LONDON • Japan's Kei Nishikori dispatched error-strewn Swiss Stan Wawrinka 6-2 6-3 in a disappointingly one-sided clash at the ATP World Tour Finals on Monday.
What had promised to be an outstanding tussle between the world's third and fifth-ranked players failed to deliver, as Nishikori won the group opener in little more than an hour in front of a subdued O2 Arena crowd.
From the opening game when Wawrinka had to save two break points, the 31-year-old struggled and Nishikori duly got the first break in the fifth game with a punishing forehand.
Nishikori was ruthlessly efficient and quickly polished off the first set aided by a second break when the US Open champion double-faulted to end a woeful service game.
Wawrinka tried to pump himself up at the start of the second set, delivering a couple of signature backhands, but he was still struggling to locate his A-game.
The crowd, far from a sell-out, wanted more for their money but a miscued Wawrinka forehand into the net gave Nishikori a break point in the fifth game, which he converted when the Swiss elected to leave a return that floated in.
Nishikori claimed some revenge for this year's US Open semi-final loss when he broke again to end the contest after Wawrinka wafted a lazy backhand over the baseline.
Home favourite and new world No. 1 Andy Murray was due to take on Marin Cilic later yesterday in the same John McEnroe group.
On Sunday, Novak Djokovic reacted furiously after being grilled about a potentially dangerous incident when he slammed a ball into the stands during his 6-7 (10-12), 6-0, 6-2 win over Dominic Thiem.
Knocked off the summit he had occupied for 122 weeks by Murray last week, he must better his British rival's performance to snatch back the top ranking, but things did not go entirely to plan on Sunday.
He responded to losing the first set by angrily hitting a ball into the court and it bounced towards spectators before disappearing into a staircase. The world No. 2 was given a warning for unsportsmanlike conduct and, although he battled back to defeat the Austrian, he was still in a tetchy mood when he faced the media shortly after the match.
Asked if he was concerned that he would eventually get into trouble for his behaviour, defending champion Djokovic immediately took offence. "You guys are unbelievable. You're always picking these kind of things," he fumed.
As well as Thiem, the Serb will face Canada's Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic and Gael Monfils. He has never lost a match to either of them, although Raonic was in ominously good form as he overpowered Monfils 6-3, 6-4 in Sunday's late match.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS
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