Novak Djokovic celebrates Serbia's WC qualification
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Novak Djokovic got off to a winning start at the ATP Finals. The top seed took on debutant Casper Ruud in his opening match on Monday (November 15), surviving a tight, lengthy opening set to secure a 7-6(4) 6-2 victory in the round-robin group stage match.
Djokovic is looking for a record-equalling sixth ATP Finals crown this week.
The season-ending championship is being played in Turin for the first time this year, following more than a decade in London’s O2 Arena.
The world No 1 is the only member of the Big Three competing at the year-end finals following Federer and Nadal’s decisions to call time on their seasons early, as they faced ongoing injuries.
It means Djokovic is also the oldest member of the field by almost a decade, with 25-year-old Daniil Medvedev the second-oldest.
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The top seed kicked off his quest for the title with a hard-fought victory over eighth seed Casper Ruud, who qualified for the ATP Finals for the first time after a stellar season which has seen him win five titles so far.
It was the Norwegian who was first to strike in the match as Djokovic looked slightly flat to begin, with Ruud breaking in the opening game following an impressive rally that saw the world No 1 slip on the court, get back up and get the ball back into play before losing the point and the game.
The 22-year-old managed to hold on until he was serving at 3-2, with the five-time champion breaking to 15 to get things back on serve.
Ruud was impressive in saving two set points in an almost ten-minute game while serving at 4-5 down, and the pair continued to hold until they made it to a first-set tiebreak.
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The pair continued to secure mini-breaks over one another until Djokovic struck while Ruud was serving at 4-5, winning both points on his opponent’s serve to secure the first set 7-6(4).
His momentum continued into the second set as he broke in the opening game, and did so twice more to take the second set 6-2 for the victory.
It brings him closer to his quest to win a sixth ATP Finals title, putting him equal with long-time rival Roger Federer for the most titles at the season-ending championship in history.
The top seed will now face the winner of Monday’s (November 15) evening session clash between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev during his Wednesday round-robin match.
There are concerns Tsitsipas could be forced to pull out of the tournament, as he retired from the recent Paris Masters with an arm injury.
During Sunday’s (November 14) evening session, home hope Matteo Berrettini was forced to retire while 6-7(7) 0-1 down to 2018 champion Alexander Zverev, appearing to pick up a painful ab injury at the start of the second set.
The world No 7 is set to undergo scans and see if he will be ready in time for his second round-robin match on Tuesday (November 16), but it looks unlikely he will continue for the tournament.
It means fellow Italian and first alternate Jannik Sinner will step in and take his countryman’s place in the Red Group.
If Tsitsipas is also eventually forced to withdraw injured from the tournament, Britain’s Cameron Norrie is the second alternate and could see himself called up to face Djokovic in a Green Group round robin match.
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