Novak Djokovic began his quest for a record-equalling sixth Nitto ATP Finals title Monday when he defeated Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 7-6(4) to end the Greek’s year-end No. 1 Pepperstone ATP Ranking chances.
Fans were dazzled by the electric light show in the Pala Alpitour prior to the match. Djokovic then took centre stage and produced a ruthless performance to move to 1-0 in Red Group.
The Serbian quickly found his range in Turin, breaking in the first game to take early control. The seventh seed pulled Tsitsipas around the court with his precise groundstrokes, while he hit a range of stunning passing shots, demonstrating great agility to triumph after one hour and 37 minutes.
“The first game was very important to break his serve,” Djokovic said. “Starting with a break of serve is obviously a huge boost in confidence and a relief as well because we both knew it would be a tight match.”
Djokovic now leads Tsitsipas 10-2 in their ATP Head2Head series, having overcome the 24-year-old en route to the title in Astana and the final in Paris in the past month.
“We have played some really close matches in the past few tournaments against each other,” Djokovic said. “It was very important to start off well. I held my serve really well throughout the match. I played a great tie-break, very solid all the way through.”
The 35-year-old has won 14 of his past 15 matches and demonstrated his match sharpness to down the Greek again, saving the one break point he faced to improve to 42-17 at the Nitto ATP Finals.
Djokovic was at his devastating best on his forehand, scoring a forehand rating of 9.6. This season, a 9.5 or better forehand rating has happened in just 0.5 per cent of matches.
Djokovic, 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 second time. The former World No. 1 will also play Andrey Rublev and Daniil Medvedev in the round-robin stage, with Rublev defeating Medvedev earlier on Monday.
Tsitsipas has earned a Tour-leading 60 wins this season and was trying to finish the season as the year-end No. 1 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings. However, his chances of ending 2022 atop tennis’ mountain are now over. The Greek, who captured the crown at the year-end event in 2019, had to win the title as the undefeated champion.
Carlos Alcaraz will finish the season as the World No. 1 if Nadal does not clinch the trophy in Turin.