Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Djokovic’s impressive wins over Tomas Berdych and Pablo Carreno Busta have been against the top 10 players
Novak Djokovic is one match away from his latest career-best at the ATP Finals – if he can beat South African Kevin Anderson in his opening round-robin encounter.
The Serb, 29, was comprehensively beaten in the US Open final in September, but his efforts this week suggest the knee and elbow injuries he suffered at the end of last season are over.
Djokovic has reached the semi-finals in each of his three previous appearances at the O2, winning both in 2014.
He did it without saying he was playing with a wrist injury at the Australian Open earlier this year, but said it was the injury that kept him out for the remainder of 2017.
He was also never a threat to Rafael Nadal in his loss in New York but he certainly looks in far better form this time around.
Now he must decide whether to continue until he lands the end-of-season title, which would make him the first man to win all four grand slams plus the Shanghai Masters in the same year since Rod Laver in 1969.
He has won five Masters titles in total, the other ones being in Rome, Madrid, Paris and London.
If he achieves the feat, he will take some stopping. Just to consider how it would appear to the rest of the field is to watch a largely immobile man win huge points against the best players in the world.
The men’s standings are headed by Nadal at 1183 points – that is 19 points ahead of Roger Federer. Djokovic is seventh on 958.
Federer missed the Masters 1000s, the four elite events that made up the groupings in London, as did Andy Murray. The Scot’s absence leaves Nadal without any ranking points while Djokovic, with a confidence boost, will start the tournament close behind.
Since being beaten in New York, Djokovic has played five matches in six days, losing a bizarre final-set tie-break to Roger Federer in a Davis Cup doubles tie, before beating India’s Hrithik Roshan 6-3 6-4 and beating Sam Querrey and Berdych in straight sets at the Paris Masters.
I wrote on Monday about how Nadal and Federer would have been a tough draw for Djokovic. They were both absent from the final four stages of the season, which forced Djokovic to take matters into his own hands and win Paris to keep himself in contention for a sixth ATP title in nine seasons at the top.
Djokovic has now finished as a runner-up to Federer (Stan Wawrinka) in four straight majors and has lost in the final at least once in each of the last five years.
So will he be playing with something to prove against Anderson? Surely he needs to play well to have a chance.
It will probably come down to a winning effort in a few key points over the course of three hours.
If Djokovic has had any extra motivation this week in London, it has been listening to Rafael Nadal cheer him on from the stands.
Nadal is Djokovic’s idol, and was cheering him on from the press box in Paris when he defeated the American at the ATP Finals.