The ATP year-end London Tennis Masters Cup World Tour Finals Championship 1000 sponsored by a very large, squid-like bank opens up Sunday with Group B matches involving Roger Federer v. David Ferrer and Robin Soderling against Brit favorite Andy Murray.
With the exception of Novak Djokovic, the Finals, or whatever it’s called these days – the name changes every other year – is the closing ATP event on the calendar so the players, tired as they may be, need to lay it all out these next 8 days in London.
For me, after further digesting the groups Federer remains my favorite while Ferrer the event’s requisite pigeon. And thusly I like Federer to have his way with Ferrer tomorrow. Is anyone picking Ferrer?
“Obviously it’s a tough group, but I think they’re even,” Federer said. “Novak’s in one group, Murray’s in one, I’m in one group, Rafa’s in the other, so I think it’s quite even.
“In our group, it seems like we all know we’re playing well,” he added. “Ferrer’s won Valencia, I won bunch of tournaments just now and won many matches, Murray won Shanghai and Soderling just won Paris, whereas in the other group maybe it’s just a bit more up in the air. They haven’t just won all the tournaments lately. It’s two completely different groups, but very exciting ones.”
Federer, though has still had his problems. He’s playing well in fits but for whatever he losing matches after having held matchpoints. We saw that early in the year against Berdych and Baghdatis. And now even under new coach Paul Annacone it’s continued as we saw at the US Open against Djokovic and last week against Monfils. So we’ll keep an eye on that. But Ferrer shouldn’t hold any MPs Sunday.
The big match, and arguably the most important of the entire round-robin, is between Murray and Soderling. The contest matches up the last two Masters winners – Soderling in Paris, Murray in Shanghai – and for me it’s the tone-setter with the winner getting out of Group B and the loser possibly watching the semifinals on TV.
Thanks to his Paris win last Sunday, Soderling is at a career-high of No. 4 and his confidence has to be right up there as well. And indoors is really where Robin’s powerful game can inflict the most damage. It’s his best “surface”.
Murray is adept indoors as well, but I don’t know how well he’ll handle the pressure of opening the event – he’s playing the first match – and having to beat the Swede in front of his faithful. We’ve seen him come up short before.
“The pressure is pretty much the same and the home crowd really does make a difference,” said Murray who is making his third straight year-end championships appearance. “Every tennis player will tell you when you play at home it really helps you to have the crowd behind you.
“The venue is going to be great, as it was last year, the atmosphere was brilliant and we had full crowds for almost all of the matches and they’re expecting it to be the same again.”
Well Andy, if the home crowd helps you so much what happened last year in London, and what of you failings at Wimbledon? Pressure!
Murray and Soderling have split their four meetings but Robin’s won the last two in straight sets at 2006 Memphis and 2010 Indian Wells.
“I think every match has been even against Andy, they’ve always been tough matches,” said Soderling. “Even though three of them were a few years ago, they were close. It will be tough, but it will be close. I’ll have to play well to win. It not, it will be extremely difficult.”
With both guys in form, this should be a great matchup. But I still like Soderling to pull through this one in three tough sets.
Looking ahead to Monday’s Group A, top seed Rafael Nadal clashes with Andy Roddick while Novak Djokovic opens against Tomas Berdych.
Overall, I’m still going with my early picks of Federer, Soderling out of Group B, then Nadal and Djokovic from A. Based on recent results and matchups, I’d be really surprised if Federer and Djokovic failed to reach the semifinals. And I’ll stay with Federer over Djokovic in the final.
The Murray match is on live on the Tennis Channel starting at 10am ET. Federer is on live at 3pm ET. I think the doubles might precede the singles coverage on the channel.
SUNDAY LONDON SCHEDULE
CENTRE COURT Start At 12:15 PM
 B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) vs  J Melzer (AUT) / P Petzschner (GER)
Not Before 2:00 PM
 R Soderling (SWE) vs  A Murray (GBR)
Start At 6:15 PM
 L DLouhy (CZE) / L Paes (IND) vs  M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL)
Not Before 8:00 PM
 R Federer (SUI) vs  D Ferrer (ESP)
Also Check Out:
London Masters Groupings Released: Federer Tough, Nadal Easy?
Nadal bests Soderling, Abu Dhabi Tennis Day Three
Murray Falls in Federer Group; Nadal with Novak at ATP World Finals
Verdasco Stays Hot, Meets Soderling for Barcelona Title
Is Robin Soderling’s 2012 Tennis Season Over?