(Reuters) – Stefanos Tsitsipas has what it takes to win Grand Slam titles and become a future world number one, top-ranked Novak Djokovic said after downing the Greek to win the Dubai Tennis Championships title on Saturday.
Djokovic, Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer have shared all Grand Slams between them since Stan Wawrinka won at the 2016 US Open and Tsitsipas has been marked as one of the few players capable of breaking that stranglehold in 2020.
The 21-year-old Greek has climbed to number six in world rankings and ended the 2019 season by winning the ATP Finals crown.
Tsitsipas fell in the Dubai final for the second straight time, having lost to Federer in the title clash last year.
“I love the fact that he is more than just a tennis player and he’s always looking to learn from the experience and to understand something new about himself so he can improve, get better,” Djokovic said after his 6-3 6-4 victory.
“That for me is a trait of a champion, of someone that for sure has a great potential to be No. 1 of the world and win Grand Slams and be a great ambassador of our sport. He already is, but he has a great future ahead of him, I’m sure.
“You go through the process of self-realization and learning, maturing, then understanding what’s good for you in life, in your career. He’s a mature man already. He’s very smart, very wise.”
Djokovic’s triumph was his fifth at the Dubai Tennis Championships and extended his unbeaten run to 21. He has won 18 matches this season, lifting the ATP Cup with Serbia before a record-extending eighth Australian Open title in Melbourne.
Djokovic has earned a winning streak of at least 20 matches for the seventh time in his career and in the 2011 season he went 41-0 during a 43-match winning streak before losing in the Roland Garros semi-finals.
“One of the targets is to go unbeaten the whole season,” Djokovic said in an on-court interview before bursting into laughter. “No, I’m kidding. I’m not kidding, actually.”
His streak came tantalisingly close to an end when he fought off three match points to overcome Frenchman Gael Monfils in the semi-finals in Dubai.
“I’m trying to embrace the moment and appreciate where I am,” he later told reporters, clarifying he was not serious about going unbeaten.
“I think this has been one of the best starts of all seasons I had in my career. I feel great on the court.
“I’ve won many matches now in a row. I’ll try to keep that run going.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by Tom Hogue)