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Page last updated at 15:54 GMT, Monday, 22 November 2010

Novak Djokovic cruises past Tomas Berdych in ATP opener

ATP World Tour Finals
Venue: O2 Arena, London Dates: 21-28 November
Coverage: One match each day live on BBC TV, streamed online & available through iPlayer; text commentary online and on mobiles for every singles match via BBC Sport website; every singles match live on 5 live sports extra.

Novak Djokovic plays a forehand against Tomas Berdych
Djokovic took control of the match from the start

By Piers Newbery at the O2 Arena

Novak Djokovic put aside any thoughts of the imminent Davis Cup final as he hammered sixth seed Tomas Berdych in his opening match at the ATP World Tour Finals in London.

The world number three came through a scrappy encounter 6-3 6-3 in one hour 28 minutes, with Group A rivals Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick playing in the late match at 2000 GMT.

Much of the talk surrounding Djokovic, and coming from the man himself, has centred on his date with destiny next week when he will lead Serbia against France in the Davis Cup final in Belgrade.

The 23-year-old believes it could be his nation's only chance to land the trophy and he has made it clear where his priorities lie for the rest of 2010.

Berdych, on the other hand, is in the strange position of enjoying what has been his best season on tour, despite having played some of his worst-ever tennis in the second half of the year.

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The Wimbledon finalist might be ranked sixth in London but on form he is very much the outsider, with a paltry two match wins in five tournaments, and his stated aim in London was simply to prove that he deserved his place among the best eight players in the world.

A 6ft 5in powerhouse with no pressure and seemingly nothing to lose might have proved a dangerous proposition, but in the event the 25-year-old could not shake off his poor form.

"When you have a first appearance at such a big tournament it's not easy to handle the pressure and expectations, and you could feel that, especially at the start of the match," said Djokovic.

"He made two double-faults in the opening game and to start off with a break was really important for me. I was trying to focus on my game and do the things I planned to do tactically with my coach, and I couldn't ask for a better start to the tournament."

Asked if he had been particularly nervous going into his first-ever Tour Finals match, Berdych admitted: "If I said 'no' I would be lying. I think you can see at the beginning it affected my game a little bit, but it was the first match and that's the way it is.

"It's tough to come here after a couple of months when I didn't win too many matches and you're struggling with confidence. You can practice hard but the confidence you can't get anywhere else apart from winning matches.

"To play Novak in the first match, it's really tough, but that's how it is and in the next two matches anything could happen. If you win the next match it gives you so much more confidence than winning the first match in a basic tournament."

Tomas Berdych
Berdych struggled to compete with Djokovic in his Tour Finals debut

The O2 Arena was at less than full capacity for the afternoon match, although not by a great deal, and the excited reception for visiting Argentine football legend Diego Maradona suggested the crowd was ready to be engaged.

Unfortunately, from the moment Berdych double-faulted on the opening point it looked unlikely that they would see a real contest.

Another double-fault moments later handed Djokovic the easiest of breaks and, despite seeing off four more break points in a lengthy game three, Berdych was already in desperate trouble.

Djokovic merely had to keep his game in check, with one beautifully angled forehand in game eight giving the crowd something to relish, before forehand and backhand errors from Berdych gave up the second break of serve, and with it the set.

Nineteen unforced errors and a first-serve percentage of 44% were behind Berdych's dreadful first set and things got little better in the second as he was broken once again at the earliest opportunity.

Djokovic was made to work a little harder on serve in the second set, twice coming back from 0-30, but the celebrations among his camp when the Serb played a killer drop shot at 4-2, deuce, suggested they knew he had seen off any danger once and for all.

The third seed and 2008 champion duly served out the victory to put himself in good shape to make the semi-finals, and so delay his return to Belgrade until next week.

"It's everything but easy," Djokovic said of keeping his mind off the Davis Cup final.

"Playing in a Davis Cup final is the biggest success that my country has ever had but I'm managing to control my emotions and my focus towards this tournament. I'll think of Davis Cup when I finish with this."

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see also
Djokovic v Berdych as it happened
22 Nov 10 |  Tennis
Federer opens with Ferrer victory
21 Nov 10 |  Tennis
Murray downs Soderling in opener
21 Nov 10 |  Tennis
The contenders
18 Nov 10 |  Tennis
ATP World Tour Finals photos
21 Nov 10 |  Tennis
Roddick completes London line-up
11 Nov 10 |  Tennis
BBC to broadcast ATP Finals event
29 Jun 10 |  Tennis
Davydenko takes World Tour title
29 Nov 09 |  Tennis

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