Serbian moves to 1-0 in Green Group

Novak Djokovic began his bid for a sixth Nitto ATP Finals title with victory on Monday, downing Casper Ruud 7-6(4), 6-2 in Turin to move to 1-0 in Green Group action.

The top seed took an early tumble at the Pala Alpitour, but recovered as he rallied from a break down in the first set, finding his rhythm from the baseline to fire 23 winners to secure victory after 90 minutes.

β€œI recovered from that fall on that break point in that first game,” Djokovic said in his on-court interview. β€œIt was very strange. I played a good forehand and came into the net and had a pretty comfortable overhead and I slipped, tripped, dropped my racquet and lost my serve. The conditions here are quite tough. If you lose your serve, it is difficult to get it back. But I managed to stay in. I am very pleased with the way I handled the match.”

The Serbian, who last lifted the Brad Drewett Trophy in 2015, is aiming to tie Roger Federer’s record six triumphs at the tournament, which is being held in Turin for the first time. Djokovic will also play Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andrey Rublev in the round-robin stage, with the pair facing off in their opening match on Monday evening.

Djokovic arrives in Turin in form, having clinched his record-breaking 37th ATP Masters 1000 crown in Paris at the start of November. By reaching the final in the French capital, the 34-year-old secured the year-end No. 1 FedEx ATP Ranking for a seventh time, eclipsing the mark he previously shared with Pete Sampras.

Earlier this season, the 86-time tour-level titlist came within one victory of completing the Grand Slam. He went 27-1 at the four major championships with trophies at the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon, before he lost to Daniil Medvedev in the final at the US Open.

In a tight first set, Ruud made the brighter start, breaking in the first game when Djokovic found the net with a backhand after he stumbled and dropped his racquet during the point. However, the top seed quickly regrouped, breaking back as he hit his groundstrokes with great depth and accuracy to force a tie-break. The Serbian then clinched the 61-minute opening set with a forehand winner down the line.

Fuelled by momentum, Djokovic raced ahead at the start of the second set, as Ruud struggled to hit through the World No. 1. The 34-year-old won 83 per cent (15/18) of his first-serve points in the the set to seal victory. Djokovic has now tied Ivan Lendl for the second-most wins (39) in Nitto ATP Finals history (Federer has 59).

Ruud is making his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals, having won an equal-tour-best five titles on the season. The 22-year-old, who is the first Norwegian to compete in the tournament’s 51-year history, was aiming to clinch his first career Top 10 hard-court win.

Did You Know?
Djokovic is attempting to become the oldest Nitto ATP Finals champion and the second player to capture the title after turning 30, alongside Roger Federer. The Swiss star won his sixth title aged 30 in London in 2011.