The Nitto ATP Finals brings together the best eight players of each year, but that hasn’t stopped Novak Djokovic from building a unique winning streak at the season finale.
The World No. 1 defeated Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-2 on Monday to earn his 12th straight victory in opening matches at the elite eight-man event. Djokovic won 65 per cent of his second-serve return points (13/20) to move to 1-0 in Group Tokyo 1970 after one hour and 18 minutes. Djokovic’s only loss in an opening match at this event came on his tournament debut in Shanghai in 2007 (l. to Ferrer).
“The beginning of the match wasn’t that great for me. He broke my serve in the third game and I managed to break [back]. It was a close encounter until I broke his serve at 4-3 and managed to close out the first set,” said Djokovic in an on-court interview.
”In the second set, I started swinging through the ball a little more [with] a bit less hesitation from both corners. I was very pleased with the way I played, especially in the second set.”
Djokovic showed great consistency in his first tournament appearance since his quarter-final loss to Lorenzo Sonego at last month’s Erste Bank Open in Vienna. With his sixth win in as many ATP Head2Head matches against Schwartzman, the 33-year-old equalled Andrey Rublev’s Tour-leading total of 40 wins this season.
Schwartzman struggled to find a way through his opponent in his debut at the Nitto ATP Finals. The eighth seed, who owns a 25-13 record this year, is the first Argentine singles player to compete at the season finale since Juan Martin del Potro in 2013.
“Everything is difficult against [Novak]. I think what he’s doing when he’s playing his best, he’s moving the ball… to every single point on [the] court,” said Schwartzman. “It’s very difficult to see or to know what he’s going to do and [to] try to make good points… He has a lot of talent when he has the chance to move the ball.”
After dropping serve early in the match, Djokovic increased his consistency and battled well in extended rallies to grind down his opponent. The top seed dictated rallies with his forehand and converted his first set point with a powerful serve down the T.
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Djokovic stepped inside the baseline on his backhand and finished points at the net to increase his advantage in the opening game of the second set. The five-time champion cruised to victory from that point and claimed the win by moving to the net and striking a forehand volley winner.
Djokovic and Schwartzman will now prepare for their remaining Group Tokyo 1970 matches against Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev. Medvedev and Zverev will meet for the second time this month in the final match of the day. At the Rolex Paris Masters, Medvedev rallied from a set down to defeat Zverev in the championship match.
Did You Know?
Djokovic was presented with the year-end World No. 1 trophy for a record-equalling sixth time on Sunday. The Serbian, who has claimed four trophies in 2020, equalled Pete Sampras’ mark of six year-end No. 1 finishes in the FedEx ATP Rankings by reaching the Erste Bank Open quarter-finals in Vienna last month.