Defending champion Novak Djokovic got his campaign for a fifth straight title off to a winning start, overcoming Dominic Thiem 6-7(10), 6-0, 6-2, to earn his first victory in the Ivan Lendl group at the ATP World Tour Finals.
The first set was extremely close, with flashes of brilliance from both but neither really hitting their consistent best. They both served extremely well and an intense tiebreak finally went the way of Thiem on his seventh set point. Djokovic bounced back immediately, raising his level significantly as he cruised through the next two sets with the loss of only two games.
The defending champion cruised through his opening service game with a hold to love, good serving not allowing Thiem to engage in rallies on return as Djokovic finished off the points quickly. Thiem had a tougher time in his first service game as Djokovic pushed him to deuce, but the Austrian came through with a scorching backhand winner down the line securing the hold. A passing shot from Thiem then gave him a lead on return but an ace from Djokovic quickly leveled them up and the Serb eventually came through with the hold.
Djokovic had a quick medical time out at the change of ends as he injured his thumb while reaching for a return. Great court coverage from the defending champion at deuce brought up a break point but a big serve from Thiem meant that Djokovic sent the return long to take them back to deuce. Excelent defending from Thiem and a bit of help from the net gave the Austrian a game point which he took with an ace. Another love hold from Djokovic took him just ahead at 3-2.
Thiem looked to be in danger at 0-30 on serve but he battled to take the next four points and secure the impressive hold. Djokovic held on again as Thiem tried to push through, the Serb's first serve working extremely well as he took a 4-3 lead. More danger followed for the Austrian on serve as Djokovic brought out his defensive best, an incredible volley taking them to deuce but again Thiem held his nerve and came through the tight game.
Another easy hold each for the pair left them tied at 5-5. Outstanding net coverage from Djokovic got him off to a lead on serve but Thiem battled through, hitting a rocket forehand winner crosscourt on his way to earning a first break point. A forehand shank from the Austrian erased the danger for Djokovic as he held on for a 6-5 lead. Thiem came through another good hold to take the pair to a tiebreak.
The Austrian raced to a 2-0 mini-break lead but a costly double fault gave the break straight back to the defending champion. Djokovic held on to the next point but a firey passing shot from Thiem on the next point gave him a lead again at 4-2. An overhead putaway cemented Thiem's lead at 5-2. A perfect serve-volley from Djokovic gave him his next point on serve but a stunning backhand down the line passing shot from the Austrian brought up three set points. The nerves began to show as two more double faults erased Thiem's mini-breaks and left him with only one set point on the Djokovic serve. The Serb saved the third but an attempted passing shot from Thiem at 6-6 that clipped the net forced an error from Djokovic brought up another set point.
A forehand was sent wide as Thiem was feeling the pressure of the big moment but he held on to the next service point with a scorching backhand winner to bring up another chance. A first set point arrived for Djokovic on Thiem's serve at 8-9 but the eighth seed fought through the pressure to hold on and erase it. Yet another set point came and went for Thiem as a big serve from Djokovic took the pair to 10-10. The Austrian took back the lead as an untimely error from the Serb gave Thiem a seventh set point. There was no double fault this time but instead a punishing forehand winner to finally seal the set at 7-6(10).
Thiem had a slow start in the second set as Djokovic took a 0-30 lead on return. A big serve and a brutal forehand from the Austrian leveled them up but a forehand shank gave Djokovic an early break point. A great return from Djokovic forced the error from Thiem and the Serb got off to the perfect start in the second set. A good hold for Djokovic cemented his early lead. The momentum continued rolling as Thiem sent two shots long to give the Serb a lead again on the return. The game mirrored the first game of the set as Thiem leveled up but again Djokovic earned a break point and took a commanding double break lead.
The defending champion continued cruising through the second set as a hold to love took him 4-0 ahead. Thiem's woes continued as Djokovic took a third break that would allow him to serve to level the match. Another quick hold gave the defending champion the second set bagel in only twenty three minutes.
Cruising to victory
Thiem managed to halt the Djokovic's momentum slightly as he held easily in the opening game of the decider. The defending champion held on to his serve to level up early on and put the pressure straight back on Thiem. The Austrian impressed on serve with a perfect drop volley and some huge groundstrokes but Djokovic was still fighting on return as his incredible defending earned him another break point. The Serb broke through as a shot from Thiem flew long, handing Djokovic the early lead in the deciding set.
The Austrian wasn't letting up on return and was already playing far better than he was in the second set as he started to find the range on his backhand but Djokovic let out a roar as he came through the impressive hold to consolidate his lead. Another good hold followed, this time for Thiem, as he battled through the incredible defense of Djokovic to hold on and stay within one break of the defending champion.
Thiem was fighting hard on return but still having no luck breaking through as Djokovic held on again in another tight game to stay in the lead at 4-2. Huge returning from Djokovic seen him through another break of the Austrian's serve that would allow him to serve for the match. The defending champion pummeled in the first serves as he cruised through a love hold, securing the win and the decider at 6-2.