It was a tough day for debutantes Dominic Thiem and Gael Monfils on the first Sunday of the ATP Finals in London. First up was the Austrian Thiem and the youngest player in the field got off to a hot start playing 4-time defending champion and tournament favorite Novak Djokovic tough in the first set.
With Djokovic still trying to find his form, the upstart Thiem finally shook off the nerves to convert on his seventh set point of the first. But Djokovic promptly broke at the start of the second and ran away with the match 6-7(10), 6-0, 6-2.
“Even though I lost the first set, I thought I didn’t do too many things wrong. It was just the very high quality of his game that prevailed in the first set,” said Djokovic. “I started swinging more freely in the second set. He started making more errors, which I used. I was on top of his second serves, putting a lot of pressure. I thought I played very well in the second set especially, but the third as well.
“When I had a great comeback saving six, seven set points, then I didn’t manage to win that first set, of course you’re frustrated,” said Djokovic. “On the other hand, I think I managed to compose myself and really gather all my attention and concentration to what was coming up after that.”
Thiem still grabbed a set which in round robin play can prove critical.
“It was a very good and very intense first set,” said Thiem. “It lasted as long as sometimes a two-set match will last. Of course, it was intense.”
“After that, I lost a little bit of energy, which is required against a guy like Novak to play close and good sets,” Thiem added. “I came back, obviously found the energy, but the beginning of the third set he was playing well. I couldn’t quite keep the level up from the first set.”
In the second match, Monfils made his debut against Milos Raonic in a match-up of two players coming off injuries. And it was the Canadian getting the better of the matchup with a routine 6-3, 6-4 victory.
“I gave myself a lot of opportunities,” said Raonic who had a quad injury which forced him out of Paris. “I played well. I took care of my serve very efficiently. All those things came together nicely. I competed well, had a good attitude and hit the ball pretty well as well.”
Raonic will next face Djokovic on Tuesday. Monfils will take on Thiem.
“I watched a little bit of his match today,” Raonic said of Djokovic. “He was very commanding towards the end of his match. He really stepped up after a difficult, slow start. It’s going to be a difficult task that I have ahead of me. I feel like I’m doing some things well. I feel like I can do some things better.”
On Monday, Andy Murray returns seeking to keep pace with Djokovic in the No. 1 race as he faces former US Open champion Marin Cilic. Murray leads 11-3 but the Croat won their most recent meeting in the Cincinnati final.
Reigning US Open champion Stan Wawrinka will meet Kei Nishikori. The Swiss is ahead 4-2 recently beating Nishikori in four sets in the US Open semifinals.
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