The first marquee match of the ATP Finals turned out to be a one-sided affair with, surprise!, the elder statesman Roger Federer getting the better of World No. 1 Novak Djokovic 7-5, 6-2.
I thought both guys started out well but late in the first Djokovic inexplicably just fell apart, giving Federer a break to take the first then falling behind early again in the second. He got a break back but could never really sustain any momentum.
The slow court actually seemed to bother Novak who had trouble generating much pace – just 12 winners on the day. It was almost reverse of what many of us thought would happen: Federer was forcing Djokovic into errors and he was one dominating the return of serve games breaking Djokovic no fewer than four times!
Good day, bad day for Novak? Doesn’t matter, Credit to Roger who still a marvel at age 34. He was the better guy today.
And as we know, Federer seems to be the one guy Djokovic just cannot solve on a consistent basis (head-to-head now 22-21 in Federer’s favor). Is it the variety, the history, the spin or pace or maybe now it’s the beard or crowd support, whatever it is, Novak just cannot get a firm grip on the Swiss (or even Wawrinka for that matter!).
Novak’s now lost six matches this year with 77 wins, but half those losses have been to Roger.
That said, I think they’ll meet again come Sunday.
Earlier, in what I would call the bigger surprise, Kei Nishikori resurrected himself to beat Tomas Berdych 7-5, 3-5, 6-3. I know Berdych is behind in their head-to-head, but indoors against a guy like Kei is a match Berdych has to have.
For all his game, power and prowess, Berdych is going to go down as one of the biggest underachievers this sport has ever seen. And he’ll disappoint again, I’m sure.
So after two rounds in the Stan Smith group, Federer has booked a spot in the semifinals, but the second spot is still up for grabs.
If Nishikori loses and Djokovic beats Berdych – the betting line – Djokovic obviously gets in. However, in most other cases – Federer and Berdych win, or Nishikori and Djokovic win – then we go to the calculators. Though I believe if Djokovic wins he’s in, regardless of what Kei does. Djokovic, though, can no longer win the group.
If you are Federer, you have to be pleased with both matches relatively comfortably with the “easy” match ahead in Nishikori.
For Djokovic, nothing to worry about. Just beat Tomas and things will fall into place. A loss puts a blemish on what has been an incredible 2015.
The Nastase group resumes tomorrow with two good matches. In the undercard it’s winless David Ferrer against Stan Wawrinka. We know Ferrer will come to play, but what about Stan after that tepid opener?
Ferrer leads 7-6. Stan, though, has won the last three including at this event two years ago. So I think Stan goes the distance and gets it done.
In the main event, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray collide for the just the second time in 18 months. Murray whipped Rafa earlier this year in Madrid. So just a hunch, Rafa will want revenge on Murray’s home soil.
Nadal leads 15-6 winning 7 of their last 9 though I put Murray as the slight favorite here based on recent form and 2015 results. I do think the court and environment actually help Nadal, but Murray has been playing better, more confident tennis.
It’s an awfully tough pick, so I’m going to lean a three setter with… with…. Murray. But this match to me is a toss up. Much like Ferrer-Wawrinka.
Tennis Channel has full coverage at 9am ET with Murray-Nadal and then at 3pm ET with Ferrer-Wawrinka.
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