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Djokovic serving up a storm as he chases record-equalling sixth ATP Finals title

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 18 Nov 2018
  • Djokovic is delivering some of the best serving performances of his career this week at the ATP Finals
  • He has won over 80 per cent of service points in three of his four matches so far
  • On Saturday, Djokovic out-aced the giant Kevin Anderson 6-4
Novak Djokovic (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic is widely regarded as one of the best returners tennis has ever seen - but it’s behind his own delivery where the World No. 1 is impressing as he closes in on a sixth Nitto ATP Finals title in London.

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Equipped with a legendary return of serve that has elevated him to a modern-day legend of tennis with 14 Grand Slam titles under his belt, it’s a scary thought when Djokovic starts to develop further weapons within his already-complete game. But that’s exactly what is happening this week inside the O2, with the Serbian continuing his late-season dominance by reaching the Nitto ATP Finals final for his sixth straight appearance.

With a 35-2 record since Wimbledon that has yielded four titles (two Grand Slams and two Masters 1000s), Djokovic has put together an extraordinary resurgence after undergoing elbow surgery earlier this year and dropping outside the world’s top 20 in May, becoming the only man in history to fall outside of that bracket in the rankings and hitting No. 1 in the same season.

Looking to cap a stunning last six months with more glory at the season-ending championships and extend his current run over top 10 players to 16-0, Djokovic is looking more invincible than ever in reaching the final without dropping a set for the first time - and that’s largely due to his impeccable serving performances.

Not known for having a particularly damaging serve (at least relative to the rest of his game, while there was a time in 2010 where double faulting was literally costing him matches), Djokovic has been on fire behind his own delivery this week in London. Take a look at these numbers for total service points won in his four matches so far:

  • Def. John Isner 6-4 6-3 (86 per cent service points won)
  • Def. Alexander Zverev 6-4 6-1 (73 per cent service points won)
  • Def. Marin Cilic 7-6(7) 6-2 (91 per cent service points won)
  • Def. Kevin Anderson 6-2 6-2 (82 per cent service points won)

In Saturday’s semi-finals against Anderson, Djokovic dropped just seven points on serve throughout the 75-minute contest, serving at 69 per cent of first serves in. He lost four points on first serve, and even more impressively, just three behind his second. The Serbian also out-aced Anderson - one of the best servers in the world - by six to four.

Novak Djokovic fires down a serve (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP/Getty Images)
Djokovic is yet to be broken in his four matches en route to the final and has faced just two break points the entire week.

When you’ve got the best return in men’s tennis and are serving with those numbers, just how do you find a way to beat the World No. 1?

Asked in his on-court interview if it was some of the best serving he has produced, Djokovic said: "Possibly. It is not very common to serve more aces than Kevin. That stat helps the confidence."

Next up for Djokovic as he chases a record-equalling sixth ATP Finals title is the 21-year-old Alexander Zverev, who beat 20-time major champion Roger Federer 7-5 7-6(5) earlier on Saturday.

The pair met in the round robin stage earlier in the week, with Djokovic prevailing 6-4 6-1 - but Zverev was right in the match until 4-4 in the opening set, where he squandered break point chances and ultimately lose eight of the last nine games.

"I played very well in the group stage against Sascha [Zverev] but I don't think he was close to his best," said Djokovic, who also beat Zverev in the Shanghai semi-finals in October. "He had a great match today against Roger and he has been serving well, so it will be a similar approach as today, trying to get as many first serves back.
"It is the last match of the year for both of us, so let the better player win."

Djokovic vs Zverev is live from the O2 at 6.00pm local time/GMT on Sunday. Read a full preview of the match here.


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Djokovic serving up a storm as he chases record-equalling sixth ATP Finals title

Novak Djokovic is widely regarded as one of the best returners tennis has ever seen - but it’s behind his own delivery where the World No. 1 is impressing as he closes in on a sixth Nitto ATP Finals title in London.

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