Six-time champion Roger Federer opens play Sunday at the ATP Finals in London against Kei Nishikori. The Swiss, who no longer can finish No. 1 at the event, has owned the Japanese star winning the last six and seven of nine overall.
And he’s won both meetings with Nishikori at the ATP Finals, in 2014 and in three sets in 2015. It’s also their third clash in the last month.
“When I played him in Paris, I knew he was fighting to play in the ATP Finals, but we didn’t know what was happening with Nadal and Del Potro yet,” Federer said. “But I figured that there was a chance he’d make it and there was a chance we’d play in the group. That’s exactly what happened.
“And that’s why I tried really hard in Paris to get another win against him, to help me with confidence. I’ve always said that I like his style of play and he has one of the best backhands in the game. I’ve had some exciting matches against him. Our match in Shanghai was great. But I’m really happy for him, having made it here after being injured and a rocky start to the season.”
Nishikori, a 2-time semifinalist in London, qualified for the event after Juan Martin del Potro withdrew. Remarkably, he began his 2018 season playing Challenger events in Newport Beach and Dallas.
“It’s amazing how Roger is still playing well,” said Nishikori. “He’s one of the toughest opponents on the tour. While he’s not playing as much as he used to, it’s amazing how he’s so physically fit. For me, I lost to him in Shanghai and Paris recently, so I have to make adjustments on Sunday. But I always enjoy playing him and it’s a big challenge. I have to play 100 percent.”
Federer is playing his 16th Finals event, he’s made it out of the round-robin in 14 of them, only losing in the before the semifinals just once in 2008.
Also in the Lleyton Hewitt group, in the early undercard, Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson takes on French runner-up Dominic Thiem.
The big South African had won the first six with Thiem until the Austrian won in Madrid and at the US Open this year.
“I’ve learned a lot from the two previous visits here,” said Thiem. “It’s probably the best event of the entire year. There are so many new experiences for me here. This year should be different. I’ve played my best Masters 1000 hard-court event in Paris just last week and I’m feeling fresh. From the first match, I will only face Top 10 stars, so anything can happen. Against Kevin and Kei, I’ve had matches this year, which went both ways. And against Roger, I still have a positive head-to-head, so I will fight for my life to keep that one.”
Anderson is making ATP Finals debut while for Thiem it’s his third appearance (third straight year) but is just 2-4.
“I need to focus on what I have to do on the court,” said Anderson. “Every player is a tough opponent. If I can keep doing what I’m doing, I will be playing the best tennis I can. When I do that, I know I can beat anybody. I have to really compete and I know there are no easy matches. I’m looking forward to starting things off.”
In his last trip to London, Anderson reached the finals at Wimbledon. He has five career titles, two indoors including last month in Vienna.
SUNDAY ATP FINALS LONDON SCHEDULE
Centre Court 12:00 Noon
RR (4) Jamie Murray/Bruno Soares v (6) Raven Klaasen/Michael Venus
Not Before 2:00 Pm
RR (4) Kevin Anderson v (6) Dominic Thiem
Not Before 6:00 Pm
RR (2) Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah v (7) Nikola Mektic/Alexander Peya
Not Before 8:00 Pm
RR (2) Roger Federer v (7) Kei Nishikori
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