Novak Djokovic matched Rafael Nadal by making a convincing start to his campaign at the Nitto ATP Finals in London.
Nadal swept past Andrey Rublev on Sunday evening and Djokovic made it a similarly uncomfortable experience for the other debutant, beating Argentinian Diego Schwartzman 6-3 6-2 at the O2 Arena.
It took Djokovic’s record to 12-1 in opening matches at the ATP Finals, with his only loss coming to David Ferrer on his debut in 2007. It also marked a return to winning ways for the Serb after his shock 6-2 6-1 defeat to Lorenzo Sonego in Vienna last month.
The squeaking of Djokovic’s shoes was the loudest sound to be heard in an empty arena as the world No 1 employed his brand of precision tennis. A nervous early service game allowed Schwartzman to strike first to lead 2-1, but Djokovic broke straight back and quickly pulled away.
Another break for 5-3 all but wrapped up the first set, and he stamped his authority on the second with an immediate break. Schwartzman had not beaten Djokovic in five previous meetings and there were no signs at all that was about to change.
The 5’7” Argentinian’s serve took a pounding in the latter stages and it took Djokovic just an hour and 18 minutes to wrap up victory. The other two players in the group, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev, meet later on Monday.
More from Novak Djokovic:
“I must say that it feels very strange to play in front of the empty stands. For all the tennis fans watching on the TV, we love you guys, we miss you guys.”
Novak Djokovic eases past Diego Schwartzman 6-3 6-2
From 3-3 in the opening set and after some initial problems, Djokovic elevated his level and ended the match by winning 9 of 11 games. A very good performance.
Novak Djokovic 6-3 *5-2 Diego Schwartzman. Good work from Schwartzman to scupper the breadstick with some good serving, closing it off with an unreturned serve.
Djokovic swung freely and attempted to finish in a blaze of glory there. No matter, he will attempt to serve out a very good performance.
Novak Djokovic 6-3 5-1* Diego Schwartzman. Djokovic strolls through another quick hold with more great serving. This time he escaped to 15, sealing it with a big unreturned serve down the T.
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Novak Djokovic 6-3 *4-1 Diego Schwartzman. Sadly for Schwartzman, he just doesn’t have sufficient weaponry to bother Djokovic at this level. From 30-30, Djokovic eventually moved forward after a lovely backhand down-the-line, delicately finishing the point with a lovely drop volley. Schwartzman then overhit a forehand on break point to seal the double break. This is all but over.
Novak Djokovic 6-3 3-1* Diego Schwartzman. Schwartzman started the game really well, continuing to up the tempo with his groundstrokes and take the ball early. He slotted away a forehand down-the-line to lead 0-15, but after another positive point he moved to the net and let Djokovic’s backhand crosscourt passing shot go, which landed in.
Schwartzman reached 30-30, but Djokovic rode the pressure brilliantly. At 30-30, he found lovely serve-forehand 1-2 punch. At game point, his length off both groundstrokes was delicious and he eventually forced a backhand error. A half chance for Schwartzman comes to nothing.
Novak Djokovic 6-3 *2-1 Diego Schwartzman. Schwartzman stops the run of games against him at 5, closing off the hold with his first ace of the afternoon. A very good service game from him, taking the ball early and pushing the Serb behind the baseline throughout. He desperately needs more of that just to stand a chance.
Novak Djokovic 6-3 2-0* Diego Schwartzman. Djokovic consolidates the break in the blink of an eye, closing off a quick love hold with a lovely backhand down-the-line winner followed by an ace out wide. Everything is flowing.
Novak Djokovic 6-3 *1-0 Diego Schwartzman. Djokovic’s game is starting to flow here and he has now won four consecutive games in a row. From deuce, he split the Schwartzman deference apart, drawing an error with a great forehand. At break point, he calmly threw in a slick drop shot and lob combo, before moving into the net and closing off the point with a solid overhead.
Novak Djokovic 6-3 Diego Schwartzman
Despite the one blip from Djokovic, that was otherwise a solid set of tennis. Schwartzman did his best to stay with the No 1 but he just could not maintain his level throughout. Djokovic ended the set from 30-30 with a blazing point-ending backhand down-the-line, followed by another unreturned serve.
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Novak Djokovic *5-3 Diego Schwartzman. Djokovic breaks and he will serve for the first set.
Schwartzman immediately fell down 0-30 but he responded incredibly well to the danger, finding his first serve and snatching the initiative early behind it, moving to 40-30 with an overhead winner. But from there, it got a little messy. He hit consecutive unforced errors to hand Djokovic a break point at advantage.
Djokovic so nearly took it at first ask, lining up an angled forehand passing shot that clipped the top of the net and was sent wide. On his second break point of the game, Djokovic produced one of the finest points of the match hitting Schwartzman off the court with an awesome inside-in forehand winner after a long, thoughtful point filled with angles and slices from both players. One game away.
Novak Djokovic 4-3* Diego Schwartzman. A sublime hold from Djokovic. From 15-30 down, he simply elevated his level. First, he broke down Schwartzman’s trusty backhand with a forceful inside out forehand, then he pulled off a lovely angled drop volley winner. At 40-30, he sealed the hold with a huge forehand down-the-line winner. How long can Schwartzman stay with him?
Novak Djokovic *3-3 Diego Schwartzman. That was some hold. Djokovic was swarming at 30-30 after grinding Schwartzman’s forehand down by initiating another long, exhausting rally. Schwartzman responded at 30-30 by finding a first serve and stepping in to crunch the following forehand. With an excellent serve down the T on game point, he punched another game on the board.
Novak Djokovic 3-2* Diego Schwartzman. No problems on serve for Djokovic this time. He eases through a second love hold of the afternoon, closing it off with a really nice forehand drop volley after a searing inside-out forehand.
Novak Djokovic *2-2 Diego Schwartzman. A very solid Djokovic breaks straight back. This time, a loose service game from Schwartzman who threw in a limp double fault of his own at 15-30. After Schwartzman saved the first break point, the pair had one of their first extended exchanges, with Djokovic grinding out a Schwartzman forehand error with a nice injection of width.
These are two of the best returners in the business so breaks are not at all surprising.
Novak Djokovic 1-2* Diego Schwartzman. A brilliant start from Schwartzman, who snatches the first break to move into the lead. Djokovic produced a poor service game, throwing in a double fault at 0-15 and then a loose forehand error at 15-30. He saved the first break point well but the Argentine drew him into the net with a wicked, short backhand slice before picking him off with a forehand down-the-line passing shot. Very well done.
Novak Djokovic *1-1 Diego Schwartzman. A great start from Schwartzman, who tended to any opening nerves with a slick hold to 15. From 30-15, he moved Djokovic around with his forehand, eventually dragging him off the court with a great crosscourt forehand. Djokovic gave up a loose backhand error on game point.
Novak Djokovic 1-0* Diego Schwartzman. Djokovic strolls through an easy opening hold to love, finding his first serve well and dismounting with an ace down the T. A sweet start.
The players are out on-court. Diego Schwartzman wins the toss and elects to receive first.
Diego Schwartzman since the tour resumed:
US Open R1 (after leading two sets versus Cameron Norrie)
Kitzbuhel QF (with a bye)
Roland Garros SF
Novak Djokovic’s Win-Loss record in opening matches at the ATP Finals: 11-1
Hello! Welcome to our coverage on day two of the ATP Finals at the O2 Arena. After Rafael Nadal’s efficient first win against Andrey Rublev yesterday, top seed Novak Djokovic will be looking to match his old rival here as he faces debutant Diego Schwartzman.
Djokovic starts as the heavy favourite. He leads the head-to-head 5-0 against Schwartzman and the Argentine has never won a set against him on hard courts.
Still, what a moment this is for the diminutive Argentine. A few months ago in September, he returned from the tour break in dire form, losing to Britain’s Cameron Norrie in the opening round of the US Open from two sets up. It wasn’t until he arrived in Rome and faced Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals that he came alive.
After registering his first win ever against Nadal, he reached the final in Rome and then took his momentum into Roland Garros where he reached his first slam semi-final. While some players have struggled in these strange times, Schwartzman has produceed the best tennis of his career to reach the top 10 for the first time aged 28. We’ll see if he can pull off a surprise today.