Federer and Nadal fall to horror as Rafael Nadal exits Paris Masters

PARIS — Novak Djokovic was more concerned with what he saw in the mirror than getting back on track with his tennis when he arrived at the Paris Masters.

The world No. 1 still has not won a tournament for 18 months but Djokovic showed plenty of signs of progress in his opening match against Danish journeyman Casper Ruud.

Djokovic won 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 against the 109th-ranked Ruud in Thursday’s opening round of the Paris Masters.

The 30-year-old missed a quarter of last season with an elbow injury, then split with coaching mentor Marian Vajda in June.

“It’s going to take a little bit of time, definitely,” Djokovic said. “Nothing is guaranteed in life or tennis. It was not as easy as the scoreline indicated.

“It’s a very good start for me. My preparation for this tournament was very demanding. I’m very pleased with how I’m playing so far.

“I’m really looking forward to the rest of the matches in my group.”

Djokovic will face No. 7 Grigor Dimitrov on Friday after the Bulgarian beat German Horacio Zeballos 6-4, 7-6 (1).

The top two players in the Paris Masters are scheduled to play on the same court on Saturday, with Djokovic and Rafael Nadal meeting.

No. 2 Roger Federer plays fellow Swiss Stan Wawrinka in Friday’s first match.

Djokovic, who starts as favorite at the tournament, was a slight favorite against Ruud, ranked 135th in the world and his competition for a place in the eight-man elite ATP Finals in London.

“I just tried to focus on what I do well, my game, and what I have to work on,” said Djokovic, who earlier this year blamed a sluggish physique for allowing him to miss the Rio Olympics and French Open last season.

“That’s what I did in the first week of my recovery in Vina del Mar, and from there things started to change.

“I saw my legs were stronger and I was feeling more in control of myself.

“That’s what I plan to do this week, try to stay consistent, keep going with the idea of being the best athlete I can be.”

Ruud, who has won just five career titles, twice held break points in the fifth game of the second set but Djokovic held both times to go up 3-1.

From then on, it was a one-way traffic with Djokovic forcing a break point at 4-2 that Ruud managed to save.

Djokovic regained the advantage and built up a 4-2 lead in the decider before comfortably winning the match.

The nine-time champion was in a similar mood at the Barcelona Open earlier this week, cruising past American qualifier Jared Donaldson 6-1, 6-3 on Wednesday.

That set up a match against Austria’s Dominic Thiem on Friday, a day later than the other four semi-finalists in the Paris Masters.

The 20-year-old Thiem won his first ATP World Tour title earlier this week in Bastad, beating Spain’s Feliciano Lopez.

Nadal, however, produced an error-strewn performance in losing his opening match to Nikoloz Basilashvili, who reached the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-2 victory.

“I thought it was an okay first match here for the tournaments. It was not good for the weekend,” Nadal said after his one-sided opening round-robin loss to the world No. 136.

“He played with a different look to his game.”

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