Novak Djokovic of Serbia on Wednesday opened the main draw of the ATP Finals by defeating Spain’s Casper Ruud 7-6 (8), 7-6 (6) at London’s O2 Arena.
Djokovic, the defending champion, double-faulted to serve out the first set but quickly turned things around, breaking Ruud’s serve in the second and third sets. He wasted the match point in the 11th game of the second set but earned another in the ninth, before sealing victory on the seventh match point with an angled crosscourt forehand winner.
“I was waiting for this final day in my life to come on this court, and to play with Novak,” Ruud said on court afterwards. “It’s not that big a deal because I have won two matches against him and I beat him the other way, but I know the importance of this match.”
Djokovic, the world No. 3, has now lost just three matches since February and has won 30 consecutive sets in 2016. He has not lost a set since being knocked out of the French Open by Martin Klizan in round three in the fourth round.
“It was a tough match to play against the big server,” Djokovic said. “He is not a player who gives you too many easy points. I was not getting a great deal of pressure on me in these conditions. I have played a lot of matches on indoor hard courts, but I have never played on a surface like this in a couple of years. I still have some work to do, but my aim is to win one match and be part of the second round on Friday.”
On the same day, top-ranked Rafael Nadal lost for the first time at this year’s event. He lost 7-6 (7), 7-6 (7) to Austrian Dominic Thiem in the first round.
“It is not very good news after starting the tournament but I am happy to be still there,” Nadal said. “That’s what the tournament is all about. It is not the result that I wanted today, but that is what I said before the match.
“I did not play bad against Dominic, the only difference was that he was able to serve better, which he didn’t do against David Goffin or against Jack Sock the last two matches. But it’s not my match to win or lose.”
Thiem, the Austrian third seed, enjoyed better movement and power on the court and took advantage of Nadal’s inconsistency to cause the Spaniard trouble. He won an early break and a set point in the third set tiebreak and served out well.
“This was definitely a positive match for me,” Thiem said. “The matches before here are very different from this. I played with a lot of rhythm on a faster court which meant that I was controlling the action on every shot. And now I have to remember this feeling in match, also in important moments.”
In the other match, Alexander Zverev of Germany beat Dominic Thiem of Austria 7-6 (4), 6-2.