LONDON (AP) — Novak Djokovic is playing for a lot more than just a record-tying sixth title at the ATP finals.
The second-ranked Serb is also looking to reclaim the No. 1 ranking.
Djokovic won his third straight match at this year’s season-ending tournament on Thursday, beating David Goffin 6-1, 6-2 at the O2 Arena to finish group play undefeated for the fourth time in the past five years.
But there are some more matches to play before the 12-time Grand Slam champion can be assured of again finishing the season as the top-ranked player.
“Everything has been going … in a positive direction. I’ve been playing better and better as I proceed in the tournament,” Djokovic said. “One thing is for sure: I’m going to give it all on the court and see what happens.”
Andy Murray took over the No. 1 ranking from Djokovic this month at the Paris Masters. But if Djokovic does better than Murray this weekend at the ATP finals, he will jump back ahead and finish the season on top for the third straight season and the fifth time in six years.
“Well, that’s obviously something that you wish for, I mean, as a player, to have everything in your hands, not to depend on other players,” Djokovic said. “In this particular case, I’m glad that it’s like that.”
Murray, meanwhile, is looking to extend his stay at the top through the offseason for the first time. He plays his third match on Friday against U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka.
Djokovic had already qualified for the semifinals after winning his opening two matches at the O2. The second semifinal spot from the group will be decided later Thursday when Milos Raonic faces Dominic Thiem. The winner will advance.
Goffin was making his debut at the tournament on Thursday, filling in for the injured Gael Monfils.
The 11th-ranked Belgian didn’t get much chance against Djokovic, earning only one break point — and that in the final game of the match. Djokovic, meanwhile, converted four of his six break points, two in each set.
“It was not easy,” said Goffin, an alternate who found out on Wednesday that he would be facing Djokovic. “I didn’t feel really well. I didn’t feel the rhythm. My groundstrokes, my best weapons, were not there. It’s not easy against Novak when it’s like that.”
Djokovic is a five-time champion at the tournament, which is for the top-eight players in the world. He has won 21 of his last 22 matches at the O2 since 2012, including four straight titles.
He also won the title in 2008, when the tournament was in Shanghai, so another victory on Sunday will put him even with Roger Federer as six-time champions.
Djokovic opened the match against Goffin with two double-faults, but he didn’t do much wrong after that. He ended up winning 83 percent of the points on his first serve, even with four double-faults in the first set.
Another match won, but more work to do to regain that No. 1 ranking.
“I always try to really take the last drop of energy, whatever is left in my body, to perform as well as I can,” Djokovic said, “and finish off the season in the best possible way.”
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