And then there were three. Three spots, that is, remaining in the semifinals of the ATP Finals. Roger Federer booked his berth after cooling off a hot-handed David Ferrer 6-4, 7-6.
Federer’s win keeps him perfect at 14-0 career against Ferrer and with a 2-0 record (4-0 in sets), he’s the first player of the Elite Eight to qualifying for the Final Four.
“I thought the match was great,” Federer said after his 70th win of the season and 12th straight at the Finals. “It’s good intensity. I think we both started a bit up and down at the beginning maybe. Could have gone also maybe the other way, that he led 3‑0. So I thought it was fair that we were on even terms sort of going into 3‑All, 4‑All.
“Second set, I think we both picked it up. We started to have tougher rallies. I think we played with more pace in the second set. Again, today, I think Ferrer showed why he’s so tough to beat. He makes you hit the extra shot; he makes it physical. You know that mentally he’s not going to go anywhere. That’s why he has so much respect from his fellow competitors.”
Ferrer had come into the event playing some of his best tennis after wins in Valencia and Paris, but despite a sloppy performance from Roger he still couldn’t make an impression after leading 3-0 in the first set.
“I had a lot of chance for to break him the serve,” Ferrer said. “I can’t do it. When he has one breakpoint to me, he make it. You know, sometimes with these players, if I don’t take my chance, I don’t won the important points, is very difficult to won these matches. In the first set, it happened then.”
Added Federer on his record against Ferrer, “In some ways, it’s helpful to have that one‑sided head‑to‑head record, but at the same time it sometimes creates pressure as well. You always feel like this next match is probably going to happen. You try hard. He tries harder, too, because all he needs is that one win, so then he’s got that. So, I mean, I tried hard to not make it happen today. You could feel that he’s confident, he’s on a run. I think even more it’s a great victory for me.”
The six-time champ will next get another guy he has dominated, Juan Martin Del Potro, on Saturday afternoon with a chance to win the group. Del Potro blew out an overmatched Janko Tipsarevic today 6-0, 6-4 to remain in the hunt for a semi berth.
Tipsarevic, who was fighting an illness last week in Paris, has won just eight games in four sets this week. He’s been the patsy of the tournament, as predicated by most.
“I wouldn’t really blame my loss on the sickness,” said Tipsarevic. “I am generally feeling fine. The problem was that I was sick and I didn’t play a lot of tennis lately. I feel sorry that I don’t play my best tennis here in London, which is probably the best event of the year. But I fought hard to be in a position to come to this event. I’ll just do my best for one more match.”
Good luck against Ferrer, Janko, sounds like you’ll need it.
Tomorrow, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic will be in by winning a set against Tomas Berdych. Andy Murray meets Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and if the Scot wins in straight sets he’ll also get through. And I think based on play this week both favorites, especially Novak, should advance.
Tsonga and Berdych, however, remain fully alive in the competition, and with their streaky games and in conditions that reward power, we could see some fireworks Friday. For two of the four players it will be their last match of 2012, so expect everything to be left on the court!
And with the way the numbers are working out, in the Sunday semifinals Federer, the likely top player in Group B, would play No. 2 from A which looks like Murray. Djokovic, the Group A winner, would meet Ferrer who should beat Tipsarevic.
ESPN2 has coverage at 2pm ET of Djokovic and Berdych. ESPN3.com will stream both singles match live.
FRIDAY ATP LONDON FINALS SCHEDULE
CENTRE COURT Start 12:00 pm
 Max Mirnyi (BLR)/Daniel Nestor (CAN) v  Mahesh Bhupathi (IND)/Rohan Bopanna (IND)
Not Before 1:45 PM
 Novak Djokovic (SRB) v  Tomas Berdych (CZE)
Not Before 6:00 PM
 Robert Lindstedt (SWE)/Horia Tecau (ROU) v  Jonathan Marray (GBR)/Frederik Nielsen (DEN)
Not Before 7:45 PM
 Andy Murray (GBR) v  Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA)
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