Djokovic opens ATP Finals beating Ruud

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Serbia’s Novak Djokovic returns the ball to Norways’ Casper Ruud during their ATP World Tour Finals singles tennis match, at the Pala Alpitour in Turin, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

TURIN, Italy (AP) — Five-time champion Novak Djokovic reopened his ATP Finals account and beat Casper Ruud 7-6 (4), 6-2 on Monday.

He’s attempting to match Roger Federer’s record of six titles at the elite season-ending event for the top eight players.

In the other group match, Andrey Rublev topped 2018 champion Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4, 6-4.

Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev won their group singles on Sunday.

After his match, Djokovic was presented with the trophy for finishing the year ranked No. 1, a feat he accomplished for a record seventh time — breaking a tie with childhood idol Pete Sampras.

In an on-court interview, Djokovic recounted how he fell in love with tennis watching Sampras when he was “4 or 5 years old” and asked his dad to buy him a racket.

“Now I’m here and I’ve won this (trophy) seven times, one more than (Sampras) — incredible,” Djokovic told the crowd in Italian. “The dream continues. I hope to play this great sport for a couple of years.”

Later, when asked about his on-court comments, the 34-year-old Djokovic said he doesn’t have a number in mind for how many more years he wants to play.

“I don’t want to impose a limit to myself at all, because I still enjoy playing tennis, and I really enjoy competition and playing at the highest level,” the 20-time Grand Slam champion said. “Being No. 1 in the world, there is no reason for me yet to think about leaving tennis. I really am in a good place at the moment.”

Following a two-month break after his loss to Medvedev in the U.S. Open final, which ended his pursuit of a calendar-year Grand Slam, Djokovic returned this month and won the Paris Masters. He’s won six straight matches.

Ruud, a first-time qualifier, broke serve in their opening game when Djokovic fell and dropped his racket as he changed direction to run down a lob. Djokovic managed to pick his racket back up and hit a weak reply but Ruud quickly finished off the point.

A double-fault from Ruud handed Djokovic the break back and evened the set at 3-3. Djokovic then began holding easily and putting pressure on Ruud’s serve, enabling him to wear down the Norwegian during the tiebreaker.

Helped by fast conditions inside the Pala Alpitour, Djokovic won a near-perfect 20 of 21 points with his first serve in the opening set, and 35 of 39 throughout the match.

Djokovic served 10 aces and Rudd nine.

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More AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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