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Federer Creates History with His Sixth ATP World Tour Finals Title – Live Coverage

Federer wins

by Ahmed Ibrahim

The stage was set as the O2 Arena filled with 17,500 spectators ready for the climax of the 2011 season that pitted Roger Federer against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. This was the third consecutive Sunday that both players would meet on a tennis court; Roger Federer emerging victorious in all three recent encounters, although nothing quite compares to the resounding victory Tsonga had over the Swiss Maestro in Wimbledon last June when he clawed back from two sets down to win in dramatic style.

Both players had a great week in London: both bested Nadal in the round robin of the group, and Federer beat David Ferrer in straight sets in the Semi-Final while Tsonga did the same to Tomas Berdych. It was fitting that both players would meet again in the Final.

The O2 Arena expected a big show from both players, after all, this was the Final of the ATP World Tour Finals and the last ATP match of 2011. The rapturous applause and loud cheers as the players walked on to court was deafening and cheers in equal measure for both players echoed around the arena.

Federer and Tsonga were in no mood for giving each other the break as they both held serve showing off the hard hitting and fast court coverage that has seen them take down the best this year. The crowd, at various times, was held in awe as Tsonga dropped some very gutsy drop volleys and ferocious crosscourt winners. Federer, although playing second-best in the first set, wowed us with his abilities to use the court to great effect and return hard hitting groundstrokes from Tsonga.

The break came when Tsonga was serving 3-4 and a rare sloppy play gave Federer a 0-40 advantage which he capitalized and, despite Tsonga’s valiant efforts to break, served out the first set on the second set point in 35 minutes.

Tsonga almost gave away an early break in the second set at 1-1 when his serve seemed to have departed the O2. Two consecutive double-faults put him on the back foot but he managed to dig himself out and hold from 15-40. Federer was getting hungry and managed to secure a break at 2-2 when he had Tsonga on the ropes at 30-40 facing a second serve. Running around the backhand he unleashed a monstrous inside-in forehand to break and take the 3-2 lead.

The crowd went wild, Federer was fist pumping, Tsonga could not believe it. As the crowd cheered for Federer many turned their support to Tsonga; the O2 crowd loves to support a player who can keep his head when faced with a mountainous task.

Federer had the opportunity to serve for his sixth ATP World Tour Finals titles at 5-4 but lacked the concentration that has seen him serve out for championships many times in his 69 victories. Facing triple break point he recovered to 30-40 when an aggressive Tsonga got a little too aggressive and hit long before sending a forehand into the net. Federer was unable to salvage the third break point as Tsonga smashed his way to 5-5.

This is often the moment when the momentum can shift. Tsonga was pumped up, the crowd was getting behind him and he was feeding from the energy. Federer was his usual self not letting it show where others would probably stand on the court with their hands on hips, racquet to the floor in disbelief. Perhaps by 30 you’ve learned a lot about holding back your emotions and keeping that ‘poker face’ trying not to show your opponent that you have taken a hard whack on the nose.

Fittingly this match would go to a tie-break. Lots in the crowd wanted this to go to three sets. “Jo, we’ve paid a lot of money for today, make this worth it!” yelled the lady behind me. If going to a tie-break in such a situation was not worth the money we were in for a tense one.

The tie-break started nervy with Tsonga giving away the immediate mini-break. But Federer yielded back and snatched a 4-2 lead making it look like one-way traffic on court; all he had to do was hold onto his service points. Tsonga was not going to go down without a fight despite trailing 3-5 when he fought back with three straight points. Federer reached Championship Point with an ace but would have to work past the bullet Tsonga serve. Saving Championship Point with a mid-court winner and hitting an unreturnable serve, he nailed a ferocious forehand return of serve direct at the feet of Federer to take the second set.

Needless to say the crowd went beserk and was firmly rooting for Tsonga who, by now, was gathering momentum and confidence. Federer, who remained his cool un-phased self, started the third set by serving first. This is where he often turns up the heat as he had done against Tsonga and Mardy Fish over the past week.

The tennis was gathering pace as both players hit the ball harder, deeper, and with more spin. Federer’s backhand was looking more fluid; Tsonga’s forehand resembled a heat seeking missile waiting for the moment to strike.

At 3-4 Tsonga would finally buckle as he was held on the ropes at 0-30. He fought back with three straight points but two forehand errors gave Federer a break point. Tsonga bravely saved by volleying a winner off a forehand approach he was facing another break point two points later but saved it again as he ripped a backhand crosscourt that left Federer stunned and the crowd erupting with cheers and applause. It was not until the third break point that Federer made the crucial break through as Tsonga hit a running forehand into the alley.

A roaring cry from a fist-pumping Federer, who stood a few feet below me, lifted the crowd into levels of mad hysteria for they knew this was his moment and history was only four points away. A love-hold by Federer who ended the match with a forehand volley winner leapt into the air with celebration for the 70th time in his career.

The trophy presentation spoke a thousand words as the confetti reigned down over Federer. Tsonga was extremely gracious in defeat; Federer humble as ever in his victory speech praised Tsonga’s great year. The crowd appreciative of what was put before them gave both players a standing ovation. Many are confident that Tsonga will grow from this experience; others are excited for whatever else Federer can accomplish.

This was a fitting way for Federer to end his 2011 season with a title win that lifts him to World Number 3 in the ATP Rankings while Tsonga retains his career high of Number 6.

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_

Federer and Tsonga to Meet in ATP World Tour Finals – Live Coverage

Roger Federer of Switzerland returns aga

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_

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

Berdych

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.

Tipsarevic Beats Djokovic to Mark His Place at the ATP World Tour Finals – Live Coverage

Tipsarevic 2

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_

Federer Triumphant Over Fish as Tsonga Sends Nadal Packing – Live Coverage

Roger Federer of Switzerland returns aga

by Ahmed Ibrahim

Round Robin formats often lead us down the path of making those calculations of who needs what results to qualify. Thankfully, Thursday’s Group B matches were a rather simple affair: The ”dead rubber” and the “last chance saloon” match.

Mardy Fish, already eliminated from qualifying, faced an in-form Roger Federer while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Rafael Nadal battled it out to fill the second qualifying spot of Group B.

Roger Federer picked up where he left off against Rafael Nadal on Tuesday night, with a 6-1 3-6 6-3 win over Mardy Fish.  Early indications suggested that we were headed for another early-finishing match as Federer took the first set in 32 minutes. Breaking Fish in the second game Federer was immediately broken back. He broke Fish twice more to lead 5-1 and served out the first set from being down 0-40 after.

The crowd began to get behind Mardy Fish and he rallied from this to step up his game and broke Federer to lead 3-1 in the second set. Holding serve well as the unforced errors began to creep into Federer’s game Fish held on to take the second set. A third set was what the crowd wanted and Fish prolonged his stay at the O2 Arena.

Losing the second game in the third set Federer held to love to lead 3-0 and was upping the stakes and playing more aggressively, yet was too strong in the end for Fish.

It is good to see Fish bow out with a good fight though with three losses he will feel like he could have had a much better tournament especially after pushing Nadal to the wire on Sunday night. It goes without saying that not many first time ATP World Tour Finalists have taken sets off the former world number 1’s and to do that with both in the same group is a great result.

Whether or not we will see Fish back at the ATP World Tour Finals in years to come, or even next year, is a big question but there is no denying that Fish has had a great year and he thoroughly deserved to be here in London for his first ATP World Tour Finals.

Evidently for Federer his game was not entirely on par with that on Tuesday in his match against Nadal. Obviously not having the pressure of winning to qualify resting on his shoulders allowed to him to be a little bit more relaxed but stay focussed at being aware that Fish would want to walk off court on a high note.

The second match between 2010 finalist Rafael Nadal and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was a simple win-to-qualify match. This one went all the way to three sets in a 2 hours and 42 minute battle that threatened to leave spectators stranded if they did not catch the final trains from the O2 Arena on time.

Tsonga’s game plan was evident from the start: be aggressive, keep Rafa moving and pick the right moment to execute a winner. This worked well for Tsonga as he produced some fine displays of tennis in all parts of the court. From dictating play from the baseline he unleashed numerous crosscourt backhand winners that left the crowd gasping in awe. His net play was spot on and his dropshots were something out of a textbook.

Rafael Nadal, on the other hand, was looking to forget the beating he took at the hands of Roger Federer on Tuesday night and came out fighting hard. The crowd was pumped up to see a big battle between these two.

Going to a tie-break in the first set it was Tsonga who was too strong for Nadal with a comfortable 7-2 win in that set.

Nadal needed something big in the second set and yet did not appear to pick up the aggressiveness. Tsonga’s service rate dropped to 41 per cent in the second set and Nadal managed to shift the momentum in his favour as Tsonga’s unforced error count started to creep up with his winners count.

Serving to stay in the second set Tsonga played an awful game and his own mental toughness beat him again in a similar fashion to his match against Federer on Sunday.

Nadal failed to seize the momentum as Tsonga raced ahead to lead 5-2 before double-faulting to serve for the match. Stepping it up and going all out aggressive on the Nadal serve landed him up 0-30, a netcord sent the ball out to set up triple match point. Tsonga unleashed a monster cross-court forehand return winner that sealed his qualification into the Semi-Finals alongside Roger Federer.

Clearly, Nadal has not had a great year by his standards, admitting that in press, but his year is still not over as he will compete in the Finals of the Davis Cup in Seville against Argentina. Tsonga’s great year continues having beaten both Nadal and Federer on the grass courts of Queen’s and Wimbledon – can he go all the way in the O2?

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_

Standout Performances by Federer, Ferrer, Tsonga; Yannick Noah Should be Punished – The Friday Five

Tsonga celebrates after defeating Nadal

by Maud Watson

Say What?!

Despite the enthralling tennis that has been taking place in London, one of the biggest stories of the week has been Yannick Noah’s accusations that Spanish athletes are doping.  Put bluntly, Noah’s comments couldn’t have been more idiotic for a multitude of reasons.  First, if you’re going to accuse someone of doping, have some semblance of concrete evidence, because suggesting that other athletes suddenly appear stronger and able to significantly dominate out of nowhere is not going to cut it.  Not to mention, has he taken a look at Tsonga or Monfils?  They’ve no doubt achieved their builds fair and square, but there are many players who don’t cut as imposing of a figure as those two.  Second, Noah put his own countrymen in an awkward position.  Kudos to Llodra and Tsonga who took the high road and apologized to their fellow Spanish competitors for Noah’s comments.  Finally, Noah’s solution to the problem was appalling.  Rather than suggesting that authorities clean up the alleged abuse, he supports letting French athletes dope, ignoring the long-term health effects it could have on those athletes.  The French Tennis Federation has condemned his comments, but they should also suspend him from any involvement with their Davis and Fed Cup teams as well as any media obligations.  He cannot go unpunished.

Standout Performers

There has been more than one upset this week in London, and there have also been some spectacular efforts from three individuals in particular.  Props need to be given to Federer.  True, he’d probably trade in his results this week for a major title, but he’s the only one of the Big Four who’s proven there’s still plenty left in the tank (and check out his total matches for 2011 vs. the other three, and you’ll see he’s played nearly as much).  Then a big congrats to David Ferrer.  He’s a bit like Davydenko in that he always seems to be overlooked.  He’s played breathtaking tennis in London, however, and if this is any indication that he’s starting to find the belief against the biggest names in the game, watch out for him in 2012.  Finally, hats off to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.  After losing to Federer in three to start his campaign this year, he then produced top-notch tennis against Fish before taking it to Nadal when the chips were down to secure his semifinal berth.  If they keep playing like this, we’re in for an exciting end to the last tournament of the season.

Valiant Effort

His overall match results at the ATP World Tour Finals may say otherwise, but Mardy Fish was one of the feel-good stories of the week.  He said he was approaching the tournament with the attitude that he was just happy to be there, and that’s been evident in his whole demeanor.  You can see how much it meant to him to qualify for this prestigious event, and the fact that he played that third round robin match, knowing he was already out of the running and carrying an injury, is nothing short of admirable.  He also put together some fine tennis and had his preparation not been hampered by the injury, you can’t help but wonder if he might have won a few more of the key points and found his way to the semis.  It’s hard to know whether or not Fish is capable of backing up his 2011 season next year, but it’s hard not to root for him to have another crack at London.

Awards Are In

The ATP Awards were announced at the front part of the week, and there were no real surprises.  Djokovic took home honors for finishing No. 1 while Nadal received the Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award for his work with his foundation.  Bogomolov Jr. was named the Most Improved by his peers, while standout Raonic was voted the Newcomer of the Year.  But the most telling awards were perhaps those that were given to Roger Federer.  Despite falling to No. 4 in the rankings and not winning a major for the first time in nearly a decade, fans still voted him their favorite player for the ninth consecutive time, a testament to the enduring quality of the brand of tennis he plays.  He was also named the recipient of the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award, as voted on by his peers, for the seventh time in eight years.  For sure, Federer has had some less-than-classy moments in interviews following tough losses, but it’s nice to see that the sportsmanship award went to the top player who doesn’t feel the need to wear every emotion on his sleeve and doesn’t violate the time or coaching rules.

Lighten Up

That’s what Roger Draper and the LTA are asking the British Government to do when it comes to their tax laws regarding athletes competing in Britain.  Currently, athletes are taxed on prize money, appearance fees, and worldwide endorsements.  While taking taxes out for prize money and even the appearance fees doesn’t seem unreasonable (though they are high), the tax on the endorsements does.  Nadal, who brought the issue to a head earlier in the year, and any other athlete is right to complain and can’t be blamed for choosing to play at another venue that will allow them to take home more of their hard-earned money.  The question is if the government will budge, or if they think that they can continue to get away with it.  They’ve already granted some exemptions, such as to those competing in the 2012 Olympics, but it’s hard to imagine tennis players boycotting Wimbledon or possibly even the ATP World Tour Finals if not given exemptions just because of the tax laws.  Fingers crossed Draper and the LTA can get the government to do the right thing in this scenario.

Ferrer and Berdych Win in Contrasting Styles at ATP World Tour Finals – Live Coverage

Djokovic vs Ferrer

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.

Andy Murray Plays “Road Tennis” for adipower barricade Shoe Launch

Ross Hutchins, David Haye, Andy Murray, Example

In light of Andy Murray officially pulling out of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London today due to a groin injury, tennis fans need a little something to smile about. How about Murray playing “Road Tennis?”

Prior to the start of the year-end championships, Murray took park in an adidas challenge to promote the launch of the new adipower barricade 7.0 shoes in a secret London location last Monday. The event pitted Murray against not only the world champion in “Road Tennis” but also against his good friend, former boxing champion David Haye, with international artist, Example, taking the chair as umpire. Murray’s good friend and Davis Cup teammate Ross Hutchins also joined in on the adventure.

“Road Tennis” is a cross between traditional tennis and table tennis but played on the streets with participants chalking out their own courts. A version of the game first appeared in the Barbadian capital of Bridgetown in the early 1930s. Murray had never played the game before and was given only one hour to train before taking on the world champion. To find out who won, view the video below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gl0Fv2aMuSk&w=450&h=288

The event marks the start of a yearlong international campaign by adidas called “The Game is the Game” that challenges some of the world’s best tennis players at a series of tennis-based games around several major tournaments in 2012. The public will even have the chance to influence some of those challenges, so stay up-to-date by visiting www.adidas.com/tennis.

Murray, never one to shy away from a challenge that brings exposure to tennis, had the following to say about his experience playing “Road Tennis”:

“I had good fun on the day, it’s certainly a different way to prepare for the Masters Finals!

It was the first time I’ve played Road Tennis, and it’s a very fast. The angles are different, and it took a bit of getting used to I but I got the hang of it and was getting quite into it by the end.

I played a few decent points, but I’m definitely better on a full sized tennis court.”

Check out more photos from the event below! (Click to enlarge)

(Photos and video courtesy of adidas)

New Frontier for Federer, Kvitova Sweeps the WTA Awards — The Friday Five

Roger Federer

By Maud Watson

New Frontier

With all that Roger Federer has accomplished thus far in his career, there are few big titles that are absent from his impressive résumé.  But this weekend marked an important first for the man from Switzerland, as he won his maiden Paris Masters shield.  The win puts him at 18 TMS titles and 69 overall.  But the victory may also pay other dividends for Federer.  He thrashed Tomas Berdych in the semifinals before posting a convincing win over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the championship match.  Though neither player is a member of the top four, the Czech and Frenchman have recently been thorns in the side of Federer, and consecutive victories over the pair of them should only add to his confidence heading into London.  In fact, based on current form, Federer appears to be the man to beat in the British capital.  You can be sure he’ll be keen to regain the number three ranking before the season’s end and hopefully propel himself to slam success in 2012.

Cleaning Up

In addition to putting together the best season of her career that included titles at both Wimbledon and the WTA Championships, Petra Kvitova bagged a fair share of the WTA awards.  Not surprisingly, she was named the WTA Player of the Year, but that wasn’t all.   She also received the nod for the Most Improved Player, and fans voted her the Breakthrough Player of the Year.  That’s an awful lot to live up to next season, but if she continues to improve the mental aspect of her game, she’ll be perfectly poised to add more than a few championship trophies and awards to her mantel for years to come.

Group Dynamics

Earlier in the week, the two groups for the ATP World Tour Finals were announced, and based on where the chips fell, it could be anyone’s game.  Group A consists of Djokovic, Murray, Ferrer and Berdych.  With his injury and latest performances, Djokovic can hardly be expected to dominate.  Murray may be the one with the edge in that group after a strong autumn, but his most recent loss comes at the hands of Berdych, who should thrive on the fast indoor surface.  Finally, you can’t discount Ferrer, the ultimate competitor, who’s capable of beating anyone on any given day and has the experience of having reached the final of this prestigious event back in 2007.  Then there are the intriguing matchups in Group B, which consists of Nadal, Federer, Tsonga and Fish.  Federer has been in superb form, but Nadal has frequently had his number, (though it’s worth noting that Federer defeated Nadal at this same venue in the final last year).  Nadal himself is a bit of a wildcard, posting mediocre results this fall and skipping Paris.  Fresh off the final in Paris, Tsonga, like Federer, also appears to be peaking at the right time and has proven capable of causing more than a few upsets.  Perhaps the only man that would truly be beating the odds to make the semis is Fish, if for no other reason than he’s nursing a bad injury and may be battling nerves as the only player in the eight-man field to be making his ATP World Tour Finals debut.  Predictions anyone?

Charity Twist

Tennis players have an excellent record of answering the call to help those less fortunate than themselves, and they’re doing so again, right up to the last tournament of the year.  As an interesting way to raise funds, each of the eight singles players in the London field will be stocking their personal lockers, and fans will have the opportunity to bid online for the locker contents of their favorite player.  The proceeds will then be split 50-50 with half of the money going to the tournament’s partner charity Save the Children and the other half going to the respective player’s charity of choice.  As usual, the tennis establishment should be applauded for its humanitarian efforts and employing a fun and creative way to raise the funds.

Gauntlet Thrown

If you’re going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk.  That’s what the Canadian Davis Cup Teams is going to have to do when they face France in their opening tie of 2012.  In advertisements for the upcoming tie, the Canadians appear to be ribbing the French, with one poster of Milos Raonic reading “Hey France, I’ve got a 151 m.p.h serve.  Try returning that with a baguette.” Another features Vasek Pospisil stating “Hey France, Welcome to Vancouver.  My hometown and your worst nightmare.”  Them are fightin’ words from a nation that doesn’t have nearly the same amount of depth or tennis history as its opponent, but they should help fuel a boisterous and supportive atmosphere for the home team.  And hey, if they prove capable of backing up the talk, just imagine the promos we can look forward to in the future.

ATP Players Go Stylish at World Tour Finals Gala in London

Battersea Power Plant London, England

With the ATP World Tour Finals starting on Sunday in London’s O2 Arena, the top eight men of tennis have been practicing, hitting the gym, and attending movie premieres. Every tournament comes with it’s own obligatory players party, and today’s in London looked exceptional as Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Mardy Fish all dressed the part. Some even brought their lovely significant other.

The gala was officially called ’A Night With The Stars’ hosted by Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and supported by Moet & Chandon at the famous Battersea Power Station. If this building looks familiar to you rockers, it’s because Pink Floyd’s “Animals” album uses the same scene.

First up, Man of the Year Novak Djokovic attended with girlfriend Jelena Ristic. After going all black at last night’s British premiere of Twilight’s “Break Dawn: Part 1,” the two pull off an all grey ensemble. Even with Jelena’s “nerdy” look, she is stunningly beautiful next to her man.

Not to be outdone, ATP World Tour Finals rookie Mardy Fish graces the gala with wife Stacey Gardner. She is best known as a “Briefcase Model” on NBC’s Deal or No Deal, but don’t pick a fight with her, she’s also an attorney.

Next up, the talented Czech Tomas Berdych showed off his newest trophy, girlfriend Ester Satorova. (Anyone else notice how eerily close her last name is to his former girlfriend, WTA tennis player Lucie Safarova?) Not sure if it’s the angles, but their body language sure does say a lot.

Rafael Nadal and girlfriend Maria Francisca Perello also looked breath-taking in black. Her sandals are stylish but Rafa’s over-gelled hair needs some work. His signature sultry half-smile might make up for it though.

Now onto the singletons! Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was looking sharp and relaxed, but I’m sure he would have looked even better with a lady by his side. Any takers?

Looking at the photo of Andy Murray below, it still baffles me how he didn’t win “Most Stylish Male” at this year’s Scottish Style Awards. Baffles! His haircut makes or breaks him on events like this. This one is a true win!

David Ferrer has been the underrated Spaniard for years now, but his chiseled features spice up any suit he wears. He might need someone to teach him how to tie his tie though.

And finally, Roger Federer the King of Tennis himself. Yes, by himself! No wife, no daughters, no Blackberries … ok, there may have been a Blackberry in there somewhere. But I sure hope Rolex pays him enough for these advertisement placements. Man knows how to work a camera!

And there you have it. The men were welcomed to London in grand style and we’re ready for another ATP World Tour Finals!

 

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