Novak Djokovic started his bid for a third successive ATP Tour Finals title with a sublime 6-1 6-1 victory over Marin Cilic on Monday at London’s O2 Arena.
Djokovic took just 57 minutes to thrash US Open champion Cilic as the world No.1 extended his winning run at indoor events to 28 matches, includes 11 consecutive triumphs at the season-ending Tour Finals.
The Serb is bidding to become the first man to win the Tour Finals three times in a row since Ivan Lendl from 1985-87.
“It’s been a great, great match. I haven’t played here for 12 months – it’s great to be back. It was a great performance,” Djokovic said.
“Marin as a US Open winner has a lot of confidence, but I managed to neutralise his serve and get a lot of balls back in play and that was part of the tactic.”
Djokovic arrived in London after winning the Paris Masters without dropping a set.
He knows if he wins all three group matches, he will be guaranteed to hold off Roger Federer in the race to finish the year on top of the world rankings.
The 27-year-old, looking to become only the fifth player to win the Tour Finals four or more times, had won all 10 of his previous meetings with Cilic, including a five-set victory in this year’s Wimbledon quarter-finals and, again, the Croatian had no answers.
Cilic, making his Tour Finals debut after winning his maiden grand slam, is capable of using his height advantage to overpower opponents with his booming serves.
But in Djokovic, he faced one of the greatest returners of all time and the Serb wasted little time neutralising Cilic’s biggest weapon as he broke serve in the third game.
On the few occasions Cilic managed to get into a prolonged rally, the champion’s flawless groundstrokes invariably overwhelmed the Croat and he was broken again in the fifth game as Djokovic took the first set with ease.
Djokovic broke in the second game of the second set then obtained another to take command.
Earlier, Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka opened his Group A campaign in scintillating style with a 6-1 6-1 demolition of Tomas Berdych.
Wawrinka, the reigning Australian Open champion, had been in poor form heading into the event, but the world No.4 was back in the groove against the Czech as he took only 58 minutes to wrap up the win.
The 29-year-old hit 16 winners to only four from Berdych.
“For me, when I play against him, it’s usually tough,” Wawrinka said. “But I can always find a solution. I’m really happy with the way I handled the situation today.”
It was another dispiriting Tour Finals start for Berdych, who had lost all four of his previous opening matches at the eight-man tournament.
“Unfortunately, it was my worst match of the whole season, and I kept it for the start here in the World Tour Finals,” Berdych said.
“I’m going to face Marin and Novak and the only chance to qualify is to beat them. It’s almost a mission impossible, but let’s try.”