There are no fans at The O2 for this year’s Nitto ATP Finals because of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But World No. 1 Novak Djokovic is still sharing the love.

After defeating Diego Schwartzman 6-3, 6-2 in his first match of Group Tokyo 1970 play on Monday afternoon, the Serbian did his customary celebration, sharing his heart with all four sides of the court.

“That’s my celebration. That’s my also gratitude to the court and to this opportunity to be able to compete. Even though it might sound like a phrase, but I try to remind myself [not to] take things for granted, and that’s one of the routines that reminds me of the things that I have to be aware of,” Djokovic said. “Even though there was no crowd in stands, I know there were a lot of people watching it on TV, so that was me sharing that emotion with them.”

Although the scoreline was a familiar one — Djokovic has not lost his opening Nitto ATP Finals match since his 2007 debut — the atmosphere was not.

“It was very strange, to say the least. It felt like a practice session, in a way,” Djokovic said. “But of course [with the] chair umpire calling the score, you already feel you’re part of the official match. My mindset hasn’t changed much in terms of my approach to the match and what I need to do and how I focus. But I do miss the crowd.”

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This was the top seed’s 51st match at the season finale and Schwartzman’s first. Although the Argentine will be disappointed with his loss, Djokovic was quick to recall that he lost his first three matches at this tournament.

“Back in 2007 was my debut in Shanghai, and I lost all three matches in the group,” Djokovic said. “Obviously you have some examples of [Grigor] Dimitrov and [Stefanos] Tsitsipas [who] won on their debuts. They won the title, which was also very, very impressive. I think the format allows, even though you lose a match, to still have a chance to qualify for semis, and you have plenty of motivation in terms of points.

“Obviously every match that you win you get to win 200 points, which is almost [like] winning an [ATP] 250 event. So I think there is plenty of motivation for Diego. I’m sure that he wants to try to play better than he did today. Let’s see how that goes.”

Djokovic will turn his attention to the rest of Group Tokyo 1970 as he continues his pursuit of a record-tying sixth Nitto ATP Finals title.

Source: Tennis – ATP World Tour