Novak Djokovic’s winning streak was halted at 19 matches as home favourite Jannik Sinner was roared to a superb 7-5 6-7 (5) 7-6 (2) victory by a partisan ATP Finals crowd on Tuesday.
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 tiebreak 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 Holger Rune on Thursday.
Earlier in the day, Stefanos Tsitsipas lasted just three games of his second Green Group match of the tournament against Rune before pulling out with injury.
There were doubts over the fitness of the Greek star ahead of the tournament in Turin but he did not appear unduly troubled during an opening loss to Sinner on Sunday.
However, Tsitsipas barely moved during the third game against the Dane 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.
Speaking at a press conference later, Tsitsipas revealed he has been struggling with a back problem and is withdrawing from the tournament, with Hubert Hurkacz set to take his place.
“My apologies to all the fans and the crowd that came to support me today and watch the match,” Tsitsipas 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. My doctors and the countless visits that I had in the last few days suggested that I play, gave me the green light to go and try it for myself.
“Unfortunately, I felt terrible on the court. I did what I could do in the best possible way to be ready and fit for this match, but it didn’t work out for me. It kills me not to be able to finish this tournament, the one that I’ve prepped for for so long.”
It counts as a first victory at the tournament for 20-year-old Rune, who was edged out by Djokovic in his opening match.