Novak Djokovic made a fine start to his bid for a record-equalling sixth end of season ATP finals crown courtesy of a straight sets win over Casper Ruud in Turin.
The Serbian world number one looked sharp throughout as he sank the Norwegian in an engaging Green Group opener by a 7-6 6-2 scoreline in one hour and 30 minutes.
The victory sees Djokovic tie with Ivan Lendl for the second most wins (39) in ATP finals history and was an indicator of just how serious he is about snaring this title for the first time since 2015.
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Ruud made an early statement of his intentions not to be overawed on his debut at the tournament as a sizzling crosscourt forehand earned him an instant break point in the opening game of the contest. Djokovic then stumbled and fell to the floor at an untimely moment and a backhand error into the net gave the underdog the perfect start.
Slowly but surely Djokovic fought back, easing through a run of service games before some patient tactics saw him level at 3-3 when Ruud threw in a double fault on the first of two break points.
Djokovic was now in the ascendancy but was left frustrated in what proved to be an epic Game 10, screaming in dismay as he failed to capitalise on two separate set point opportunities. The 20-time Grand Slam champion was not to be denied though as he came through a topsy-turvy tie break 7-4 to take the opener in 61 minutes.
Ruud, who was aiming for a first ever hard-court victory over a top 10 opponent, needed a strong response at the beginning of Set 2 but fizzed a forehand into the net to cough up the early break after a Djokovic lob had left him shaking his head in disbelief.
Five-time champion, Djokovic didn’t look back from there and secured the insurance break to lead 4-1 following an error-strewn game from his opponent.
Djokovic then served out the contest to improve his match record to 49-6 for the season.
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