Raise your hand if you had a semifinal consisting of Roger Federer, Juan Martin Del Potro, Nikolay Dayvdenko and Robin Soderling in your ATP Finals semifinal round bracket. I surely didn’t! Because after five days of often intriguing, sometimes controversial round robin play that’s what we are left with.
And when you consider no Rafael Nadal, no Andy Murray and no Novak Djokovic it’s a strange way for the ATP to close out the season without three players who made such a mark in 2009. But credit to Federer. Say what you want about him – he gets easy draws, he’s lucky, he’s past him prime, etc. – but the guy consistently keeps on winning when it matters the very most, and right now he’s the favorite to walkaway with another year-end title.
Even with three of the top four out, Fed’s road still isn’t easy. Today in the early match the World No. 1 takes on Davydenko. It’s the 13th career meeting between the two and Federer’s won all 12 prior and 22 of the last 23 sets. But at some point Davydenko’s going to breakthough for a win. He’s too good a player not to. But the pick for me here is Federer. Davy has the game to take it to Federer but the Russian usually can’t get the job done when it gets to this stage at these type of events and when the pressure is on, so I think the Swiss gets through.
“Each of the 12 times I played him I came in believing I could win,” said Davydenko who owns a scintillating 18-5 tiebreak record this year. “It’s not like I was coming into the match and already saying I’m losing. But I know Federer is older, I’m also older. Maybe I am starting to play better and Federer not so good. We’ll see. I played great in all three matches [this week]. I would like to play the same way as I did today, and I hope I can run well tomorrow, fast, and not make any mistakes.”
In the second semifinal, credit to both Soderling and DelPo for their effort this week. I thought they would both be overwhelmed by the occasion but they weren’t. And given the strength of the field the pressure was relatively off both of them during the round robin. But not anymore because they are back in the spotlight, front and center.
Soderling and DelPo have split their two meetings with DelPo winning most recently in Auckland this year. Soderling’s among the best when it comes to indoor tennis, but if DelPo brings his “A” game he’ll win and that’s what I guess will happen in a very nervy match.
So that should leave two “A” group participants, Federer and Del Potro, in the final which if comes to pass would re-ignite talk of Federer’s “did he or didn’t he” debate from Thursday. Of course I’m referring to the controversial ending of the Fed-DelPo match in which Fed handed the last three games of the affair to DelPo thereby eliminating the home favorite Murray from the event.
Would Federer rather play Murray on Sunday or DelPo? My guess is with the event in London and Murray’s record, he’s going to pick DelPo. That said, did he purposefully tank the end of the match with DelPo to make certain the Argentine remained in the hunt? I don’t think so. I do think he eased up after winning the second set, but I don’t think he was trying to lose at the end to get DelPo in. I’m sure it crossed him mind, but it I don’t think that became his ultimate mission. Bottom line is though, until the book comes out (or Mirka’s) we’ll never know what really was going through Fed’s mind at that stage, and Murray has no one to blame but himself.
Anyway, all of this may be mute if Federer loses today. Match begins shortly.
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