Novak Djokovic needs to win just two matches at this week's Vienna Open to end the year as world No. 1 for the sixth time, equalling Pete Sampras' record set between 1993 and 1998. While unable to edge closer to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the grand slam leader board in the second half of the tennis season, Novak Djokovic is chasing one record that could see him outstrip his rivals.
The Serb is currently tied with Federer, Nadal -- whom he lost to in the final of the French Open earlier this month -- and Jimmy Connors on five year-ending No. 1 accolades, securing them in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2018.
"Sampras had been one of my idols when I was a kid and of course I want to finish the year as No. 1 to tie his record," Djokovic told reporters.
"That's one of the toughest achievements in world sports."
Djokovic, the top-seeded player in the tournament, faces Filip Krajinovic in the first round on Tuesday as he bids to win his fifth ATP Tour title this year. He surpassed Sampras' record in the leader board of total weeks at No.
1 this September and has now spent 292 weeks at the top of the rankings. Only Roger Federer has more at 310. In his first appearance in Vienna since 2007, Djokovic's main competition for the title will come from defending champion Dominic Thiem, who is playing on home soil, and Stefanos Tsitsipas, who recently took Djokovic to five sets in the French Open semi-finals.
For the first time in his career, Dominic Thiem plays his home ATP event as a Grand Slam champion. The US Open 2020 champion is in an even better mental space compared to his title-winning run at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna last year.
However, he still called it an ‘almost impossible’ task to win the title again this week. Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev complete the top five seeded players in the tournament. Thiem revealed on Monday that Djokovic had delivered his prize money from the Belgrade event of the ill-fated Adria Tour that was cancelled after a number of players, including Djokovic, tested positive for Covid-19. The Austrian said he would donate the money to charity.