What Have We Learnt So Far At The ATP Finals?
| November 7th, 2012, 2:50 am

By Matt McGladrigan

We’re two days in. Two less days of the tennis season to go. As predicted, the O2 Arena has been pretty much full to the brim, with spectators dying to catch a glimpse of these eight men (well, 24 including doubles players). This is a different tennis ambiance and environment to the iconic one that Britain is used to. For a start, the court isn’t green (or dusty brown after a few days). Then, there’s music played at changeovers, and the lights are dimmed. And, what are these other colours that the players are wearing? The only colour known is white. Perhaps most importantly, there’s none of those droplets that fall from the sky, making the court damp, and causing the groundsmen to scamper on with the covers. This isn’t the tennis that the Queen’s isles know.

So, what have we discovered in London far?

The three big boys are ready to play…
A match each so far for Messrs Djokovic, Federer and Murray, and they’ve each managed a win. Smooth was the word to depict Roger in his opening match against world number nine Janko Tipsarevic. He strolled past the under-the-weather Serbian with the loss of just 4 games. Novak had a harder time against Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, still coming through in straight sets but the first was a tie-break which could easily have gone either way. Tsonga really came to play yesterday (Monday) evening in his first contest of the championships, yet he now probably needs wins against both Berdych (Wednesday) and Murray (Friday) after this opening defeat to the top-ranked Serb. Home favourite Andy Murray had the hardest time establishing a win out of the three, as he powered back against Tomas Berdych after losing the first set. He squandered no fewer than 10 break points to start the match, largely thanks to some clutch serving from the Czech. But he made the breakthrough on the 11th and didn’t look back, picking up an important victory. I think it’s fair to say that Murray had the most challenging opponent out of the three big names. However, there are no easy matches in this ATP World Tour Finals.

BBC cameras have their favourite shots…
It’s surely no secret that the BBC seems to focus a lot of their coverage on the wives/girlfriends of our tennis stars. Throughout the opening matches of the tournament, both Andy Murray’s partner Kim Sears and Janko Tipsarevic’s wife Biljana, particularly, got some serious TV exposure. Almost every game we see their reaction to how their man is doing on court. The biting of nails, the clapping and encouragement. At one point we saw Biljana hiding her face behind her phone. We even get a fair bit of Judy, Andy’s mother, filling our screens too.

Federer has the greatest variety…
The title that I’ve ascribed to this article perhaps should have included the words “what we’ve been reminded of” too, as this one, in particular, is perhaps something we’ve heard many a time. But, wow, it was demonstrated once again in his match against Tipsarevic. The Swiss produced a concoction of spins, lengths and paces to overwhelm his opponent in the afternoon session at the O2 Arena. The usual favourite of running round for a forehand, and then whipping it up the line, was present a lot too. The serve was fired down straight and screwed out wide, much to the disarray of the Serbian. In one extraordinary rally, Janko threw the kitchen sink at Federer, but was met by a stream of deep, low slices and then, finally, saw a winner fly past his face. Roger was sublime. Bigger challenges wait though for Mr Federer.

It was Halloween last week Tomas…
It was brought to my attention in his duel with Andy Murray, that Tomas Berdych has incredibly chilling eyes whilst concentrating during matches. It’s like he’s completely delirious during the match and then when he made his way for the net to shake hands with the victor Murray, his eyes were ordinary again. Strange what sheer concentration and attention to something can do. Perhaps he needs some of Janko’s glasses.

Marray and Nielsen love the big occasion…
The wildcard doubles pairing that shocked the world by winning the Wimbledon title, to the delight of the Centre Court crowd, did it again on Tuesday afternoon. Jonny Marray and Freddie Nielsen, perhaps together for their last tournament, defeated experienced Indians Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna 6-4 6-7 (1-7) 12-10 in a thrilling tussle. They’ve done nigh on nothing since winning their first Grand Slam at SW19 in the summer, yet managed to fend off two match points and come from 5-1 down in the deciding tie-break to triumph, as they were cheered on by the home fans.

No advantage rule in doubles offers debate…
Many doubles matches are now played with it being the first to 4 points to win the game, no longer having to win the game by two clear points as in keeping with the rest of the tennis scoring system. It certainly makes the matches a lot shorter and provides the thrilling pressure situation of having to win that last point, to either hold serve or get that vital break. However, the advantage system provides all those things (except shortness) and more too. Break point down on serve, you are still under immense pressure to win that specific point. Yet, there’s also the fascination of the going backwards and forwards to deuce and advantage. Long games like that define matches. They engage the crowd in so many ways.

Tired? I don’t even know the meaning of the word, says David Ferrer…
He defines the word “consistency” on a tennis court and he has shown that he’s ready to compete in London. Just days after lifting the trophy at the Masters 1000 event in Paris, David Ferrer beat big Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro, winning the deciding set 6-4. Del Potro blew hot and cold throughout the contest, finding some power and winners to take the second set and get back on serve in the 3rd. Yet, once again, errors crept in and he was out-thought and out-played by the Spaniard at the important moments. His shots just didn’t seem to have enough purpose at times; he wasn’t finding the lines (or close to them) nearly enough. He has to triumph over Janko Tipsarevic on Thursday. Meanwhile, Duracell bunny Ferrer moves on to take on fellow victor Roger Federer, who has never beaten. He’s got lots to fight for though – with a place in the top 4 of the rankings at stake and therefore an easier draw at the Australian Open. It could just happen on Thursday.

Finally, we can’t wait for the rivalry to resume on Wednesday…
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray meet each other for the seventh time this season on the indoor hard court of the O2 Arena, in what is sure to be another pulsating and high-octane encounter. Djokovic won in Shanghai last time, Murray twice before that in bigger games at the Olympics and US Open. Andy managed to eventually ride the adrenaline and pressure coming from the crowd to beat Berdych but he’ll need to raise his game another level to vanquish the Serbian world number one. It’ll be interesting to see how they both approach the match, seeing as it could be the first of two this week. It’s a match that they both need to win, to effectively book their places in the semi-finals. A win for one would give them, firstly, a psychological advantage over their rival, but also would mean that the loser would have a must-win contest in their final group game. So, it’s number one vs number three, Serbia vs GB, Australian Open winner vs US Open champion. They both enjoy a good hard court. Djokovic vs Murray.

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25 Comments for What Have We Learnt So Far At The ATP Finals?

Duro Says:

Very talented guy, this Matt. We shall keep him.

A “like” from me.

Colin Says:

Nice article.
It’s not just the womenfolk the BBC likes to show. We get lots of shots of Ivan Lendl, whose stonefaced gaze has become part of the sport on TV.

As for the chilly eyes of Berdych, have you noticed how similarly intimidating fellow Czech Petra Kvitova looks during a match? Yet off the court she is sweet and charming, which aren’t perhaps the terms I’d use for Tomas.

I don’t make predictions, but I’ll go this far: I’ll be surprised if Federer wins the title. Feel free to make fun of me if he does!

grendel Says:

“have you noticed how similarly intimidating fellow Czech Petra Kvitova looks during a match?” Oh, I don’t know. She always looks a split second away from panic to me. Kim Clijsters looks very steely when about to receive. How Murray looks seems to depend on the circumstances: if he has a break point, he has a kind of predatory but faintly donald duckish look. Serena Williams looks faintly bored, as if she’s doing her opponent a favour by being there at all. Djokovic has the look a conscientious student, whilst Roddick peers down the court, blinking and openmouthed as if he’s left his glasses behind and perhaps wants to be fed; this gives him a quite endearing expression which is possibly misleading.

Of course there are the general looks: the look of fear as triumph beckons; the resigned look as defeat looms; the bored look (another day at the office); the angry look (everyone hates me, especially the umpire);the amused look (it’s only a game, chaps). The pretend amused look (think I care?)

Yes, there’s something about receiving, perhaps its the inescapably passive element, which provides pleasing pickings for the observer of humanity.

Duro Says:

Is there a bigger transformation in the looks than in Rafa’s eyes during a match and afterwards…

Scary difference. His eyes are so mild and sweet(his whole face actually, almost girlish) when smiling and being his “normal self” in a casual situations, comparing those to a warrior mode…

Giles Says:

Duro. Lol.

Giles Says:

Duro. Forgot to add spot on!!

Duro Says:

Giles, I don’t know about you, but he scares a s… out of me when he gives “a look”. “I will kill you, I will eat you alive, I will annihilate you, you unworthy frightened chicken who dares to stand across me and challenge me…” like he’s saying…

The Apache.

I’m am Nole’s brother, but without Rafa tennis is empty and crippled. We need him! For all purposes…

grendel Says:

Nadal is very demonstrative in his aggression on court – like Connors and the young Hewitt before him. Borg, McEnroe, Sampras, Federer, Djokovic are/were all just as resolute. They have different ways of displaying it, that’s all.

McEnroe at his best was the toughest player I ever saw, and that’s not because of the tedious ranting, and so on. No, he used to wrap himself in a sort of cocoon, as if the other player wasn’t really there – and that other player might even be Jimmy Connors. That’s truly intimidating, because it implies an almost insane degree of self-confidence. And how do you penetrate that sort of armoury?

alison Says:

Duro i am Rafas sister lol,and whatever peoples feelings are about the guy,i agree it will be great when Rafa returns to tennis,BTW nice to see you posting again.

Duro Says:

Thanks, my fair lady…

alison Says:

Andy and Nole about to start playing,this one could go either way 50/50,im guessing 3 sets,not loving Andys look those mustard coloured shorts yuk,but go Andy.

alison Says:

Duro ah you remembered,i was not sure,as ive dropped the surname now lol.

Rahul Says:

I dont think Ive ever seen Andy come out so fired up…

alison Says:

Rahul yeah fantastic stuff so far from Andy,hope he can keep this up,very fired up,such clean ball striking,go Andy.

Rahul Says:

Alison, great first set from him and no hiccups serving it out. Im not a Murray fan but when he plays an aggressive brand of tennis he looks a different player and much more fun to watch for me.

Duro Says:

Yes. Alison Hodge…

One of the newcomers. Good one.

TJ Says:

Even I miss Nadal. would be great to see djokovi whup his behind 7 more times in a row!

rafa’s intensity looks too cooked up and not sincere, like most of his actions. I think novak, when he means business is the most intense player I have seen.

Fed/borg are just the iciest cool players of all time. Fed ofcourse looses it at times, but I never heard of borg being anything but icy!

trufan Says:

I agree TJ…. I miss Nadal-Djoke matches….

Dave Says:

Even if Tipsarevic was not an “under-the-weather Serbian”, it probably would not have mattered. Federer’s stats for this WTF match are similar to his last three matches against Tipsarevic at 2012 Madrid, 2011 French Open and 2010 Basel: in each match, Federer won 59% to 60% of total points, the match lasted 30 to 35 minutes per set, Federer did not lose more than 4 games per set (i.e., Federer did not drop a set), Federer did not drop a service game. Federer has held 53 consecutive service games against Tipsarevic since the fourth set of their 2008 Australian Open match (Tipsarevic reached only two breakpoints in those 53 games).

The only match in their six career meetings where Federer did not stroll past Tipsarevic was at the 2008 Australian Open, when Federer had the double whammy of mononucleosis viral illness and food poisoning (stomach flu) — yet Federer still beat Tipsarevic in a 374-point, 5-set, 4.5 hour match. This year the 31-year old Federer played and won Indian Wells with the flu virus; as well as played French Open and Halle with a cold virus. Even under the weather, he tries to win.

jeanius Says:

You obviously haven’t “learnt” that the the past tense of learn is learned, not learnt.

RZ Says:

Matt is definitely right that Marray and Nielsen love the big occasion. They did it again today!

Alok Says:

@Matt, a very good analysis. Are you now on T-x staff permanently?

I agree with you that Marray and Nielsen enjoys the big stage. I remember Tips saying that he gets an adrenalin rush when playing against the top guys on the big stage. It shows from his match play that he gives his all.

Dave’s mention of the AO2008 match between Fed and Tips is indicative of Tips’ adrenalin rush. That match took a lot out of Fed for sure.

Matt Says:

@ jeanius

I’m English (sorry), therefore “learnt” is allowed!

@ Alok

I hope to keep writing lots more, I’m enjoying it and seems like lots of you are.

Wog boy Says:


You don’t have to be English to use “learnt” , it is commonly used here in Aussieland, I wanted to post that but on the second thought, who is going to believe Wog Boy;)

alison Says:

Wogboy your posts are just fine,great in fact,English is my 1st language,and my spelling,not to mention my punctuation is terrible.

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