Stefanos Tsitsipas suffered another defeat to Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals on Monday as his hopes of finishing the year as world number one disappeared.
The Greek star knew triumphing at the tournament in Turin and winning every match in the process would be enough to see him pip the injured Carlos Alcaraz to top spot in the rankings come the end of the season.
But Wimbledon champion Djokovic proved too strong yet again and recorded a 10th consecutive victory over Tsitsipas, winning 6-4 7-6 (4) to make the perfect start to the Red Group.
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“If I was to play good tennis this week, win all of my matches, for sure I deserve the (number one) spot. It shows good performance, consistency, but it’s not really occupying too much of my mind,” Tsitsipas told a press conference.
“I’m kind of excited that I got the opportunity to do something this week that can give me a record, a personal record and a milestone. I deeply believe that I can reach that spot one day.
“I’m not really that much in a rush, to be honest. Of course, it would have been better if it happened this week. I am more here for the marathon of all. I see the bigger picture, the longer run. I have a lot of opportunities next year to play some good tennis.
“If it comes, I’ll be very happy, my country will be very happy, my family will be happy. I just have to concentrate on myself, let that thing pass. If it happens, that’s great news. But I shouldn’t be obsessing too much about it.”
Joining Djokovic at the top of the Red Group is Russian Andrey Rublev, who got the better of compatriot Daniil Medvedev in a thriller.
Rublev held his nerve in a final set tie-breaker to win 6-7 (7) 6-3 7-6 (7).
After his victory, world number seven Rublev appeared to send a message regarding the ongoing war in Ukraine by writing the word “peace” three times on one of the cameras on the court followed by “all we need”.
Earlier in the day Great Britain’s Neal Skupski teamed up with Wesley Koolhof to down Australian duo Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-7 (3) 6-4 10-5 in the Green Group of the doubles competition.
Tuesday’s action will see Rafael Nadal look to continue his bid to end the year as world number one and also remain in the ATP Finals when he faces Felix Auger-Aliassime.
Nadal lost out to Taylor Fritz at the weekend but knows success in Turin would see him leapfrog his fellow Spaniard Alcaraz in the rankings.
The clash with Auger-Aliassime is a winner-takes-all contest after the Canadian saw his 16-match winning streak ended by Casper Ruud on Sunday in their Green Group opener.
Ruud and Fritz do battle in the other round robin fixture, with the victorious player set to book their place in the last four.