World No. 1 Roger Federer and home-country favorite Andy Murray held their ground, if not a bit shakily, on the opening day of play at the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London.
Federer recovered from a slow start to defeat left-handed Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 4-6, 7-5, 6-1, while Murray likewise needed three sets to subdue US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.
Federer has won the season-ending championship four times, and is attempting to become only the second player (Ivan Lendl in 1989) to take back the year-end No. 1 ranking after losing it the previous year.
“I was down a set, and only the second set was I able to sort of get the ball into play, find my range, find my rhythm,” said Federer, who has been plagued by an erratic forehand during the end of 2009. “I got a little bit lucky maybe to get through in the second set. At the end in the third set I played great.”
Against Murray, Del Potro needed a medical timeout in the first set to treat a nose bleed, later saying it is an ongoing problem he deals with.
“I have a big nose, that’s the problem,” he said. “It’s just bleeding. I don’t know why.”
Murray is reveling in the home-court advantage.
“When I got close to winning at the end of the match, the atmosphere was excellent,” Murray said. “That’s going a make a big difference going into the next couple of matches.”
In the doubles, Poland’s Mariusz Frystenberg and Marcin Matkowski, the No. 8 seeds, upset top seeds and defending champions Daniel Nestor/Nenad Zimonjic 6-4, 6-4. The Indian-Bahamian tandem of Mahesh Bhupathi/Mark Knowles also posted a “W,” defeating the Czech/Slovak pair of Frantisek Cermak/Michal Mertinak 6-3, 6-3.
On Monday in London, Rafael Nadal opens against his nemesis Robin Soderling, and Novak Djokovic takes on the Russian backboard Nikolay Davydenko. In doubles the Bryan brothers make their debut against the team of Mirnyi/Ram.
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
SERENA PROMOTES BOOK, TALKS TO ANYONE — From the chapped-lips-from-ass-kissing article on Serena Williams on FOX Sports by Lee Randall: “at first glance I’d say the woman before me was not merely serene but exalted, comporting herself like a goddess. Serena Williams is eating a late lunch and doesn’t rise or offer her hand to accompany hello. What she does instead is lift her plate off her lap, allowing her assistant access in order to cover her with a blanket…She may acknowledge her magnificence now, and rightly so, but it’s been a long, ongoing struggle to bolster her self-esteem…I am dying to ask, especially since she keeps playing with it: do you wear your own hair? “No, I don’t wear my own hair. My hair is actually super long, and I like short hair, but I don’t want to cut mine.” She erupts in a cascade of laughter, acknowledging the contradiction…After inscribing a lovely dedication in my book, she sees me to the door, where we stop and talk a bit longer.” — Alert the Pulitzer committee, we have a winner.
At the Illinois Challenger last week, rhymin’ Vince Spadea lost in the first round to a wildcard, Blake Strode, the 2009 NCAA semifinalist from Arkansas. Ouch. Keep on truckin’ Vincenzo…
33-year-old Canuck Frederic Niemeyer is retiring due to recurring elbow, shoulder and back injuries after 12 years on tour. He has been named to Tennis Canada’s development team and will coach top prospect Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ontario…
NADAL DIVORCE — Rafael Nadal on how his parents’ divorce affected him this year: “My parents’ divorce made an important change in my life. It affected me. After that, when I can’t play Wimbledon, it was tough. For one month I was outside the world. I am OK now, but you need time to accept. And it’s more difficult to accept when you are outside home and don’t know what’s happening. At least the injury gave me time to be with my friends and family. I played with less calm [at the French Open]. One of the reasons was the pain in the knees. And I was down because of the divorce. [Robin] Soderling played really well and he beat me. But I wasn’t ready, mentally or physically, this year.”
I’M BAKING BAGELS, COME AND GET ‘EM — American Vavara Lepchenko won the Phoenix Challenger, winning her final five sets of the event 6-0. Yes, you read that right.
WHA? — Isn’t it interesting how the major tennis writers (SI.com) have touted the ATP’s pre-WADA drug testing as rigorous (Judges were on the panel! Independent judges!), contrasted with Andre Agassi saying he simply wrote the ATP a letter saying he was sorry he did crystal meth, and then got let him off — but there is no meeting in the middle? And the ATP is silent on the subject? Guess this will just end with the old dot dot dot…
DENT IS BACK — Taylor Dent lost to Mike Russell in the all-American final at the Champaign (Ill.) Challenger, rising well into the Top 100 after beginning the year ranked No. 865. Dent is playing the Puebla (Mexico) Challenger this week…
Novak Djokovic has left adidas, signing a 10-year contract with Sergio Tacchini. He said, “My own idols Pete Sampras and John McEnroe have won almost all titles…wearing the Sergio Tacchini logo.”…
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ATP Previews: Davydenko Opens vs. Safin in Moscow; Stockholm