Djokovic cruises past Isner in ATP Finals opener

Djokovic cruises past Isner in ATP Finals opener
Novak Djokovic of Serbia walks across the court during his ATP World Tour Finals tennis match against John Isner of the United States at the O2 Arena in London, Monday Nov. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland) (Tim Ireland)

LONDON (AP) — The opening matches at the ATP Finals led to a debate over whether conditions at the O2 Arena were trickier than in past years.

Novak Djokovic ended it.

The Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion made an impressive start to his campaign for a sixth title by dismissing John Isner 6-4, 6-3 on Monday.

Roger Federer, who lost on Sunday, and Alexander Zverev described conditions as challenging following their error-strewn opening matches at the season-ending tournament, but Djokovic dropped just six points on his serve and made six unforced errors.

"My results here have been pretty good in the last 10 years, so I can't complain too much," said Djokovic, who has won four titles at the London venue. "It takes a little bit of time really to get yourself adjusted to the surface because the surface is a good surface."

Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates winning a point against John Isner of the United States in their ATP World Tour Finals tennis match at the O2 Arena in London, Monday Nov. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
Novak Djokovic of Serbia celebrates winning a point against John Isner of the United States in their ATP World Tour Finals tennis match at the O2 Arena in London, Monday Nov. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland) (AP)

A day after a ceremony to mark ending the season as No. 1, Djokovic underlined his status by nullifying Isner's usually destructive serve.

Isner, who at 33 became the season-ending tournament's oldest debutant since 1972, applied himself admirably but barely avoided being broken more than once in the first set, and was broken twice more in the second set.

Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a return to John Isner of the United States in their ATP World Tour Finals doubles tennis match at the O2 Arena in London, Monday Nov. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays a return to John Isner of the United States in their ATP World Tour Finals doubles tennis match at the O2 Arena in London, Monday Nov. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland) (AP)

"It was amazing," Isner said of the atmosphere. "I wish I could have given them a bit more to cheer for."

The one break Djokovic converted in the first set, at 2-2, was a cross-court forehand return winner which stranded Isner.

John Isner of the United States serves to Novak Djokovic of Serbia in their ATP World Tour Finals tennis match at the O2 Arena in London, Monday Nov. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)
John Isner of the United States serves to Novak Djokovic of Serbia in their ATP World Tour Finals tennis match at the O2 Arena in London, Monday Nov. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland) (AP)

Cristiano Ronaldo was in attendance, with Djokovic perhaps spurred on even more by the Juventus forward's presence.

"It's great to have big football star, sports star like him, courtside watching tennis," Djokovic said.

Alexander Zverev serves against Croatia's Marin Cilic during the ATP Men's Singles Final, at The O2 Arena in London, Monday Nov. 12, 2018. Cilic made 46 unforced errors as he gave up a break advantage in both sets in losing to Alexander Zverev on Monday. (Adam Davy/PA via AP)
Alexander Zverev serves against Croatia's Marin Cilic during the ATP Men's Singles Final, at The O2 Arena in London, Monday Nov. 12, 2018. Cilic made 46 unforced errors as he gave up a break advantage in both sets in losing to Alexander Zverev on Monday. (Adam Davy/PA via AP) (AP)

At 3-3, 15-30 in the second set, Isner sent down a second serve at 126 mph (203 kph). Djokovic sent it straight back at his feet and a shocked Isner hit his backhand long to concede two more break points.

A forehand error from Isner confirmed the break, and the end of the contest. The merciless Djokovic held serve before breaking Isner once more with an inch-perfect backhand passing shot on match point.

Alexander Zverev reacts during his match against Croatia's Marin Cilic during the ATP Men's Singles Final, at The O2 Arena in London, Monday Nov. 12, 2018. Cilic made 46 unforced errors as he gave up a break advantage in both sets in losing to Alexander Zverev on Monday. (Adam Davy/PA via AP)
Alexander Zverev reacts during his match against Croatia's Marin Cilic during the ATP Men's Singles Final, at The O2 Arena in London, Monday Nov. 12, 2018. Cilic made 46 unforced errors as he gave up a break advantage in both sets in losing to Alexander Zverev on Monday. (Adam Davy/PA via AP) (AP)

"That was pretty comprehensive out there," Isner conceded.

Earlier, Zverev came from a break down in both sets to defeat Marin Cilic 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1).

Alexander Zverev plays a return to Croatia's Marin Cilic during the ATP Men's Singles Final, at The O2 Arena in London, Monday Nov. 12, 2018. Cilic made 46 unforced errors as he gave up a break advantage in both sets in losing to Alexander Zverev on Monday. (Adam Davy/PA via AP)
Alexander Zverev plays a return to Croatia's Marin Cilic during the ATP Men's Singles Final, at The O2 Arena in London, Monday Nov. 12, 2018. Cilic made 46 unforced errors as he gave up a break advantage in both sets in losing to Alexander Zverev on Monday. (Adam Davy/PA via AP) (AP)

Facing each other in their opening match for a second straight year, Zverev produced the slightly steadier tennis in an attritional contest to extend his record against Cilic to 2-0 at the O2 Arena and 6-1 overall.

Cilic, who made 46 unforced errors, dropped to 1-9 across his four appearances at the tournament.

Croatia's Marin Cilic returns to Alexander Zverev during the ATP Men's Singles Final, at The O2 Arena in London, Monday Nov. 12, 2018. Cilic made 46 unforced errors as he gave up a break advantage in both sets in losing to Alexander Zverev on Monday. (Adam Davy/PA via AP)
Croatia's Marin Cilic returns to Alexander Zverev during the ATP Men's Singles Final, at The O2 Arena in London, Monday Nov. 12, 2018. Cilic made 46 unforced errors as he gave up a break advantage in both sets in losing to Alexander Zverev on Monday. (Adam Davy/PA via AP) (AP)

"The win, that's the most important thing," said Zverev, who failed to advance from the round-robin stage on his debut last year.

___

Croatia's Marin Cilic celebrates a point during the ATP Men's Singles Final against Alexander Zverev, at The O2 Arena in London, Monday Nov. 12, 2018. Cilic made 46 unforced errors as he gave up a break advantage in both sets in losing to Alexander Zverev on Monday. (Adam Davy/PA via AP)
Croatia's Marin Cilic celebrates a point during the ATP Men's Singles Final against Alexander Zverev, at The O2 Arena in London, Monday Nov. 12, 2018. Cilic made 46 unforced errors as he gave up a break advantage in both sets in losing to Alexander Zverev on Monday. (Adam Davy/PA via AP) (AP)

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Cristiano Ronaldo, center, with his partner Georgina Rodriguez, and his son Cristiano Ronaldo Junior watches as Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays John Isner of the United States in their ATP World Tour Finals singles tennis match at the O2 Arena in London, Monday Nov. 12, 2018. (Adam Davy/PA via AP)
Cristiano Ronaldo, center, with his partner Georgina Rodriguez, and his son Cristiano Ronaldo Junior watches as Novak Djokovic of Serbia plays John Isner of the United States in their ATP World Tour Finals singles tennis match at the O2 Arena in London, Monday Nov. 12, 2018. (Adam Davy/PA via AP) (AP)