The world's top three players have made a winning start at the ATP Finals in London, in the last edition of this event in the British capital. Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal scored commanding triumphs over Diego Schwartzman and Andrey Rublev, while Dominic Thiem had to work much harder to add 200 points to his tally.
The Austrian believes all eight players have the opportunity to score victories in London and fight for the title, putting Djokovic and Nadal slightly in front due to their experience and everything they have accomplished.
Unlike the Serb and Spaniard, Thiem had to dig deep in the opening clash, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-6, 4-6, 6-3 in two hours and 17 minutes, in the repeat of the last year's title clash. It was their eighth match and the fifth victory for the better-ranked player, who prevailed with a single break in the decider.
Stefanos couldn't carry the momentum from set number two into the final one, suffering an early break and finding no way back. The Austrian fired 37 winners and 30 unforced errors, leaving the Greek on a 30-26 ratio and toppling the opponent in the quickest points up to four strokes to move over the top.
Thiem wasted a break chance in the third game and a couple more at 3-3 to keep Stefanos on the positive side. They reached a tie break five commanding holds later, with the first mini-break for Tsitsipas at 1-1 after Thiem's forehand mistake.
The Greek placed two booming serves to increase the advantage to 4-1, opening a 5-3 lead before Thiem painted a forehand crosscourt winner to reduce the deficit and stay alive.
For Dominic Thiem, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are favorites in London.
The Austrian took charge from there and won the last four points, seizing the breaker 7-5 when Tsitsipas' lob landed long.
The defending champion served well in set number two and waited for a chance on the return that came in the third game. Serving for the set at 5-4, Tsitsipas hit a service winner to gain a boost ahead of the decider. Starting all over, Dominic made a mighty start and opened a 3-0 advantage, fending off a break chance in a marathon game five to move closer to the finish line.
Serving for the victory, Thiem held at 15 in game nine to wrap up the triumph, gathering a boost ahead of the second round-robin clash with Rafael Nadal. "To be honest, I don't see myself as the favorite here. All eight players are in great form, and it will be tough to score wins.
I would put Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal ahead after everything they have achieved, with not much separating the other six competitors. Still, we all have a chance, I guess. Every match is 50-50, and we are all in contention.
A player who has a better day and a bit of luck will win the encounters and the title. I can't predict who will that be," Dominic Thiem said.