Strong serving and consistent baseline play has propelled defending champion Daniil Medvedev to a three-sets win over tournament debutant Hubert Hurkacz in the opening match of the ATP Finals.
US Open champion and world No.2 Medvedev dropped the opening set on Sunday but hit back to claim a 6-7 (5-7) 6-3 6-4 victory.
In the day’s second match, 2018 champion Alexander Zverev won when local favourite Matteo Berrettini of Italy retired early in the second set with an apparent abdominal injury.
Zverev won the first set 7-6 (9-7) and was leading 1-0 in the second when Berrettini dropped his racket to the ground, covered his face and bent over in apparent pain.
The result moved Zverev ahead of Medvedev atop the Red Group in the round-robin format.
Medvedev served 15 aces and didn’t face a single break point against the seventh-seeded Hurkacz, who beat him in five sets at Wimbledon this year.
Medvedev attributed his strong serving performance to conditions he called the fastest he’s ever experienced on tour.
“I don’t think it’s the surface itself because (the) surface probably is exactly the same as in London,” the Russian said, referring to the previous tournament host.
“I think it’s a combination of air, which is really dry here, and I think the ball goes very fast through the air, the balls itself, which are quite fast balls, and the court.
“I was barely under pressure on my serve against a great returner.”
It’s the first edition of the event in Turin – after 12 years in London.
In the Green Group, top-ranked Novak Djokovic opens against eighth-seeded Casper Ruud on Monday, before fourth-seeded Stefanos Tsitsipas plays fifth-seeded Andrey Rublev.
With both players serving well inside the Pala Alpitour, neither Medvedev nor Hurkacz produced a break point in the first set, when Hurkacz’s strong net play proved the difference in the tiebreaker.
Medvedev responded with an early break in the second set then broke again in the first game of the third as he methodically wore Hurkacz down.
“Daniil is an amazing player and he plays great tennis for the whole match,” Hurkacz said.
“He doesn’t have dips in his game, so that makes him such a tough opponent.”
Berrettini, this year’s Wimbledon finalist, was treated by a trainer during a medical timeout.
He then played one more point before calling it quits.
“This is probably the worst moment in his career,” Zverev said, noting that Berrettini was playing in his home country.
The Italian, backed by a raucous home crowd, squandered two set points as he fell behind after a tiebreaker against the Olympic champion.
Jannik Sinner, another Italian, is the first alternate and could replace Berrettini if his countryman can not return for his next two group matches.