Novak Djokovic on Friday equalled Pete Sampras’ record of ending sixth year as the world number one men’s singles player after Rafael Nadal, the only man who could deny him top spot, chose not to play in the Sofia next week.

Before 2020, Djokovic had finished 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2018 at the top of the ATP Rankings. The 17-time Grand Slam champion has already broken Sampras’ record of 286 weeks as the number one player.

“Pete was somebody I looked up to when I was growing up, so to match his record is a dream come true,” said Djokovic as quoted by AFP.

Djokovic is now eyeing to break the all-time record of Roger Federer’s 310 weeks at the pinnacle of ATP Rankings. The Serbian, though, will have to be number one till March 8 next year to achieve that.

“To finish the year as No.1 is one of the most impressive achievements in our sport, one which requires sustained excellence across the season,” said ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi.

“To see Novak achieve this for the sixth time and match Pete’s record is simply incredible, and he continues to cement his place in the history books.”

2020 has whatsoever been a successful professional season for Djokovic. With a win-loss ratio of 39:3, he clinched his record eighth Australian Open, Dubai, the Cincinnati tournament, which was staged in New York, and in Rome.

However, Djokovic suffered a shoch when he was disqualified from this year’s US Open for hitting a line judge with a ball. At the Roland Garros, he lost a one-sided final against Nadal.

Djokovic was virtually assured of ending 2020 on top of the rankings when he reached the quarter-finals in Vienna last month.

He was stunned 6-2, 6-1 by Italian lucky loser Lorenzo Sonego in the Austrian capital, suffering the heaviest loss of his career in a best-of-three sets clash.

“I have done what I came here for, securing the number one. And I’m completely fine with today’s result,” he said to some consternation.

Later this month, Djokovic will attempt to secure a record-equalling sixth ATP Finals trophy in London from November 15.