If you’ve listened to Roger Federer’s interviews in the past several months, whenever the topic of long-term goals or things he still hopes to accomplish comes up, he talks about regaining the #1 ranking in the world. We wrote recently about his quest for #1 in an article about his remaining career milestones, but the fact remains that a year ago, attaining the top ranking again seemed impossible for the Swiss. Federer was undoubtedly on the decline, Andy Murray finally had a couple Grand Slam championships under his belt, and Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic looked to be in a league of their own.
What a difference a year can make. Nadal has once again been hobbled by injury. While he still seems capable of dominating anyone else in the sport when healthy, it’s becoming a fair question to ask if he might break down before he can make a legitimate run at Federer’s Grand Slam record. Djokovic is probably the best player on tour on any given day, but he’s no longer the sure thing he was a couple years ago. And Murray looks so out of sorts that it seems increasingly wrong even putting him in the “top four” conversation. Amidst this turmoil, Roger Federer—despite not winning a Grand Slam—put together a spectacular 2014, and now faces a simple, if difficult task: win the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London. He’s got a great shot at getting back to #1, though he needs Djokovic to stumble as well.
Well, so far, so good.
The World Tour Finals are underway now, and in his first two matches Federer has looked to be in a different class than the rest of his group. For those unfamiliar with the format for this event, it features only the top-eight ranked players in the world, separated into two groups of four. Each player plays the other three players in his group, and the top two competitors for each group then advance to the semi-finals (with each group’s winner playing the other group’s runner-up). Federer, the #2 seed at the event (behind Djokovic), was placed in a group with Murray and rising stars Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori.
In his first match, Federer earned swift and decisive vengeance against Raonic, who actually defeated him at the Paris Masters recently. Federer won 6-1, 7-6 (7-0). Although the second set was certainly tougher, the relief and relaxation in Federer’s demeanor was apparent. BBC Sport quoted him after the match as saying “I was very happy with how I performed,” and those watching the match will certainly agree on his behalf. Facing a powerful young opponent hungry to prove himself at the year-end stage, Federer was utterly in command.
The second match came on Tuesday against a Kei Nishikori fresh off a fairly strong win against Murray, and most anticipated a tougher test for Federer. Betfair odds analyst and tipster Sean Calvert suggested Nishikori was a decent bet for the upset. Calvert wrote that it ought to be a “keenly contested affair,” citing Nishikori’s 2-2 career record against Federer, as well as his growing confidence. And frankly, after the young Japanese star’s recent run to the US Open final, it’s hard to doubt him on big stages. But Federer had other ideas. On Tuesday, he ended up dispatching Nishikori with undeniable ease, 6-3, 6-2, and the Swiss maestro now stands firmly atop his group standings. He still has to play Murray, but it’s looking like a near certainty that Federer will advance.
Federer’s form has been so strong through his first two matches in London that ESPN went as far as to say there’s no one around to stop him. In an article titled “Federer Reminds Us Why We Need Rafa,” Peter Bodo actually named Djokovic the favourite, but in the process basically established that Federer’s resurgence has left a considerable gap between the top two and the rest of the field. Indeed, we all long for a healthy Rafa’s return, as the sport is just more fun with more top competitors. But in the meantime, this is looking increasingly like an eventual showdown between Federer and Djokovic.
We’re not there yet. Djokovic got off to a strong start in his own group, which also includes Stanislas Wawrinka, Marin Cilic, and Tomas Berdych. However, Wawrinka has given him trouble on numerous occasions, and he could be a legitimate threat to top the group after his own strong start. Both will likely advance to the semi-finals, but at that point they may face Federer’s very best and most concentrated effort. The Swiss star has made it a personal goal, if not obsession, to regain #1, and he’s within a few wins of doing so and at the top of his game. It’s difficult to not view him as the favourite in London.
by James A. Crabtree
Normality has been restored, with the exploits of Janowicz, Darcis, Del Potro, Stakhovsky, Brown, Kubot and Verdasco disappearing into the vault named Wimbledon folklore.
After all the hiccups throughout the draw the number one and two ranked players meet in the final. Wimbledon 2013, like 33 of the last 34 Slams will be won by one of the Big Four.
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, currently the best hard-court players tour, know each other’s games well. Too well, having played18 times, with Djokovic leading 11–7. This tally includes three Grand Slam finals. The 2011 and 2013 Australian Opens, won by Djokovic and the 2012 US Open, won by Murray.
For Murray to win this one he will have to find influence from a multitude of sources. He is coming off a tough fight back victory against Verdasco, and a solid win against Janowicz. There is no reason to believe he has peaked. Also, he has beaten his rival on the big stage but also on the same court, one year ago during the Olympic semi-final. He knows he can’t rely on just rallying out his opponent. He needs surprise attacks, rather than just the passive get backs. Somehow he needs to persuade the Serb to over hit his backhand and question the serve that can get tight under pressure. He needs to keep Novak guessing, find a way into his brain while keeping his own mind unruffled. Conversely, the Serb will be looking to play the very same mind games, and very similar tactics to the Scot.
Wimbledon 2013 will serve to either even the score for Murray or push Djokovic past the tallies of Becker and Edberg with six total slams and onto seven to equal Wilander and McEnroe.
Novak has reached this level by shaking the old label as someone who would quit and crumble. These days he doesn’t merely tolerate tough battles, in truth they galvanize him, not that he has had many this Wimbledon. When he is pushed to the brink he screams, dives, slides, rips and fights to the bitter end better than no man. A tennis machine, possibly inspired by Nikola Tesla, is always dangerous even when he is playing badly; he is always in the game. Novak carries the air of invincibility. He doesn’t miss an easy shot. His serve is rarely broken. He doesn’t make unforced errors. He chases down balls that most players wouldn’t have even attempted. The only real worry is the fact he has only been pushed once all tournament, in that absurdly good semi-final against Del Potro. But is it foolhardy to question someone who has been good?
If Novak claims his second Wimbledon crown he will further cement his name as a legend, all round good guy, great player on all surfaces and poster boy for the new Serbia. If Murray wins his first Wimbledon crown, and the countries first in seventy-seven years, the Scot will enter the realms if immortality. Murray hysteria will abound. Aside from all his extra million dollar deals will be surely be a Knighthood, statue at the All England Club, a new Column in Trafalgar square opposite Nelson and likely divinization.
By Melissa Boyd
Novak Djokovic followed up his historic 2011 season with another stellar campaign in 2012 which he capped on Monday with a 7-6(6), 7-5 victory over Roger Federer to capture his second title at the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 in London and finish as the World No. 1 for the second consecutive year.
In a fitting season finale between the top two players in the world, Djokovic and Federer both had moments of brilliance throughout the tightly contested affair including a brilliant backhand down the line winner from the Serbian on match point. The Swiss, who was looking for a record seventh title in eight final appearances at the Final Showdown, led by a break in both sets and appeared to be on his way to a comfortable win. However, Djokovic once again showcased his trademark resiliency and mental toughness to earn a straight sets triumph.
With his 13th career victory over Federer, Djokovic collects his sixth title of the season as well as his ATP-leading 75th match win. He also appeared in 11 finals this year at 14 of the top events on Tour and went undefeated for the first time at the Final Showdown which warranted him a $1,760,000 winner’s cheque and a 2,000 point lead over Federer in the world rankings.
This concludes another memorable season on the ATP World Tour. Just when it seemed like they couldn’t raise the excellence bar any higher, the “big four” of men’s tennis once again out did themselves. Despite coming up short in London, Federer added to his legendary legacy and proved that age is just a number, reviving his career with one his best seasons at the age of 31. He won his 17th Grand Slam singles title at Wimbledon, an Olympic silver medal, and broke Pete Sampras’ record for number of weeks at no. 1, a milestone many felt was out of his reach. Andy Murray finally broke through in 2012, re-wrote the British tennis history books, and took the proverbial monkey off his back. He became the first British man in 76 years to win a Grand Slam singles title when he was crowned champion at the U.S. Open. The Scot also won the Olympic gold medal on his home court in London. Rafael Nadal may have only played the first half of the year, but the Spaniard still broke Bjorn Borg’s record by winning his seventh Roland-Garros crown. The game will be that much better when he returns healthy and rejuvenated in 2013. The “big four” won 14 of the 15 biggest tournaments this season with the exception being world no. 5 David Ferrer capturing his maiden Masters 1000 title in Paris. Add in names like Juan Martin Del Potro, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Milos Raonic, and Kei Nishikori and 2012 will be remembered as unforgettable.
With so much excitement surrounding 2013 before the dust even has time to settle on the season that was, the good news for tennis fans is that the Australian Open is only 50 days away.
Andy Murray is likely to be knighted one day for his Olympic gold medal-winning performance at the 2012 London Games, defeating seven-time Wimbledon champion Roger Federer on Centre Court at the All England Club.
However, until the Scotsman becomes “Sir” Andy Murray, he will have to settle for being immortalized….in LEGO.
All Olympic champions from Team GB at the London 2012 Games are being honored with a LEGO “minifig” replica of themselves. Britain’s Daily Telegraph shows photos of some of the other LEGO minifigs here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/olympics/picturegalleries/9464974/London-2012-Olympics-LEGO-minifigs-of-Team-GB-gold-medal-winners.html?frame=2305352
Four weeks after losing a heart-breaking Wimbledon singles final to Federer, Murray turned the tables on the Swiss maestro, easily defeating winning Olympic gold by a 6-2, 6-1, 6-4 margin. Winless in four major singles finals, including his 2012 Wimbledon loss and three previous major singles finals to Federer, Murray was finally able break through and win on one of the grandest stages in all of sport. While not as famous as the 76-year drought since the last British man, Fred Perry, won the men’s singles title at Wimbledon in 1936, the last British man to win Olympic singles gold was 104 years ago in 1908 when Josiah Ritchie was the Olympic champion. Curiously, the 1908 Olympic tennis event was also played at the All England Club at Wimbledon, although the event was staged down the road at the former Worple Road facility just down the road from the present location of the club.
The No. 4 ranked Murray is still in search for his first major tournament victory. He has his next chance later this month at the US Open, a tournament that he has called his favorite.
The history of the tennis competition at the Olympic Games is documented in a new KINDLE ebook “Olympic Tennis: An Historical Snapshot” released by TennisGrandstand, LLC. The book provides readers with a compilation of anecdotes, summaries, scores, medalists and records from all of the Olympic tennis competitions from 1896 to 1924 and from 1988 to 2008. The 2012 Olympic tennis competition will be held at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, the site of the annual Championships at Wimbledon, where Roger Federer and Serena Williams just claimed singles titles.
“Olympic Tennis: An Historical Snapshot” serves as an excellent “program-like” guide for spectators planning to attend the Olympic tennis competition, where Federer, Williams, Novak Djokovic, Maria Sharapova, Rafael Nadal, Victroria Azarenka, Andy Murray and Agnieszka Radwanska are among the favorites. Readers will learn of such interesting facts as which U.S. President had medal-winning relatives in the tennis competition, what tennis player has played in the most Olympic tennis events, what were the longest – and shortest – matches ever played in the Olympic tennis competition and much more information include an Olympic tennis record book and a day-by-day summary of Olympic tennis happenings through the years.
The book is available for American readers here for a price of $2.99:
For residents of the United Kingdom, the book can be downloaded here: http://www.mailermailer.com/rd?http://www.amazon.co.uk/Olympic-Tennis-Historical-Snapshot-ebook/dp/B008EOXW40/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1342542285&sr=8-3
TennisGrandstand, LLC is a publishing company that runs the popular tennis websites www.TennisGrandstand.com and www.WorldTennisMagazine.com. It has also published the book “The Yoga Guide To Diet and Peace of Mind,” available here: http://www.mailermailer.com/rd?http://www.amazon.com/Yoga-Guide-Diet-Peace-ebook/dp/B008AYME0C/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1342541363&sr=1-1&keywords=yoga+diet+peace+of+mind
by Ahmed Ibrahim
All or nothing. That’s what this crowd at the O2 Arena expects when you take the court and in the Semi-Finals of the ATP World Tour Finals that is what is needed. No relying on bizarre round robin results; just you versus your opponent. A win and you are in the Finals; a loss and you are going home – start all over again in January 2012.
Despite having only 16 hours respite since his third Round Robin match, David Ferrer gave it all he had against a nervous Roger Federer. Many assumed that given Roger’s almost two-day rest he would walk through this match and into the Final in the blink of an eye. Although winning 7-5 6-3, he was pushed hard by a motivated and never-say-die Ferrer.
The start was nervy for both players and they never really asserted themselves in their usual manner and hit some uncharacteristic unforced errors. Federer’s groundstrokes were a shadow of the laser-precision he used to smash through Rafael Nadal on Tuesday committing a stream of unforced errors that reminded fans of those bad performances this year.
There were no signs of fatigue from the previous match on the face of Ferrer as he ran down all the shots that Federer fired at him, scrambling for well-disguised drop shots and running back to the baseline for lobs — even winning a stunning backhand pass that caught Federer off guard.
Federer’s breakthrough came at 5-5 when he created two break points on Ferrer’s serve. Ferrer’s serve saved him one break point as Federer returned long, but Federer took the second point when Ferrer hit wide on a forehand.
Federer clinched the first set by holding comfortably to love. An uncharectaristic first set for Federer as he notched up 19 unforced errors; Ferrer committed 11.
The second set saw more of the dominant Federer that has graced the court at The O2. Breaking Ferrer in the opener to 30, Federer did not look back and held on to serve with whipping groundstrokes only losing one point on his serve in the second set.
Reaching match point after a net cord winner on Ferrer’s serve at 3-5 , Federer squandered the chance when he hit long but finally took the match two points later when Ferrer failed to return a forehand.
The win takes Federer through to his 100th Final and will be looking to create history as the only player to win six ATP World Tour Finals titles.
The second semi-final featured Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tomas Berdych. Tsonga reached the Semi-Final after defeating last year’s finalist Rafael Nadal in three sets on Thursday night; Berdych was locked in a three-way tie between himself, Ferrer and Novak Djokovic, but qualified on the tie-break head-to-head result alongside Ferrer.
Tsonga was looking to make it a third straight Sunday date with Federer and booked his place in the Final with a fairly comfortable 6-3 7-5 victory over the big serving Czech.
Tsonga asserted himself immediately in the match with similar aggressive tactics that he used against Nadal and broke Berdych at 2-3. The one break was sufficient for Tsonga who held on take the set.
Continuing to apply the pressure, Tsonga set up two break points but failed to convert any of them. At 3-3 the breakthrough came when Berdych double faulted the game away, but he broke back immediately.
Berdych, realizing that he had to change tactics opted for a more aggressive approach as he began to attack the net in similar fashion to what he did against Ferrer. Despite this change in play, Tsonga still managed to squeeze past as Berdych hit a forehand to the net gifting Tsonga with the chance to serve to go to the Finals. Tsonga served up two aces as he held to 15.
Tsonga will hope to make it third time lucky against Roger Federer in the Finals and is hoping to improve upon a 3-7 career record. With memories of the Paris Masters final still fresh in his mind he would love nothing more than to recreate those joyous scenes we saw on the hallowed turf of Centre Court at Wimbledon in June as she shocked Federer by winning after a comeback from two sets to love down.
Things are shaping up for a cracking end of season match and coupled with the electric atmosphere at the O2, it has the potential to blow the roof off the Arena.
With Federer playing the way he has been there is no denying that Tsonga will have to play at his best and give that bit more to clinch his maiden ATP World Tour Finals title.
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_
by Stephanie Neppl
By the time the final round robin match was ready to begin at the ATP World Tour Finals on Friday night, the O2 crowd was truly energized. Not only were they promised an intriguing match between David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych, but the result would decide whether Berdych or world #1 Novak Djokovic would advance to the semifinals.
Ferrer had been the in-form player coming into the match after defeating both Djokovic and Andy Murray in straight sets to lead his group. Berdych, on the other hand, saw both his previous matches decided by third set tiebreaks. He wasn’t able to close out Djokovic, but defeated Janko Tipsarevic after surviving a match point.
The O2 Arena delivers such an amazing experience when players enter the court. The lights dim, the blue court literally glows and superb graphics on the big screen and all around the court are dazzling. Add in the smoke machine and music and the tennis players must feel like grand celebrities. It’s an amazing sight and made this tennis player proud to be present to cheer on the ATP’s top stars during the week.
From the first point, Ferrer continued the form he’d shown all week and he fought off early break points to take the set 6-3. Berdych played evenly throughout the match, but it was Ferrer who was winning the rallies, which often ended on a Berdych error (43 in total).
But when serving up a break at 4-3 in the second set, the Spaniard tightened up and handed the break back. Seemingly from nowhere, Ferrer’s play, particularly his serve slumped and Berdych seemed to have an extra spring in his step throughout the third set. He sprinted to a 5-0 lead (winning seven straight games), before Ferrer held serve to escape a bagel, and then took the match 3-6,7-5, 6-1.
Watching a player as likeable and hard-working as Ferrer suddenly struggle to find his shots was not easy. But Berdych, who seemed an afterthought on the tour for much of the first half of the season, was delighted with the way he hung in there and he was rewarded for his perseverance.
“The turning point, I think, was just the one that I made on set point to win the second set, because all the time before I was down,” said Berdych. “When I made the second set, it just gave me a lot of confidence [and] energy. I started to feel really great on court.”
The Czech moves into the World Tour Finals semifinals for the first time, and will face Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Ferrer, who has already qualified after winning his first two matches, faces Roger Federer whom he has a 0-11 record against.
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.
by Ahmed Ibrahim
Twists and turns. That is the Round Robin format of this ATP World Tour Final, and Novak Djokovic is no exception as he had to wait several more hours to find out if his stellar 2011 had come to an end. Unfortunately for Djokovic, his stay in London was cut short after an amazing year, as he lost to Janko Tipsarevic 3-6 6-3 6-3.
It cannot be easy playing against your fellow countryman in such a high-stakes match and many had predicted a virtual walkover by Djokovic; people questioned whether Janko Tipsarevic had it within him to beat the World Number 1 in such circumstances given past performances. How wrong they were.
The first set was a 2011 Djokovic performance and a straight sets victory was looking likely as he got out of the starting blocks and took the match to Tipsarevic. The forehands and backhands that had failed him against David Ferrer found life to devastating effect as he broke Tipsarevic at 1-2. Moving effortlessly with fluid shots, Djokovic held serve and took the first set with a blinding forehand cross-court winner.
It’s not surprising that many people in the Arena had never actually heard of Tipsarevic. He is a player who has laid quite low in recent years but came within a whisker of qualifying for the ATP World Tour Finals outright had he beaten Tomas Berdych in Paris. Still, he is here as the alternate for Andy Murray and has had the year of his career.
Throughout the second set Tipsarevic clung on to his game buoyed on by the 17,500-strong crowd in the O2 Arena. Djokovic began to lose steam and the errors that began his downfall against Ferrer started to make an unwelcome comeback. Tipsarevic pounced at the opportunity and broke Djokovic to lead 4-2 when Djokovic played an out-of-bounds dropshot that hit the net. Tipsarevic gave back the break but got things back together when Djokovic served a double-fault and hit a groundstroke into the net leaving Tipsarevic with a golden opportunity to serve for the set.
The loss of this set added complication to Djokovic’s prospects for qualification and his fate would lie in the hands of the night match between David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych. At this stage of the game it was evident to the crowd in the arena that Djokovic was running on fumes and no matter how they tried to cheer him encouragement he just could not respond in an adequate manner. Breaking and leading 5-3, Tipsarevic took the match as Djokovic slammed a forehand into the net.
Tipsarevic look somewhat ashamed as he acknowledged the crowd’s applause for having put a spanner in the works of the World Number 1’s progress in the tournament. Tipsarevic was the far better player in the second and third sets with a more consistent and aggressive game plan. He could not qualify for the Semi-Finals but he will take comfort at having beaten a World Number 1 to end his groundbreaking season.
For Djokovic, he would have to sit and wait the outcome of the night match but whatever the result he has had a year that he, and many tennis fans, will not forget for a longtime.
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_
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.
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_.