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Australia

Federer felled, Djokovic beats Berrettini in ATP Finals openers

Novak Djokovic ruthlessly took Matteo Berrettini apart at the ATP Finals on Sunday (Monday AEDT) as he began his quest to reclaim the world No.1 ranking from Rafael Nadal with an opening group match triumph, 6-2, 6-1.

Berrettini became the first Italian to play in the season-ending showpiece since 1978 but was given a harsh lesson by the 16-time grand slam champion at London's O2 Arena.

Novak Djokovic made an impressive start in his bid to reclaim the No.1 ranking.

Novak Djokovic made an impressive start in his bid to reclaim the No.1 ranking.Credit:Getty

The 32-year-old Djokovic began the match 640 points behind Nadal in the race to end the year on top of the rankings, but victory chipped that advantage down to 440.

Djokovic must win at least two group matches and reach the final to have any chance of matching Pete Sampras's record of ending six separate years as world No.1.

Spaniard Nadal, who has concerns over an abdominal injury sustained at the recent Paris Masters, plays his first group match on Tuesday (AEDT) against defending champion Alexander Zverev.

Djokovic, four times a winner of the title since the tournament moved to London in 2009, had never played Berrettini before but quickly got to grips with the aggressive style of the 23-year-old Italian.

The first four games were shared on serve but Djokovic seized the opening break when Berrettini missed a routine forehand at 2-3 and quickly took charge.

His only blemish was when serving at 4-0 in the second set, gifting Berrettini a break with a couple of errors, but normal service was quickly resumed as he finished things off in little more than an hour with an easy forehand.

"It feels great to be back in London," Djokovic, who won Wimbledon this year by beating Roger Federer in an epic final, said on court.

"It was not easy for him to be playing his first Tour Finals match and I knew he might be a bit nervous.

Roger Federer made a poor start in his bid for another ATP Finals triumph.

Roger Federer made a poor start in his bid for another ATP Finals triumph.Credit:Getty

"Fortunate to get the break and then I started reading his serve better and played solid throughout the match."

Federer's pursuit of a seventh ATP Finals title got off to a poor start when the Swiss great lost 7-5, 7-5 to Austrian Dominic Thiem in his opening group match.

From the moment Federer dropped his opening service game he never seemed entirely comfortable and Thiem took full advantage to claim his third win over Federer this season.

Federer recovered the early break but a couple of lazy strikes at 5-5 cost him his serve again before Thiem closed out the opener in confident fashion.

Thiem, beaten by Federer in the group stage last year, upped the power in the second set to keep Federer under pressure and unable to dictate and pounced again to break at 5-5.

Federer saved one match point in the following game and had a break point but there was no escape as Thiem pummelled away a forehand to claim victory and join Djokovic at the top of the group.

Thiem, who now leads Federer 5-2 on head-to-head, will face Djokovic on Tuesday while Federer will be up against Berrettini.

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"It was a great performance and special to get my first win in an opening group match in the Finals," Thiem said.

"It's overwhelming to enter this arena and we had a good and close match. It's always special to beat Roger as he is a legend."

Federer also lost his opening group match last year to Kei Nishikori but recovered to reach the semi-finals.

Reuters

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