No one has come close to cracking the riddle of beating Novak Djokovic on an indoor court for more than three years. Kei Nishikori became the latest player to discover just how difficult it is to solve that puzzle.
Djokovic began his bid for a record fourth successive title at the ATP World Tour Finals with a brutal yet awe-inspiring 6-1, 6-1 hammering that left Nishikori in a daze.
“No question, it felt like the best tennis I played this year,” the 28-year-old Serb said. “I was at my best and it was an incredible performance.”
Before the start of the match, both players stood heads bowed during a minute's silence in memory of the victims of Friday's Paris attacks – with the French flag on the electronic banner surrounding the O2 Arena.
It was not long before Djokovic was at his unrelenting best.
The world No 1 showed the kind of form that has made him an unbeatable force on indoor courts for more than three years with a 65-minute demolition job. Djokovic subjected Nishikori to an array of heavy-duty groundstrokes, cruel lobs and sublime volleys as he chalked up his 38th successive win on an indoor court dating back to October 2012.
As Djokovic romped to a 3-0 lead in the opening set, there were few opportunities for Nishikori’s fan club to pick up the vast numbers of Japanese flags on display at the O2.
The red and white flags made a fluttering appearance when Nishikori finally held in the fourth game but the joy was fleeting as Djokovic easily sealed the first set with a backhand volley.
Since none of Djokovic’s rivals have worked out how to beat him indoors, one reporter asked the Serb for a solution, to which the Serb joked: “If he had one I wouldn’t share it with you, that’s for sure.”
Djokovic, who has lost only five times during a stellar season in which he won three of the four grand slams, still has to play round-robin matches against Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych in Group A before the top two players advance to next weekend’s semi-finals.
Earlier, in the doubles, Jamie Murray and John Peers marked their debut at the tournament with victory over Australian Open champions Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli
Elsewhere, Karolina Pliskova and Barbora Strycova steered defending champions the Czech Republic to the Fed Cup title after winning the decisive doubles rubber over Russia in the final yesterday.
The Czech pair beat Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Elena Vesnina 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 at Prague’s O2 Arena to give the hosts an overall 3-2 win and their fourth Fed Cup trophy in five years.
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