Masters Cup

Happy Birthday Roger Federer!

Happy Birthday Roger Federer! The six-time Wimbledon champion – and new father – turns 28 Saturday, August 8 and will play his first tournament since his epic win over Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon final from July 5 this week in Montreal. Rene Stauffer, the author of the acclaimed Federer biography “The Roger Federer Story: Quest for Perfection” ($24.95, New Chapter Press, www.RogerFedererBook.com) takes a look at the time when Roger was only a glimmer in his parent’s eye and his very early years in this exclusive book excerpt entitled “From Kempton Park to Basel.”

The village of Berneck is situated in the northeastern corner of Switzerland in the St. Gall Rhine valley, where the Alpine foothills are kissed by the famed Foehn winds and the inhabitants speak a rough dialect of German. The people of this village feel a closer association to Austria and its Vorarlberg state—lo­cated just on the other side of the Rhine—than they do Switzerland’s major cities of Zurich, Bern or Geneva. A few kilometers to the north, the Rhine flows into Lake Constance, where the waters comprise the borders between Switzerland, Austria and Germany.

Roger’s father, Robert, grew up in Berneck as son of a textile worker and a housewife. At the age of 20, he left the area and followed the course of the Rhine and arrived in Basel, a border city in the triangle between Switzerland, Germany and France and where the Rhine forms a knee joint and flows north out of the country. Basel is where some of the world’s most important chemical companies are headquartered and Robert Federer, a young chemi­cal laboratory worker, found his first job at Ciba, one of the world’s leading chemical companies.

After four years in Basel, Robert Federer was seized by wanderlust, and in 1970, he decided to emigrate and pull up stakes from Switzerland. It was a coincidence that he chose South Africa, but also due to formalities. Among other things, he could get an emigration visa with relative ease in the country dominated by Apartheid. It was also a coincidence that he found a new job with the same employer he had in Switzerland, Ciba. The chemical company, along with several other foreign companies, was located in Kempton Park, an extended suburb of Johannesburg near the international airport.

It was in Kempton Park where he met Lynette Durand, who came to work for Ciba as a secretary. Afrikaan was the spoken language on her family’s farm—she had three siblings; her father was a foreman and her mother was a nurse—but Lynette went to an English school and her intention was to save money as quickly as possible and to travel to Europe. She preferred England, where her father was stationed during World War II.

Robert Federer is a modest and unpretentious man who usually remains in the background. He prefers to observe and listen quietly and then to steer things in the direction desired. He is small of stature with a prominent nose and he has a distinct mustache. He is athletic, strong, quick-witted, funny, cosmopolitan and easy-going. Nothing characterizes him better than his ringing laughter that draws his eyes into narrow slits and raises his bushy eye­brows. Despite his affability, he knows how to defend himself when crossed. He is realistic but decisive. A female portrait painter once described him as being “caustic, having the bite of a bear.”

Lynette, the charming 18-year-old secretary with the piercing eyes, in­stantly made a favorable impression on Robert Federer when he saw her in the company cafeteria in 1970. They met and eventually became a couple. Robert took Lynette to the Swiss Club in Johannesburg to introduce her to his new hobby—tennis. The young woman, who used to play field hockey, was instantly enthused about the sport and began to play regularly. The couple had a wonderful time in South Africa—Apartheid hardly affected them.

Robert Federer cannot really explain why they moved to Switzerland in 1973. “You had this feeling of being a migratory bird,” he said. Back in Basel, he often asked himself why they didn’t stay in Africa, especially because his consort admitted to having difficulty with the confines of Switzerland and the narrow mentality of its people. “But one learned quickly to adjust,” she said. The couple married and a daughter, Diana, was born in 1979. Twenty-months later, Lynette Federer then bore a son, on the morning of August 8, 1981 in Basel’s canton hospital. He was named Roger because it could also be pronounced easily in English. Roger’s parents, even in the first hours of his life, felt that one day it could be beneficial for their son to have a name that was easy to pronounce in English.

The name Federer was already familiar in Berneck before 1800, but it is ac­tually an extremely uncommon clan name in Switzerland. The most famous Federer up to that point was Heinrich Federer, a priest turned poet who died in 1928. In 1966, on his 100th birthday, he was immortalized on a Swiss postage stamp.

In the 1970s, the Ciba Company that Robert and Lynette Federer continued to work for in Switzerland sponsored a tennis club in Allschwil, a suburb of Basel, and the Federer family soon became regular players. Lynette displayed a great talent for the sport with her greatest triumph coming when she was a member of the Swiss Inter-club senior championship team in 1995. She loved tennis so much that she soon became a junior tennis coach at the club. She later became involved in the tournament organization at the Swiss Indoors, the ATP tournament in Basel, working in the credential office.

Robert Federer was also a committed tennis enthusiast and was a region­ally-ranked player. He and his wife would later more frequently hit the golf course, but at the time, tennis still came first. Lynette often took her son to the tennis courts. Young Roger was fascinated by balls at a very young age. “He wanted to play ball for hours on end—even at one-and-a-half years old,” his mother recollected. His skill was plainly apparent: He could hardly walk but he managed to catch larger balls. Little Roger hit his first tennis ball over the net at three-and-a-half years old. At four, he could already hit twenty or thirty balls in a row. “He was unbelievably coordinated,” his father gushed.

The Federer family was neither rich nor poor, just solid Swiss middle class. Roger grew up in a townhouse with a yard in a quiet neighborhood in Wasserhaus in Münchenstein, a suburb of Basel. Impulsive and ambitious, he was not an easy child. “Defeats were total disasters for him, even at board games,” his father remembered. He was “a nice guy” in general “but when he didn’t like something, he could get pretty aggressive.” Dice and game board pieces sometimes flew through the living room.

Even as a little boy, his mother said, he always did as he pleased and at­tempted to push limits, whether it involved teachers at school or his parents at home or with sports. “He was very vibrant, a bundle of energy, and was sometimes very difficult,” said Lynette. When forced to do something he didn’t like, Roger reacted strongly. When bored, he questioned it or ignored it. When his father gave him instruction on the tennis court, Roger would not even look at him.

Roger was a popular boy, always friendly, not arrogant, well-behaved—and very athletic. He tried skiing, wrestling, swimming and skateboarding but it was sports that involved balls that especially fascinated him. He played soccer, handball, basketball, table tennis, tennis and, at home, he even played badminton over the neighbor’s fence. He always had a ball with him, even on the way to school. One of his idols was Michael Jordan of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls. He was outdoors every free minute he could mus­ter. Work in the classroom that required concentration and sitting still wasn’t his thing. He was not an ambitious student at school and his grades were mediocre.

Robert and Lynette were the ideal parents for a sports fanatic like Roger. They let him run free when he wanted to but didn’t force him. “He had to keep moving, otherwise he became unbearable,” Lynette said. She and her husband emphasized taking up various kinds of sports. They took him to a local soccer club called Concordia Basel at an early age so that he would learn to interact with teammates and become a team player.

His mother, however, declined giving her son tennis lessons. “I considered myself not to be competent enough and he would have just upset me anyway,” she said. “He was very playful. He tried out every strange stroke and certainly never returned a ball normally. That is simply no fun for a mother.”

For hours, Roger hit tennis balls against a wall, a garage door, in his room against a wall or even against the cupboard in the house. Pictures and dishes were not safe and his sister’s room wasn’t spared either. “Things would some­times break,” Roger admits today. Diana didn’t have an easy time with her brother and was forced to put up with the antics of her rambunctious younger brother. “He would always come around shouting when I was with my friends or he would pick up the receiver when I was on the phone,” Diana said. “He really was a little devil.”

As is the case for siblings of the highly-talented, it wasn’t easy for Diana to stand in her brother’s shadow. Whenever the family went out together, Roger became more and more frequently the center of attention. Lynette took her aside once: “Diana, it’s no different for you than for your mother,” she told her daughter. “Many people talk to me but the topic is always your brother.”

Diana, an aspiring nurse, only occasionally watched her brother’s matches. For example, at the 2005 Masters Cup in Shanghai, she and her mother left the stadium in mid-match to go on a vacation to South Africa. Diana is proud of her brother but prefers not being in the limelight and doesn’t assiduously follow every detail of his career. For example, when she watched Roger play Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic at the Swiss Indoors in Basel in 2005, she had no idea that Berdych had surprisingly defeated her brother at the Athens Olympics one year earlier, dashing his dreams of an Olympic medal.

Novak Djokovic Takes Home Shanghai Crown

Final

In the final met two players who had played against each other in the group stage. On Tuesaday Novak Djokovic had defeated Nikolay Davydenko 7-6 0-6 7-5, five days later the Serb won much more easier, beating the Russian 6-1 7-5 to notch his first Masters Cup title (for the sixth time in the last 10 years in Masters Cup, two players met twice within one week, and for the third time in that period, one of them won both meetings, previously Roger Federer beat Andre Agassi twice in 2003). Djokovic won the first five games of the final and was two points away from taking the first set 6-0. In the second set Djokovic was close to gain a double break lead at 3:1. At 3:5 Davydenko saved double match point and in the next game broke opponent’s serve for the first time in the match after Djokovic’s double fault. Djokovic found himself in a very similar situation the day before playing against Simon and again didn’t panic in tense situation.

“It’s not easy, you know,” Djokovic said about that moment.

“There is a lot of pressure involved. It’s very important after not closing out the match to hold your nerves, and that’s what I did.”

In the 11th game Davydenko lost his serve netted a forehand on break-point. Djokovic didn’t waste second chance to close out the match and converted third match point with service winner. 21-year-old Djokovic obtained $625,000, Mercedes SUV and finished the season just two points behind No. 2 Roger Federer in the Champions Race.

“The secrets of the recovery, I think I’m going to keep more myself,” said Djokovic about his tight match against Simon and quick recovery. “But, yes, I was surprised in a way that I could move so well on the court today. I was a bit skeptical after a long match yesterday and a late finish.”

(2)Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. (4)Nikolay Davydenko 6-1 7-5

Semifinals

Gilles Simon won first encounter against Novak Djokovic, earlier this year in Marseille and started very well their semifinal in Shanghai. Simon broke Djokovic’s serve in the 3rd game and held his serve to the end of the set (could have won first set one game earlier but wasted 4 setpoints at 5:3). From the beginning of the second set, Djokovic was playing much more better, athough broke Simon’s serve just once – it was enough to level at one set a piece. In the third set Djokovic was 3:1 (40-0) up on Simon’s serve when felt pain in the left calf. Simon saved triple break point, won fifth game, and Djokovic took a medical time-out. After that Djokovic had been struggling with his baseline game but won reliably two service games and was serving for match at 5:4 – Simon ribroke after Djokovic’s double fault. In the next game at 30-30 Djokovic played good combination at the net with volley winner and it was decisive moment of the match. The Serb converted his second chance to close out the match which lasted 2 hours 51 minutes.

“Final is something special,” said Djokovic. “Every player has a motive more to do well and to win the title. I didn’t win a title for a long time already, since Rome, so I would like to end up my season in a good way.”

Murray’s game in the second semifinal, was infected by the marathon match against Roger Federer the day before. The Scot was even 4:3 (30-0) in the first set against Nikolay Davydenko but his physical tiredness was very visible. Davydenko won 7-5 6-2 in a very convincing style, reeled off five straight games, to advance for the first time to Masters Cup final in 4 appearances.

“Naturally I was going to be tired, I played a long match last night but he played a lot better than me in the circumstances. I think Davydenko will win the final” said Murray. “Djokovic had a long match today. Davydenko’s probably going to be fresher. I think that should make a big difference.”

Davydenko said: “Djokovic will have more confidence in the final”.

(2)Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. (8)Gilles Simon (FRA) 4-6 6-3 7-5
(4)Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) d. (3)Andy Murray (GBR) 7-5 6-2

Shanghai – Thursday & Friday

Gold Group

Match between this year’s Australian Open finalists, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Novak Djokovic, was completely irrelevant for the rest of the tournament, because Djokovic had secured 1st place in the group on Tuesday and Tsonga hadn’t had any chance to qualify to the semifinals. After winning first set easily, Djokovic had chances in two Tsonga’s service games to take a decisive break: 2:2 (40-15), 3:3 (30-0). Tsonga escaped troubles and in the 12th game broke Djokovic’s serve for the first time in the match to win the second set. Djokovic apparently wanted to save much energy before the semifinals, and in the third set, lost two service games without special involvement. Tsonga notched third win over Djokovic this autumn and gained 20 ranking points to move one place above Andy Roddick in the Champions Race.

In the second match of the day, Nikolay Davydenko and Juan Martin del Potro were fighting for a third spot in the semifinal. Unfortunately their match has been the most one-sided duel in Shanghai so far. Since 4:3 in the first set Davydenko’s advantage wasn’t questionable. The Russian won 8 out of the last 10 games of the match and joined to Murray and Djokovic as a third semifinalist. “Today, I played so good, I feel great” Davydenko said. He advanced to the Masters Cup semifinal second time in four appearances. Del Potro about his first Masters Cup appearance said: “I know these tournaments are very complicated for every player. That’s a good experience for me, for my career. I just need more experience to play better the next Masters Cup.”

(6)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. (2)Novak Djokovic (SRB) 1-6 7-5 6-1
(4)Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) d. (7)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) 6-3 6-2

Red Group

Gilles Simon found himself in paradoxical situation: he could have won his match against Stepanek and didn’t walk out from the group or lose that match and play in the semifinal, because his fate depended upon the Murray-Federer match. Simon won easily against Radek Stepanek 6-1 6-4 never facing break point and was hoping that Murray would beat Federer.

The last match in the group stage between Andy Murray and Roger Federer was the longest, the most dramatic and the best (given the quality of play) this year in Shanghai. Murray won 4-6 7-6(3) 7-5, for the third time this season rallied from a set down against Federer. The Swiss had been complaining of back and stomach problems this week but in the first set played his best tennis. Had break points in 4 Murray’s service games, notched 2 breaks of serve (lost own service once, in the 6th game). In the second set Murray led comfortably 5:2 (40-15) on serve but Federer won 4 games in a row, breaking Murray’s serve twice! In the intense tie-break Murray won 7 points, lost 3, and the match went to the deciding set. At the beginning of the third set, Federer had the trainer come out and massage his lower left back. Murray led 3:0 (30-15), but Federer playing unusually many dropshots, had later 4:3 (40-15) on serve – Murray broke back and had double match point at 5:4. That 10th game of the final set was amazing, Murray did two simple errors on first two match points, then both were playing for quite a while on the highest level, there were 10 deuces, Murray had another 5 match points but finally Federer converted 4th gamepoint to level up at 5:5. It was all what the 4-time Masters Cup champion could have done that day, fighting with the opponent and the back pain. Last two games Murray won without too much trouble, converting 8th match point after Federer’s forehand error. The match lasted 3 hours, 1 minute. “A win over Roger Federer means almost as much as winning the Masters Cup to me,” said Murray “He’s the best player of all time.” Federer won’t play in the Masters Cup semifinal for the first time in 7 appearances (4 triumphs, 1 final, 1 semifinal). He said: “I almost made a miracle happen, you know. I can’t believe how close I got, to be honest. So I’m actually very happy.”

(8)Gilles Simon (FRA) d. (alt.)Radek Stepanek (CZE) 6-1 6-4
(3)Andy Murray (GBR) d. (1)Roger Federer (SUI) 4-6 7-6(3) 7-5

Federer falls to Murray, Simon in semis

Gilles Simon is often referred to as “Simple Simon” due to his style of play that is far from flashy but rock-solid and almost always mistake-free. And after all of that complicated analysis of who could make the Masters Cup semifinals and how, it turned out to be, well, simple.

Simon defeated Radek Stepanek 6-1, 6-4 and Federer lost to Andy Murray 4-6, 7-6(3), 7-5 on Friday in Shanghai. That leaves Simon at 2-1, Federer at 1-2, and Stepanek 0-2 behind red group leader Murray. So Simon is in and Federer is out. No ties. No tiebreakers necessary. Simple.

Simon’s match, as already discussed, was irrelevant to the outcome of the red group, but his victory at least rendered the tie-breaking rules unnecessary and left fans with no need to try to understand why a certain player reached the semifinals. Simon made it simple, and his win over Stepanek was quite simple as well. Stepanek should get a break, however, since he was on vacation in Thailand and had no ideas whatsoever of participating in the prestigious year-end tournament. Of course, that was before Andy Roddick pulled out of the event with an ankle injury sustained during practice in between his first and second round-robin matches. After all the possible alternates ranked ahead of the Czech declined invitations to fill in, Stepanek jumped at the opportunity and literally borrowed Murray’s shoes and Novak Djokovic’s rackets in order to play.

The loans were not enough, however, to take down Simon, who had stunned Roger Federer in three sets on Monday. Simon went down to Murray in his second match, but he righted the ship by easing past Stepanek in two.

That quickly set the stage for Murray, who had already secured a place in the semifinals, and Federer, who needed a victory to advance and knock Simon out.

For a while, things looked good for the second-ranked Swiss. He broke Murray at 5-4 in the opener to take the first set 6-4. Federer even had a chance to finish the match off in straights as the second set featured four breaks of serve en route to a tiebreaker. Clutch play from the Scot and several scorching backhands leveled the match and forced a decisive third. Federer came out following treatment for his bad lower back and at first it did not cooperate. Murray sprinted to a 3-0 lead and a lame Federer appeared done. Yet somehow, Federer won the next four games to go up a break 4-3. In a final set that featured more twins and turns than you can possibly imagine, it was then Murray’s turn to regain momentum. The world No. 4 broke right back and held for 5-4, forcing Federer to serve to stay in the match-and the tournament. Federer did, but not before saving an incredible seven match points in dramatic fashion.

In the almost-inevitable end, however, Federer’s back ultimately failed him in the crucial moments. Murray won the final two games easily for the 7-5 win, finishing off Federer’s 2008 season and setting the stage for the semifinals….

…Which will pit Murray (red group winner) against Nikolay Davydenko (gold group runner-up) and Djokovic (gold group winner) against Simon (red group runner-up).

Shanghai – Tuesday & Wednesday

Gold Group

In the match between two young guns who participate in Masters Cup for the first time, Juan Martin del Potro ousted Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in two tie-break sets (7:4, 7:5) after 1 hour 51 minutes. Both sets had very similar process – Del Potro was leading 2:0, Tsonga got back on level terms at 2:2. In the first tie-break Tsonga was leading 3:1 but hit forehand wide from comfortable position and moment later Del Potro was 5:3 up and finished the set with two service winners. The second tie-break was mainly decided by stunning Del Potro’s backhand passing-shot which landed on the line and gave him leading 4:2. At 5:2 Del Potro served double fault, Tsonga saved with great serves (17 aces in the match, 12 in the first set) two match points but on the third match point, Del Potro hit strong first serve and forced Tsonga to an error after aggressive forehand. Del Potro has won third match this year 7-6 7-6 (previously against R.Schuettler and M.Fischer) and keeps alive his chances of qualifying for the semifinals, Tsonga lost his own chances after next match in that group between Djokovic and Davydenko. I’m very happy,” said Del Potro. “I beat the winner of Paris. He’s playing with a lot of confidence, like me. I played a great match. I played very good on the important points in the second set, and that was the key to beat him.”

Novak Djokovic as a first player this year secured a place in the semifinal after 7-6 0-6 7-5 win over Nikolay Davydeko. The Russian was 5:3 up in the first set and was two points away from taking the first set at 5:4 (30-30) on serve. Djokovic after winning first set tie-break easily, completely lost concentration what almost cost him losing 8 games in a row – Davydenko won second set 6-0 in just 18 minutes and had double break point at 1:0 in the third. Later Davydenko had gamepoint for a 6:5 lead but did an abysmal volley error and lost his serve. In the next game Djokovic quickly jumped to 40-0 and converted second match point with forehand winner. This outcome means Tsonga is eliminated from the tournament (he had theoretical chance to go to the semifinal if Davydenko would win against Djokovic). “It’s a great achievement for me, going through the semifinals, which kind of gives me a relief of the upcoming match,” said Djokovic. Davydenko has lost for the first time in ATP a match when he won a set 6-0. After the match he said about his next match against Del Potro: “You know it’s your last chance. If I win, I can qualify. If not, then I go on holiday.”

(7)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) d. (6)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 7-6(4) 7-6(5)
(2)Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. (4)Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) 7-6(3) 0-6 7-5

Red Group

In the battle of very long rallies, Andy Murray overcame Gilles Simon 6-4 6-2 and advanced to the semifinals. Murray has beaten Simon in straight sets for the third time this year. The Scott began the match with a 4:0 lead but Simon with his “never say die” attitude had break point to level up to 4:4 – did a return error. At the beginning of the second set Simon had three break points at 1:0 but couldn’t convert his chances and quickly found himself being 1:5 down. “The more I got him moving, the more I changed the pace of the ball and he started to make more mistakes,” said Murray.

Andy Roddick withdrew from the tournament because of injury (sprained ankle in the practise session). Before the tournament started, many players had refused to go to Shanghai as the altenates. The invitation accepted Radek Stepanek (26th in Champions Race) and Nicolas Kiefer (35th), therefore after Roddick’s withdrawal, Stepanek was playing against Roger Federer, becoming the lowest ranked player who has participated in Masters Cup history. Federer won 7-6(4) 6-4 but his form was far from his best, lost a break advantage in both sets and won match point after Stepanek’s double fault. Stepanek, who was on holiday in Thailand before arriving in Shanghai, said: “I had a racquet from Novak Djokovic, and I got socks from Andy Murray. But he’s using the same ones as I do, so I asked him if I could borrow one.” Federer has to beat Murray to qualify to the semifinals, Stepanek after losing first match, hasn’t any chance to play in the semifinal.

(3)Andy Murray (GBR) d. (8)Gilles Simon (FRA) 6-4 6-2
(1)Roger Federer (SUI) d. (alt.)Radek Stepanek (CZE) 7-6(4) 6-4

Federer controls own destiny at Masters Cup

Only at the Masters Cup can someone else’s match be more important than a player’s own match. And that is exactly the case with Gilles Simon heading into the last stage of round-robin play in the red group on Friday.

Here’s the deal: Simon is 1-1 in matches and 2-3 in sets (he beat Roger Federer in three and lost to Andy Murray in two). Federer is 1-1 in matches and 3-2 in sets (he lost to Simon in three and beat Radek Stepanek in two). Stepanek is 0-1 in matches and 0-2 in sets.

With Federer playing Murray and Simon playing Stepanek, three men (actually four since the Masters Cup standings somehow show Stepanek and Andy Roddick as essentially the same person! Stepanek subbed in when Roddick pulled out of the tournament with an ankle injury shortly before his scheduled showdown against Federer) can finish round-robin action with a 1-2 record behind Murray’s 3-0 mark. That would be the case if Murray upends Federer and Stepanek downs Simon.

In that scenario, Stepanek (who is eliminated regardless of the two outcomes) would be out due to the fact that he has played fewer matches than Federer and Simon. Number of matches played is the key tiebreaker and renders replacements almost irrelevant (Roddick played one match, losing to Murray, before his withdrawal). So it would come down to Federer and Simon. Now that it’s no longer a three-way tie (with Stepanek history), Simon would get the semifinal nod over Federer due to his head-to-head victory over the Swiss. So, as we see, Federer is done if he loses to Murray, even if Simon loses to Stepanek.

There’s also a chance three men could finish with a 2-1 record ahead of Stepanek’s (slash Roddick’s) 0-3 clip. That would be the case if Federer takes out Murray and Simon gets past Stepanek. With a three-way tie, a head-to-head ‘breaker is inconceivable since Murray beat Simon, Simon beat Federer, and Federer beat Murray (under this scenario). So it would come down to percentage of sets won. The worst Murray could end up with is winning 4 of 6 sets (if he loses to Federer in straights). The worst Federer could end up with is winning 5 of 8 eights sets (if he beats Murray in three, and remember he MUST beat Murray in for this scenario to be relevant). The best Simon could end up with is winning 4 of 7 sets (if he beats Stepanek in straights). So, as we see, it is impossible for Simon to advance if three men finish 2-1. That means Federer must lose in order for Simon to advance.

If you followed all that, you now know that Simon’s match is absolutely meaningless in determining the semifinalists. It all comes down to Federer and Murray. If Federer wins, he is in and Simon is out. If Federer loses, he is out and Simon is in.

To put it in simple terms: Simon could win 6-0, 6-0 and still be out. He could lose 6-0, 6-0 and still be in!

Got it?

SHANGHAI – Sunday & Monday

Gold Group

Novak Djokovic lost all three matches in stright sets last year at Masters Cup but this time began the tournament much more better, defeating Masters Cup youngest and tallest player and debutant as well, Juan Martin del Potro 7-5 6-3. Djokovic was leading 5:2 in the first set but Del Potro managed to level up before lost first set. In the second set Del Potro took early break (2:1) but since then, Djokovic was a dominant player, breaking his opponent twice (having break points in three consecutive games). Del Potro hasn’t won yet a set against three best players in the world in 8 matches (the Argentinian is 0-3 against Nadal and Federer, 0-2 against Djokovic… 0-19 in sets against all of them). “I have the best fans here in China,” Djokovic said. “I get presents every day I get back to the hotel.”

Another Masters Cup debutant, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga fell behind 0-40 in his first service game against Nikolay Davydenko. Tsonga saved triple break point and was winning service games comfortably till a tie-break. In the tie-break Davydenko was 3:2 up with serve but Tsonga won 4 out of the next 5 points what gave him double set point. The Russian saved both set points but at the third chance for the Frenchman, did an awful backhand volley error. Tsonga began 2nd set with break of serve but lost his service game immediately. At 5:4 (40-30) Davydenko hit backhand return on the line and the match went to a third set. Davydenko had raced to a 3:0 lead in the deciding set before Tsonga saved break point to win 4th game of the final set, endind the stream of dropping 5 games in a row. At 2:5 Tsonga saved match point with surprising dropshot. In the next two games Davydenko was two points away from victory but risky Tsonga leveled up to 5:5. The match was decided in an extremely quick tie-break. Davydenko opened the tie-break with an excellent volley and won the next 6 points thanks to Tsonga’s errors. It has been Tsonga’s first loss after 7 consecutive wins in three-setters. “It was a tough match,” Tsonga said. “He was just better than me at the end.”

(2)Novak Djokovic (SRB) d. (7)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) 7-5 6-3
(4)Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) d. (6)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) 6-7(6) 6-4 7-6(0)

Red Group

Masters Cup debutant, Gilles Simon (replaced injured Nadal) defeated four-time Masters Cup champion Roger Federer, second time this year. The Frenchman won 4-6 6-4 6-3 after 2 hours and 7 minutes. Like in their previous and first meeting, earlier this year (Simon won 2-6 7-5 6-4 in Toronto) through a set and a half Federer was dictating the conditions of the match. After winning first set, broke Simon’s serve to lead 2:1 in the second but the Frenchman ribroke immediately and at 5:4 converted first setpoint after great rally with exchange of volleys. At 3:2 in the deciding set, Simon was 40-0 up, then Federer won 8 points in a row what gave him triple break point in the 7th game. The Swiss squandered all break points and it was crucial point in the match. Simon won Federer’s serve to “30″ to lead 5:3 and finished the match with an ace on second match point. “I was sort of skeptical going into the match because the practice sessions haven’t been hard at all,” said Federer who committed 50 unforced errors.

Simon will next face another Masters Cup debutant, Britain’s Andy Murray, who beat Andy Roddick 6-4 1-6 6-1. The Scott broke Roddick’s serve in the fifth game and closed out the first set with a big serve. Next two sets had the same scenario – 5:0, 5:1, 6-1 after rather one-sided games. Murray finished the match with high backhand volley and said after the match: “Legs don’t quite have the snap in them that they did, you know, a few months ago. I’ll try and do my best to recover for the next match.” Murray now extends his series lead to 5-2 over Roddick. The American, known from big-serving, served only 3 aces this time (Murray 9).

(8)Gilles Simon (FRA) d. (1)Roger Federer (SUI) 4-6 6-4 6-3
(3)Andy Murray (GBR) d. (5)Andy Roddick (USA) 6-4 1-6 6-1

A Painful Defeat For Stanislas Wawrinka

BASEL

Stanislas Wawrinka suffered the most painful (6-3 6-7 6-7) defeat of the year at the hands of German qualifier Benjamin Becker and practically lost chances to book his place at the Masters Cup in Shanghai. Wawrinka couldn’t handle the pressure playing in front of the home crowd. Lost the second set despite a comfortable lead at 6-3 5:3 up and the third set despite 4:1 up and two match points on 6:5 on Becker’s serve. Wawrinka stayed positive after the bitter loss: “I’ve still had a great year and I have one more chance to qualify for Tennis Masters Cup when I compete in Paris next week”.

Swiss No. 1 Roger Federer surprsingly lost a set after wasting match point but finally won the match against Bobby Reynolds 6-3 6-7 6-3 without facing a break point in the whole match.

Other contenders to play in Shanghai: those with big opportunities like Juan Martin Del Potro and James Blake,  and those with  theoretical chances like Igor Andreev and David Nalbandian,  all won their 1st round matches without too much trouble
LYON

One out of 12 Frenchmen, who played in the 1st round in Lyon, Josselyn Ouanna has got his first ATP victory, beating former champion Ivan Ljubicic 6-7 7-6 6-4. Ljubic was serving for the match at 5:3 in the second set. In Lyon, likewise in Basel, three players fight for a spot in Masters Cup. All of them (Andy Roddick, Gilles Simon and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga) won first round matches. Madrid’s hero Gilles Simon needed a  three-setter again to win another match on the road to Shanghai. Defending champion Sebastian Grosjean playing first match since US Open, lost 7-6 4-6 4-6 to Robby Ginepri. In the next round Ginepri will face Andy Roddick for the 9th time in his career but for the first time in the European indoor season.

ST. PETERSBURG

Ernests Gulbis demolished Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-0 6-2 in just 51 minutes, serving 11 aces at 81% of the first serve and for the first time in the history, Latvian tennis will be represented by two players in the second round of an ATP tournament. Gulbis’ compatriot and peer, Karlis Lejnieks playing first ATP match in career beat Alexandre Koudriavtsev 3-6 7-6(1) 6-3. Lejnieks saved double match point at 5:6 (15-40) in the second set.

The Croats were unlucky in the first round : Mario Ancic lost to Jeremy Chardy 4-6 6-3 4-6 despite a 3:1lead in the third set, in turn Marin Cilic wasted two match points in the final set tie-break against unknown Kazakhstan qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin in a match which lasted 3 hours.

Basel – First Round
(1)Roger Federer (SUI) d. Bobby Reynolds (USA) 6-3 6-7(6) 6-3
Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) d. Eduardo Schwank (ARG) 6-2 6-4
Marcel Granollers (ESP) d. Marcos Baghdatis (CYP) 6-2 4-6 6-2
Simone Bolelli (ITA) d. (7)Tomas Berdych (CZE) 6-4 7-5
(4)James Blake (USA) d. Nicolas Kiefer (GER) 3-6 6-3 6-4
Oscar Hernandez (ESP) d. (q)Lukas Dlouhy (CZE) 7-6(6) 6-7(5) 6-1
Feliciano Lopez (ESP) d. (WC)Marco Chiudinelli (SUI) 7-6(5) 7-6(7)
(8)Mardy Fish (USA) d. Agustin Calleri (ARG) 7-6(5) 6-2
(6)Igor Andreev (RUS) d. Jurgen Melzer (AUT) 7-6(5) 7-5
Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) d. Denis Gremelmayr (GER) 6-4 7-6(5)
(WC)Stephane Bohli (SUI) d. Jose Acasuso (ARG) 6-3 6-2
(3)Juan Martin del Potro (ARG) d. (q)George Bastl (SUI) 6-2 6-4
(q)Benjamin Becker (GER) d. (5)Stanislas Wawrinka (SUI) 3-6 7-6(5) 7-6(5) – 2 M.P.
(LL)Andreas Beck (GER) d. Nicolas Devilder (FRA) 6-4 6-4
(q)Kristof Vliegen (BEL) d. (WC)Philipp Petzschner (GER) 6-2 6-3
(2)David Nalbandian (ARG) d. Albert Montanes (ESP) 6-4 6-2

Lyon – First Round
(1)Andy Roddick (USA) d. Nicolas Mahut (FRA) 7-6(5) 6-4
Robby Ginepri (USA) d. (WC)Sebastien Grosjean (FRA) 6-7(4) 6-4 6-4
(q)Christophe Rochus (BEL) d. Gilles Muller (LUX) 6-2 6-4
(7)Robin Soderling (SWE) d. (q)Thierry Ascione (FRA) 6-4 6-1
(4)Gilles Simon (FRA) d. Juan Monaco (ARG) 2-6 6-4 6-1
Andreas Seppi (ITA) d. (q)David Guez (FRA) 6-2 7-5
(WC)Josselyn Ouanna (FRA) d. Ivan Ljubicic (CRO) 6-7(2) 7-6(5) 6-4
Nicolas Lapentti (ECU) d. (6)Ivo Karlovic (CRO) 7-6(4) 6-3
(8)Paul-Henri Mathieu (FRA) vs Guillermo Canas (ARG) 6-3 6-4
Juan Carlos Ferrero (ESP) d. Samuel Querrey (USA) 6-3 7-5
Fabrice Santoro (FRA) d. Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-4 6-1
(3)Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) d. Marc Gicquel (FRA) 7-5 4-6 6-3
(5)Tommy Robredo (ESP) d. Michael Llodra (FRA) 6-4 6-3
Julien Benneteau (FRA) d. Arnaud Clement (FRA) 6-3 6-2
Steve Darcis (BEL) d. (WC)Radek Stepanek (CZE) 6-4 3-6 6-3
(2)Richard Gasquet (FRA) d. (q)Santiago Giraldo (COL) 5-7 6-3 7-6(3)

Basel – First Round
(1)Andy Murray (GBR) d. Viktor Troicki (SRB) 6-3 6-3
Ernests Gulbis (LAT) d. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ESP) 6-0 6-2
Janko Tipsarevic (SRB) d. Potito Starace (ITA) 6-3 7-6(4)
Jeremy Chardy (FRA) d. (7)Mario Ancic (CRO) 6-4 3-6 6-4
(3)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) d. (q)Teimuraz Gabashvili (RUS) 1-6 6-4 6-3
(WC)Karlis Lejnieks (LAT) d. (WC)Alexandre Koudriavtsev (RUS) 3-6 7-6(1) 6-3 – 2 M.P.
Rainer Schuettler (GER) d. Igor Kunitsyn (RUS) 6-2 6-3
Dominik Hrbaty (SVK) d. (6)Dmitry Tursunov (RUS) 6-1 6-1
(8)Marat Safin (RUS) d. Sergey Stakhovsky (UKR) 6-2 6-4
(q)Andrey Golubev (KAZ) d. Olivier Rochus (BEL) 6-1 6-4
(q)Michael Zverev (GER) d. Florent Serra (FRA) 6-4 6-2
(4)Mikhail Youzhny (RUS) d. Ivan Navarro-Pastor (ESP) 6-2 6-1
(q)Mikhail Kukushkin (KAZ) d. (5)Marin Cilic (CRO) 7-6(4) 4-6 7-6(6) – 2 M.P.
Victor Hanescu (ROU) d. Evgueni Korolev (RUS) 6-1 6-2
(WC)Michail Elgin (RUS) d. Filippo Volandri (ITA) 6-4 6-4
(2)Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) d. Chris Guccione (AUS) 6-4 6-4

Mardy Fish Sails To Next

MADRID

Igor Andreev has noticed a second defeat in two weeks time after wasting match point. The Russian was leading on return 5:4 (40-0) in the third set against Gilles Simon, who also saved another, fourth match point after very long rally. Andreev had advantage in the tie-break too (5:3) but finally more patient Simon won the match on his third chance 4-6 6-1 7-6(7). Simon has won second match this year saving triple match point, previously in Rome against compatriot Tsonga.

Newly-married Mardy Fish beat Steve Darcis 6-1 6-4 in his first singles match since US Open. The American fired 13 aces despite only 46 % 1st serve in.

In the first half of the season Nicolas Almagro had been a serious contender of reaching Masters Cup in Shanghai, but since Wimbledon, the Spaniard has lost 7 out of last 11 matches and practially lost in Madrid his chances for Masters spot. Almagro was defeated 6-7(4) 1-6 by “lucky loser” Simone Bolelli who replaced “wild card” Marat Safin.

First Masters Series match in career won Marcel Granollers. The qualifier from Spain surprised Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-4 6-4. The 22 year-old Spaniard before the Madrid’s 1st round encounter, lost last 5 matches, 2 of them on Challenger circuit. He sets up clash with another Frenchman – Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. “It’s definitely going to be a tough match,” said Granollers. “He is very strong, he has great drive and he hits the ball very hard. I’ll try to play my game and do my best.”

Madrid – First round

Ernests Gulbis (LAT) d. Nicolas Kiefer (GER) 5-7 6-4 7-5

Mardy Fish (USA) d. (q)Steve Darcis (BEL) 6-1 6-4

Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) d. Carlos Moya (ESP)  6-2 6-2

Feliciano Lopez (ESP) d. (WC)Albert Montanes (ESP) 7-6(4) 6-3

(q)Victor Hanescu (ROU) d. Dmitry Tursunov (RUS)  4-6 6-2 6-3

Robin Soderling (SWE) d. (q)Florent Serra (FRA) 6-3 6-4

Gilles Simon (FRA) d. Igor Andreev (RUS) 4-6 6-1 7-6(7) – 4 M.P.

(q)Robby Ginepri (USA) d. Michael Llodra (FRA) 6-4 6-4

Tommy Robredo (ESP) d. Andreas Seppi (ITA) 7-6(5) 3-6 6-3

Gael Monfils (FRA) d. (WC)Fabio Fognini (ITA) 6-2 6-4

Marin Cilic (CRO) d. (q)Olivier Rochus (BEL) 6-3 7-5

(LL)Simone Bolelli (ITA) d. Nicolas Almagro (ESP) 7-6(4) 6-1

Tomas Berdych (CZE) d. Rainer Schuettler (GER) 6-1 6-2

Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) d. Mikhail Youzhny (RUS)  7-5 3-6 6-2

(q)Marcel Granollers (ESP) d. Paul-Henri Mathieu  6-4 6-4

Radek Stepanek (CZE) d. Juan Monaco (ARG) 6-1 6-1

Marat Safin Beats Defending Champion Nikolay Davydenko

MOSCOW

Born in Moscow but representating Germany, Mischa Zverev advanced to his first career ATP Tour semifinal (6th quarterfinal’s attempt) in dramatic fashion. Zverev was losing to Vicotr Troicki 1:5 in the third set but managed to win 6 consecutive games, attacking at the net almost at every opportunity. The German saved two match points with service winners at 1:5 and was 4 times two points away from defeat at 4:5 on Troicki’s serve.

The other Moscow-born player Marat Safin ousted the defending champion Nikolay Davydenko 7-6(5) 4-6 6-4 after 2 hours 28 minutes. Davydenko was serving to win the first set at 6:5 and was two points away from taking the set in the tie-break. Decisive break in the third set came in the 5th game when Davydenko lost his serve despite 40-0 up.

STOCKHOLM

Top-seeded David Nalbandian and two-time Stockholm finalist Jarkko Nieminen have each won their  matches against Spanish opponents, dropping just 5 games. Nieminen had very promising start of the year but since Australian Open hasn’t won 3 matches in a tournament.

Mario Ancic withdrew prior to the match against Kei Nishikori due to acute bronchitis. Ancic has been health problems from the beginning of the week.

Robin Soderling served 13 aces in straight sets victory over Rainer Schuettler.

VIENNA

Former Vienna’s champion Feliciano Lopez disappointed local fans beating Jurgen Melzer 4-6 6-3 6-4. Lopez had only two break points in the match and converted both of them.

Philipp Kohlschreiber playing his first tournament since US Open, advanced to the semifinal after easy win over Fernando Verdasco. Kohlschreiber during the week has dropped only 9 games (4 in the 1st round, 5 against Verdadco). Kohlschreiber’s countryman Petzschner reached first ATP semifinal after 6-4 6-2 over Carlos Moya in the late match.

Moscow – Quarterfinals

(7)Marat Safin (RUS) d. (1)Nikolay Davydenko (RUS) 7-6(5) 4-6 6-4

Michael Zverev (GER) d. Viktor Troicki (SRB) 6-4 3-6 7-5 – 2 M.P.

Fabrice Santoro (FRA) d. (4)Paul-Henri Mathieu 6-3 2-0 ret.

Igor Kunitsyn (RUS) d. Jeremy Chardy (FRA) 6-4 6-2

Stockholm – Quarterfinals

(1)David Nalbandian (ARG) d. (7)Albert Montanes (ESP) 6-4 6-1

(3)Jarkko Nieminen (FIN) d. Oscar Hernandez 6-1 6-4

(4)Robin Soderling (SWE) d. (5)Rainer Schuettler (GER) 6-2 7-5

(WC)Kei Nishikori (JPN) d. (2)Mario Ancic (CRO) w/o

Vienna – Quarterfinals

(q)Philipp Petzschner (GER) d. Carlos Moya (ESP) 6-4 6-2

Feliciano Lopez (ESP) d. Jurgen Melzer (AUT) 4-6 6-3 6-4

Philipp Kohlschreiber (GER) d. (5)Fernando Verdasco (ESP) 6-2 6-3

(8)Gael Monfils (FRA) d. (2)Fernando Gonzalez (CHI) 6-3 7-6(2)