Today is the first of seven days of competition to decide the best of the best.
Group B played today, and it featured Federer against Tsonga in the early match. These two played just last week in the finals of Paris. Federer won that match in straight sets although he was pushed to a tiebreak in the second set.
Like last week, Federer got to an early start. He said he was still getting used to the courts which were faster than they were last year. He took the first set, 6-2. However, Federer’s game started going off in the second set as he started misfiring. Meanwhile, Tsonga’s confidence went up as he played aggressive in the second set. Tsonga was able to break Federer twice in the second set and take it 6-2. But champions are champions and Federer righted the ship as the two played until 5-4 with Tsonga needing to serve to tie the set.
Alas, Tsonga netted a volley on the first point, double-faulted on the second, and Federer played an aggressive point to take it to 0-40. Tsonga got one good serve for 15-40, but Federer hit a solid pass to win the third set, 6-4.
In the late match, Nadal played Mardy Fish. Fish had made no secret that playing well in London was one of his big goals. Fish was injured last week in Paris and retired against Monaco in the third set. He said, despite his injury, he was going to play no matter what. Fortunately, the injury did not seem to be as serious as he thought.
Fish tried to do a few different things. First, he’s added a fair bit of topspin to his shots. He wanted to be able to hit high shots to the sideline, but also be able to run wide for shots and get the ball to loop in. Second, he wanted to hit hard attacking shots when the opportunity arose. Third, he wanted to work in drop shots to take advantage of Nadal’s deep positioning. Finally, he wanted to serve and volley.
The match was mostly a war of nerves with Fish trying to summon up great shots at the right time. In the first set, Nadal clearly won this battle and took the first set easily at 6-2.
However, things turned around in the second set as Fish became more aggressive and took a break early on and a 3-0 lead. He had chances to take a second break with a 15-40 lead, but was unable to break despite several chances to do so. Even so, Fish kept that one break lead and won the second set, 6-3.
Nadal immediately broke in the third set which would normally spell doom for most players. But Fish has been on the tour for a while, and he kept his nerve steady and broke not just once, but twice. However, with the one break lead, Fish played a nervous game and Nadal was able to break back. The two kept even until a tiebreak, despite opportunities by Nadal to win (he got to match point twice with Fish saving both).
The tiebreak was ultimately decided by Fish’s inability to put Nadal’s serve back in play, pretty much giving up all four points pretty easily. Nadal won the three hour match 7-3 in the third set tiebreak.
Although both Federer and Nadal won in three sets, Federer tends to zip through his matches and his match was only half the length of Nadal’s match lasting a mere 90 minutes.
Tomorrow, the early match will be Andy Murray vs. David Ferrer. Murray and Ferrer have split matches in an unusual way. Murray has won all matches played on hard courts. Ferrer has won all matches played on clay. Ferrer has done reasonably well on hard courts, however. He’s won Valencia. His Slam results have actually been a bit better on hard courts than on clay. Even so, Murray is expected to be the favorite.
The two met a few weeks ago as Murray was completing his Asian swing. They played in the finals of Shanghai. It was a nervous match on Murray’s part, but he still won in two close sets.
In the later match, Novak Djokovic takes on Tomas Berdych. The last time these two met, Berdych retired against Djokovic at Cincinnati due to a shoulder issue, a similar issue to Djokovic who retired in the finals against Andy Murray. Berdych has been playing pretty well. Last week, he upset Murray in the quarterfinals of Paris, though he lost to Federer in the semifinals.
Djokovic actually dominates the rivalry against Berdych. Berdych has only had one victory, which was the 2010 Wimbledon semifinals. Berdych plays so up and down that oftentimes he’ll be caught in a down moment. However, Berdych has been playing pretty well the last month winning his first title (at Shanghai) in two and a half years and upsetting Murray in Paris. Add to that, Djokovic has been injured. The one positive for Djokovic is that he’s had more than a week to rest (though, to be fair, he had 6 weeks to rest it after the US Open), and usually plays the first match or two just fine.
He should be thrilled that he gets days of rest in between each round, but because he’s in Group A, he may have to play Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Group B, by contrast, plays Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, so they get one day of rest before potentially back-to-back matches.
If Berdych is going to upset Djokovic, this would be the time to do it. However, the person whose likely to relish this is Andy Murray who is likely to play him on Wednesday, which would be the second match.
Federer will play Nadal on Tuesday while Fish and Tsonga meet each other that same day. This is the first time Federer and Nadal are on the same round robin group, and the match should have a lot to say about who will make the semifinals. The picture above shows a bit of taping on Nadal’s abdomen or side, so he may be struggling with a niggling injury.