Novak Djokovic overcame the minor inconvenience of an early break of serve, to record a comfortable 6-3, 6-2, group defeat of Diego Schwartzman on Monday at the ATP Finals.  

After losing serve in the third game of the match played in London’s empty O2 Arena – a COVID-19 precaution – the Serb became untouchable in his opening sweep at the season wrapup.

It took Djokovic 78 minutes to claim the win, his sixth against his Argentine opponent without a loss; he finished on a third match point.

Diego Schwartzman. Photo: Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd

The Serb has now won all but one of his opening round-robin matches in London at an event wrapping up its run here after 13 editions and moving to Turin in 2021. 

Schartzman was playing the year-ender for the first time after earning late qualifying into the elite eight-man field.

With ghost applause piped in for international television audiences, Djokovic still went through his habitual victory celebration, sweeping his outstretched arms upwards to all four sides of the empty arena which normally holds 18,000 for tennis.

“It feels very strange playing in this atmosphere,” the winner admitted.

Players are strictly isolated this week in a no-nonsense bio-security bubble, with transport by car required to cover the 200 metres between the official hotel and the tennis venue.

Djokovic lost serve in the third game but broke back to totally dominate on the way to victory.

“The start of the match was not that great for me,” the six-time year-end world No. 1 said. “I managed to re-break and he was probably not playing his best in his first time here.

“In the second set I swung through the ball without any hesitation, I’m pleased with how I played.

“It was a good opening match and I’m looking forward to the next challenge.”

Djokovic is looking for his fifth title of the COVID-shortened season and his sixth at the season wrap-up tournament.

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