Six-time champion Roger Federer dropped his opening match of the ATP Finals round-robin event on Sunday, losing to Kei Nishikori 7-6(4), 6-3.
“I’m glad to win, it is never easy to play with my idol, it is always a big challenge against him, so it was great to win,” said Nishikori.
Federer, who had won his last six against the Asian star, was far from his best in an error-filled outing. He had a chance late in the first with Nishikori serving 5-6, 15-30, but the Japanese was able to respond to a Federer smash return with his own winner. A frustrated Federer was then issued a code violation from the umpire for hitting the ball into the crowd.
“I felt we both struggled throughout the first set,” said Federer who added he felt the nerves and noted the court was playing slow. “I had my chances maybe a bit more than he did. Then I started to feel better in the second set. I think we both did. The level went up. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep the lead that I got early. That was important, I think, at the end. That was the key of the match, that sort of – I guess – 10-minute swing at the end of the first throughout maybe 1-1 in the second.”
The loss was Federer’s fourth in his ATP Finals opener, and twice before he’s made the semifinals after dropping his first match, and his first loss in straight sets in the round robin stage at the event.
And Federer also loses a shot to finish ranked No. 2, a spot that Rafael Nadal has now clinched.
On Tuesday, Federer will return to face Dominic Thiem while Nishikori collides with Kevin Anderson.
Earlier in the day, Anderson made the very most of his debut at the event and in the indoor conditions beating Thiem 6-3, 7-6(10), avenging a loss to the Austrian at the US Open.
“I think it was important, going out there and getting off to a good start,” said Anderson. “I definitely felt a little bit nervous. But I was able to settle very quickly and find a really good rhythm, taking care of my service games nicely [and I] created quite a few opportunities on his serve.
“He wasn’t serving at a very high first-serve percentage. I felt I was getting into quite a few points. The second set could have been anybody’s set. He started serving well. I was taking care of my service games. When it’s 12/10 in the tie-break, it really could have gone either way.”
Tomorrow, tournament favorite and year-end No. 1 Novak Djokovic opens his campaign against debutant John Isner. Djokovic leads the American 8-2.
“I’m up against it for sure. Novak has won this event five times. He’s the player to beat this week for sure,” Isner said. “It’s a good spot for me, because I don’t have much to lose. I’m definitely the underdog.”
Also, Alexander Zverev meets Marin Cilic. Zverev is up in that series 5-1.
MONDAY ATP FINALS LONDON SCHEDULE
Centre Court 12:00 Noon
1 Oliver Marach/Mate Pavic v 8 Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Nicolas Mahut
Not Before 2:00 Pm
3 Alexander Zverev v 5 Marin Cilic
Not Before 6:00 Pm
3 Lukasz Kubot/Marcelo Melo v 5 Mike Bryan/Jack Sock
Not Before 8:00 Pm
1 Novak Djokovic v 8 John Isner
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