Novak Djokovic appears to set a surprise retirement date… and then offers clarification

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic appeared to give a broad hint that he will end his record-breaking career at the end of the 2023 season, but he was quick to clarify the comments in Turin.

Speaking as he collected the trophy for being crowned as the year-end world No.1 for a record seventh time, the Serbian offered up some comments to the Italian crowd at the ATP Finals in Turin that left many in attendance questioning whether they had misheard him.

Djokovic won three Grand Slam titles in 2021 and will want to pull clear of his rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the race to claim the most major titles in the history of the game, with the trio all tied on 20 wins in the sport’s biggest tournaments.

Yet it appeared that Djokovic may be eyeing up retirement, as he told the crowd in Turin that he is already looking towards a future without tennis.

“The dream goes on and I hope to play this sport a couple more years,” he declared, as the 34-year-old gave his first hint when he plans to retire.

He then clarified his comments in his post-match press conference, as he insisted his comment may have been misinterpreted.

“No, no, I didn’t mean it that way,” he insisted “I don’t have a number in my mind of the years I still want to play at this level.

“Paio d’anni means a couple of years. I said ‘couple’ meaning – I don’t know. I thought a couple of years playing at the highest level, why not? I mean, it would be great.

“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.”

“I take care of my body along with my team pretty well, so I believe it won’t be for the injury actually, 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 chapter of my life is done, that I can move on,” the 86-time title winner admitted.

“But I just don’t feel that’s around the corner, so to say. 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 for me to still keep on playing.”

Djokovic also paid tribute to tennis legend Pete Sampras, as he moved past his record of six year-end world No.1 titles by claiming the top spot once again this year.

“I was four when I saw Sampras winning his first ATP year-end No 1,” added Djokovic.

“That was my first tennis image and I fell in love straight away with tennis,” Djokovic said, speaking in Italian as he received the prestigious trophy after surpassing his hero for the most number of year-end No 1 finishes.

“Now I won 7 times the trophy and I’m very proud. Never felt in competition with Pete, he always supported me.”

Djokovic recovered from a wobbly start to defeat debutant Casper Ruud in his opening match at the Nitto ATP Finals.

The reigning Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon champion is bidding for a record-equalling sixth title at the season-ending tournament but has not lifted the trophy since 2015.

He arrived in Italy on the back of a 37th Masters title in Paris and kept his winning run going with a 7-6 (4) 6-2 victory over Ruud, who is the first Norwegian to qualify for the tournament.