o2 arena

Berdych Defeats Ferrer to Knock Djokovic out of London – Live Coverage

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.

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_

ATP World Tour Finals Feature Familiar Faces

What parity?

The final eight players for the ATP World Tour Finals are clearly the big names in men’s tennis and have dominated all season-long. They are set to face off on November 20-27 at the O2 arena in London and fans will be treated to witnessing some of the best tennis players of any generation.

The two round-robin groups are:

Group A: Novak Djokovic (SRB), Andy Murray (GBR), David Ferrer (ESP), Tomas Berdych (CZE)
Group B: Rafael Nadal (ESP), Roger Federer (SUI), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA), Mardy Fish (USA)

But while the names are familiar, much has changed in the past 12 months.

Defending champion Roger Federer has experienced an up-and-down year, dropping out of the top three and failing to capture a Grand Slam title for the first time since 2002. However, the Swiss maestro should never be counted out and showed he still has magic left with title-winning performances at Basel and the Paris Masters recently. Federer, a 30-year-old father of twins, also ended world No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s unbeaten streak of 43 matches at the French Open semifinals and earned his 800th career win last week.

Djokovic has been virtually unstoppable at times during the year and captured the Australia Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open to compile one of the best individual seasons of all time. The 24-year-old Serb conquered his fitness woes and played with confidence to match his talent and skill. Sitting behind Federer and Spain’s Rafael Nadal for most of his career, Djokovic proved he could win in any condition, any surface and any situation, and will deservedly finish the 2011 season on top. Djokovic, however, is still recovering from a nagging shoulder injury that forced him to withdraw in Paris.

The oft-injured Nadal also enters the World Tour Finals recovering from ailment, as he has not played since the Shanghai Masters last month, electing to prepare his body for London and Davis Cup. The world No. 2 enjoyed a solid season, winning his sixth French Open and finishing runner-up at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open to friendly rival Djokovic. The two captivated tennis fans all year with their intense matches that culminated in one of the most thrilling U.S. Open finals.

With a triumph in Shanghai, Britain’s Andy Murray overtook Federer as the world No. 3. Almost surprisingly, the Scot was perhaps the most consistent player on the Grand Slam stage aside from Djokovic, with a finals appearance at the Australian Open and three semifinal finishes. The brooding, seemingly self-loathing player has dedicated himself to fitness and after a deflating defeat at the hands of Djokovic at Melbourne, has rediscovered his game and confidence and should be a force at the World Tour Finals and in the 2012 season.

Spain’s David Ferrer and Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga should prove formidable and could spoil the party for any of the top four. World No. 5 Ferrer enters the event with solid wins at Shanghai, Valencia and the Paris Masters. Tsonga, at World No. 6, matched his career high ranking by reaching the finals in Paris, where he lost to Federer. Of the bottom four, only Tsonga has a winning career record against Djokovic.

Rounding out the top eight are Czech Tomas Berdych and World Tour Finals newcomer American Mardy Fish. In the quarterfinal of the Paris Masters, Berdych stunned Murray and secured his second consecutive World Tour Finals berth. Fish, who overtook fellow countryman Andy Roddick as the top American player this year, has shown consistent top victories that were lacking in the past. He enters the tournament despite being troubled with a hamstring strain.

The end-of-the-season round robin competition begins this Sunday, November 20th and should showcase some thrilling matchups to close out the 2011 ATP season.