Djokovic breaks idol Sampras's world number one record
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Djokovic had taken a seven-week break after his dreams of a Grand Slam sweep were dashed by Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final in September.
However, the 20-time Grand Slam champion said on Friday the main reason for him returning this week was to seal the number one spot and break the record.
"To arrive at this moment is not just my achievement but my team's, it is wonderful to be in this position.
"I am very proud to finish number one and what a match to do it in. It was so tight right to the last point but I am a very happy man now obviously."
Djokovic can take some satisfaction that he has denied Medvedev the world number one spot, though the Russian admitted his chances of toppling the Serbian were slim.
The two could meet in Sunday's final as title holder Medvedev plays the man he beat in last year's final Alexander Zverev in the second semi-final.
Zverev, though, is on a hot streak and came to Paris having won his fifth title of the year in Vienna.
Hurkacz has had a breakout season, winning the Miami Masters, reaching the Wimbledon semi-finals and on Friday qualifying for the season-ending ATP Finals.
The 24-year-old Pole could have capped it all in beating Djokovic but admitted the Serbian just had that edge when it came to big moments.
"Novak is such a great player, great competitor," said Hurkacz.
"He's just super solid in the very important moments.
"His return is really amazing. So just puts a lot of pressure on you. I always have to fight for every single point. It's very, very intense."