Djokovic Beats Tsitsipas In Dubai To Win 79th Career Title

Novak Djokovic of Serbia holds the victor’s trophy after winning the final of the Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championship in the Gulf emirate of Dubai on February 29, 2020. KARIM SAHIB / AFP

 

 

Novak Djokovic captured his 79th career title on Saturday when he won the Dubai Championships for the fifth time, defeating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 6-4 in the final.

The world number one is now on an 18-0 winning run this season, and 21-0 overall since late 2019, as he ended an eight-match win streak for his Greek opponent, champion last weekend in Marseille.

Djokovic claimed his third trophy of 2020 after helping Serbia to the ATP Cup and winning an eighth Australian Open.

It is also the seventh time that the 32-year-old has won more than 20 matches on the trot.

Tsitsipas lost his second straight final in Dubai after going down to Roger Federer a year ago.

“It was close in both sets,” Djokovic said. “A few points decided it, I’ve had a great week.

“I’m most proud of my consistency this week, especially on shots from the baseline.”

The top seed produced a straightforward win in 79 minutes after a close-call semi-final where he saved three match points against Gael Monfils.

“I was just a point from going out, I might not have been here,” the winner said. “But it shows how quickly things can turn.

“I appreciate the moment, I’ve really played well in my matches this week. There were some ups and downs, but that’s normal.”

Djokovic broke for 5-3 in the opening set and served it out moments later.

The second set was slightly tighter, with the Serbian losing a break as Tsitsipas levelled at 3-all.

But Djokovic came through again with a break for 5-4 as his opponent hit the net.

A game later, Djokovic was lifting another trophy as he found the corner with a winner.

“Tsitsipas is a player for now, much more than for the future,” Djokovic said of his sixth-ranked opponent.

“He’s already been very successful. He’s more than just a great player, he’s very charismatic and brings a lot to the game.”

Djokovic added: “I’ve had a great start to the season, I love playing on hard courts. They’ve been my most successful surface so far.”

Djokovic will stay number one on the ATP rankings on Monday to start a 280th week atop the table.

He was playing the final in Dubai for a sixth time in 11 appearances. It was, however, his first final at the tournament since 2015 when he lost to Federer.

Coming into the championship match, the 21-year-old Greek had lost just one set this week.

Djokovic was also awarded a ‘golden visa’ by the Dubai government and has agreed to return to defend his title in 2021.

AFP

Djokovic Cruises To Opening Win In Dubai

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Tunisia’s Malek Jaziri during round 1 of the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships in the United Arab Emirates, on February 24, 2020. KARIM SAHIB / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic powered into the second round of the Dubai Championships on Monday, defeating Tunisian wild card Malek Jaziri 6-1, 6-2.

The top seed and four-time champion was playing for the first time since 2016.

Djokovic owns a perfect 14-0 record this season after winning a title for Serbia at the ATP Cup followed by an eighth Australian Open crown.

AFP

Djokovic Beats Thiem In Five Sets To Win Eighth Australian Open

 

Novak Djokovic battled through intense pressure from Dominic Thiem to reassert his dominance at the Australian Open Sunday, claiming a record eighth title and returning to world number one in the process.

The indomitable Serb stretched his unbeaten streak this season to 13 by rallying from two sets to one down and beating the courageous fifth-seeded Austrian 6-4, 4-6, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a near four-hour ordeal.

It was his 17th Grand Slam title, moving him within two of Rafael Nadal and three of Roger Federer on the all-time list.

The victory put him alongside his fellow legends as only the third man in history to win eight or more titles at the same Slam after Nadal (12 at the French Open) and Federer (eight at Wimbledon).

READ ALSO: ‘Ighalo Has Nothing To Lose’

It also ensured he will once again be world number one when the new rankings are released on Monday, usurping Nadal. Federer remains third with Thiem moving up a place to a career-high fourth.

But it wasn’t easy with the Serb looking lethargic and out for the count in sets two and three before regaining his mojo after a medical timeout to grind down the talented Thiem.

Djokovic had never before won a Slam final in seven previous attempts when finding himself two sets to one down.

The Serb, 32, was the overwhelming favourite, but the supremely fit and fast Thiem, 26, always had the weapons to trouble him, which he deployed successfully for much of the match, taming his serve and unleashing some explosive groundstrokes.

It was a nerveless start from Djokovic, who comfortably held then put big pressure on the Thiem serve, with a forehand into the net giving him an immediate break and a psychological edge after some monster rallies.

Thiem, though, is as strong mentally as he is physically and he finally got on the scoreboard after another tough service game.

And against the run of play, with Djokovic seemingly in control, he broke back, unleashing pinpoint groundstrokes to make the most of some loose Djokovic shots.

But the world number two was unrelenting, breaking again as Thiem served to stay in the set, with the Austrian sending down his first double fault of the match at the crucial moment.

Remarkably, a rare Djokovic double fault handed Thiem a break to go 2-1 up in set two with the courageous Austrian refusing to go away.

The Serb was getting frustrated, looking at his coaching box and pointing at his head.

He refocused and once again began attacking the Thiem serve, breaking back for 4-4, pumping his fists when the fifth seed sent a backhand wide.

But two-time warnings on his serve in the next game rattled Djokovic and he was broken again, with the Serb losing his cool by patting the umpire’s foot at the changeover.

He had words with the official before Thiem served out the set — the first the Serb had dropped in an Australian Open final since 2015.

Djokovic looked dejected and was immediately broken twice in set three as Thiem raced to a 4-0 lead, having won six games in a row with Djokovic imploding.

The Serb was heard telling a trainer he was tired and after losing the set, he went for a medical timeout.

He came back and the fourth set went with serve until a Thiem double fault handed the Serb two break points and he converted to regain control, serving out the set with an ace.

Djokovic drew on all his experience to force another break in the deciding fifth set to take a 2-1 lead and kept his foot on the gas to claim an eighth crown from the last 13 Australian Opens.

AFP

Djokovic Breezes Past Federer Into Australian Open Final

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates after victory against Switzerland’s Roger Federer (R) during their men’s singles semi-final match on day eleven of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 30, 2020.
DAVID GRAY / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic shattered the hopes of ailing rival Roger Federer Thursday to sweep into a record eighth Australian Open final and move closer to his 17th Grand Slam crown.

The pair boasts one of world sport’s greatest rivalries, and after a tentative start, the Serb quickly reinforced his recent dominance, showing no mercy to the Swiss maestro in a 7-6 (7/1), 6-4, 6-3 win.

He will play either fifth seed Dominic Thiem or seventh-ranked German Alexander Zverev in Sunday’s final.

AFP

Djokovic Sweeps Past Nadal In ATP Cup Final

Novak Djokovic of Serbia reacts after winning against Rafael Nadal of Spain in their men’s singles match in the final of the ATP Cup tennis tournament in Sydney on January 12, 2020. AFP

 

Novak Djokovic swept past long-time rival Rafael Nadal in a battling display at the ATP Cup final Sunday to lay down a marker ahead of the Australian Open.

The Serbian world number two blasted the top-ranked Spaniard off court 6-2 in the first set before a much tighter 7-6 (7/4) second set.

It left the final of the inaugural team event finely poised at 1-1 after Spain’s reliable Roberto Bautista Agut caned Dusan Lajovic 7-5, 6-1.

Nadal and Djokovic were both expected back on court to play the decisive doubles rubber that will decide which country wins the 24-nation tournament.

“Every time I get to play Rafa we get to play a lot of exciting points. There were some incredible exchanges today,” said Djokovic.

“I started off the match perfectly, everything worked. I’m just really glad I held my nerve in the end.”

Djokovic, warming up for his bid to win an eighth Australian Open crown this month, went into the clash at Sydney’s Ken Rosewall Arena leading their head-to-heads 28-26.

But the statistics did not tell the full story.

The Serb had won nine of their past 12 contests and been dominant over the years on hard courts — including a comfortable win against Nadal in the Australian Open final last year.

He showed his intent immediately, breaking Nadal in the opening game when the Spaniard netted a backhand, and there was no let-up.

His driving groundstrokes and deft touches proved too much with Nadal’s serve constantly under siege as Djokovic delivered a booming ace to wrap up the set.

Nadal lifted to another level in the second set and it was an intense affair, with Djokovic saving five break points in a crucial sixth game.

It went to a tiebreaker where a crunching backhand down the line from the Serb gave him the break he needed to complete the victory.

AFP

Djokovic Leads Serbia Into ATP Cup Final

Novak Djokovic of Serbia hits a return in his men’s singles match against Daniil Medvedev of Russia at the ATP Cup tennis tournament in Sydney on January 11, 2020. William WEST / AFP

 

 

Novak Djokovic was at his battling best to topple gutsy fifth-ranked Daniil Medvedev on an epic Saturday and send Serbia into the inaugural ATP Cup final.

The world number two was given the ideal platform by a composed Dusan Lajovic, who ground down Russia’s Karen Khachanov in the opening singles 7-5, 7-6 (7/1) to hand his country a 1-0 advantage.

And the 16-time Grand Slam champion, who will be targeting an eighth Australian Open title this month, came through a top-draw contest 6-1, 5-7, 6-4.

It gave Serbia an unassailable 2-0 lead ahead of the doubles to set up a meeting with either the Nick Kyrgios-led Australia or Rafael Nadal’s Davis Cup champions Spain in the final on Sunday.

“It was an exceptional match. Lots of rallies and very exhausting. Daniil Medvedev is one of the best players in the world and he showed today why,” said Djokovic, who on Saturday pulled out of next week’s Adelaide International after a tough ATP Cup.

“He’s difficult to break from the baseline, he’s tall and has a good serve. This was the most difficult challenge I have had so far this year.”

Djokovic dropped a set for the first time in the tournament during his quarter-final encounter with Canada’s Denis Shapovalov, but quickly assumed control against Medvedev.

Playing in much cooler conditions than the heat and humidity that hit Nadal on Friday when he lost in the singles, Djokovic broke in the first set to go 3-1 up and never looked troubled.

He broke again for 5-1 and served it out in just 31 minutes.

The Russian, who had won their last two encounters, appeared in trouble when he was broken again in the opening game of the second set but then astonishingly roared back.

He lifted his level to create four break points in the next, converting when Djokovic misjudged a ball he thought was going out.

Another break put him 3-1 ahead and Djokovic smashed his racquet in frustration as Medvedev took the set to level the match.

A third set of long, high-quality rallies went with serve until Djokovic got the crucial edge in the fifth game, converting a volley to go 3-2 in front and Medvedev had no answer.

Lajovic, who won his first ATP title last year at Umag, took a 2-0 record into his showdown with world number 17 Khachanov.

In their first meeting on hard courts, he produced a performance that belied his ranking of 34, displaying composure and a fine array of shots.

Lajovic found a new gear during his thrashing on Friday of Felix Auger-Aliassime and said the vocal Sydney fans had fuelled him to deliver his best tennis.

They were back in full voice again at the Ken Rosewall Arena, getting him over the line.

“It was definitely one of the toughest matches for me in my career, concerning the situation, the tension and the importance of the moment,” he said.

“But the crowd carried me and my team was behind me.”

AFP

Nadal’s Spain To Meet Djokovic’s Serbia In ATP Cup Final

A photo combination of Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal . AFP

 

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic will face each other in the final of the inaugural ATP Cup after winning epic three-set matches Saturday to steer Spain and Serbia into the decider.

World number one Nadal ground down pumped-up Australian Alex de Minaur to guide the Davis Cup champions through their semi-final while Djokovic battled past Russia’s Daniil Medvedev.

Under the format of the innovative team event in Sydney, the top-ranked singles players from each country play each other, ensuring the two legends clash for the 55th time since their first showdown in 2006.

READ ALSO: US Open Champion Andreescu Withdraws From Australian Open

World number two Djokovic leads the head-to-head 28-26, including beating his arch-rival in the Australian Open final last year.

Nadal outlasted De Minaur 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 after unflappable teammate Roberto Bautista Agut tamed Nick Kyrgios 6-1, 6-4.

Djokovic had an equally tough time against impressive fifth-ranked Medvedev, coming through a top-draw contest 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 on the back of Dusan Lajovic beating Karen Khachanov 7-5, 7-6 (7/1).

“Alex was playing at a very high level and for me, my energy was a little bit lower than usual. But it has been a very emotional evening and a pleasure playing here,” said Nadal.

“We know it’s going to be a super tough final (against Serbia),” he added. “Novak likes a lot to play here, he’s had a lot of great results. So let’s see. We have a good team too.”

De Minaur had a furious start, breaking Nadal in the opening game of the match and then keeping the pressure on, restricting the Spaniard’s trademark forehand to take the first set in 46 minutes.

Full of energy, his serve was on fire and he was winning the baseline rallies, but Nadal weathered the onslaught and finally won a breakpoint, converting to take the second set.

De Minaur was deflated and the fight went out of him as the 19-time Grand Slam showed him who was boss, racing through the deciding set.

Unassuming world number 10 Bautista Agut was in control and all over the groundstrokes of temperamental Kyrgios, who looked lost as he crashed 6-1 in the first set.

The Australian regained some lustre in the second set. But he was broken in the fifth game, mangling his racquet in frustration, and despite saving two match points with booming aces was outplayed.

“My game plan was to put him under pressure to play every point, to make him work. That’s what I tried and it went well,” said Bautista Agut.

Exceptional

Sixteen-time Grand Slam winner Djokovic, who is targeting an eighth Australian Open title this month, had looked on track for a comfortable win against Medvedev after sailing through the opening set and breaking in the first game of the second.

But the dogged Russian, who won their last two encounters, roared back.

He broke in the next game and then again for 3-1, with Djokovic smashing his racquet as Medvedev took the set to level the match.

The third set of long, high-quality rallies went with serve until Djokovic got the crucial edge in the fifth game, converting a volley to go 3-2 in front and Medvedev had no answer.

“It was an exceptional match. Lots of rallies and very exhausting. Daniil Medvedev is one of the best players in the world and he showed today why,” said Djokovic.

“He’s difficult to break from the baseline, he’s tall and has a good serve. This was the most difficult challenge I have had so far this year.”

Lajovic, who won his first ATP title last year at Umag, took a 2-0 record into his showdown with world number 17 Khachanov and produced a performance that belied his ranking of 34, displaying composure and a fine array of shots.

“It was definitely one of the toughest matches for me in my career, concerning the situation, the tension and the importance of the moment,” he said. “But the crowd carried me.”

AFP

Nadal, Djokovic Off To Winning Starts At ATP Cup

 

 

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic kickstarted their build-up to the Australian Open with straight-sets wins at the ATP Cup Saturday, but world number four Dominic Thiem slumped to defeat.

Top-ranked Nadal had little trouble with Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili, racing to a 6-3, 7-5 victory, while long-time rival Djokovic was given more of a test by South Africa’s Kevin Anderson before overcoming him 7-6 (7/5), 7-6 (8/6).

Their wins ensured Spain and Serbia clinched their ties at the inaugural 24-nation team event, where the countries are split into six groups across Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

The top eight from the round-robin go onto the knockout phase in Sydney before one is eventually crowned the winner.

France, Argentina, Croatia and Japan also began their tournament in style, winning their ties to join day one victors Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Norway, Russia and Australia.

“I’m super, super happy to be here in Perth for first time in my life. It’s an amazing arena and a great crowd,” said Nadal.

“It was tough first match of the season, not an easy start. But I think I played a great game.”

Earlier, his teammate Roberto Bautista Agut crushed a hapless Aleksandre Metreveli 6-0, 6-0.

Serbian superstar Djokovic needed to produce some of his best tennis to see off the big-serving Anderson, admitting it was a testing encounter.

“What a way to start the year,” he said. “He was on fire tonight — I think the quality of tennis was quite high. “I was very pleased with the way I kind of weathered the storm.”

His teammate Dusan Lajovic outlasted Lloyd Harris 3-6, 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.

Confidence

Austria’s Thiem forecast this week that 2020 would be the year that the vice-like hold of Djokovic, Nadal and Roger Federer on Grand Slam titles would come to an end.

He is tipped as one of those who could make the breakthrough, along with Alexander Zverev and Stefanos Tsitsipas. But all three have been beaten in their opening ATP Cup clashes.

Thiem, who won five titles last year, had six break points in the third set against Croatia’s Borna Coric, but failed to convert any of them.

“It’s really nice to beat him because at the end of last season I was not playing well and this will give me a lot of confidence,” said Coric, ranked 28 and who suffered six losses in a row in late 2019.

Fellow Croat Marin Cilic, a finalist at the 2018 Australian Open, used his experience to down Austria’s Dennis Novak 6-7 (7/4), 6-4, 6-4, and ensure Croatia won the tie in Sydney.

The most dominant win of the day came courtesy of Japan, who are without the injured Kei Nishikori but crushed Uruguay 3-0 in Perth, dropping just 15 games across their two singles and one doubles rubbers.

Yoshihito Nishioka routed higher-ranked Pablo Cuevas 6-0, 6-1 and veteran Go Soeda thrashed Martin Cuevas, Pablo’s younger brother, 6-1, 6-3 before a tighter doubles encounter.

French duo Gael Monfils and Benoit Paire, both in the top 25, led their country to a 2-1 Group A win over Chile, while Argentina scraped past Poland by the same score.

But it was a struggle for the South Americans with Polish number one Hubert Hurkacz upsetting world number 14 Diego Schwartzman in three sets.

Guido Pella won the other singles before Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni teamed to down Hurkacz and two-time Grand Slam winner Lukasz Kubot in the deciding doubles.

Some US$15 million in prize money is at stake in the tournament, with up to 750 singles and 250 doubles ATP rankings points up for grabs.

Under the innovative tournament rules, on-court coaching is allowed and team zones are in the corners of the court, rather than on the sidelines by the umpire.

Djokovic Driven By Lasting Legacy, Not Trophy-Hunting

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Russia’s Karen Khachanov during the Mubadala World Tennis Championship 3rd Place match at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi, on December 21, 2019. AFP

 

 

Novak Djokovic says the main source of his motivation at this stage of his career is securing a lasting legacy rather than simply trying to win tennis matches and trophies.

For nearly two years, from mid-2016 until mid-2018, the 32-year-old Serb had admittedly struggled with motivation after pulling off the historic feat of winning four Grand Slams in a row –- a first in men’s tennis since 1969.

Djokovic recaptured his spark and has since added a quartet of majors to his overall tally, which now stands at 16.

While the world number two remains in a tight battle with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in the race for most Grand Slam titles won, Djokovic believes what currently drives him in the sport is something deeper than that.

“You need to constantly give yourself fuel from the source, whatever the source is,” Djokovic said at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship exhibition event in Abu Dhabi, where he secured third place with victory over Karen Khachanov on Saturday.

“I think it’s always about finding that purpose, and the reason, the meaning of actually playing. For me, especially in the last couple of years, it’s not only about winning a tennis match or a trophy.

“It had to be something greater than my own achievements. Something that would be related to legacy, something that would really be inspiring the lives of others, particularly kids.”

Federer holds the men’s all-time record of most majors won, with 20, and Nadal is breathing down his neck with a total of 19.

Djokovic is younger than both of them though, and has a shot at closing the gap on his two rivals.

“That’s a goal,” said Djokovic, when asked if he is fuelled by breaking records.

“I’m motivated by breaking my own records and moving my own boundaries and that”s something that motivates me to compete.

“I do love to play tennis so I do like to be on the practice court. But competitive tennis is different. In order to compete to be a professional tennis player and to compete at the highest level, you really need goals, daily goals, monthly goals, yearly goals.

“So I do have them, as everyone else. Of course, I’m aware of the privilege that I have to fight for history and to be able to possibly achieve even greater things and that’s something that drives me of course, alongside other things.”

Djokovic will begin his 2020 season by representing Serbia in the ATP Cup in Australia.

He remains midway through his pre-season preparations, and leaves Abu Dhabi with one loss, to Stefanos Tsitsipas, and one win over Khachanov.

“I got what I came here for, two good matches,” he said on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Khachanov is hoping to find consistency in the new season following a see-saw 2019.

The Russian former top-10 player has added Swedish coach Fredrik Rosengren to his team, to work alongside Vedran Martic.

The 23-year-old is also a new dad, having welcomed his son David with his wife, Veronika, three months ago.

“Fatherhood is treating me very well. I think you become more mature because you have a responsibility not only for yourself but for the whole family, so that’s one of the biggest steps,” said the 17th-ranked player.

AFP

Federer Outclasses Djokovic To Reach ATP Finals Semis

Switzerland’s Roger Federer celebrates his straight sets win over Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in their men’s singles round-robin match on day five of the ATP World Tour Finals tennis tournament at the O2 Arena in London on November 14, 2019.
Ben STANSALL / AFP

 

Roger Federer produced a near-flawless performance as he avenged his Wimbledon defeat by Novak Djokovic and qualified for the last four of the ATP Finals with a 6-4, 6-3 victory on Thursday.

The Swiss started the tournament with a chastening straight-sets defeat to Dominic Thiem but found his best form when it mattered.

Defeat for the second seed spells the end of his bid to overtake Rafael Nadal and finish as year-end number one.

READ ALSO: Loew Downplays Germany As Euro 2020 Favourites

Roared on by a raucous packed house at London’s O2 Arena, six-time champion Federer looked in the groove from the start, cranking up the pressure on Djokovic’s serve and dropping just three points on his own serve in the first set.

The Serbian upped his game at the start of the second set but Federer, 38, saved the one break point he faced and broke twice to canter to victory.

The third seed, making his 17th appearance at the ATP Finals, is into his 16th semi-final at the year-end event.

Djokovic needed to win the title to have a chance at knocking Nadal off the top spot, but now the Spaniard is guaranteed to finish the year as the top-ranked player for the fifth time, tying him with Federer, Djokovic and American Jimmy Connors.

“Great atmosphere, great opponent,” said Federer, who hit 23 winners and made just five unforced errors. “It was definitely incredibly special. I enjoyed it from the beginning.

“I played incredibly and I knew I had to because that’s what Novak does. It was definitely magical.”

Speaking about what was different from the Wimbledon final, where he squandered two championship points on his own serve, he said: “I won match point I guess.

“It was so close at Wimbledon. It was a privilege to play that match, so many ups and downs. I couldn’t be more happy right now.”

Federer finishes second in Group Bjorn Borg, behind Thiem, who also beat Djokovic earlier this week. The Swiss will face the Group Andre Agassi winner on Saturday.

Metronomic Federer

Djokovic looked nervy at the start of the winner-takes-all contest, double-faulting twice in the third game, in which he was broken to love.

As cries of “Let’s go Roger, let’s go” rang around the cavernous stadium, Federer was dead-eyed on his serve, hitting eight aces, including a second-serve ace, in the first set.

Federer’s service level dipped in the second set and 32-year-old Djokovic earned his first break point of the match in the fourth game, which the Swiss saved.

In the next game, Djokovic slipped to 15-40 and sailed a forehand long to give Federer his second break of the match. The Swiss broke once more to close out the victory.

Djokovic had won his past five meetings with Federer, including their epic five-set battle in the final at Wimbledon in July.

“He was the better player in all aspects and absolutely deserved to win,” said Djokovic. “He served great, moved well, returned my serve very well…. He did everything right.”

In Thursday’s early match in Group Bjorn Borg, which was a dead rubber, eighth seed Matteo Berrettini beat Thiem 7-6 (7/3), 6-3.

Fifth seed Thiem did not hit the heights he reached during his three-set win against Djokovic, notching just 12 winners compared with 50 against the Serbian.

Stefanos Tsitsipas has already qualified for the semi-finals from Group Andre Agassi, leaving Nadal, defending champion Alexander Zverev and Daniil Medvedev to scrap it out for the other spot on Friday.

AFP

Djokovic Kickstart ATP Finals With Win Against Berrettini

 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic celebrates his straight-sets win over Italy’s Matteo Berrettini in his men’s singles round-robin match on day one of the ATP World Tour Finals tennis tournament at the O2 Arena in London on November 10, 2019. Adrian DENNIS / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic eased to a 6-2, 6-1 victory against Matteo Berrettini in his ATP Finals opener on Sunday as he targets a record-equalling sixth year-end number one ranking.

The Serbian, a five-time champion at the end-of-season event, was last week nudged off the top spot in the rankings by Rafael Nadal, who is also in the eight-man field in London.

Djokovic, who won the Australian Open and Wimbledon this season, must reach the final to stand any chance of dislodging Nadal but there are major questions over the Spaniard’s fitness.

READ ALSO: France Crush Australian Dreams To Win Fed Cup Final

The second seed saw off the challenge of Berrettini in just 62 minutes, converting five of seven breakpoints and out-serving his 23-year-old opponent.

Eighth-seed Berrettini, appearing at the ATP Finals for the first time, went toe to toe with Djokovic at the start of the match but the Serbian broke twice to take the first set 6-2.

Djokovic romped into a 4-0 lead in the second set as the Italian continued to struggle with his serve but was pegged back in the fifth game as Berrettini broke for the first time.

The unflappable 16-time Grand Slam champion broke back in the following game and served out to take the set 6-1.

Germany’s Alexander Zverev shocked Djokovic in last year’s final at the O2 Arena but the Serbian is the firm favourite to equal Roger Federer’s tally of six ATP Finals titles after cantering to victory at last week’s Paris Masters.

Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic were the top three seeds when they first competed together at the tournament way back in 2007 and are still the men to beat 12 years later.

Nadal, who has never won the event, is bidding to clinch the year-end number one spot in the ATP rankings for the fifth time.

The season-ending tournament, featuring the year’s best eight players, is contested in a round-robin format with the best four players and doubles teams reaching the knockout semi-finals stage.

The other two members of the Bjorn Borg group are Federer and Dominic Thiem of Austria, who meet in the evening match.

Nadal, Daniil Medvedev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Zverev are in the Andre Agassi group.

AFP

Djokovic Cruises To Fifth Paris Masters Title

 

Novak Djokovic eased to a record-extending fifth Paris Masters title by brushing aside Canadian youngster Denis Shapovalov in Sunday’s final, boosting his hopes of taking the year-end world number one spot.

The top seed claimed a dominant 6-3, 6-4 victory over his 20-year-old opponent, who looked nervous after being the beneficiary of Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal before their scheduled semi-final.

Djokovic will lose top spot in the rankings to Nadal next week, but could still equal Pete Sampras’ record by finishing a sixth year as the world’s best player.

The 33-year-old Nadal is a fitness doubt for the ATP Tour Finals, which start in London on November 10, due to an abdominal muscle strain, while Djokovic has won the season-ending championships five times.

Djokovic, who lost to Russian Karen Khachanov in last year’s Bercy final, saved the only break point he faced as he sealed his fourth win from as many matches against the world number 28 Shapovalov.

The 16-time Grand Slam champion has now won 34 Masters titles, moving to within one of Nadal at the top of the all-time list, and 77 on the ATP Tour in total.

It was Djokovic’s fifth trophy of the season after previous triumphs at Wimbledon and the US Open, as well as at the Madrid Open and in Tokyo.