Moments after Novak Djokovic’s shock loss to Alexander Zverev, he broke with tradition to produce a stunning act of sportsmanship rarely seen in tennis.
An inspired Zverev beat world No.1 Djokovic 6-4 6-3 to win the ATP Finals on Sunday (local time), the biggest title of the German’s fledgling career.
The 21-year-old broke serve once in the opening set and three times in the second to pull off a shock victory in a packed 02 Arena, denying Djokovic a record-equalling sixth title at the ATP’s blue-riband event.
But despite the shock loss to his much younger opponent, Djokovic showed his class in a stunning moment of sportsmanship after the final point.
Instead of waiting at the net to shake his opponent’s hand, Djokovic broke with tradition by hopping over the net and embracing Zverev on his side of the court.
The foes than shared a beautiful hug as Zverev basked in the glory of the astounding win.
The gesture from Djokovic was only small, but one we rarely see between tennis players who’ve just battled it out in a final.
Youngest champion in a decade
Djokovic was a firm favourite having looked unbeatable all week, not dropping a set or even a service game, but 24 hours after being booed following a semi-final win over Roger Federer, Zverev had the crowd drooling over an audacious display.
Zverev is the first German to win the title since Boris Becker in Frankfurt in 1995 and the youngest since Djokovic won at the same age in Shanghai in 2008.
“I really can’t describe it. It’s the biggest title I’ve won in my career,” said Zverev.
“Novak has been incredible and he’s barely lost a match but I’m glad you lost one to me today.”
With victory looming, world No.5 Zverev showed no sign of nerves and clinched the title when he sent a backhand winner past a stunned Djokovic to claim the win in one hour 20 minutes.
Zverev is now coached by five-time tour finals champion and eight-time grand slam winner Ivan Lendl.
“Ivan thanks for joining the team,” added Zverev.
“Even though he won’t stop crying until next year and can barely understand what I’m saying.”
Djokovic, who had beaten Zverev comfortably in the round-robin phase on Wednesday, looked edgy.
“Psychologically you would think the player who won round-robin match coming into the finals would have more confidence,” said Djokovic.
“I just played under par, comparing to all the matches I had so far this week.”
His 22-match unbeaten run saw him claim two Masters titles in Cincinatti and Shanghai to regain the No.1 spot for the first time since 2016, despite his streak ending in the Paris Masters final to Karen Khachanov.
“I have to be happy with that result. Of course, finishing the year as No.1,” said Djokovic.
“Overall it was a phenomenal season that I have to be definitely very proud of.”