TURIN (AFP) – Novak Djokovic will finish the year as world number one for a record-extending eighth time after beating Holger Rune 7-6 (7/4), 6-7 (1/7), 6-3 in his opening match at the ATP Finals on Sunday, Nov. 12.
The 24-time Grand Slam champion needed just one win or a defeat for young rival Carlos Alcaraz in order to secure top spot in the ATP rankings for 2023 and prevailed in a three-hour Green Group clash with spirited debutant Rune.
Djokovic, on a run of 19 straight wins, has had an age-defying year, winning three Slams to become the all-time record winner of major titles.
The 36-year-old came into the Finals in Turin off the back of his seventh triumph at the Paris Masters, his 40th victory at a Masters 100 event.
Those are two more records to add to a long and growing list for Djokovic, who is hunting a seventh Finals title which would take him one ahead of retired great Roger Federer.
Djokovic looked on course for victory when he took a brutal opening set in decisive fashion, prevailing in the tie-break with a stunning cross-court return winner.
And the match looked to have turned decisively in the third game of the second set, when after Rune won the first two Djokovic broke back in a brilliant 11-point game eventually won at the third attempt.
Rune kept plugging away, however, and after the pair slugged each other with bigger and bigger hits Djokovic slipped in the tie-break, missing a simple volley to draw level on the second point and then collapsing to concede the set.
But after briefly losing it for allowing Rune to break back in game three of the third set, kicking his rackets in a rage, Djokovic composed himself and saw out a historic win.