Novak Djokovic moved into the last four of the ATP Finals for the 10th time with a comfortable victory over Andrey Rublev in Turin on Wednesday.
The world No 1, bidding to equal Roger Federer’s record of six titles at the season-ending event, brushed aside fifth seed Rublev 6-3, 6-2 to secure his 50th match win of the year.
Djokovic, thanks to successive straight-sets victories, has wrapped up top spot in the Green Group.
“I served well (and) that helped tremendously,” Djokovic said. “I wanted to put him out of his comfort zone, taking away the time and mix up the pace. It was a great performance overall.”
Norway’s Casper Ruud overcame British alternate Cameron Norrie 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the night match to keep alive his chances of reaching the last four.
The 34-year-old Djokovic is looking to cap off a remarkable year which saw him only just miss out on completing a calendar Grand Slam with defeat by Daniil Medvedev in the US Open final. He plays Norrie in his last round-robin match on Friday.
A rematch with second-ranked Medvedev in the final in Italy is still a possibility, with the Russian reigning champion sitting top of the Red Group.
Djokovic is bidding for back-to-back titles after returning to action earlier this month with success in the Paris Masters, beating Medvedev in the final. The Serb has not won the ATP Finals since 2015, losing finals in 2016 and 2018 to Andy Murray and Alexander Zverev respectively, while also falling in an epic last-four clash with Dominic Thiem last year.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion was far too strong for Rublev, though, serving 14 aces and hitting 19 winners past his overpowered opponent. He broke twice in each set of a match which lasted just 69 minutes.
“Winning the first set, I put additional pressure on him, and I started to maybe play more consistently from the back of the court,” Djokovic added.
Earlier, Norrie replaced Stefanos Tsitsipas in the draw after the Greek star pulled out with an elbow injury.
The world number four had refused to comment on the problem after his opening loss to Rublev, but admitted on Wednesday the injury which forced him to retire from his first match in Paris was still hampering him.
“I have taken the very difficult decision to retire from the 2021 Finals due to my elbow injury, which has been bothering me for a couple of weeks now,” Tsitsipas said. “It’s a very difficult decision from my side.”
Djokovic’s win left Norrie with an outside chance of making the semis despite playing a match fewer than his rivals.
The Briton stormed through the opening set against Ruud, but the Norwegian levelled after breaking for a 5-3 lead in the second set.
Ruud claimed the decisive break in game five of the decider to earn his first win at the event. He will take on Rublev next with a semi-final place at stake.
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