by sportswriter Wang Jimin
BEIJING, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- Serbia's evergreen star Novak Djokovic has enjoyed another phenomenal season in 2023 while the tour's young talents are still searching for ways to bridge the gap.
By winning the Australian Open, French Open and US Open this season, Djokovic has collected a total of 24 major championships, tying with Margaret Court's all-time mark for most major singles crowns.
In the just-ended ATP Finals tournament in Turin, the Serb won his record-breaking seventh title in the year-end finale and secured the year-end No. 1 ranking for the eighth time, also a record-extending feat.
"Motivation, especially for the biggest tournaments in sport, is still present. It still inspires me to keep going. In the end of the day, people see you performing in the big tournaments, but they don't see all the weeks and months of dedicated day-to-day, week-to-week work, trying to build your form so that you can peak where you want to peak," Djokovic said after winning the ATP Finals title.
The 36-year-old is still capable of competing for the biggest prizes and half of his Grand Slam triumphs have come since he turned 30.
With the year of 2024 looming ahead, Djokovic has set his eyes on the "Golden Slam."
German female legend Steffi Graf remains the only tennis player to achieve the "Golden Slam," winning the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and US Open and a gold medal at the Seoul Olympics in 1988.
"I have always had the highest ambitions and goals. That's not going to be different for the next year, that's for sure. The drive that I have is still there," he said.
Djokovic defeated three of the ATP Tour's brightest young stars to win the ATP Finals title, downing Holger Rune in the group stage before dismissing Carlos Alcaraz in the semifinals and Jannik Sinner in the final showdown, a clear sign that the "next generation" need more "ingredients to win against Djokovic", as Sinner put it.
Sinner lived up to his billing as the poster boy when the 22-year-old Italian defeated Djokovic in the group stage of the ATP Finals, but he finally fell short in the final against Djokovic, who brought the best form in a near-flawless performance.
In spite of the ATP Finals loss, Sinner racked up 61 wins with only 15 losses this season and also won four titles.
The impressive season saw him rise from No. 15 at the end of last year to No. 4, meaning he's already one of the leading members of the sport's next generation.
"There are many positive things, especially the second half of the year, mentally I was much, much stronger. When I started the year I was one player and now I'm another," Sinner said about his season.
Djokovic took less than 90 minutes to beat world No. 2 Alcaraz in the semifinals, but Alcaraz has a burgeoning rivalry with Djokovic as the Spaniard is already a two-time Grand Slam champion at the age of 20 and won an epic five-set Wimbledon final against the world No. 1 this season.
"Novak is Novak, he is the best player in the world right now, he's just lost six matches this year so that means he is unbelievable," said Alcaraz before playing against Djokovic at the ATP Finals.
Other challengers include 20-year-old Holger Rune of Denmark and Russia's Daniil Medvedev, with both claiming victories against Djokovic in big events this season.
But with the dominance Djokovic demonstrated, the younger generation might still have to wait for their chances.
"When they play me, I want them to feel that it's going to require the best tennis from them in order to win against me," Djokovic said. "That's what I want my opponents to feel, no doubt, because that helps mentally coming into the match."