Novak Djokovic: I can relax more as dad recovers

World No 1 makes it through to last four as his father's health continues to improve

The O2 Arena

Ten days ago, after he lost to Sam Querrey in his opening match at the Paris Masters, Novak Djokovic looked like a man for whom the end of the season could not come soon enough.

There was even talk that the 25-year-old Serb, weighed down by concerns over his father's health and apparently running on empty after a gruelling campaign, might not make it to the start line for this week's Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

Tomorrow, nevertheless, the world No 1 will take his place in the semi-finals of the year-ending tournament here in London after becoming the first of the eight singles players to complete a clean sweep of his round-robin matches. Djokovic's 6-2, 7-6 victory yesterday over Tomas Berdych left Andy Murray needing to win just one set against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in last night's final Group A match to book his spot in the last four.

Roger Federer is a certain semi-finalist from Group B, with the last place to be decided by today's concluding round-robin matches.

Djokovic has won his matches here against a background of further worrying reports about his father, Srdjan, who is said to be suffering from an acute respiratory illness. Earlier this week a Serbian source claimed that Srdjan had been flown from Belgrade to a hospital in Germany.

Although Djokovic has been reluctant to discuss the matter he said yesterday that his father was "better" and talked about "good news every day", which "makes me happier, makes me play more relaxed". He added: "Every win means a lot for my family and me, but there are more important things in life and that's health. I guess that's the priority now."

On the court the season is finishing in very different fashion to 12 months ago. Last year Djokovic was a spent force after winning the US Open, which was his tenth title of the year and his third Grand Slam crown of an extraordinary season.

This time he has won autumn titles in Beijing and Shanghai and secured the year-end world No 1 ranking for the second time in a row.

He said it was "very satisfying" to end the year on top of the rankings. "Obviously that serves as an indication of how good the season was for me," he said. "It was very difficult to follow up after 2011 and to expect myself to repeat that."

Djokovic believes he is finishing the season well because he has been more careful with his schedule in a season made busier than ever by the Olympic tournament. He did not play in any Davis Cup ties and competed in just two tournaments (Dubai and Beijing) below Masters Series level. He even skipped the Belgrade event owned by his family.

He said he was still tired at the end of a long season but added: "If you are winning matches, obviously you feel better. But because this is the last tournament of the year for most of the players it is a challenge to find that last drop of energy, physical, mental, to find their best game."

With one tournament to finish Djokovic has won only half as many titles as last year, but has still been hugely impressive. In a year when Murray finally made his Grand Slam breakthrough, when Federer enjoyed a resurgence and when Rafael Nadal continued to dominate on clay, Djokovic has still won one Grand Slam tournament, finished runner-up in two more, was a semi-finalist at Wimbledon and the Olympics and won three Masters Series titles. Two more victories here, moreover, and he will finish the season with his second year-end championships trophy.

Berdych, who can now concentrate on next weekend's Davis Cup final between Czech Republic and Spain, had won only one of his previous 11 matches against Djokovic and was in trouble from the moment the Serb broke in the third game. Returning superbly and striking the ball with great consistency from the back of the court, Djokovic broke again to take the opening set in just 34 minutes.

When Djokovic made his third break in the third game of the second set, it seemed the end would be swift. Berdych, nevertheless, broke back immediately and when he led 6-3 in the tie-break tournament organisers were probably reaching for their calculators to see how his recovery might complicate the qualifying scenario. Djokovic, however, won the next five points and converted his first match point when Berdych hit a return long.

Djokovic was presented with an award as the year-end world No 1 earlier this week but said he was even more honoured to have been named by the Association of Tennis Professionals as the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian of the Year for his work with his foundation, as a UNICEF ambassador and for other charitable ventures. "This is something that makes all the people working in our foundation very happy and motivates us all to do even more," he said.

Saturday match schedule

Singles: Group B

R Federer v J M Del Potro (not before 1.45pm)

D Ferrer v J Tipsarevic (not before 7.15pm)

Doubles: Group A

B Bryan/M Bryan v L Paes/R Stepanek (12pm)

M Granollers/M Lopez v A-u-H

Qureshi/J-J Rojer (not before 5.45pm)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
Brendan Rodgers looks on from the touchline
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick