Novak Djokovic’s winning streak was halted at 19 matches as the home favourite Jannik Sinner was roared to a superb 7-5, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2) victory by a partisan ATP Finals crowd in Turin on Tuesday.
The earlier Green Group clash was a non-event as Stefanos Tsitsipas retired injured against Holger Rune, but the evening ticket holders were treated to a match of jaw-dropping quality. After more than three hours of an absorbing toe-to-toe battle in which neither player took a backward step it was world No 4 Sinner who seized his chance in the deciding set tie-break finally to crack Djokovic’s resistance.
Sinner, 14 years Djokovic’s junior, wrapped up his first career win against the 24-time grand slam champion with a smash – prompting deafening roars from the sell-out crowd. He moves top of the group although he is not yet guaranteed a semi-final spot ahead of his final round-robin match against Rune on Thursday.
Tsitsipas had earlier lasted only three games of his second match against Rune before pulling out of the match and tournament with a back injury.
There were doubts over the fitness of the Greek player in the buildup to the tournament in Turin but he did not appear unduly troubled on Sunday in an opening defeat by Sinner. Tsitsipas, though, barely moved during the third game against Rune and sat down gingerly on his bench trailing 2-1.
He called the trainer but, after a brief chat, he was helped to his feet and shook hands with Rune, leaving the court to a chorus of jeers and whistles from the disappointed crowd.
Tsitsipas revealed he has been struggling with a back problem, with Hubert Hurkacz set to take his place in the last set of round-robin fixtures.
“My apologies to all the fans and the crowd that came to support me today and watch the match,” he said. “I’m really gutted that I wasn’t able to finish the match. It’s a shame also not to give that spot to someone else to at least try and do something with it.”