Novak Djokovic had enough of an edge at the beginning and the end as he beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 7-6 (7/4) on Monday in the ATP Finals, a defeat that ended the Greek’s hopes of finishing the year at number one.
Djokovic is ranked just eighth in part because he missed two majors over his vaccination status, starting the year by being thrown out of Australia ahead of the Australian Open.
With the 2023 edition starting on January 16, Djokovic has said his lawyers were talking to Australian officials. On Monday, he said they had not reached an agreement.
“Nothing official yet,” he said. “We are waiting. They are communicating with the government of Australia. That’s all I can tell you for now.”
In Turin, Djokovic is chasing a record-equalling sixth title in the season-ending event, previously known as the Masters Cup, that brings together the season’s top eight fit players.
The Serbian broke Tsitsipas in the opening game and was not threatened on his own serve as he took the first set.
“The first game was very important to break his serve,” Djokovic said. “Starting with a break of serve is obviously a huge boost in confidence and a relief as well because we both knew it would be a tight match.”
Tsitsipas managed the only break point of the second set, in the fourth game, after two Djokovic double faults, but the Serbian steadied and held serve.
In the tie break, the Serbian raced to a 5-1 lead. Tsitsipas delayed the inevitable by taking three points before Djokovic took his first match point.
“I held my serve really well throughout the match,” said Djokovic. “I played a great tie-break, very solid all the way through.”
The Tsitsipas loss means the injured Carlos Alcaraz will end 2022 at the top of the rankings unless Rafael Nadal, who lost his opening match on Sunday, can win the tournament.
Tsitsipas, who is 24, cannot collect enough points to reach number one even if he rebounds to win the tournament.
“I deeply believe that I can reach that spot one day,” he said. “I’m not really that much in a rush, to be honest. Of course, it would have been better if it happened this week.”
Djokovic is tied on five titles in the event with Pete Sampras and Ivan Lendl. Only Roger Federer, on six, has won more.
“All the players said it. Every match is finals here, there’s no clear favorites to be honest,” said Djokovic. “You got to be really sharp from the start.”
‘Peace peace peace’
The two-set victory put Djokovic atop the Red Group ahead of the day’s other winner, No. 7 Andrey Rublev of Russia, who beat his compatriot Daniil Medvedev 6-7 (7/9), 6-3, 7-6 (9/7).
Rublev appeared on course to take the first set as he opened up a 4-1 lead.
World number five Medvedev, who was inconsistent all day on his serve, mixing 24 aces with eight double faults, battled back, saving two set points at 5-6 to win the set in a tiebreak.
Rublev rediscovered his rhythm in the second set as Medvedev continued to struggle on his serve.
In the third set tie-break, Medvedev saved three match points at 3-6 and then a fourth.
But he was powerless on the fifth match point as Rublev closed out the match, slumping on to his back after two and a half hours on court.
“Peace peace peace is all we need,” Rublev wrote on the television camera on court at the end of the match, echoing his call for peace in Ukraine when he won in Dubai in February, just after the Russian invasion.
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