ATP Finals: Djokovic dispatches debutant after first-set shock
Former number one ups gear to claim opener from Dominic Thiem after loss of tiebreak
Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Dominic Thiem during their singles group match of the ATP World Tour Finals. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA
Deposed world number one Novak Djokovic suffered an early scare against Austrian debutant Dominic Thiem at the ATP World Tour Finals before launching his bid for a fifth successive title with a 6-7(10) 6-0 6-2 victory.
Thiem, the youngest of the eight qualifiers for the year-ender endeared himself to a sell-out crowd at the O2 Arena in London with a swashbuckling first set tiebreak which he sealed at the seventh time of asking with a sizzling forehand winner.
Djokovic, who could still end the year as world number one by doing better than new top dog Andy Murray, had looked reasonably comfortable, if a little flat, before Thiem upped the pace to take the opener.
Any chance of a shock opening loss to a man he had previously never dropped a set to in three meetings quickly subsided though, as Djokovic found another gear to race through the second and third sets.
In the bag
Murray, who ended Djokovic’s 122-week spell at the top of the rankings last week in Paris, faces Croatia’s Marin Cilic in Monday’s second John McEnroe group match after Japan’s Kei Nishikori takes on US Open champion Stan Wawrinka.
Home favourite Murray leads Djokovic by 405 points but with 275 Davis Cup final points about to drop off his total, the year-end positions will be decided in the coming days, possibly in a showdown in next Sunday’s final.