atp world tour finals

Suffering Too Much For Rafael Nadal In ATP World Tour Finals

Perhaps the signature theme of the book “The Secrets of Spanish Tennis” is how the Spanish – in sports and in life – almost relish in “suffering.” As famed Spanish tennis coach said Pato Alvarez, “In order for a player to play well he or she needs to suffer.”

Rafael Nadal of Spain was doing much “suffering” in his opening round-robin match at the Nitto ATP World Tour Finals in London. However, after suffering through a 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 loss to David Goffin, Nadal decided the suffering was too much and withdrew from the competition to rest his ailing knee.

“My season is finished,” Nadal said following the loss. “I tried hard. I did the thing that I had to do to try to be ready to play, but I am really not ready to play. I really fought a lot during the match, but knew there was a big chance that it would be the last match of the season.”

Nadal’s withdrawal makes Roger Federer the overwhelming favorite to win the title, according to NetBetSport

“The good thing is that this is nothing new,” said Nadal. “Everybody on my team, we have the right experience with this thing. We hope to manage it well, to have the right rest, the right work, and try to be ready for the beginning of next season.”

The year-end ATP World Tour Finals is the one glaring omission on Nadal’s career resume. Nadal has qualified for the season-ending finals 13 years in a row, but has only actually played seven previous times, only reaching the final twice, losing to Roger Federer in 2010 and Novak Djokovic in 2013. He also lost in the semifinals three times, losing to Federer in 2006 and 2007 and Djokovic in 2015, the last time Nadal played the year-end championships. In 2009 and 2011, Nadal failed to emerge from round-robin play. Incredibly, Nadal has been injured and not able to participate in the event five times, including last year.

“This is an event I missed too many times in my career,” he said. “But at the same that’s how it works, my career. I can’t complain. I feel very lucky about all the things that are happening to me, but on the other hand it is true that I am probably the top player who has had more injuries and more troubles in the careers of anyone.

“I really believed that I didn’t deserve after this great season to spend two more days on court with these terrible feelings. Of course I am disappointed, but I am not going to cry. I had a great season. I really appreciate all the things that happened to me during the whole season.”

World No. 1s Novak Djokovic, Rojer-Tecau Win ATP World Tour Finals Titles

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.

Rafael Nadal On A Mission In London At ATP World Tour Finals

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.

Roger Federer Continues To Chase Career Milestones

By Michael Lemort

 

Could Federer win the Davis Cup for the first time of his career and be No. 1 again by the end of the season?

After his success in Shanghai, his 23rd Masters 1000 title, with a victory over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinal, Roger Federer became No. 2 at the race, overtaking Rafael Nadal. After a very solid year, even though he didnt win a major title, the Swiss player could manage to finish the year ranked No. 1 if he obtains better results than Djokovic in the last tournaments left this year. He is playing Basle, his home tournament (where he reached the final last year), then the Masters 1000 in Paris at Bercy and finally the Masters Cup in London – reaching the semifinals of both events last year. Novak Djokovic plans to play Paris and London, knowing that he won both titles last year, which means that he could lose lots of points if he loses early.

But being ATP No. 1 again is not a priority for Federer who already holds the record for weeks in that position. And on top of that, another challenge is coming in front of him as he’s gonna play the Davis Cup final for the first time of his career. With his partner Stanislas Wawrinka, No. 4 at the race, the Swiss team has never been so close to bring the trophy home, even though playing in France on clay against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Richard Gasquet is not going to be an easy thing. But this is probably gonna be the priority for Federer since playing for his country has always been something important for him (especially during Olympic Games). None of the French players will qualify for the Masters Cup so they will have another extra week to practice and get used to the clay courts.

Because of that busy year-ending calendar and because switching from indoor to clay in few days time won’t be easy, Federer might have to make some choices, like not playing Bercy for example (like it already happened in the past), and giving up on the No. 1 position for now if he wants to focus on the Davis Cup.

On another hand, playing and winning matches brings confidence. Entering Basel, Federer has already played 71 matches this year (61 victories), 11 more than Djokovic, 19 more than Tsonga. And he won’t probably have those opportunities facing him every year as he will turn 34 next year. But he has to think about his body and he probably hasn’t forgotten about that back injury that ruined most of his 2013 season.

Federer is a symbol of longevity and efficiency and an example about how to manage his body and career. So no doubt that he will take the good decisions, break some new records and add some new lines to his already huge career.

Federer is Back, Nadal Lacks Passion and Li Na finds Life has Changed

Federer Secures Sixth ATP World Tour Finals:

For the third successive Sunday Roger Federer took to the courts to face Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and for the third straight match he tasted success as he edged ahead as the record holder for the most ATP Finals triumphs. He described his sixth title as “one of [my] greatest accomplishments” in the form of a 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-3 win over Tsonga. It was also an incredible 70th tournament win from 100 finals. He is unbeaten since the US Open and will take a 17-match unbeaten run in to 2012. “Right now I’m happy the season is over,” said the Swiss. “It has been long and it has been gruelling, but I’m happy I’m still strong and healthy. I’m really excited for next year – I’m upbeat about what’s to come. The relief was amazing,” he added of winning the title. “Jo played well. Could I have won it easier? I guess; I had it in my hands. I had to go through the third set but eventually I made it, which probably felt even better. The joy was great.” He even talked about possibly making the final a five-set encounter, saying: “I remember sitting in a room in Shanghai where the players were asked, ‘Would you like the year-end final to be five sets or three. Everyone said best-of-three sets. I was the only guy that said five. I do care actually. I think it makes for a great year-end. Sure, you can see why maybe it’s healthier to play best-of-three but I believe the final could be a best-of-five set match.” He also whet the fans’ appetites with his summation of 2011 and brief preview of what next year might have in stall for us. “Novak was the player of the year, which goes without saying,” reflected Federer. “A guy who can win 40 matches in a row from the start of the season completely deserves it till the very end of it. I thought Andy Murray played a very good season this year. I think he’s going to be very tough to beat next year. And Rafa with his class, he’s always going to be a threat for the throne, to win all the big tournaments. I think the prospects are good,” he added. “We also saw Nos. 5 to 8 are extremely close as well. Behind that, anything is possible, too. I think right now we have great quality within the Top 10, even within the Top 20, 25 actually. I’m looking forward to a tough season next year.”

Nadal wants to be Perfect for Next Year:

Rafael Nadal has said that he wants to be in “perfect” condition for 2012 because he “probably had a bit less passion for the game” towards the end of 2011. The Spaniard, who will lead his country in to this weekend’s Davis Cup Final against Argentina, started the season well and captured his sixth French Open crown in June. But a barnstorming Novak Djokovic overtook him in the ATP World Rankings and the spotlight as the Serb mopped up the latter half of the year, including beating Nadal in the US Open Final. “We can find excuses, we can find problems, but it’s not the moment to say that – it’s the moment to keep fighting,” said the 25-year-old. “It’s the moment to analyse what I did good, what I did bad, and know what I have to work on for the next month. The end of the year wasn’t easy for me; that’s hard to accept,” he added of his loss to Djokovic as well as the Tokyo final to Andy Murray and a poor showing at the ATP Finals. “But it gives me more of a goal for the beginning of 2012. I dream about arriving in 2012 with very good conditions. The only way to change the situation is to work more, think more about tennis, do everything in the right shape, do everything good inside the court, everything good outside the court,” he added. “I have to work hard – working hard every day, morning, afternoon – if I’m going to have my chance to be competitive to win the big tournaments.

Li Na admits Life Has Changed:

Chinese ace Li Na has admitted that her life has changed a lot since she became the first Asian player to win a Grand Slam at the French Open this year. Life has changed a lot. I knew after the French Open when I went back to China the fans would be crazy,” she said. “I came back home and a lady (on the street) said, ‘Li Na, I know who you are, I need a photograph with you, an autograph’. She spoke so loud and everyone heard it. More people were coming so me and my friend were full-power running to the car.” She also paid tribute to her former coach, Thomas Hogstedt, who has since turned his attentions to helping Maria Sharapova return to the top. “Thomas, he was very different to Chinese coaches,” she added. “He always gave me confidence. First time he was saying ‘You can be in the top 20’. I said ‘Are you joking?’ because I didn’t believe it—I never had a coach say I can be top 20.”

Hewitt Hanging Around:

Despite recent hip and foot surgeries Aussie star Lleyton Hewitt has been speaking about life as a father, and how he isn’t ready to retire yet. “When you are 16 on the tour, and that’s the only thing you’ve ever dreamt of doing, your mind thinks one way,” he told The Telegraph. “Marriage and children has changed my perspective. Even now with travelling to play, jetlag goes out the window. You work around your kids. When you lose a tough five-setter at Wimbledon and your kid runs up to you, it hits home that is just a tennis match.”

Ferrer to Defend Auckland Title:

World No.5 David Ferrer will defend his Heineken Open title in Auckland when the ATP Tour resumes in 2012. He will be the top seed, with his countryman Nicolas Almagro the second-highest ranked player in attendance. Fernando Verdasco and Donald Young will be new faces at the event, while the field also contains strong competitors such as Fernando Gonzalez, Juan Monaco, Juan Ignacio Chela, Kevin Anderson and Thomaz Bellucci. “With two in the top 10 and some great depth we will again have a fantastic main draw. We are really looking forward to kicking off the new year with another high energy Heineken Open,” said tournament director Richard Palmer.

Isner Plans Trip to the Beach:

American star John Isner has joined Andy Roddick in signing up for the Delray Beach International Tennis Championships in February. The world No.18 is best known for his record-setting antics with Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon last year and he will hope to start the year well in order to form an assault on the Top 10. Michael Chang has also signed up for the ATP Champions Tour event at the same venue simultaneously. He joins Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, Pat Cash, Johan Kriek, Mikael Pernfors and Aaron Krickstein in the field. “The addition of fan-favourite John Isner and perennial top 10 Michael Chang gives us strong fields already,” said Mark Baron, tournament director of the ITC. “Our ATP Champions Tour field is set, and we are expecting our ATP World Tour event to be the best in our history by the time our final draw is announced.”

Berdych Feeling the Draft:

Tomas Berdych went underneath the razor in his private locker room following his ATP Finals defeat to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga to honour a bet made with his coach Tomas Krupa at Wimbledon. If Berdych won a title, obtained 50 wins over the year and took part at London’s O2 Arena then he would have to shave his head. He fulfilled all three stipulations and so carried out his promise after the Tsonga defeat. “Bet is a bet,” Berdych commented on his official Facebook page. “We have made one in Wimbledon that if I take part in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, win at least one title and 50 matches in this season, my hair is going down.”

Americans Hoping for Aussie Chance:

USTA Player Development has announced the eight men and eight women who are to contest the 2012 Australian Open Wildcard Play-Off next month. The winners will receive main-draw singles wild cards into the men’s and women’s draws. Melanie Oudin headlines the women, while her Fed Cup team-mate Coco Vandeweghe is also involved. Youngsters Grace Min, Taylor Townsend, Madison Keys, Gail Brodsky, Jaime Hampton and Alison Riske are the others invited. Robby Ginepri is joined by Jack Sock, Steve Johnson, Bobby Reynolds, Denis Kudla, Daniel Kosakowski, Rhyne Williams and Jesse Levine.

Djokovic Aces GQ List:

World No.1 Novak Djokovic has been labelled GQ Magazine’s Ace of the Year. He is joined in the honours list by the likes of Jay-Z who received King of the Year, Michael Fassbender (Breakout of the Year), Gary Oldman (Icon of the Year) and South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius (Superhuman of the Year).

Final Rankings of the Year:

So with the ATP World Tour finals over the final rankings for 2011 for the men are complete. Roger Federer’s excellent end to the year sees him climb back above Andy Murray to No.3 in the world going in to 2012, while the only other movement in the Top 50 sees Nikolay Davydenko climb above Bernard Tomic to No.41. This leaves us with a Top 10 of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Federer, Murray, David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Tomas Berdych, Mardy Fish, Janko Tipsarevic and Nicolas Almagro. There was a final push from Germany in to the Top 100 where Matthias Bachinger leapt 15 places to finish 2011 as the world No.94, and Michael Berrer climbed five to No.100.

Final 2011 GOAT Race Standings:

The 2011 ATP calendar has come to a close, so with it goes the Tennis People Greatest Of All Time Race. We have seen two monumental swings over the course of the past 11 months that do much to rubbish the talk of Roger Federer’s demise. With Rafael Nadal’s injury-ravaged and formless start to the year R-Fed sped out in to the lead, only to be pegged back and overhauled by the Spaniard after the French Open as both struggled to cope with the explosive form of Novak Djokovic. Yet Federer made a late surge, perhaps a little too late, to breathe life in to his challenge and eventually fell just short of his great rival’s total. It probably told us little we didn’t know already. The two can both play at the levels we have come to expect of them and there is still very little to split them when they are both fit and raring to go. But they are both susceptible to injury these days and neither seem to last a full calendar anymore. It will now be very interesting to see whether they can keep themselves going over a full season in 2012, and whether Djokovic can keep his form up. It will also be interesting to see whether Andy Murray really pushes on to challenge the big boys. With Nadal’s limp exit at the group stage in London, Federer was allowed a run at the title which he took with glee, giving him a sum of 200 points to make the final totals:

Roger: 1740, Rafa: 1950

A Fond Farewell:

It has been a little over two years since this column started in its original guise as ‘Commonwealth Tennis’ and over 25 months it has seen two major content changes and countless re-thinks, writers’ block breakouts and tantrums. It has also seen some great discoveries of tennis player trivia, a recital of stats that I can now produce in public at the blink of an eye and a strange loving of players somewhat unknown based on a bizarre interview quote I stumbled upon somewhere. I have thoroughly enjoyed contributing weekly to Tennis Grandstand, but due to changes in the outside world I can no longer dedicate the time to the column that a website such as this deserves. I thank everyone involved from readers to fellow writers for their guidance and time. I am not saying goodbye completely as I hope to work together with the website on future projects. But Tennis People in this format is coming to a close, one week prematurely in fact, as work commitments mean I cannot produce a Davis Cup-themed final entry next week. I hope you have enjoyed following, and I will hopefully see you all soon. If not here, then in this vast electronic world that helps us keep up to date with all things tennis.

Leigh Gruffydd Sanders

Noah Drug Comments Cause Spanish Uproar, Djokovic Honoured for Incredible Year and Murray Withdraws from ATP Finals

Noah Infuriates Spain with Drug Cheat Comments:

1983 French Open winner Yannick Noah and Spanish ten-time Grand Slam winner Rafael Nadal have clashed over claims the former made about performance enhancing drug use mainly being behind Spain’s recent dominance of world sport. Both Nadal and David Ferrer have made this year’s ATP World Tour Finals, Spain’s football team are European and World Champions and their basketball team is currently dominating the European and world game as well as picking up a silver medal in Beijing. Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador has also won three of the last five Tour De France titles. “Today, if you don’t have the magic potion, it’s hard to win. How can a nation dominate sport virtually overnight like this?” asked Noah. “When I still milled around on the courts with my racket, we weren’t ridiculous, far from it, against our Spanish friends. It was the same on the soccer fields, the basketball halls or on the roads of the Tour de France,” he continued. “Today they are running faster than us, are much more stronger and only leave us the bread crumbs. We look like dwarves. Did we miss something? Did they discover some avant-garde techniques or training facilities that nobody before them had imagined?” But Nadal reacted angrily to Noah’s claims, stating that stringent doping policies make them invalid. “He knows better than anybody that to say that today is a totally stupid thing because you know how many anti-doping controls we have during the season, year by year,” he fumed. “So in my opinion, the article that he wrote was from a kid and when one kid says something it’s not painful for us.” The French Tennis Federation immediately distanced themselves from Noah’s comments, and French star Michael Llodra immediately apologised for the comments made by Noah, saying: “He’s stupid and maybe he was…” and then making a gesture tipping his hand toward his mouth to indicate that Noah might have been drinking. “I felt a profound disappointment,” added former Top 10 star Emilio Sanchez-Vicario, who is the President of the Athletes’ Association of Spain. “You have hurt the Spaniards, the athletes and me; I don’t think it’s fair to discredit the triumphs of Spanish athletes by treating them all as cheaters. You, who always defended sportsmanship! Is this a sportsman’s behaviour? I don’t think we deserved it.”

Djokovic Receives No.1 Award:

In a special on-court ceremony on Tuesday at the ATP World Tour Finals Novak Djokovic was honoured for his incredible record-breaking year by receiving the award for finishing as the year-end No.1 in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings. ATP Executive President and Chairman Adam Helfant presented the award to the Serbian who looked back on his year with great pride. “It feels fantastic, making history obviously is a big privilege,” said Djokovic, who has recorded a 70-4 match record so far in 2011. “It’s something I always dreamed about, becoming the best in the world, and finishing the year as No. 1 in the world and it’s come true. This year has been the best of my life, the best of my career. All my dreams have been realised and I’m just trying to enjoy every single moment of it and this trophy. I was fortunate enough to have a group of people really believing in me, in my qualities, believing that I could be the best one day. It all came down to myself, if I was really able to bring it or not. Especially in the era of Nadal and Federer, who have been so dominant, it makes my success even bigger.”

Murray Withdraws from ATP Finals:

World number three Andy Murray has been forced to withdraw from the ATP World Tour Finals in London because of a recurrence of the muscle strain he suffered in training on November 14. He suffered a re-strain during his disappointing opening loss to David Ferrer on Monday and has decided to withdraw from the tournament altogether. He was due to practice for an hour with Tomas Berdych on Tuesday but failed to materialise, and a press conference was hastily arranged so the 24-year-old could make his announcement. Serbia’s Janko Tipsarevic benefitted by being called in to replace the Scot. He faced Berdych instead of Murray on Wednesday and lost a thrilling three-set encounter. “I was told to take a week to 10 days completely off – I just didn’t have enough time to recover,” said a disappointed Murray. “I was probably going to do myself more damage playing than not.  When I came off the court [on Monday], I was very disappointed and upset,” he continued. “I said we’d see how I feel when I woke today up but I was never going to feel great. You hope things are going to get better, but in reality that wasn’t ever going to happen.” Meanwhile, Murray has announced that he will kick off his 2012 season at the Brisbane International before aiming to get to his third-straight Australian Open final.

Laver Fancies R-Fed’s Slam Chances:

Aussie legend Rod Laver believes that Roger Federer won’t have to wait much longer to end his two-year wait for a 17th Grand Slam. He believes that the Swiss ace’s recent form shows that he is getting back to the level that saw him dominate the sport for so long. “Federer has a chance to come back and, if anywhere, the Australian Open is a good place for him,” Laver said. “It seems to me he’s serving a whole lot better, he’s getting to the net a lot more and he’s got a drop shot that works pretty effectively.”

Massu Robbed at Challenger Event:

The Chilean press are reporting that Olympic gold medallist Nicolas Massu was robbed at gunpoint at the recent Guayaquil Challenger event. His father is quoted in one report saying that a knife was pulled on his son by a taxi driver who took his mobile phone and his wallet. His tennis equipment was not taken as it was in his hotel room.

ATP Finals the Last Chance for GOAT Race Points in 2011:

After lifting the Paris Masters title in Paris-Bercy Roger Federer added another 200 points to his 2011 Greatest Of All Time race total, tracking the fortunes of the two great rivals Federer and Rafael Nadal. Now we enter the final event of the year, the prestigious ATP World Tour Finals. As it is an elite event which only the top eight qualify for, points totals will be doubled as with the Grand Slams. So, both players receive 20 points for entering. As there is no quarter-final stage the points that would usually be given for that achievement are now valid for the semis. Therefore, players will receive 50 points for a semi-final berth, 100 for a final appearance and 200 for bringing home the big prize. While Federer cannot win the race for this year, he could make it a much tighter finish than it looked just a couple of months ago.

Roger: 1540, Rafa: 1950

Nadal No Match for Superb Federer in London – Live Coverage

by Ahmed Ibrahim and Stephanie Neppl

Expectations. It’s hard to not be caught up in the hype when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal face off on the tennis courts. Before meeting in the 2011 ATP World Tour Finals, the two had met on 25 previous occasions, including countless Grand Slam finals. Given their illustrious history, it’s easy to expect magic every time they take the court.

Well, the only magic being showcased during Tuesday night’s round robin match between the two tennis greats was on Federer’s side of the court. He barely erred during the hour-long match, blasting winners from all over the court, serving superbly and moving with lightning speed.

Rafa, on the other hand, barely knew what hit him. He looked a half step slow, only hit four winners (compared with 28 for Roger) and his groundstrokes fell too short, time and again.

Rafa fans were stunned into silence as he was broken once to lose the first set, and then was dealt the ultimate humiliation of a bagel in a quick second set.

What went wrong? Rafa has never beaten Roger on the indoor courts. He’s 0-4 against the 16-time grand slam champion in the ATP World Tour Finals, and has historically not performed well in the indoor season.

As much as we Rafa fans want to look for reasons why he lost so badly tonight, it didn’t seem to be about the surface. Fed played nearly immaculate tennis, and Rafa being a bit flat and slow, his short, high balls were just eaten alive by Federer.

Being in the stands watching your favorite lose so badly is not pleasant. There’s nowhere to hide and suddenly the fervent cheers for the other player seem louder and more disruptive. Unfortunately, tonight was one of those difficult nights for this Rafa fan, but all credit to Roger for his stunning play. He certainly looks on track to repeat his 2010 World Tour Finals win.

For the Federer fans in the O2 Arena, however, nothing prepared them for what they would be witnessing: Roger Federer playing at his very best. It was like being transported back to 2005 with the crisp, clean, early hitting of the ball and dominating play from the baseline.

Federer did not give Rafa an inch to maneuver as he played deep ball after deep ball to keep Rafa off-guard and make him move around the court before executing the perfect winning forehand/backhand into the open court.

Notching up 28 winners to Nadal’s paltry four is testament to how well Federer played tonight and the risks he took to outplay his opponent. A 6-3 6-0 scoreline surely gives Federer a huge boost of confidence against the rest of field. No one else is producing this high level of tennis in the indoor circuit.

The atmosphere inside the O2 Arena was electrifying throughout and for Federer fans the cheers grew louder and louder with every winning shot he produced. Why can’t Fed play like this day in and day out? There came a point when Fed fans must surely have asked the question when will Federer’s form suddenly switch off (as is often the case!)?

Witnessing this performance against one the game’s greatest ever players is almost a once in a lifetime opportunity. The Federer vs Nadal legacy will live on forever but for those of us fortunate to see a match live, we should be savoring the moments as they will become less and less frequent.

Stephanie Neppl and Ahmed Ibrahim are in London covering the ATP World Tour Finals as guest contributors for Tennis Grandstand. Stephanie, an avid Nadal fan, maintains the website I Have a Tennis Addiction and her twitter is @StephInNZ, while Ahmed, an avid Federer fan, is the author of the website Tennis Addict and his twitter is @TennisAddict_.

Lindstedt-Tecau and Matkowski-Fyrstenberg Wins Signal Shift in the Doubles Landscape

Former Grand Slam titlists should have the upper hand against doubles teams that have had to scrape and claw their way into qualifying for the World Tour Finals, right?

Well, no one told that to the duos of Robert Lindstedt and Horia Tecau seeded 6th, who beat the #4 seed Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes, or #8 seed Marcin Matkowski and Mariusz Fyrstenberg, who topped the #2 seed Michael Llodra and Nenad Zimonjic in opening round-robin matches.

Add to that the 5th seeded Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi, aka the “Indo-Pak Express,” coming within points of beating this year’s French Open champs Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor seeded 3rd, and a major power shift could be on the way in doubles.

Among the top four teams competing at the O2 Arena in London this year, seven of the eight players have ranked number one at some point in their careers. And aside from the Bryans, the players on the three other squads have enjoyed success with others at the tournament: for example, Zimonjic and Nestor are actually the “defending champions,” beating none other than the tandem of Bhupathi and Mirnyi in the finals last year.

If there were an actual Hall of Fame for doubles, the players among the top four seeds currently would be first-ballot selections, no question.

Their challengers, on the other hand, have barely accomplished a quarter of what they have in terms of titles.

Still, though, that hasn’t seemed to instill any sense of deference among them.

Bopanna and Qureshi have actually beaten Mirnyi and Nestor twice this year, including last week on the way to the Paris Indoors crown, their first Masters 1000 victory. Lindstedt and Tecau showed no signs of nerves in their debut appearance at the year-end championships with the straight-sets win over the “Indian Express.” And Fyrstenberg and Matkowski snapped a three-match losing streak to Llodra and Zimonjic at a crucial time as every little point helps when it comes to getting out of round-robin play.

Fyrstenberg and Matkowski aren’t exactly strangers to the tour finals though, making their fifth appearance. But as long as the Poles have been playing together, they just made their big breakthrough at this year’s U.S. Open. There, they lost to Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner in the finals.

Also the winners of the Wimbledon title in 2010, Melzer and Petzschner are two of the only three players in the doubles draw who maintain top 100 singles rankings (Llodra being the other). It would be hard to argue against the impact of the workload: Petzschner made the final in Halle this year and Melzer reached his career-high singles ranking, eight, earlier this year.

The players at the top—together or with different partners—have won titles by the dozens, but the new crop appears ready to take over and start reaping its share of the prizes.

Live Coverage from London: Federer Begins Title Defense With Victory Over Tsonga

by Ahmed Ibrahim

Keep it simple, finish it quick. Words that were heard in the O2 Arena as Roger Federer got his title defense underway by disposing of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-2 2-6 6-4 in 89 minutes at the ATP World Tour Finals on Sunday.

With Federer in a bullish mood he wasted no time in winning the first set 6-2 in 21 minutes. Blink and you missed him. He kept it simple and finished points quick by having Tsonga on the run from the word “Go!” He pushed him all over the court dictating play from the baseline, hitting winners and forcing Tsonga to make errors for fun.

Perhaps Tsonga was feeling the pressure of playing in the immense arena in front of 16,000 fans. Or perhaps it was the giant in Roger Federer that made him succumb once again, as the two had battled just seven days prior on Tsonga’s home turf in Paris. Whatever it was, Tsonga clearly had not started the engine properly as he was cruising along in neutral, barely getting by at times.

When Tsonga finally got the motor working in the second set, it was as if another player had been tagged in to take on Federer for what the crowd witnessed was a complete turnaround in events. Tsonga managed to break Federer at 2-1 when Roger began hitting makeable balls long and wide. This swung the momentum towards Tsonga and he began unleashing a barrage of serves and groundstrokes that turned to gold and he was rewarded with the second set at 6-2.

The third set saw a much more hungry Federer willing to stop the juggernaut of Tsonga gaining further momentum. Federer started to find his groundstrokes that had eluded him during that second set. Even with Tsonga returning deep and with pace, Federer was able to make those minute adjustment steps that he lacked earlier to throw Tsonga off guard and take back some initiative. Federer’s dividends were paid when Tsonga had to serve at 4-5 and quickly found himself at 0-30 after hitting a simple backhand volley into the net followed by a double-fault. Federer unleashed a trademark inside-in winner that landed perfectly and it was all over two points later.

Tsonga will naturally be disappointed having lost the match after a turnaround of events that looked like he was on-course to put a spanner in the works of Federer’s title defense. A frustrating player to watch at times, Tsonga can really impress and please a crowd with his athleticism and shot making but he can also infuriate with his almost careless mindset in the way he over-hits manageable shots.

Federer’s game started very well, almost the ideal start, but he is still prone to lose focus and let his opponent creep back into the game under the radar, especially when his forehands and backhands start missing the most routine of strokes. And it is these sudden momentum swings that he does not always control very well. His Wimbledon match against Tsonga this year is a prime example of this. He was not playing in top gear here either, perhaps in part as a masterplan to pace himself and be ready for the other challenges in Rafael Nadal and Mardy Fish. If anything, he was lucky to walk away with the win here. The match was far from simple, but exhibited some of the trademark shots fan have come to expect from Federer. But will it be enough to re-claim the title? Only time will tell.

 

Ahmed Ibrahim is the author of the website Tennis Addict. He is in London covering the ATP World Tour Finals as a guest contributor for Tennis Grandstand. Follow his ATP World Tour Finals updates on his personal twitter@TennisAddict_

Live Coverage From London: Nadal Pushed All the Way By A Battling Fish

by Ahmed Ibrahim

In a match that many had predicted would be over very quickly, few could believe their eyes when Rafael Nadal and Mardy Fish went the distance at the O2 Arena in London for the ATP World Tour Finals.

The match was certainly long – to the tune of 2 hours and 53 minutes – starting around 8:30pm and finishing by 11:30pm GMT. Despite the length, it was a competitive battle that turned out to be much closer than many people expected. However, we should not think that a 6-2 3-6 7-6(3) win by Nadal heralds a mighty comeback after not playing since Shanghai, for this match painted quite an ugly picture for the Spaniard.

Nadal gained the early upper hand against a tense and nervous Fish who was spraying wild backhands to be broken, despite Nadal himself hitting several poorly timed backhands. On several occasions, Fish let Nadal off the hook (I know…) with short groundstrokes or weak and high-sitting serves. But when Nadal got into his stride midway through the first set he had Fish running around the court, catching him off guard with inside-out forehands or passing him at the net with heavily-spun forehands.

Fish gained the early break in the second set and led 3-0 in what appeared to be a rejuvenated Mardy who was striking the ball more freely. Fish’s tactics changed too as he opted for the serve and volley as well as attacking the net at the earliest opportunity. He utilized Nadal’s pace, catching him out with well crafted drop-shots. This was quite a contrast in play from Fish as he turned the table around and surprised many in the Arena who had predicted a Nadal bulldoze job in straight sets.

The effects of a prolonged absence from matchplay on Nadal’s part began to surface as he seemed drained and pale. Up a break at 2-0 in the third set, he quickly left the court to head to the toilet due to “pain in the stomach”. Fish broke back and held and then broke again to take a 3-2 lead but failed to capitalize on any momentum he had gained as he was broken back to love.

Nadal would normally have stepped on the gas pedal at this point and it could have all been over very soon. Or Fish could become a victim of his new-found status amongst the Top 8 players in the world a little too daunting and crumble. Fish, however, held his nerve and fought off two match points at 4-5 and took us to a tie-break. At this point much of the Arena began to empty as crowds made their way to catch the trains, buses and boat services that were due to cease for the night. The tie-break saw Fish fight back in places but he failed to assert himself to take command and it was all over when he swung his final backhand volley straight into the net, giving Nadal the match.

Overall, this was a disappointing result for Mardy though at times he showed us why his place in London is deserved and that he is a fighter deep down with a repertoire of good shots, particularly when he is in attacking mode. A little more self-belief could have seen him upset the World Number 2, but it was not meant to be tonight.

Nadal was not in top form, and arguably, far from it. The running shots are still there and the big point winners were present but this performance lacked the Nadal sparkle we all know so well. At times tentative, at other times simply breathtaking. He will be happy to have gotten a win after a lengthy absence from matchplay. Whether his body will be feeling positive in the morning after a grueling marathon match is another matter though as he has the time to prepare for his match against Roger Federer on Tuesday night.


Ahmed Ibrahim is the author of the website Tennis Addict. He is in London covering the ATP World Tour Finals as a guest contributor for Tennis Grandstand. Follow his ATP World Tour Finals updates on his personal twitter @TennisAddict_