The “old guard” of former No. 1s, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, opened with three-set wins on Sunday at the ATP year-end Masters event, the year-end event that changes names almost fortnightly and is this year known as the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London.
Federer defeated his Wimbledon conqueror Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, and Nadal finished off the day by weathering illness and an almost-three-hour encounter with American and first-time Masters contestant Mardy Fish.
Fish, who came into the event with an injured hamstring, took the contest to the Spaniard with an old-school display of serve and volley tennis. The American fought off set points in the third before his ground game failed him in the tiebreaker.
“It was a very important victory for me, for my confidence, to start the tournament with positive feelings,” said Nadal, who reportedly threw-up during the match due to a stomach illness. “I think I played a very good first set after the break from the beginning. The second was hard. I made a big mistake at 0-1, 40-15 for me in the beginning of the second. That [gave him] a lot of confidence and after that, all the match was close. The third set was a little bit more crazy, up and down. I was seriously really lucky for the victory, and I for sure am very happy.”
Fish’s high-risk strategy showed in the final stats — Nadal hit 18 winners and committed 27 unforced errors, where Fish had 35 winners and 50 errors.
“I was just excited to get out there and be a part of this whole thing,” said Fish, who led 3-0 in the second set. “I didn’t play well. Obviously I got a little more comfortable after playing a set. Sort of getting used to all the surroundings with people in there. With the lights back, dark, it makes for good tennis. Conditions are absolutely perfect. That took a little bit of getting used to, I guess, 20 minutes or so.”
Nadal will next face Federer on Tuesday night in London, and Fish will meet Tsonga.
Like the Paris Masters final a week ago, Federer again got the best of Tsonga.
“I thought it was a good first set [and] even the second set was fine,” Federer said. “But he did well to serve bigger and better as the match went on. Once he got the upper hand in the second set, he started to swing more freely and got more dangerous…It’s really hard to get into any sort of rhythm against him from the baseline because he’s a very good 1-2 puncher, which he proved over four and a half sets against me at Wimbledon. I think that makes him particularly hard to return sometimes.”
Serving at 4-5 in the third, Tsonga quickly lost the first three points before eventually succumbing to the Swiss, but still has a chance to advance to the semifinals in the round robin format.
“In the first set, I didn’t put one ball in the court, and that’s it,” Tsonga said. “Then I started playing better. I think he was a bit surprised, because I played so badly in the first set. Then I played correctly. It’s better to start with a victory. But I’m still in the tournament and I will try to play my best tennis in the next match.”
Monday in London will feature (3) Andy Murray vs. (5) David Ferrer, and in the night match (1) Novak Djokovic vs. (7) Tomas Berdych.
TENNIS-X NEWS, NOTES, QUOTES AND BARBS
Andre Agassi has reportedly “put together a business model with a southern Californian group that will enable his foundation to access over $500 million of private sector funds,” according to Asia’s The Star. He is currently building a second school just outside Temple University in Philadelphia, and is planning 70 more over the next few years…From the Hollywood Reporter on the departure of Anna Kournikova from the U.S. reality show The Biggest Loser: “The tennis star was hired by NBC on the heels of Jillian Michaels’ exit, but staffers say they clashed with her, and some of the contestants found her a bit brash and unsympathetic. A source on the show actually called Kournikova “a nightmare.”…Andre Agassi dressed in black-face-and-body make-up as “Mr. T” for his youth foundation’s Halloween party, drawing the ire of some local media…Ana Ivanovic said her shoulder hurt so bad during the WTA Tournament of Champions in Bali that it pained her to sign autographs. Media reports said that Ivanovic during the week was offered her own private island by a wealthy Bali fan. It was the only 2011 title of the year for Ivanovic, who only got into the event as a wildcard, and collected $220K for the week. Life doesn’t suck…Svetlana Kuznetsova on losing to Petra Kvitova in the Fed Cup final: “The difference between us today was that she had played so many such matches this season, while I rarely had such intriguing matches.” — well who the hell’s fault is that Sveta?…Thomas Muster is now playing senior tour events after “retiring” again from ATP play: “It’s been a great experience for me. Just to be driving around Europe and playing tournaments, having the challenge of playing younger guys has been great,” said the 44 year old, whose played his last ATP match at the end of October in Vienna. “At the beginning I didn’t know if to cry or to play. You get standing ovations when you win, when you play a great match or win a tournament, but not in the first round and certainly not like that. It was a great way to say thank you to everybody and that I had the chance to, after the French Open when I retired sort of semi-officially.”…In Paris a week ago, Andy Roddick wore a patch that said “Kenny” in memory of his manager Ken Meyerson who died suddenly last month…ATP year-end awards: Roger Federer was voted fans’ favorite for the ninth straight year and the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award winner, voted for by players, for a seventh time in eight years; Novak Djokovic receives the No. 1 award for ending the season as the top-ranked player; Rafael Nadal the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award for his charity work; Alex Bogomolov Jr. voted most improved player of the year by ATP players, who also chose Canuck Milos Raonic newcomer of the year…Roger Federer disparaging Andy Murray’s three straight tournament wins during the ATP Asian swing: “I’m not taking anything away from Asia, but was Asia the strongest this year? I’m not sure. Novak [Djokovic] wasn’t there, I wasn’t there and Rafa [Nadal] lost early.” — Meow!…The Madrid Masters announced it will debut blue-colored claycourts in 2012, which neither Roger Federer or the king of clay Rafael Nadal are thrilled about…Former French Open winner Yannick Noah has started a firestorm by accusing the country of Spain of doping — in all sports. “When I still milled around on the courts with my racket, we weren’t ridiculous, far from it, against our Spanish friends,” Noah wrote. “Same on the soccer fields, the basketballs halls or on the roads of the Tour de France. Today they are running faster than us, are much more stronger and only leave us the bread crumbs. Compared to us, it’s simple, we look like dwarves. Did we miss something? How can a nation dominate virtually overnight sport in such a way? Did they discover some avant-garde techniques or training facilities that nobody before them had imagined? I have searched and didn’t find any documented evidence of such innovations. Today if you don’t have the magic potion, it’s hard to win. In the last years they may have abused a bit of it, considering the avalanche of positive tests. You know what they talk about at the sports bars: those who win are those who can slip out of the net, those who are quicker than the controllers and use the non-detectable drugs.” Spaniard David Ferrer for one did not take too kindly to the allegations, saying “Your son [Joakim Noah] plays in the NBA, where there are no doping controls. This is not the best person to talk, I think it’s total ignorance. For a person who has played tennis and knows how the sport works to say that is outrageous with reason or thinking.”…The WTA announced that world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki was named the winner of the Diamond ACES Award for the 2011 season, given to the player who “consistently goes above and beyond in promoting the sport of women’s tennis to fans, media, and local communities by performing off-court promotional and charitable activities.”…Goran Prpic has resigned as the captain of the country’s Davis Cup and Fed Cup teams, with no reason given. Prpic headed the Croatian men for four years and the women for 11. Croatian state TV says former Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic is likely to captain the Croatian Davis Cup team in their upcoming match at Japan…The Williams sisters are raking in the exhibition match cash, scheduled to play in Medellin, Colombia next week, and against Italians Francesca Schiavone and Flavia Pennetta in another exhibition match Dec. 3 in Milan. “The London Olympics are a big goal,” Venus said. “I would like to continue playing at my best level. I love tennis and the racket seems like it was made explicitly for my hand. Within the next 12 months, I’m expecting to get back to the top of the rankings in singles and doubles. I want to play all year long. I’ve still got a lot of work to do but it doesn’t scare me — I’m used to it.”
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