World no. 1 Novak Djokovic made a successful title defense start at the ATP Finals in Turin. Novak took down the young Dane Holger Rune 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 after three hours and four minutes, notching his 47th win at this event. The defending champion played poorly in the second set tie break, allowing his rival to force a decider.
However, Novak grabbed two return games to end Holger's resistance and join Jannik Sinner at the top of the standings. With this victory, Novak secured his eighth year-end no. 1 honor ahead of Carlos Alcaraz, extending his record and writing history books at 36.
Djokovic lost serve three times and delivered four breaks, enough to emerge at the top. Rune gave his best, firing 18 aces but dropping serve four times from eight opportunities given to world no. 1, losing ground in the final set as he did in Paris a few weeks ago.
Novak held at 30 in the encounter's first game, and Holger landed an ace in game two for 1-1. The veteran secured the third game with a forehand down the line winner before missing a backhand in the next one, allowing the young gun to lock the result at 2-2.
Novak netted a backhand in the fifth game and faced two break points. He denied them with bold hitting before facing the third. This time, Holger forced Novak's forehand mistake to grab a break and open a 3-2 advantage. The Dane squandered a game point in the next one, missing an opportunity to cement the lead and playing a loose drop shot to get broken and bring the Serb back to 3-3.
They served well in games seven and eight, staying neck and neck and increasing the pressure. Djokovic wasted game points in game nine before holding after deuce for another lead, forcing Rune to serve to stay in the set. Holger did a fine job in the tenth game, extending the battle and reaching a tie break after a hold at 5-6.
Djokovic hit a smash winner in the fourth point for 2-2 and earned a mini-break for 4-2 after Rune's wild forehand.
Novak Djokovic secured his eighth year-end no. 1 honor in Turin.
Novak painted a backhand winner in the seventh point, passing Holger at the net and securing another mini-break that sent him 5-2 ahead.
Returning at 6-4, the Serb blasted a forehand crosscourt return winner, wrapping up the opener after a grueling 71 minutes. Rune made a fresh start in the second set and grabbed a break at 15 in the second game after Djokovic's serve & volley attempt.
Holger missed a chance to move 3-0 up, facing three break points in the third game. Novak seized the last with a backhand crosscourt winner, pulling the break back and gaining a boost. They served well in the upcoming games, and Djokovic had to keep that pace at 4-5.
Novak denied a set point and held for 5-5, still trying to seal the deal in straight sets. Holger held after deuce in game 11, and Novak announced another tie break with an ace down the T line in the next one. The Serb netted two routine forehands and fell 3-0 behind.
Rune moved 4-0 up with an ace and landed a forehand down the line winner for 5-0. Djokovic sprayed a backhand error in the sixth point, offering his rival six set points. The Dane converted the second with a service winner, introducing a decider after two hours and 24 minutes.
Novak left the setback behind and grabbed an early break in the second game with a commanding display on the return. However, Holger painted a down the line winner in the third game, pulling the break back and causing Novak's frustration as the Serb broke two racquets.
After that, Novak used his experience and kept his focus, forcing Holger's mistake in the sixth game to clinch a break and open a 4-2 gap. Djokovic held at 15 in game seven, moving 5-2 in front and forcing Rune to serve to stay in the match.
Holger grabbed the eighth game before Novak sealed the deal with a forehand winner at 5-3, moving over the top and extending his streak.