Novak Djokovic has emulated his tennis idol and now has Roger Federer in his sights after achieving yet another extraordinary feat in tennis.
Djokovic matched childhood hero Pete Sampras by claiming the year-end World No.1 ranking for the sixth time.
The Serb, who moved past Sampras' tally of 286 weeks in the top spot on September 21, 2020, will begin his 294th week at No. 1 in the ATP Rankings on Monday.
If he can manage to hold onto top spot, Djokovic will overtake Federer's record mark of 310 weeks on March 8, 2021.
Djokovic, 33, was confirmed in the position after Rafael Nadal, the only man who could deny him top spot, opted not to play in the Sofia event next week.
His incredible achievement comes after the heaviest two-set loss of the Serbian's career - handed a 6-2, 6-1 spanking by Lorenzo Sonego at the Erste Bank Open in Vienna.
It was only Djokovic’s third loss of the year, after being disqualified for hitting a line judge with a ball at the US Open and losing to Rafael Nadal in the French Open final.
The Serbian star revealed the sad truth behind his performance after admitting that he was deeply affected by the death of Amfilohije Radović, the top cleric of the powerful Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro.
Radovic, 82, a fervent Serb nationalist who also wielded major political influence, was diagnosed with coronavirus on October 6 and had been hospitalised in the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica.
Djokovic learned of Radovic’s death just hours before his loss to Sonego.
“To be honest I didn’t want to play today,” Djokovic said after the match.
“This sad news has had an effect on me, but obviously not enough to force me not to play.
“The truth is that I came to Vienna with a goal and I managed to achieve it.”
In claiming the year-end No.1 status in 2020, Djokovic matches his accomplishments from 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2018.
He admitted that emulating Sampras' record is something he dreamed about as a kid.
"Pete was somebody I looked up to when I was growing up, so to match his record is a dream come true," said Djokovic.
Djokovic has Federer record in sight
The Serb star, a winner of 17 Grand Slam titles, had already moved past Sampras' tally of 286 weeks in the top spot in September.
Djokovic can go past all-time record-holder Roger Federer's mark of 310 weeks on March 8 next year.
"To finish the year as No.1 is one of the most impressive achievements in our sport, one which requires sustained excellence across the season," said ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) November 6, 2020
"To see Novak achieve this for the sixth time and match Pete's record is simply incredible, and he continues to cement his place in the history books."
Djokovic has compiled a 39-3 winning season, picking up four titles - a record eighth Australian Open, Dubai, the Cincinnati tournament, which was staged in New York, and in Rome.
However, he was disqualified from the US Open for hitting a line judge with a ball before his bid to win a second Roland Garros ended in a tame defeat to Nadal in the final.
Djokovic was virtually assured of ending 2020 on top of the rankings when he reached the quarter-finals in Vienna.
Later this month, Djokovic will attempt to secure a record-equalling sixth ATP Finals trophy in London from November 15.
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