Beaten Nitto ATP Tour Finals finalist Casper Ruud paid tribute to joint record-holder Novak Djokovic following a straight-sets defeat to the Serbian in Turin.
The 23-year-old Ruud lost his third final of year having also finished runner-up at the French and US Opens, but he was quick to shower praise on Djokovic, who drew level with Roger Federer on six ATP Finals triumphs.
The Serbian capped off a year like no other by winning the tournament for the first time since 2015.
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"First of all, congratulations to Novak," Ruud started in his runners-up speech.
"I can't imagine how difficult this year has been for you at times. Hats off to you for what you have overcome and what you have achieved this year."
Ruud was referencing Djokovic's unusual season which began with the Serbian deported from Australia just before the first Grand Slam of the year after having his visa cancelled "in the public interest”. Djokovic also missed the US Open.
"It's been nothing but remarkable," Ruud continued.
"Really, really impressive. Congratulations again for showing everyone you're still up there, still finishing off this year in a great way."
Ruud, meanwhile, is determined to stay positive after a memorable 12 months.
"It's been a year of many highs, really big highs and of course some lows," he continued. "I look forward to the next season already."
Djokovic was equally appreciative of his beaten opponent.
"I would like to return the favour and congratulate Casper and his team," the Serbian began.
"Tough luck today. I know how hard you are working and you are inspirational to myself and a lot of players around the world. You have had a fantastic year.
"You guys are a great team. Very nice people. Always respectful to everyone, my team and myself.
"I know that probably somewhere deep inside you, you hoped that you could win one of the three titles where you competed in finals. But playing two Grand Slam finals and the biggest tournament in ATP Tour is something that is really, really impressive.
“And you're still young, you still have time. And I'm sure that you're going to get your hands on big trophies very soon."
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