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ATP World Tour Finals 2016: Djokovic overcomes Thiem in tough opener; Raonic eases past Monfils

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Novak Djokovic overcame Dominic Thiem 6-7(10), 6-0, 6-2 in an engaging opening encounter of the ATP World Tour Finals in London.

The defending champion dropped a tight first set but displayed his trademark resilience as he roared back to demolish the Austrian in double quick time to clinch victory in just over 2 hours. Djokovic now has a 9-1 record in opening rubbers at the season finale and hasn’t lost since his 2007 debut against Ferrer. The World no.2 seeks his 6th title at the event as he chases the World No.1 ranking he lost after 122 weeks to Andy Murray.

In the evening match World No.4 Milos Raonic unleashed the power in a straight set demolition of the other tournament debutant Gael Monfils. Raonic totalled 12 aces and 30 winners in his 6-3, 6-4 triumph.

Dominic Thiem will have reason to be pleased with his season finale debut as he won his first set against Djokovic with a superb mix of grit and glory; Djokovic certainly was convinced - “Dominic definitely seemed very impressive considering it was his debut in the World Tour Finals. He came out really playing great tennis”.

However guarding against the subsequent drop in levels will be a key learning for this this promising youngster. He certainly seemed very level headed in his presser, stating “if I keep the level from the first set, it's not a guarantee that I win the match, but I have chances”.

Earlier, the Bryan brothers turned on the style with a 7-6 (3), 6-0 dismissal of Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo in the first match of the Edberg/Jarryd Group. After a tight opening set, the 4 time champions blanked the 6th seeds in a comprehensive 6-0 drubbing.

The match between Djokovic and Thiem was widely anticipated by tennis fans to be a real cracker and after the first hour that is exactly what it was turning out to be. A slow burner, both players eased their way into the match with Djokovic probably edging it on points but unable to land a knockout blow. Thiem for his part, did not look overawed making his first appearance at the tournament, but did initially play relatively safe as he looked to find his range. Both players created a chance but neither was able to break serve and the set moved to a tie-break.

The tie-break seemed to galvanise Thiem and he brought out the big guns ripping incredible passes of either wing to setup set points at 6-3. Just as it seemed he had it wrapped up he proceeded to double fault not just once but twice to give Djokovic a route back. The thrilling tiebreak continued its winding way as Nole staved off further set points before a final whopping forehand inside in winner gave Thiem the set 12-10.

The crowd were on their feet; Nole furiously smacked a ball into the stands; we thought we had a contest, maybe even an upset on our hands. We were wrong.

Djokovic is resilience personified and even as emotions ran high, kept his focus to keep the pressure up early in the second when Thiem was likely to be vulnerable. “I knew after that, the first opening couple games of the second set would be crucial for me to start with a break up, which I did. I felt more comfortable. I started swinging more freely in the second set.” Swing freely he certainly did as he bageled Thiem. Things, did not improve enough in the final set as Djokovic kept the foot firmly on the accelerator running away with the final set to complete the comprehensive victory.

Final Scores:

N. Djokovic d D.Thiem 6-7(10), 6-0, 6-2

M.Raonic d G.Monfils 6-3, 6-4

B.Bryan / M.Bryan d I.Dodig / M.Melo 7-6(3), 6-0