Novak Djokovic put down a marker of his intent with a 7-6 (4), 6-2 straight sets win over Casper Ruud in his first match at the ATP Finals.
It was, however, anything but straightforward. The World Number 1 was made to work hard for his victory, dropping his opening service game to the 22-year-old Norwegian – a product of the Rafa Nadal Academy.
Djokovic fought back to level in the sixth game and from then on, it was a battle of nerves and some exhibition-style tennis with Ruud showing us why he fully deserves his spot in the prestigious tournament.
Despite having set points on Ruud’s serve at 5-4, Djokovic made some uncharacteristic errors and vented his frustration at failing to clinch the set. To his credit, Ruud held his ground brilliantly to take it to 6-6 and a fitting tiebreak.
A cat-and-mouse game followed with both players exchanging mini-breaks. The Serb eventually prevailed, sealing the set with a brilliant down-the-line winner.
Djokovic kept his foot on the gas in the opening game of set two, breaking Ruud’s serve in style and going on to consolidate the break. The 34-year-old sealed the young gun’s fate with an insurance break and romped to take the set 6-2.
After the match, Djokovic was presented with a trophy to celebrate finishing the year as World Number 1. He has now achieved this feat an incredible seven times, setting an all-time record. Until now he had shared this accolade with his hero Pete Sampras.
He said in Italian in his post-match interview: ‘I’ve won this trophy seven times, one more than Sampras, it’s incredible. I hope to play this sport for a couple more years.”
A title in Turin would give Djokovic a sixth ATP Finals title – drawing him level with Roger Federer. The way Djokovic has been sweeping the records in the past couple of years, you wouldn’t want to bet against him.
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