The top three seeds came through their opening matches in the first round of the ATP World Tour Finals on Wednesday, with world No. 1 Rafael Nadal overcoming John Isner 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 and No. 2 Alexander Zverev seeing off Gael Monfils 6-2, 7-6 (7-4).
Novak Djokovic, however, will be the biggest disappointment, as he was comprehensively outclassed by the 38th-ranked player in the world, Casper Ruud, who converted just one of his six break point opportunities in a one-sided 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory. Ruud threw his racquet across the court following a gutsy run of wins, and although he made a serious last stand in the second set, he couldn’t hold firm.
For Djokovic, it is the latest in a sequence of disappointing results since he returned to the top 10 following a wrist injury that saw him recuperate the world No. 1 spot at the tail end of 2016. The Serb, however, has beaten Roger Federer in all five of their meetings so far this year, yet lost his past three – against Marin Cilic, David Goffin and Alexander Zverev – in one set.
Federer, meanwhile, defeated Kei Nishikori in straight sets, while Zverev, who arrived in London in recent days as the highest-ranked of the young guns after Andy Murray’s withdrawal, overcame Didier Cucineau 6-3, 6-3 and Juan Martin del Potro, 6-3, 6-4.
Nadal, meanwhile, overcame what had been, in the opening stages, a break-point-less first set in which a number of long rallies and backhands landed long, it remained a scoreline that had the powerful American hoping for a miracle before the end.
In the end, Nadal managed to tame his opponent’s signature left-handed serve to book his spot in the second round after 87 minutes, saving a break point in the second set and getting his opponents out of position on a few occasions at the end of the third set.