LONDON • Novak Djokovic started his quest for a record-equalling sixth ATP Finals crown in impressive fashion yesterday, after he eased to a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Italian debutant Matteo Berrettini in the tournament's opener.
The Serb, a five-time champion at the end-of-season event, was last week nudged off the top spot in the world 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.
He is now 440 points behind the Spaniard (9,585) in the battle to be the year-end No. 1 for a sixth time, matching the record of Pete Sampras (1993-98).
The second seed saw off the challenge of Berrettini in just 62 minutes, converting five of seven break points and out-serving his 23-year-old opponent in the Bjorn Borg group.
Eighth-seed Berrettini went toe to toe with Djokovic, 32, at the start of the match but the Serb 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.
"It was not easy for him, playing in his first ATP Finals match. I knew he would be nervous at the beginning.
"So, I tried to use my experience and tactics to perform well," the world No. 2 said of his opponent.
"I was fortunate to get the break midway through the first set and, after that, I read his serve better.
"He has big weapons. I managed to play solidly throughout the match."
Germany's Alexander Zverev shocked Djokovic in last year's final at the O2 Arena but the Serb is the firm favourite to equal Roger Federer's tally of six ATP Finals titles after cantering to victory at the Paris Masters last Sunday.
The other two members of the Bjorn Borg group are Federer and Dominic Thiem of Austria, who meet in the evening match.
Nadal, Zverev, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas are in the Andre Agassi group.
Day 2: StarHub Ch201, 10pm & tomorrow, 4am