Two players with vastly different ATP Finals experiences opened up play Sunday with wins.
Six-time champion Roger Federer began his 15th ATP Finals by edging tournament debutant Jack Sock 6-4, 7-6(4).
“I’m happy that I was able to come out today and had actually good energy,” Federer said. “This is the best I’ve felt since the Del Potro final (in Basel). I’m very happy to see that I didn’t have to pay the price for taking it easy and resting and recovering. But then turning it up the last few days got me in shape for today. Now I think I’m in the tournament. There’s no more turning back. Just full steam ahead every match that comes.”
Federer wins his 50th match of the year and is 11th in a row after titles this fall in Shanghai and Basel. He also stays a perfect 7-0 against Americans at the ATP Finals.
“I think we’re all going to start playing better every round that goes by,” Federer added. “It’s just still early days in the tournament. Can’t expect to play your best against the best players in the world in that first match.
“I think, like I explained on the court in the interview, it was more about managing the match rather than actually having a certain way how you play and what you were really thinking about. Sure, I had a tactical plan with my team. But very often in a first match like this, it gets thrown overboard because at the end you’re just happy to be serving well. Focus on that first, and then on the return game sort of try your best, try to keep the ball in play and go from there.”
Next for Federer on Tuesday in the Boris Becker group is 20-year-old Alexander Zverev. In his Finals debut, the German overcame a 3-1 third set deficit to beat Marin Cilic 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
“I felt a little bit nervous coming out for the first time here. I think that’s normal for anyone that is playing here for the first time,” Zverev admitted. “I’m very happy to get my first win in this group.”
Zverev already beat Federer this year in Montreal and the two have split four meetings overall.
“I think anyone beating Federer in this group has a good chance of passing. But he’s the favourite definitely in all of the matches he plays,” Zverev said. “I played him a few times this year now. I played him three times, if you count the Hopman Cup match we played. Obviously, all of them were great matches. Hopefully it can be another one.”
On Monday, Rafael Nadal resumes his quest for a first ATP Finals title against David Goffin. Nadal, who has already locked up the No. 1 ranking, beat the Belgian twice this year on the clay. But Nadal enters this encounter off a knee issue.
“The knee is not perfect, of course, after having to retire from Paris,” Nadal told the BBC.
“In a couple of days you cannot expect to be 100% but I had treatment and I’m expecting to be better and better every day. I’m here to try my best to give me a chance.”
Earlier, Grigor Dimitrov makes his ATP Finals debut against Dominic Thiem. After losing to the Bulgarian in Brisbane, Thiem snuck past Dimitrov in a final set breaker in Madrid.
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