LONDON (Reuters) - Considering where Novak Djokovic began his year he was able to quickly put his defeat by fast-rising German Alexander Zverev in the ATP Finals title match into perspective on Sunday.
The 31-year-old Serb was odds on to crown a magnificent six-month streak by claiming a record-equalling sixth ATP Finals crown but Zverev stopped him in his tracks, winning 6-4 6-3.
Djokovic will still end a year ranked as number one for the fifth time, an improbable achievement considering he had elbow surgery in February, suffered a woeful run of form on his return and slumped to 22 in the world rankings in June.
After reuniting with his former mentor Marian Vajda, he has been a man reborn and began a storming comeback to the summit of men’s tennis, winning Wimbledon and the U.S. Open to take his Grand Slam collection to 14.
Going into Sunday’s final against Zverev he had won 35 of his previous 37 matches and, despite an off-night, still looks capable of dominating men’s tennis next year.
“If someone told me (I would end the year as number one) at that time it was looking quite improbable,” he told reporters.
“Not just ranking-wise, I wasn’t playing even close to where I wanted to be at in terms of level of tennis.
“No one likes to lose, and I’ve just come off court but you put things in a larger perspective, see things a bit differently. All the positive things that I have to reflect on and also take from this season, especially the last six months.”
Djokovic was uncharacteristically ragged against Zverev, but took nothing away from his opponent, even though he said he had not been feeling fully-charged for a few weeks.
“I’m happy that he won the big title because we have a really good and friendly relationship,” Djokovic said of his fellow Monte Carlo resident. “We train a lot. We see each other a lot. He comes from a really nice family.
“Health-wise I haven’t been really perfect in the last three, four weeks. That took a lot out of me. But overall it was a phenomenal season that I have to be definitely very proud of.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge