Novak Djokovic will end the year as world number one for a record eighth time after he beat Holger Rune at the ATP Finals in Turin, Italy. The 24-time Grand Slam champion overcame the Dane 7-6 (7-4) 6-7 (1-7) 6-3 in his opening Green Group match at the season-ending event on Sunday.
The 36-year-old Serb won three Slams in 2023 to become the all-time record-holder of major titles. Victory for Djokovic extends his winning run to 19 consecutive matches. He is also on course for a seventh ATP Finals title, which will make him the record-holder, having equalled Roger Federer on six last year.
Djokovic said in an interview: “It took everything. I saw in the first game when he fired shots from the baseline; I knew it was going to be a tough night for me. I thought he played great. I played great in some moments. Overall, a win is a win. It was a very emotional win and a tough win knowing the significance of tonight’s match. After a really terrible second-set tie-break, I think I played a really solid third set.”
Earlier on Sunday, home favourite and fourth seed Jannik Sinner beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets. Sinner put in a dominant performance to win 6-4 6-4, sealing victory with his ninth ace. Greece’s Tsitsipas, the 2019 champion, struggled to match his opponent and did not force a single break point.
“I was excited to step on court, and opening the Finals is really, really special,” Sinner, said. “I knew it was going to be very tough but I think I handled the situation well. I tried to stay aggressive and I am very happy with the performance. I am happy to start off with a win and hopefully I can continue with this intensity.”
It is the first time Sinner has qualified for the ATP Finals on merit, having replaced Matteo Berrettini in the line-up for the 2021 edition after his compatriot withdrew through injury. This year he reached his first Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon and won his maiden Masters 1000 title at the Canadian Open in August.
The ATP Finals features eight of the year’s best men’s players split into two groups of four, with the top two qualifying for the semi-finals. Spanish star Carlos Alcaraz headlines Monday afternoon’s action as the reigning Wimbledon champion takes on Alexander Zverev, while the evening match sees Daniil Medvedev face Andrey Rublev.