by Kevin Craig
Both the No. 1 singles player and No. 1 doubles team were able to win the ATP World Tour Finals titles on Sunday, as Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer, while Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau took down Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea. The match between Djokovic and Federer was their 44th, and Djokovic was able to even up their record at 22 wins apiece. Rojer and Tecau were able to continue their impressive form in London as they won the tournament without dropping a set along the way.
Another classic match-up between two legends of the game saw Djokovic dispatch Federer in rather routine fashion by a score of 6-3, 6-4. After their match in the round robin stage in which Federer beat Djokovic, Federer surely must have come into this match with confidence, but Djokovic was able to play simply at a higher level than he did in that first match-up, as he played great defense all match and played high quality tennis on the pivotal points. The two men were only separated by four points total in the first set, but Djokovic was able to win the more important points, saving both break points he faced and winning 71 percent of his second serve points. Federer’s 57 percent first serve rate also didn’t do him any favors as he allowed Djokovic to step up and get good looks on a lot of returns, leading to two breaks. The second set saw the Serbian continue to dictate play as he was able to lose only six points in his five service games, and force Federer to face five break points. Out of those five, Djokovic was only able to convert on one, but that was all he needed to seal the match, as the break gave him a 5-3 lead. He would go on to comfortably serve out the match and claim the World Tour Finals title for the fourth year in a row and a fifth time overall. This title was his 11th of the year to go along with his wins at three of the four grand slam events, as well as six Masters 1000 events. Djokovic’s 2015 season will surely go down in the record books as one of the greatest seasons of all time, and winning the World Tour Finals in London was the icing on the cake.
The doubles final took place between two teams that had gone through their first four matches of the tournament undefeated, as Rojer and Tecau teamed up to take down Bopanna and Mergea, 6-4, 6-3. After clinching the No. 1 year end doubles team ranking on Saturday, Rojer and Tecau were brimming with confidence heading into the final. This showed as they were able to win a very tight first set by dominating on their second serve points, winning eight of nine, and saving both break points that they faced. Add on the six aces they hit in the first set, and Rojer and Tecau were tough to touch in their service games in the first set. The level of play from Bopanna and Mergea dropped significantly in the second set, as they only managed to make 42 percent of their first serves and just barely managed to win more than half of their service points overall. This resulted in Rojer and Tecau applying a lot of pressure in their return games, as they broke on both break points they saw, including a break at love to finish off the match. Rojer and Tecau dictated play with their serve again in the second set, only losing five points on serve total. This title for Rojer and Tecau was their third this year, and their 11th as a team. After a very successful year for the Dutch and Romanian pairing, they will surely take some time to relax in the offseason and enjoy their accomplishment of finishing the year as the No. 1 doubles team.
An interesting note about the two winners on Sunday is that Djokovic and Rojer/Tecau both also won Wimbledon in 2015. These players must really like something about London as they were impossible to match this year at Wimbledon and the World Tour Finals, and they must surely be happy to see that the year-end championships will be staying in London until at least 2018. Not only will they be able to bring home the title, but both Djokovic and Rojer/Tecau will also be heading into the offseason with their respective year-end No. 1 rankings, a true testament to how dominant they were throughout the year.
by Kevin Craig
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer set up their anticipated match-up in the final of the ATP World Tour Finals with wins over Rafael Nadal and Stan Wawrinka, respectively, on Saturday in London. Djokovic and Federer played dominant levels of tennis, making fans around the world eager to watch the final that will take place on Sunday. The doubles event also witnessed very important tennis action as the team of Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau were able to clinch the year end No. 1 doubles team ranking by beating Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan in the semifinals. Rojer and Tecau will face Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea as they were able to continue their impressive form at the event by beating Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo.
Djokovic was able to defeat Nadal 6-3, 6-3, in a match that was much closer than the score line may suggest. The two players who have been in the best form this fall were unlucky to go up against each other, but it was Djokovic who was able to play the better tennis and win the bigger points. Nadal played well throughout the match but played one sloppy service game in the first set, which Djokovic gladly took advantage of. The first set was very tight as both men won an equal amount of points on the return, but that one bad service game from Nadal to start off the match was enough for Djokovic to run away with the set. The second was similar to the first as just a couple sloppy points from Nadal on his service games led to a comfortable win for Djokovic as he was able to get two breaks in the set. Nadal didn’t play poorly, he just simply could not hit through the wall that is Novak Djokovic. The incredible defense from the Serb, mixed in with his shot-making brilliance, was too much for the Spaniard to handle, as Djokovic was the one who saw his way into the final. Djokovic was able to avoid pressure situations in his service games as he didn’t have to face a single break point all match. He was able to dominate with the first serve, winning 89 percent of the points when he got the first ball in.
Federer won the all-Suisse semifinal against Wawrinka, 7-5, 6-3. After a tight first set that saw breaks exchanged early, Federer was able to break in the 12th game, giving him a one set advantage. This match saw a similar pattern to many Federer-Wawrinka matches, as Wawrinka was unable to raise his level of play after beginning to feel scoreboard pressure. Federer was able to grab a break early on in the second set and take control of the match as he saved the only break point he faced in the set. Overall, the difference in the match came from Federer’s ability to control his second serve points, as he won 65 percent while Wawrinka only managed to win 42 percent. That led to Federer being able to see six break points in the match and win three of them. The win now boosts Federer’s record to 18-3 against his compatriot, as well as sets up an appearance in the final at the World Tour Finals against Djokovic.
Rojer and Tecau were able to dethrone the Bryan brothers as the No. 1 doubles team in the world by winning their semifinal match-up, 6-4, 6-4. Similar to the Nadal-Djokovic match, it was a much closer affair than the score line would suggest. After trading breaks in the early stages of the first set, Mike Bryan was serving for his team at a deciding point late in the first set, but was given a time violation right before he started to serve, which according to him was the first he had received all year. This may have gotten into Mike’s head a bit, as he would go on to double fault, giving the break to Rojer and Tecau. After winning the first, they went on to control the second with ease, as they went a perfect seven-for-seven on their second serve points, only losing four points on serve total in the set. This win not only gave Rojer and Tecau the No. 1 doubles team ranking, but also saw them turn around an 0-4 record against the American brothers.
Bopanna and Mergea were able to continue their hot streak at the World Tour Finals as they took down the team of Dodig and Melo, 6-4, 6-2. In a match that lasted under an hour, Bopanna and Mergea were simply the better team, dominating on their first serve and converting on all four break points they had. Their level actually dropped in the second set, but luckily for them it dropped on the other side of the net, as well, as Dodig and Melo failed to win more than half of their service points. The win sees Bopanna and Mergea head into the final with a perfect record so far in London.
Federer and Djokovic set up the final that many fans expected to see by winning their matches on Saturday. Surely their final on Sunday will be a treat for fans as there will be high levels of tennis played by both men. The doubles final will see a Romanian on each side of the net as the 2015 Wimbledon champs Rojer and Tecau will face Bopanna and Mergea. The surprise team of the tournament, Bopanna/Mergea will hope to see their good run of form continue as they will need to play a high level of tennis against the team that will finish the year in the No. 1 spot, Rojer/Tecau.
by Kevin Craig
Stan Wawrinka disappointed the London crowd on Friday at the ATP World Tour Finals as he was able to knock home favorite Andy Murray out of the event. Wawrinka and Murray battled for just under two hours in what was a very high quality match. Wawrinka will be able to continue his hopes of winning the year-end championship, while Murray can now begin his preparations for the Davis Cup Final against Belgium. Rafael Nadal also grabbed an exciting win on Friday, as he dispatched fellow Spaniard David Ferrer in a tight three setter. Meanwhile, in the doubles event, Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau took a massive step towards finishing the year as the No. 1 doubles team.
The most anticipated match of the day saw a pair of two-time grand slam champions face off as Wawrinka took on home favorite Murray. A tight first set saw Wawrinka serve for it after breaking for a 5-3 lead, but Murray was able to break right back to even the set back up. The set eventually went to a tiebreak, where Murray would take a 4-2 lead but then go on to make four unforced errors and lose the tiebreak 7-4. The disappointment of dropping the first set after having an advantage carried over into the second set, as Murray was broken in the first game. Wawrinka grabbed another break later in the set and served for the match at 5-2, but appeared to tighten up. Murray broke the first time Wawrinka served for the match, then held at love to put all the pressure back on the 2015 French Open champion as he attempted to serve out the match again. The nerves were evident on Wawrinka’s side of the court, but he was able to hold on through a nine-point game and win the match, 7-6(4), 6-4. The shot-making from both men was at an incredibly high level for the duration of the match, but Wawrinka was able to win the bigger points, as he saved eight of the 10 break points he faced. The result sets up an all-Suisse semifinal, as Wawrinka will take on Roger Federer.
Nadal was able to dispatch Ferrer in what may have been the most exciting match of the singles event, getting the 6-7 (2), 6-3, 6-4 win. Some fans were questioning how much effort Nadal should have put into the match after going down a set considering the fact that he had already clinched the first place spot. However, anyone who has watched a Nadal match at any point of his career knows that he will give 100 percent effort until the final point, and that was no different in this match. Nadal got off to a very quick start in the first set, going up two breaks, but Ferrer was up to the task and fought back, eventually forcing a tiebreaker. Ferrer won the tiebreak, but it was all Nadal from there as he didn’t face a break point in sets two or three. This impressive win from Nadal is a continuation of his tremendous run of form, a trend he will hope to see continue into his semifinal match with Novak Djokovic.
The first doubles match of the day saw the team of Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo defeat Marcin Matkowski and Nenad Zimonjic, 3-6, 7-5, 10-6. The loss for Matkowski and Zimonjic sent them out of London after being the only doubles team in the tournament to go winless. Not much separated the two teams as Dodig and Melo only won three more points over the course of the match, but they were able to win the bigger points as they won 76 percent of their second serve points. The win set up Dodig and Melo in a good position to advance to the semifinal round, but they still needed some help to come from the other match.
Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau took on the French duo of Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut in the last doubles match of round robin play to decide what the semifinal round would look like. Herbert and Mahut needed a win in order to make their way out of the group stage, but they were unable to do so as Rojer and Tecau played top-level tennis, winning the match, 6-4, 7-5. The stat lines for this match are almost identical except for one crucial stat, break point conversion. Rojer and Tecau won three out of seven break chances, while Herbert and Mahut were unable to win the vital points, going one for six. The loss for the US Open champions sends them home after a very successful year, while Rojer and Tecau will be joined by Dodig and Melo in the semifinal round.
Saturday at the World Tour Finals will be a great day of tennis as the semifinal round of the event will be played. The results on Friday saw the semifinal lineup set up to see Roger Federer face Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal battle with Novak Djokovic, while Rojer/Tecau will face the Bryan brothers and Bopanna/Mergea will take on Dodig/Melo. That match between Rojer/Tecau and the Bryan brothers could potentially decide who will end the year as the No. 1 doubles team, so there will be loads of tension and excitement in that match-up.
Bob and Mike Bryan aren’t done being the top doubles team in the world just yet, and they were able to prove this on Thursday in London at the ATP World Tour Finals.
The American twins won what was by far the most dramatic and exciting match of the tournament by taking out the home favorite team of Jamie Murray of Britain and John Peers of Australia in a tight three setter. The singles event saw Roger Federer go perfect in round robin play and Novak Djokovic secure his spot in the semifinal round. Djokovic’s win locked up a match-up with Rafael Nadal in the semifinals, while Roger Federer will await Friday’s results to see who he will be facing.
The Bryans vs. Murray-Peers match had a great amount of tension and intensity from the start, as it would decide who would be the second team to advance from the group after Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea clinched their spot in the semis on Tuesday. Three tiebreaks were needed to decide the match as there was only one break for each team throughout the match, both coming in the first set. Murray and Peers were the much better team in the first set winning 78 percent of their service points, including 77 percent on their second serves, and they carried this success into the tiebreak as they took it 7-5. The roles reversed in the second set as the American duo was the better team and proved it in the tiebreak. After winning 89 percent of their first serve points and winning twice as many points on return as Murray and Peers, they took the second set tiebreak 7-5. The drama couldn’t have gotten any more intense as the semifinal spot would be decided by a super tiebreak, which saw 30 points played. After many exciting points, it was the No. 1 team in the world that was able to come out on top, winning the super tiebreak 16-14, for a 6-7(5), 7-6(5), 16-14 win, saving five match points. Not only did the win secure them a spot in the semifinals, it also gives them a little breathing room in the race for the year end No. 1 doubles team ranking.
Federer’s match with Kei Nishikori was a definite crowd pleaser as the two battled at a very high level for over two hours. The 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 win for Federer was set up by his dominance on the first serve, as he only lost eight points in the entire match after getting the first ball in. Another major factor that came as a surprise to many Federer fans was the fact that he went perfect on break chances, breaking Nishikori each of the six times he was able to earn a break point. On the other end of the spectrum, Nishikori was able to earn himself 12 break points, but only succeeded on five of them. The entire match was extremely close as only three points separated the two men once the match was over. While the loss saw Nishikori get eliminated from the tournament, he can use this result, as well as his win over Tomas Berdych, to boost his confidence level heading into 2016. Federer, on the other hand, will use this battle to prepare himself for the more intense matches that wait ahead in the knockout rounds.
Djokovic will be joining Federer in the semifinals as he was able to defeat Tomas Berdych in what was a surprisingly difficult match for the Serbian. Berdych fought hard throughout the entire match and had his chances as he was able to convert on both break points he had in the match. The only problem was that he only got two break points, while Djokovic earned 12 and converted on four of them. The main difference between the two players was Djokovic’s ability to win 71 percent of the points on Berdych’s second serve, setting up the 12 break opportunities that he was able to earn throughout the match. Berdych leaves London after going 0-3 in round robin play for the first time in his six appearances at the World Tour Finals, while Djokovic was able to lock up the second place spot of the group by virtue of the 6-3, 7-5 win. Using his extraordinary defense to fight off the powerful game of the 2010 Wimbledon finalist, Djokovic shrugged off 10 aces and was nearly able to win half of the points on Berdych’s serve.
The other doubles match of the day had much smaller implications and drama as the Italian pairing of Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini were able to leave London with some pride, getting a 6-4, 1-6, 10-5 win over Bopanna and Mergea. Bopanna and Mergea actually won six more points than Bolelli and Fognini over the course of the match, but the Australian Open champions were able to win the more important points. The loss doesn’t hurt Bopanna and Mergea much, though, as they will still leave the group in first place.
With Djokovic securing his spot in the semifinal round of the World Tour Finals, fans will be given a treat this weekend. Djokovic’s match with Rafael Nadal in the semis will surely be a classic, as both players have been in amazing form at the end of this 2015 season. The other semifinal will see Federer take on either Andy Murray or Stan Wawrinka, which will also surely be a great match to watch. While the teams of Bopanna/Mergea and the Bryan Brothers know they will be playing in the semifinal round of the doubles, they will have to wait until the end of Friday to figure out who they will be playing, as the other doubles group is still far from being determined.
by Kevin Craig
Rafael Nadal is a man on a mission and he is taking no stops along the way. At the ATP World Tour Finals Wednesday, the Spaniard was able to easily dispatch the No. 2 ranked player in the world, Andy Murray. With many tennis fans around the world writing off Nadal and not expecting him to return to the top level of the game, he has been given extra motivation at the end of this year that he hopes will carry over into the 2016 season. For now, though, Nadal will be pleased with his current run of form and that he has advanced to the semifinal round of the World Tour Finals.
Nadal’s win over Murray came with a 6-4, 6-1 score line. The match started off very tight as Nadal and Murray exchanged breaks to begin the match, and went on to play six games in the first set that went at least six points, including one that lasted 11 points. Nadal was able to get a break in the 10th game of the set, though, to earn himself a one set advantage. It was no looking back from there as the 14-time grand slam champion didn’t have to face a break point in the second set and won two-thirds of all the points played. Nadal’s consistently high level of intensity was able to fluster the British star, as Murray struggled throughout the match with his serve, only making 43 percent of his first serves and winning less than half of his service points overall.
In the second singles match of the day, Stan Wawrinka was able to fight off a hot start from David Ferrer to win 7-5, 6-2. The first set looked like smooth sailing for David Ferrer as he went up an early break, but appeared to tighten up a bit in the latter stages, allowing the 2015 French Open champion to win five games in a row from being down 2-5. Wawrinka got off to a bit of a sloppy start, as he was unable to hit through Ferrer’s great defense, but as soon as the smallest glimpse of an opportunity opened up to the Suisse, he took advantage of it and turned the match around. Similarly to the Nadal-Murray match, it was smooth sailing in the second set as Wawrinka broke in the first game and grabbed another break a couple games later to boost his lead and cruise to the win. Ferrer’s struggles on serve continued over from his first match, something that he will hope to fix in his final match at the World Tour Finals before heading into 2016.
In the doubles, the team of Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau were able to go to 2-0 in round robin play, setting themselves up in a great position heading into their final round robin match. Their win on Wednesday came over Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo, 6-4, 7-6(3). Rojer and Tecau were able to get through the first set without much difficulty as they only lost three points on serve and didn’t have to face a break point. Needless to say, the second set was much more intense as the two teams exchanged breaks and ended up needing a tiebreaker to decide the set. The No. 2 team in the world were the better team on the day, though, as Rojer and Tecau were able to tough out the tiebreaker by a 7-3 score line.
The other doubles match saw Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut bounce back and give themselves a much better chance of advancing to the semifinal round by beating Marcin Matkowski and Nenad Zimonjic, 5-7, 6-3, 10-8. The French duo were the steadier team throughout the match as they won at least 85 percent of their first serve points in every set, including going eight-for-eight in the super tiebreak.
Not only did Rafael Nadal clinch his spot in the semifinal round, he was also able to clinch the first place spot of the group. This means the second place spot will be decided by the match between Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, which will surely be an exciting affair on Friday. As for the doubles, despite the loss on Wednesday, Matkowski and Zimonjic still see their semifinal hopes alive, as a win is needed over Dodig/Melo and Herbert/Mahut would have to lose to Rojer/Tecau in straights.
by Kevin Craig
Roger Federer was able to hand Novak Djokovic is his first loss in 24 matches on Tuesday at the World Tour Finals in London, playing at a consistently high level throughout the match. Federer’s performance stifled the No. 1 player in the world as Djokovic appeared to be stunned by Federer’s play and the simple fact that he was unable to get a lead. Despite going to 2-0 in the group stage, Federer has yet to secure his spot in the semifinal round due to Kei Nishikori getting a three set victory over Tomas Berdych. The win for the 2014 US Open finalist has set up what will be an eventful and intense Thursday at the World Tour Finals.
Federer’s performance over Djokovic was vintage Federer. The first set was very straightforward for both men, as there was only one break point total through the first 11 games. It was in the 12th game of the set that Federer was able to dig into Djokovic’s serve and earn himself the break and win the first set. The second was a breeze for the Suisse as Djokovic’s level dropped massively and he looked nothing like the player who had only lost five matches in 2015 previous to Tuesday. Djokovic was only able to win five points on his first serve in the second set, and he gave Federer way too many opportunities as he donated unforced errors in bunches, giving Federer the 7-5, 6-2 win. While Federer has not locked up his spot in the semifinal round, this match will surely give him the confidence needed to defeat Nishikori on Thursday and secure the first place seed of this group.
Kei Nishikori’s win over Tomas Berdych came in a very entertaining battle that was the first singles match of the tournament to go three sets. Both players were far from their best when it came to serving, but Nishikori was able to win the bigger points and earn himself nine break points throughout the match. This constant pressure on the Berdych serve was pivotal for Nishikori as he was able to fight through the adversity of losing the second set and get the much needed break in the third to get himself the 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 win. Despite the win today, Nishikori could still finish in any position in the group, depending on the Thursday results. Likewise, Berdych still has an opportunity to survive through the group stage, but that would require a win over Djokovic and some help from Federer.
The doubles group that played on Tuesday has a much clearer vision about the semifinal stage as the team of Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea were able to secure their spot in the next round with a straight sets win over Jamie Murray and John Peers. This result, along with Bob and Mike Bryan getting an easy victory over Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini, set up a winner takes all match for Thursday. With Bopanna/Mergea already clinching the first place spot of the group, the match between Bryan/Bryan and Murray/Peers will decide who moves on to the semifinal stage with the second place spot.
The Bryan brothers were able to garner a good bounce back win over the Italian pairing of Bolelli/Fognini, 6-3, 6-2. Coming off of a disappointing loss in their first match, the Americans looked very comfortable and confident on Tuesday, only dropping eight points on serve and not facing a single break point. Bolelli and Fognini will be disappointed by being eliminated from the World Tour Finals after just two matches, but their 2015 was very successful as they were able to take home the Australian Open title.
The eighth seeded team of Bopanna/Mergea that didn’t secure their spot in the World Tour Finals until the last week of the season seems to be playing with a bit of house money. After defeating the Bryan brothers on Sunday, they were able to dispatch Murray and Peers, the two time grand slam finalists in 2015, in a tight two setter on Tuesday, 6-3, 7-6(5). The win saw them lock up the first seed of the group even if they lose their third match, as they will have a head-to-head advantage over whichever team ends up being the second seed. The team of Bopanna and Mergea enjoy playing in London, as they were able to make the semifinals of Wimbledon earlier in the year and are now playing as confidently as they have in 2015.
by Kevin Craig
Day two of the ATP World Tour Finals saw more of the same as day one, as the singles winners were able to win comfortably and the best match of the day came from the doubles event. Fans in the O2 Arena were able to witness everything from dominating performances to late match nerves, as the four of the eight best singles players and doubles teams began their journey towards winning the title.
The home favorite of the singles event, Andy Murray, took on David Ferrer in what was the most competitive match of the singles tournament so far. That isn’t saying much in itself, though, as Murray was able to dispatch the feisty Spaniard by a score of 6-4, 6-4. Ferrer struggled with his serve throughout the match, hitting eight double faults and only making 49 percent of his first serves. Murray was able to take advantage of this, having eight break points in the match and converting on three of them. The Brit was able to back up his service games as well, as he only dropped six points on his first serve. This was Murray’s fifth straight win over Ferrer.
The other Spaniard in the event was able to have much better fortune in his opening match as Rafael Nadal beat French Open champion Stan Wawrinka easily, 6-3, 6-2. After an entertaining first set, Wawrinka began to appear disinterested in the match after going down a break late in the first. This allowed Nadal to win half of his points on return throughout the match and earn himself 15 break points throughout the match. Wawrinka was able to save 11 of them, but the four that Nadal were able to win set him up to breeze through his first match in London. Nadal was able to turn around the recent run of form between these two, as Wawrinka had won three of their last four match-ups.
Likewise to day one of the tournament, the best match of the day came from the doubles event. On day two, it was the French Open champions Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo defeating the US Open champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut, 3-6, 7-6(4), 10-7. The French pairing of Herbert/Mahut appeared to be well on their way to victory as they had a set and a break lead until the latter stages of the second set. When Herbert served for the match at 5-4, he double faulted on two match points in a row at 40-30 and on a deciding point to lose the break advantage. A team with the world number one doubles player will always take advantage of an opportunity like this, as Dodig/Melo took the momentum and were able to close out the match in a super tiebreak.
The other doubles match was much more straightforward as Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau breezed through their first match in just over an hour with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Marcin Matkowski and Nenad Zimonjic. The veteran pairing of Matkowski/Zimonjic was unable to get it going as they only had one break point the entire match and struggled to barely win half of their own service points. The number two team in the world of Rojer/Tecau used the success in their service games to apply extra pressure on the return, earning themselves eight break points and four breaks throughout the match.
The wins of Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal saw the Big Four go 4-0 in their opening matches of the World Tour Finals, possibly setting themselves up for what would be a very interesting knockout round. Ferrer and Wawrinka can beat anyone they play on any given day, though, so this group is far from decided. The same is true for the doubles event as Herbert/Mahut and Matkowski/Zimonjic will be looking to avenge their losses in their last two round robin matches.
by Kevin Craig
The last tournament of the ATP calendar sees the eight best singles players and doubles teams battling each other for the title of World Tour Finals Champion. In the round robin format, every participant is able to overcome a loss, or possibly even two, but the teams that win on day one take the first and most important step towards the title.
The opening day of the ATP World Tour Finals in London saw the two main attractions of Group Stan Smith easily win their matches as Novak Djokovic dispatched Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-1, and Roger Federer defeated Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-2. Djokovic was able to continue his out-of-this-world form, only dropping two games to the 2014 US Open finalist. Djokovic didn’t face a break point in the entire match and only lost nine points on serve total. While Nishikori may not have been 100 percent healthy, the Serbian was able to keep his game at an incredibly high level, playing insane defense on almost every point, allowing himself to get some breathing room before his matches with Berdych and Federer.
Roger Federer played the last match of day one and was able to sustain the powerful game of Tomas Berdych, winning easily in straight sets. After exchanging breaks early in the first set, Federer was able to turn his game around and didn’t face another break point for the rest of the match. Meanwhile, Berdych struggled with his serve throughout the match as he only made 44 percent of his first serves and faced six break points, losing four of them. The Suisse maestro was able to overcome hitting four double faults by winning 86 percent of his first serve points and almost 50 percent of his return points.
Meanwhile on the doubles side of the tournament, the first-seeded Bryan brothers were upset in rather routine fashion by the team of Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea by a score line of 6-4, 6-3. The first set was tight as both teams won the same amount of points, 26. The teams exchanged two breaks each early in the set, but the eighth-seeded Bopanna/Mergea were the better team on the day as they were able to get one break more to win the first, and saved both break points they faced in the second set to get the straight sets win. The Bryans are now 0-2 against Bopanna and Mergea in London, after they lost to them in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon earlier this year.
The home favorite team of Brit Jamie Murray and Australian John Peers won a very tight match over Fabio Fognini and Simone Bolelli, 7-6, 3-6, 11-9. The exciting doubles affair was the first match of the tournament and many fans were eager that the rest of the matches would follow suit. Instead, this was the only match of the four played on day one that went three sets. The fourth-seeded Murray/Peers gave the London crowd the win they wanted and also gave them a very exciting match. Despite the loss, the Italians set themselves up well by winning a set and only losing 10 games. This could come into play in their favor if the group ends up seeing three teams with the same record.
With these results, the Bryan brothers find themselves in a bit of trouble after day one of the tournament, as they failed to win a set and are now forced to play well against the Australian Open champs Bolelli/Fognini and the US Open and Wimbledon finalists Murray/Peers if they hope to make a run at the title. On the singles side, these opening matches only gave further proof as to what many fans already believed; Djokovic and Federer would be the class of Group Stan Smith. If either Berdych or Nishikori hope to make a run at the World Tour Finals, they’ll have to greatly raise their level in their remaining matches.
by Kevin Craig
The USTA Collegiate Clay Court Invitational at the Tennis Resort at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando is not the biggest or most prestigious tournament in college tennis, but it serves an important event for experiences gained and lessons learned for not just players, but for everyone involved in the event.
In an event that is meant to give college players as much actual match experience as possible – and on the important developmental clay surface – every player certainly found strengths in their games that they would like to build upon, while they also may have found weaknesses that they will want to work on when they return to the courts at their respective campuses. The players weren’t the only people at the event that learned, though, as spectators, coaches, ball kids, and the tournament directors each had their own experiences and observations that will help them build upon this weekend.
On-court success came from a variety of schools as South Carolina, Pepperdine, Clemson, North Carolina State, Florida State, and Florida were all able to bring home titles. Each of the players that were able to win their respective tournaments will use these results to springboard them into successful spring seasons, while the players that came up short will certainly look back at this event and figure out what needs to be improved upon before the regular season comes around. With every tennis match played comes an opportunity to learn, allowing for constant growth and skill improvement. This doesn’t only apply to the players, though, as everyone involved with tennis can take something away from every match.
Coaches of every team in attendance got to see what each of their players can do in an actual match environment and were able to figure out the best coaching strategies and tactics for their team. One match of interest was the Men’s Gold Draw final that was played between two members of the South Carolina team – Harrison O’Keefe and Gabriel Friedrich. Coach Josh Goffi was forced into an awkward situation having to support and advise both of his players, but him and the rest of his staff and South Carolina players were able to do a great job of helping out each player through the difficult match. The rest of the tournament saw coaches running from court to court as they were helping their players during matches that were taking place far from one another. Every minute a coach can spend with his or her players is extremely valuable, so this event was very important for the coaches as it helped them develop their ideas as to how they can most effectively support their players and get the best possible on court result out of them.
The spectators of the event also had plenty to take away from the weekend. Not only did they have the pleasure of watching high quality tennis, but they were able to develop some tips for their own games by watching the highly-skilled players, talk with other tennis fans about their experiences in the tennis world, and some were even able to show their young kids what it can be like to be a tennis player with big goals. Throughout the weekend, parents could be seen with their young children all around the grounds, talking to them about everything from the game of tennis in general to how playing on clay is different from playing on a hard court. It is important for young kids who are passionate about tennis to be immersed in it as much as possible so they can develop a true understanding of the game and possibly develop into a star of the future.
After another very successful edition of the USTA Collegiate Clay Court Invitational, a huge congratulations must go to Florida State University, the USTA, and Carlos Goffi and his entire staff at the Tennis Resorts at the ESPN Wide World of Sports for putting on a fantastic event. A great venue like this one definitely deserves this great event and can hopefully attract more events throughout the calendar year. Every single person who attended this event will be able to take their experiences from the event and use them to help have a bigger and better future in the tennis world. This includes players, coaches, umpires, spectators, and ball kids, as there is something to be learned from every experience.
by Kevin Craig
I had the chance to attend the USTA Collegiate Clay Court Invitational at the Tennis Resort at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando on the second day of the four-day clay-court event and experienced many high quality matches while able to take in the unique atmosphere of collegiate tennis.
There is no better site for this event than the Tennis Resort at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. The intimate feel of the complex helps develop the intense atmosphere of the event as teammates and coaches are able to cheer each other on from anywhere on the grounds. In fact, if you take a walk around the concourse of the center court, you are able to have a great view of every court at the complex, allowing for fans to be able to watch every bit of action that takes place throughout the day. (See video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N1yqsH-rTis)
Every tennis fan should try to attend a collegiate event as the atmosphere is completely different from any pro event. At one point during the matches today, two Georgia Tech players were playing at the same time on adjacent courts, and they would often shout encouragement to each other when they were both in between points. On top of this, if there were multiple players from one school playing at the same time on courts that were further away from each other, the schools would make sure that at least one or two members of the team were supporting their teammates that were currently on court, ensuring that they would have some sort of support at all times.
If a fan is hesitant to attend a collegiate event because the players aren’t the big names that casual tennis fans may know, they must be aware that these players are still able to make the matches entertaining for the fans. These athletes are on court truly for the passion of the game, and this is made evident as you are sure to hear a “come on!” or “vamos!” from anywhere around the grounds at any given time. They leave everything on the court and give 100 percent effort until the very last point, ensuring an exciting watch for any one in attendance.
Not only are the matches fun to watch, but the people that you can meet are interesting as well. With the players and coaches of the teams walking around the grounds all day, you are able to strike up a conversation with any of them when the opportunity comes up. You may also run into former ATP World Tour players, employees of the ATP and USTA, and many others who have a great knowledge of the tennis world throughout the day, opening up the opportunity to have lengthy conversations and make new friends.