Djokovic Joins Nadal in Winning Opening Match at ATP Tour Finals

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic won their opening matches at the ATP World Tour Finals as the pair vie to finish the year as the top-ranked player in men’s tennis.

Nadal, who entered the season-ending tournament needing two wins to retain the No. 1 spot, beat fellow Spaniard David Ferrer 6-3, 6-2 yesterday at the O2 arena in London. Djokovic, who started the year atop the rankings, defeated six-time champion Roger Federer 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 6-2 in the night match.

Nadal faces Stanislas Wawrinka of Switzerland today in his second Group A match at the event, which brings together the top eight men. Nadal has never won the tournament, while Djokovic of Serbia is defending the title as the bookmakers’ favorite.

“I always came here with motivation to play well,” Nadal, 27, told reporters yesterday. “I had a few chances without positive end. But I’m going to try myself to play a good match tomorrow and create another chance to be in the semifinals.”

The 13-time Grand Slam singles champion said two days ago that holding the tournament on indoor hard courts for the eighth straight year is unfair on players like him who prefer outdoor conditions and surfaces like clay.

Nadal returns to the court today against an opponent who has had an extra day off. Switzerland’s Wawrinka won his opening match against Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic two days ago. Ferrer and Berdych meet in today’s other match.

No Day Off

“It’s always great when you win a match, then have a day off to confirm the feelings, to keep doing the things that you need to keep playing well,” Nadal said. “I would prefer to have one more day off, but that’s what it is.”

Ferrer beat Nadal four days ago in Paris, though struggled to hold his serve yesterday. Nadal, who has now won 21 of their 26 meetings, took six of his seven break point opportunities in the 1 hour, 14 minute match. Ferrer also had 33 unforced errors.

The night session pitted Djokovic against Federer for the second time in four days, this time before a crowd of 17,800, the first sellout of the event.

The Group B match went with serve until the 10th game, when Djokovic took advantage of unforced errors to win the first set.

The second set went to a tiebreaker, which 17-time major champion Federer won comfortably to take the match to a decider. Djokovic broke the Swiss in the first game of the final set, and added another break to go up 4-1 before serving out the victory in two hours, 22 minutes.

“It was probably the toughest start I could get for this tournament,” Djokovic, 26, said in a news conference. “It was always going to be a tough match for both of us. When I needed to in the third, I served well.”

Winning Run

Djokovic, who hit 29 winners to Federer’s 27 and made 12 fewer unforced errors, is seeking to end the season with his fourth straight title following tournament victories in Beijing, Shanghai and Paris.

He’s now won 18 matches in a row and next faces Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro tomorrow, when Federer takes on Richard Gasquet of France. Del Potro beat Gasquet two days ago in the Group B opener.

The Tour Finals divides the eight players into two groups, with the two with the best results from each group qualifying for the semifinals. World No. 4 Andy Murray isn’t playing while he recovers from back surgery.

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