TURIN, Italy -- Jannik Sinner is setting new standards match after match at the ATP Finals.
Sinner, who had already secured his place in the semifinals at the season-ending event for the year's top eight players, went one step further and finished first in his group with a perfect 3-0 record.
"I bounced back in the third set just like I did against Nole," Sinner said. "This victory means a lot, coming back after such a big match with so many emotions. But I was still able to win the big points."
Sinner's victory also enabled Djokovic to advance in second position in the group, following the 24-time Grand Slam champion's 7-6 (1), 4-6, 6-1 win over alternate Hubert Hurkacz.
Sinner is already up to No. 4 in the rankings - the highest an Italian man has risen since Adriano Panatta nearly a half-century ago. But having also beaten No. 3 Daniil Medvedev in their last two meetings, and also with wins over No. 2 Carlos Alcaraz, the red-headed Sinner clearly has designs on moving up even further.
"I think he's going to reach the No. 1 in 2024 or he's going to give himself the chance to reach the No. 1," Alcaraz said on Wednesday.
Late in the second set, Sinner grasped the left side of his lower back in apparent pain. The issue appeared to bother Sinner when he hit his backhand.
Earlier, Rune had his right leg taped just under the knee.
But both players were going for their shots at the end.
"I felt a knock during the second set but in the third set it wasn't bothering me," Sinner said.
Rune got into an argument with the chair umpire early in the third set when it was ruled that he waited too long to challenge a call.
Rune had won his previous two meetings with Sinner.
DJOKOVIC BOUNCES BACK
Djokovic bounced back from his first loss in four months by beating Hurkacz in his final group match.
Djokovic hadn't been beaten since falling to Carlos Alcaraz in the Wimbledon final in July. In his opening match, Djokovic beat Rune to secure the year-end No. 1 ranking for a record-extending eighth time.
The ninth-ranked Hurkacz replaced Stefanos Tsitsipas, who withdrew with a lower back injury after playing only three games of his match against Rune on Tuesday.
Djokovic appeared frustrated early on when he had no answer to Hurkacz's big serve, but then his Polish opponent made a few errors and Djokovic won 10 straight points to jump out to a big lead in the tiebreaker.
Djokovic double-faulted to hand Hurkacz a break and a 3-2 lead in the second. Then Hurkacz saved two break points with aces a couple of games later and continued to hold to close out the set as the pro-Sinner crowd chanted "Hu-bi, Hu-bi."
Hurkacz served routinely at 140 mph (225 kph) and cranked out 24 aces to Djokovic's six. But Djokovic broke to take control midway through the third and improved to 7-0 in his career against Hurkacz.
"He's got one of the biggest serves in world," Djokovic said. "It's very, very tough to return, especially here at an altitude of nearly 300 meters (1,000 feet). ... I was waiting for chances when he missed his first serve - that was my only chance."