Novak Djokovic on Wednesday virtually ensured equaling Pete Sampras’ record of ending the year as world No. 1 for the sixth time when he reached the Erste Bank Open quarter-finals in Vienna, as Taiwan’s Jason Jung fell to Daniil Medvedev.
Djokovic defeated Croatia’s Borna Coric 7-6 (13/11), 6-3 and would secure the year-end top spot as long as Rafael Nadal does not take an unlikely wild card into the Sofia event next month.
If the 33-year-old Serb wins the Vienna title on Sunday, he would make sure of the landmark regardless of whether or not Nadal plays in Bulgaria.
Djokovic, who now has 39 wins and just two defeats this year, has been the top-ranked player at the end of a season five times: in 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2018.
He shares that mark with career rivals Roger Federer and Nadal.
Sampras achieved the feat six years in succession between 1993 and 1998.
Djokovic also has another target — beating Federer’s all-time best of 310 weeks spent on top of the rankings.
He is enjoying his 292nd week in total as world No. 1.
Should he stay in pole position, he would pass Federer in early March next year.
Djokovic, a 17-time Grand Slam title winner, is playing his first tournament since his straight-sets loss to Nadal in the Roland Garros final more than two weeks ago.
He is seeking a fifth title of the year and faces either Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz or Italian lucky loser Lorenzo Sonego.
“It was very tiring and very challenging,” said Djokovic after his fourth win in four meetings with Coric, the world No. 24.
“Borna is a great fighter. He’s a very good friend of mine. Off the court we’ve known each other for quite a long time,” Djokovic said.
Djokovic came through having saved four set points in the opener.
Elsewhere, Russian fourth seed Medvedev also progressed with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Taiwanese lucky loser Jung.
Third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas opened his Vienna campaign with a 6-7 (3/7), 6-3, 6-4 win over Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff.
The reigning ATP Finals champion is to face Grigor Dimitrov for a place among the final eight.
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