World no. 2 and the five-time ATP Finals champion Novak Djokovic made a perfect start in London, defeating a debutant Matteo Berrettini 6-2, 6-1 in 63 minutes. It was the 36th victory for Novak at this tournament, earning it with a dominant display on both serve and return as he got broken once and clinched five straight breaks of serve to march towards the finish line in no time at all.
The Serb lost only ten points in his games, facing only one break point and stealing almost 60% of the points on the return to seize those five breaks from seven opportunities and earn 200 points in the year-end no. 1 battle with Rafael Nadal.
The Serb had ten winners and eight unforced errors, taming his shots nicely and drawing 28 unforced mistakes from Berrettini who never found his strokes or the way to move Novak from the comfort zone. Djokovic claimed 30 out of 40 longer exchanges and had the upper hand in the quickest points up to four strokes to emerge at the top in style and send a clear message to his next rivals, Roger Federer and Dominic Thiem.
The opening set lasted for 29 minutes and Novak was the only player on the court, losing four points on serve and stealing more than half of the points on the return despite the fact Matteo served at 75%! The Italian had six winners but also 17 unforced errors, unable to find space for placing his forehand and standing far behind Djokovic in the more extended exchanges where the Serb forged a 14-5 advantage.
Novak made the best possible start with a hold at love after an ace, holding at 15 in games three and five to mount the pressure on the other side of the net and wait for a chance on the return patiently. It came in game six after a terrible forehand from Berrettini, moving 4-2 up and cementing the break in the next game thanks to another forehand error from the Italian.
Serving to stay in the set, Matteo got broken at love in game eight to hand the set to his opponent who looked determined to seal the deal in no time at all. Delivering one good hold after another, Djokovic stood strong in the early stages of the second set as well, earning a break in game two after a double fault from Berrettini who found himself 4-0 down when Novak forced an error with a beautiful backhand crosscourt stroke.
After rattling off eight straight games, Djokovic lost focus a little bit to suffer a break in the fifth game, securing another successful return game a few minutes later thanks to a forehand winner and sealing the deal with another forehand winner in game seven for the best possible start of the campaign.