PARIS • Novak Djokovic has vowed to be ready for the "big task" of trying to win the ATP Tour Finals in London and reclaim the year-end world No. 1 spot for a record-equalling sixth time.
While he sealed his fifth Paris Masters title on Sunday with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Denis Shapovalov, the moment was slightly tinged as Rafael Nadal usurped him at the top of the rankings yesterday.
But the 33-year-old Spaniard, who became the second-oldest No. 1 after Roger Federer at 36 last year, faces a race to make the season-ending finale after injury saw him pull out of his Paris semi-final.
The 19-time Grand Slam winner has, however, promised to fight until it is "impossible" to be fit for the start of the ATP Finals this Sunday, and his doctors believe that the abdominal strain "is nothing too big".
Should he not play or fail to win a round-robin match in London, then Djokovic must claim two group-stage victories and reach the final to pass him in the rankings.
Alternatively, the Serb can also guarantee top-dog status by winning the tournament if his rival does not make the semi-finals.
Both players are hoping to set personal marks in London.
Djokovic is bidding to equal Pete Sampras' record of six years finishing as the world's top player, while Nadal is looking to achieve the feat for the fifth time.
Calling it a "motivation every day", 16-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic said: "It is a goal that I have as a professional tennis player to win as many Grand Slams as possible and also to be No. 1 worldwide for as long as possible.
"There's always a chance that I win all my matches in London, that I play well. I have done it in the past, and I like playing there.
"But it's (an) extremely difficult task considering who my opponents are going to be.
"You're playing (a) top-10 player every single match. So that's a big task on my end I have to focus on.
"As a consequence, of course, if I manage to get the year-end No. 1, that would be fantastic."
Regardless of his progression at the Finals, it has been another outstanding season for the 32-year-old, with the Australian Open and Wimbledon among his five titles. Nadal has four titles, including the French and US Opens.
Djokovic is hoping to play on for as many years as possible.
"I'd like to play tennis for a long time. I don't know how long that is going to be, but I wish to really play pretty long," he said.
"Hopefully, you'll be seeing me around for many more years."
His victory on Sunday was his 34th Masters title, moving within one of Nadal, who tops the all-time list. It was also his 77th Tour victory, taking him to joint-fifth alongside John McEnroe, and behind only Jimmy Connors, Federer, Ivan Lendl and Nadal.