Novak Djokovic recovered from a break in service early in the game and dispatched Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-2 yesterday to make his debut with force in the ATP Masters Cup.
The world number one sealed the victory in one hour and 18 minutes. There is no audience at the 02 Arena in London, a stage with a capacity for 20,000 spectators, due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“It felt like a practice session in a way,” Djokovic commented. “This is one of the most vibrant arenas in tennis. The atmosphere is always electric and the crowd is always loud and well into the game.”
After the duel, Djokovic gestured his usual greeting of appreciation to each section of the stands.
“Why did I celebrate? That is my celebration and it is also my gratitude on the track and having this opportunity to compete,” said the Serbian star. “Although there are no people in the stands, I know there are a lot of people watching it on television, and it is a way of sharing my emotion with them.”
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Schwartzman scored the first service break of the match to lead 2-1 in the first set, but the 28-year-old Argentine gave it up immediately after suffering with his first serve.
With the score tied 3-3, Djokovic went on to win five games in a row to take the first set and open a 2-0 lead in the second.
“He got off to a bad start,” Schwartzman said. “I was able to take advantage at the beginning, but then it broke … and I ended up making too many mistakes.”
“The scoreboard is a bit of a liar. I don’t feel like I played a bad game,” he added.
Djokovic became a five-time champion of the tournament that brings together the eight best tennis players of the season – a title from Roger Federer’s record.
He has not lost his debut in the Masters Cup since the 2007 edition against David Ferrer. He is also unaware of a six-game loss to Schwartzman.
Although he has not won titles this year, Schwartzman managed to qualify for the indoor tournament for the first time after a season in which he reached the semi-finals of the French Open and played the final of the Italian Open, which he lost to Djokovic.
Schwartzman became the eighth Argentine player to contest the Masters Cup singles draw, and the first since Juan Martín del Potro in 2013.
In the other match of the day on Monday, Russian Daniil Medvedev defeated 6-3, 6-4 against German Alexander Zverev. Djokovic and Medvedev will meet on Wednesday.
Medvedev was leading 4-3, 30-30 in the second set when he stunned Zverev with a serve down. His rival had to approach the net and lost the point when his backhand volley went long.
The Masters Cup will move to Turin, Italy, next year, after 12 years in London.
The hotel where the players spend the night is steps away from the arena, but sanitary protocol requires that transfers be by car. New to the tournament is the use of electronic lines and video review.
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