Tennis’ top-ranked Novak Djokovic beats Norway’s Casper Ruud

Written by Staff Writer by Adam Mowbray, CNN

Novak Djokovic admitted to being worried ahead of his first singles match at the ATP Finals on Friday, as the Serbian opened proceedings by upsetting surprise French Open semifinalist Casper Ruud of Norway.

However, his 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 defeat to the 89th-ranked Davis Cup debutant from one of the smallest nations in tennis did not daunt Djokovic, who is chasing a fifth title at the season-ending tournament in London.

“I wanted to give myself a great opportunity, try to win my first match, have some points on the board, got a nice first win but it wasn’t easy,” the world number one said afterwards.

“It’s disappointing to lose that match but you get confidence from being able to fight back.”

Djokovic, who missed his second consecutive French Open in order to rest and prepare for London, did so in typically dogged fashion, fighting back from a break down in the opening set.

The 27-year-old Serb, who has endured a difficult year blighted by injuries and form, trailed 5-3 before two rain delays allowed him to reshape the match, winning five consecutive games.

During the breaks he took “a long walk” around the indoor showpiece stadium and found refuge in the changing rooms — although he didn’t use them.

When the action resumed, Djokovic fought back to 2-2 before a medical timeout, which lasted an hour and 45 minutes, gave the Swede an opportunity to recover from that dip.

Afterwards Djokovic paid tribute to his opponent’s sporting tribulations.

“He’s not in his strongest state of mind right now but he showed that he is capable of playing good tennis,” Djokovic added.

“This was a tough loss. He fought back well and it came down to the last game, and it shows the quality of the player he is.

“The rain interruption changed the match significantly, it was very similar to my tie vs. Ernests Gulbis in the Singapore semifinals, where both of us played great tennis — that was tough too.”

It was the 32nd time Djokovic has beaten Gulbis in 14 meetings — the world number five won 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.

The 10-times Grand Slam champion also defeated Marin Cilic, Richard Gasquet and Ernests Gulbis in the third round.

Djokovic, who was forced to take a month off earlier this year due to an elbow injury, will next face David Goffin, who enjoyed a walkover against Cilic after the Croat was unable to play because of injury.

If he reaches the quarterfinals of his home tournament, Djokovic will take on 12th seed Grigor Dimitrov, who recovered from a set down to beat Cilic 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Croatia’s third seed will now face fellow countryman Borna Coric in the last eight, after the 20-year-old eliminated Canadian Milos Raonic 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-2).

John Isner will take on 13th seed Nick Kyrgios in the third round after the towering American defeated Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-7 (7-5), 6-4 in a thrilling encounter.

Isner beat Kyrgios in a thriller at the 2015 US Open before being stunned in the third round at Wimbledon that year.

“There are plenty of things he does that are extremely difficult,” said Isner, who won his ninth ATP World Tour title in April.

“You have to make sure you’re prepared for everything, even if it’s from the sidelines.”

Isner, who won his only London match two years ago, is also chasing a first career crown in London.

The American beat the last American to reach the semi-finals, Sam Querrey, in his first match in 2016.

French Open champion Stan Wawrinka will face world number two Andy Murray in the third round after the Swiss beat John Isner 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.

Wawrinka was forced to save two match points in the fifth game before eventually prevailing.

Wawrinka was last in action on Wednesday in the group stage, falling to Federer in a tense three-setter in the second round.

The 35-year-old suffered a back injury during that contest but on Friday he continued his good form to claim his 50th career title.

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