Serving was the theme of opening day at the ATP Finals. Sunday winners Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem combined to drop serve once in five sets.
Thiem started the event against Stefanos Tsitsipas in a rematch of their 2019 ATP Finals title match thriller. And this time Thiem got his revenge on the Greek behind a 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-3 victory.
Tsitsipas was in control of the tiebreak leading 4-1 and then 5-3 but the 22-year-old missed chances, failing to put away shots and the Austrian grabbed it.
Tsitsipas got up a quick break in the second and eventually leveled. But Thiem got back ahead early in the third and had his revenge.
“Today was a little bit different,” Thiem said comparing this year to last year. “Only two breaks in the whole match.
“I think the conditions are pretty fast here, so I am super happy with my win. Every win against a Top 10 player at the Nitto ATP Finals is something special and every win against Stefanos is something special, because he is such a great player. He is established and has won so many big titles already.”
Tsitsipas has now lost his last three matches.
”He dealt with my serve better and took time to step back and apply more pressure to me,” Tsitsipas said. “Some of the second serves that I had early in the third set. I think that paid off for him.”
Thiem also won his sixth match against a Top 10 player, and puts him in good position for a return to the weekend.
“I experienced in the past four years how important it is to have a good start in this tournament, to ideally win the first match. I am very happy that I did it,” said Thiem.
In the late match, Nadal cooled off the red-hot Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-4. The Russian came in having won 11 of his last 12 but couldn’t manage a break point against Nadal who lost just five points on his second serve.
“It’s important to start well, of course, for the confidence, because winning straight sets helps,” Nadal said. “The serve tonight was very important. I played solidly with my serve. I didn’t suffer much, and that helps to play more relaxed on the return. That’s what I did.”
Rublev was making his ATP Finals debut, and he had to face Rafa who he is now 0-5 in sets against.
“I was not serving good at all because I was a little bit nervous, which is normal,” Rublev said. “When he broke me in the second set I relaxed and I started to serve much better. Then was different game, but it was too late.”
Nadal, who has never won the ATP Finals, will now meet Thiem on Tuesday while Rublev faces Tsitsipas in a virtual elimination match.
On Monday, Novak Djokovic opens his quest for a sixth ATP Finals crown. The World No. 1 will try to stay perfect against debutant Diego Schwartzman.
And in a rematch of their recent Paris Indoor final, Daniil Medvedev will try to win again against 2018 ATP Finals winner Alexander Zverev. Medvedev went 0-3 in this event a year ago.
“I have confidence in myself so I think it will help me here in London,” said Medvedev.
“In Paris, everything went together. I played really good tennis, it was tough to miss and that’s why I’m in my best shape and that’s when it’s tough to beat me.”
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