Wawrinka and Andy Murray, in straight sets. Nadal finishes 61-20 with three titles in 2015.
Losing to Djokovic in the semifinals doesn’t diminish that rare late-season success.
“Everyone has a different motivation,” Nadal said at his news conferences in London. “I never practice thinking what do I have to do to beat Novak, what do I have to do to beat Roger. My motivation has always been just personal, that I want to improve myself, I want to be better. That’s what I going to try to keep doing.
“We’ll see … 2016 going to be a new year. Hopefully better one for me.”
It isn’t a stretch to think he’ll be healthy enough to win a record at Roland Garros.
What to make of Murray’s week in London?
Hard to say. Like Djokovic, he’s 28 and would seem to be the player in the best position to compete with him in the Grand Slam events.
He entered the year-end tournament with a chance to clinch the No. 2 ATP World Tour ranking, but he couldn’t lock down a match victory after beating David Ferrer to open round-robin play.
Murray, perhaps looking ahead to next week’s Davis Cup final, fell to Nadal and Wawrinka, never winning more than four games in a set. In fairness, Murray was practicing on both hard courts and clay coming into London, and his mind may well have been focused on Belgium.
Still, after winning the first two majors of his career in 2012 and 2013, he’s gone 0-for-9 since, this year, losing to Djokovic in the Australian Open final and French Open semifinals before falling to Federer in the Wimbledon semifinals and Kevin Anderson in the fourth round of the US Open.
The next generation
Going forward, where are the challengers coming from? Beyond Murray, the other three players departing after the round-robin phase were Ferrer, Tomas Berdych and Kei Nishikori. Ferrer and Berdych, like half of the top-10 ranked players, are 30-something.
Nishikori, at 25, is at least three years younger than any other top-10 player.
New order in doubles
Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau beat them 6-4, 6-4 in the Saturday semifinals to claim the top spot and followed through Sunday with victory over the No. 8-seeded team of Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea. Rojer and Tecau are the first team to go through the entire tournament without dropping a set, going back to the 1986 introduction of round-robin play.
The Bryans admitted they hung their heads in the locker room, but the 37-year-old California twins said aren’t going anywhere.
“This year we left it wide open,” Bob told the press in London. “Tecau and Rojer got us. Deservingly so, they played well in the slams, won the Wimbledon title. Usually what we say is to be No. 1 you got to win a slam. Credit to them, they did. They came out here today and played confident. That’s why they’re holding up the trophy.
“That doesn’t mean that we’re going anywhere. We’re going to come back next year stronger, healthier and hungrier to do this again because we know what the feeling feels like. It’s a great feeling. Those guys are feeling it right now.”