No Limit on Career Length
By Richard Pagliaro | Monday, November 15, 2021
Novak Djokovic hugged history and embraced the prospect of a long competitive future.
Djokovic hoisted the ATP silver year-end championship trophy for a record seventh time today following his 7-6(4), 6-2 ATP Finals win over Casper Ruud in Turin.
The 34-year-old Serbian stands alone for most year-end world No. 1 finishes—and Djokovic made it clear there’s no end in immediate sight to his glorious career.
Spending so much time at the top has taught Djokovic to lead a life without limits: he hasn’t placed an expiration date on his playing days.
“Look, I don’t have a number in my mind, you know, of the years I still want to play at this level,” Djokovic told the media in Turin. “I don’t have a limit. I don’t want to impose a limit to myself at all, because I still enjoy playing tennis, and I really enjoy competition and playing at the highest level.
“Being No. 1 in the world, there is no reason for me yet to think about leaving tennis. You know, I really am in a good place at the moment.”
Forty-year-old Roger Federer is continue rehab from knee surgery with a stated goal of playiing again in 2022 and 35-year-old Rafael Nadal announced he’s on track to comeback for the 2022 Australian Open.
Could we see Djokovic, who is playing to become the oldest ATP Finals champion in history this week, play for another five or six years into his 40s?
The five-time ATP Finals champion says he feels physically and mentally fresh and given he came within one win of completing the first men’s calendar Grand Slam since Rod Laver did it in 1969 he sees no reason to slow this roll.
“I just don’t feel that [retirement is] around the corner, so to say,” Djokovic said. “I still feel like I have years in my legs and in my heart and in my head. As long as that’s the case, I’ll keep going, because I truly love the sport and I enjoy the competition, because it keeps me going, challenges me, motivates me.
“And that’s essential ingredients, so to say, for me to still keep on playing, because otherwise it will be very difficult to get up more or less every single day and train hard in order to stay at that highest level and compete for the biggest titles in sport and biggest achievements.”
The 20-time Grand Slam champion remains one of the fittest and most flexible players on the Tour. Ultimately, Djokovic says he wants to close the curtain on his terms—but hopes that won’t be for years to come.
“I take care of my body along with my team pretty well, so I believe it won’t be for the injury actually,” Djokovic said. “I hope it won’t be for that, that it will come on my own terms, whenever that moment arrives, that I’ll be very clear with myself that that’s it, you know, that that chapter of my life is done, that I can move on.”
Photo credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty