Novak Djokovic gained some consolation in missing out on a Grand Slam sweep this year by being crowned season-ending world number one for a record seventh time on Saturday.
The 34-year-old Serbian had jointly held the record of six with Pete Sampras but took sole possession when he beat Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz 3-6, 6-0, 7-6 (7/5) to reach the Paris Masters final.
Djokovic had taken a seven-week break after his dreams of a Grand Slam sweep were dashed by Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final in September.
However, the 20-time Grand Slam champion said on Friday the main reason for him returning this week was to seal the number one spot and break the record.
“It is a dream for me as Pete was my idol when I was a young boy,” said Djokovic.
“To arrive at this moment is not just my achievement but my team’s, it is wonderful to be in this position.
“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.”
Djokovic can take some satisfaction that he has denied Medvedev the world number one spot, though the Russian admitted his chances of toppling the Serbian were slim.
The two will meet in Sunday’s final as title holder Medvedev had the better of the man he beat in last year’s final Alexander Zverev in the second semi-final – 6-2 6-2.
Hurkacz has had a breakout season, winning the Miami Masters, reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals and on Friday qualifying for the season-ending ATP Finals.
The 24-year-old Pole could have capped it all in beating Djokovic but admitted the Serbian just had that edge when it came to big moments.
“Novak is such a great player, great competitor,” said Hurkacz.
“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.”