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Thursday February 25th, 2021 8:45PM

Djokovic beats Schwartzman again to start ATP Finals

By The Associated Press
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LONDON (AP) — Novak Djokovic overcame an early break to beat Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-2 at the season-ending ATP Finals in an empty O2 Arena on Monday.

The top-ranked Djokovic has won the tournament five times — one short of Roger Federer's record.

Schwartzman broke Djokovic for 2-1 in the first set, but the Argentine immediately gave it back as he struggled with his first serve.

At 3-3, Djokovic won five straight games to lead by a set and 2-0.

Djokovic hasn’t lost an opening ATP Finals match since 2007 against David Ferrer. The Serb has never lost to Schwartzman in six matches.

There are no fans inside the 20,000-capacity O2 Arena due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It felt like a practice session in a way," Djokovic said. "This has been one of the most exciting arenas to play for a tennis player. The atmosphere was always electric and the crowd was always loud and really into matches."

After the match, Djokovic gestured to each section of the stands as if to say thanks.

“Why I celebrated? Because that’s my celebration and that's also my gratitude to the court and to this opportunity to be able to compete," he said. “Even though there was no crowd in the stands, I know that there was a lot of people watching it on TV, so that was me sharing that emotion with them.”

Schwartzman, without a title this year and making his debut at the ATP Finals, reached the French Open semifinals and two finals, including at the Italian Open, where he lost to Djokovic.

“That start of the match he was not playing his best,” Schwartzman said. “I took the chance at the beginning, but then that break back from him ... I did too many mistakes.”

Schwartzman is the first South American to play singles at the ATP Finals since 2013 and another Argentine, Juan Martin del Potro.

Later Monday, Daniil Medvedev was to play 2018 champion Alexander Zverev in a rematch of the Paris Masters final. Medvedev won that match 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 for his first tour title in 2020.

The ATP Finals move to Turin, Italy, next year, after 12 years in London.

The players’ hotel is a short walk away, but health protocols require they are driven to and from the venue.

The tournament is using electronic line calling for the first time. Players can’t challenge whether a ball was in or out, but they can request a video review for other disputed situations, such as double bounces.

On Sunday, Dominic Thiem outlasted Stefanos Tsitsipas in a rematch of the 2019 final, beating the defending champion 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-3, and Rafael Nadal topped newcomer Andrey Rublev 6-3, 6-4.

Djokovic on Sunday was presented with a trophy for finishing the year with the No. 1 ranking for a record-equaling sixth time.

___

More AP tennis: https://www.apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Sports, AP Online Tennis, AP Sports - Men's Tennis
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