by Stephanie Neppl
Berdych Battles Past Tipsarevic
Disappointed tennis fans didn’t hide their initial lack of interest in the Tomas Berdych/Janko Tipsarevic match on Wednesday at the ATP World Tour Finals. It seemed as though many fans hadn’t seen the news that Scot Andy Murray had pulled out of the tournament.
When the players entered the O2 Arena, the applause was muted and that absence of energy seemed to transition into Berdych’s game in the first set. His stinging forehand and aggressive play were nowhere to be found, while Tipsarevic was steady and often merely had to keep balls in play as Berdych‘s error count grew.
Perhaps the Czech was still suffering from a post-match hangover due to his inability to close out world #1 Novak Djokovic on Monday. He didn’t move well in the first set and served poorly as the #2 Serbian took the first set, 6-2.
The second set was more of the same until Berdych finally started to cut down his errors, and he seemed to hang in there until he managed to break Tipsarevic and served out set two 6-3. By this stage, the crowd still was mostly silent – there had been some better shotmaking in set two but the atmosphere felt dead. There just hadn’t been much to cheer about.
But how quickly a match can turn – the third set proved that a poor start can be overcome and fans were treated to a dramatic tiebreaker which had one of the strangest endings one can experience. Up a minibreak, Berdych soon found himself down a match point and Tipsarevic was one volley away from a win. But he overhit it, and then double faulted to go down a match point at 5-6. It was all getting away from the Serb and while receiving serve, Tipsarevic slipped backward, giving Tomas the open court to put away a forehand to win the match. It was a sad end for Tipsarevic, who had shown his mettle as an alternative called in to compete when Andy Murray pulled out.
Losing two straight matches in a third set tiebreak would have been a massive disappointment for Berdych, but after surviving Tipsarevic his hopes of making the semifinals in London are still alive. The Czech must beat Spaniard David Ferrer to qualify for the knockout stages.
Ferrer stuns Djokovic
The night session at the ATP World Tour Finals was a huge contrast to the day session – the crowds were pumped up and vocal from the very start.
And as opposed to the day match, instead of the drama growing throughout the match, this time the match started well but ended up being a very one-sided affair. Most fans might have expected an easy win for the world number one, but David Ferrer proved to be the much better player on the night.
The Spaniard has a reputation for being one of the fittest, hardest working players on the tour, and he demonstrated this to the crowd. It’s hard to outhit Ferrer – he is superbly fit and fast and though he doesn’t possess the most powerful groundstrokes, his placement is fantastic and he can turn defence into offence very well.
When Ferrer went down early break points in the first set, Djokovic looked very much like the player he’s been throughout 2011: his shots had sting and great depth. But all of a sudden, those shots became less potent and it was Ferrer who was wining the rallies. It was if someone flipped a switch and errors began to fly off Novak’s racket. He looked a bit slower and was visibly at a loss for how to turn the match around.
Ferrer would break twice to win the first set and the night never got better for the world number one. Novak only held serve once in the second set and Ferrer would easily advance to the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-1 victory. It was the third time in his career that the Spaniard beat the ATP top player after wins over Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal while they were at the top.
In his post-match interview, Ferrer’s smile lit up the O2 Arena. “It was a surprise, no?” he said. “I think today maybe was my best match of the season.” With two straight set wins over player the #1 and #2 players in the world, it was easy to be thrilled for Ferrer, who will now face Berdych on Friday night.
Stephanie Neppl is in London covering the ATP World Tour Finals as a guest contributor for Tennis Grandstand. She is the author of the website I Have a Tennis Addiction and you can follow her on twitter @StephInNZ for further updates.