Steely Djokovic impresses in front of Maradona

London: A courtside entourage including former Argentine soccer great Diego Maradona watched Novak Djokovic open Group A at the ATP World Tour Finals on Monday with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Czech Tomas Berdych.

The Serb dominated from start to finish against a player, whose form has deserted him since reaching the Wimbledon final in July, after he was gifted a service break in the first game.

A tense Berdych, the only debutant in the eight-man field, offered up two double faults and Djokovic completed the set when his opponent faltered again on his own delivery at 3-5.

The world number three quickly moved 3-0 ahead at the start of the second set and closed out victory in front of a subdued mid-afternoon crowd, which was far from a sell-out.

It was the third one-sided match in a row at the season-ending showpiece that features world number one Rafael Nadal against Andy Roddick later on Monday.

Djokovic said he was inspired by the presence of Maradona, who was also in the O2 Arena on Sunday, on his bench.

“Thanks for coming,” the 23-year-old said after Maradona was greeted by a mixture of boos and cheers by the crowd. “It’s a great honour having you around.

Djokovic also revealed a cheeky sense of humour, referencing Maradona’s controversial “Hand of God” goal against England in the 1986 World Cup semi-final.

“When he came in during the middle of the first set, I wondered whether I should play with my legs or my hands,” he said to laughter from the crowd.”

Bureau Report