For a moment it looked like the erratic play of Roger Federer late in the season would continue as he dropped the opening service game in his match against Fernando Verdasco at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Verdasco, who had never won a set against the world No. 1, finally did through steady play and solid serving to go up 6-4.
In the second set, Verdasco stayed right with Federer throughout. But Verdasco’s sloppy attempt at a smash overhead on the baseline that went awry gave Federer the opening he needed to take the second set 7-5.
After that it was all Federer as the wheels came off of Verdasco’s game while Federer’s forehand finally found its mark allowing Federer to seal the victory 4-6, 7-5, 6-1.
Tomorrow Rafael Nadal opens up against Robin Soderling while Novak Djokovic, the pre-tournament favorite, takes on Nikolay Davydenko. I actually like Soderling in the first match as recently Nadal has been very vulnerable indoors. Djokovic should win against Davydenko but will be interesting to see how much gas “Nole” has left after winning the last two events in a row.
By the way, kudos to the ATP for staging the ATP finale in London. The arena has been packed for each match and the play so far has lived up to the superstar billing. Hopefully this will finally allow the finals to be the “fifth slam” the ATP has dreamed of.
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The singles draw of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals was announced today from the London Eye. Here’s how it broke out.
Roger Federer (SUI)
Andy Murray (GBR)
Juan Martin del Potro (ARG)
Fernando Verdasco (ESP)
Rafael Nadal (ESP)
Novak Djokovic (SRB)
Nikolay Davydenko (RUS)
Robin Soderling (SWE)
Even with his recent losses, Roger Federer is probably the man to beat. How he handles del Potro, whose been struggling with injuries, and Murray with a “home” crowd and surface that suits his game will be the question. Verdasco, has an outside shot, but probably is just happy to be there.
Group B has the pre-tourney favorite Djokovic coming off red-hot wins in Basel and Paris. But has he peaked too early? And don’t discount Davydenko who beat Nadal in Shanghai and the always dangerous Soderling who’s glad he didn’t land on Federer’s side.
Predictions: I’m going with Federer and Djokovic winning the most matches in their groups followed by Murray and Davydenko. That could set up a Fed/Davydenko and Murray/Djokovic semifinal. And then I like Djokovic going all the way.
And don’t forget the doubles either which has a battle for number one brewing between the current top seeds Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic against the Bryan brothers.
According to the London Times yesterday, Andy Roddick was preparing to announce he was withdrawing from the Barclays ATP Finals in London due to his ongoing knee injury. The internet was abuzz with the rumor and waited for the news.
Well, we’re still waiting.
As of now, Roddick is still officially in the field although Robin Soderling and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga are the official alternates should Roddick bow out.
At last year’s ATP finale in Shanghai, Roddick lost his first round match to Andy Murray then withdrew from his next match due to an ankle injury. If Roddick does withdraw prior to the finale start, he would at least give Soderling a chance to win the whole thing and avoid the injury plagued drama of that WTA season ending event in Doha where alternates Vera Zvonareva and Agnieska Radwankska were called up to play with no hope of winning the event.
Of course the BNP Paribas Masters event in Paris kept the drama going after yesterday’s emotional day. Plenty of losses but not as shocking as Federer’s early exit.
Nikolay Davydenko lost a tough three setter to Robin Soderling who keeps his chances alive for a ticket to London. Davydenko backed into his slot when Fernandao Verdasco lost to Marin Cilic. Now Verdasco really is on the bubble as Jo-Wilifred Tsonga is also in the mix along with Soderling though both would have to get to the final and/or win the whole thing to qualify.
But Peter Bodo at Tennis.com summed things up rather well by again pointing out that, except for die hard tennis fans, this end of the year race and the ATP finale is, like the WTA Finale at Doha, a big “whatever” to most casual tennis fans as they probably think the season ended back in New York.
I’m not sure what the ATP can do to make things more interesting other than shorten the year and hope people stay along for the ride. At least they got smart and moved their finale to London. At least the place will be packed to see Andy Murray try and win another “major”.
Quick update on the race among the ATP men to qualify for the Barclays ATP Finals in London. Even with his semifinal loss in Valencia, Nikolay Davydenko is all but assured of qualifying for the seventh spot. His closest rival, Fernando Verdasco, also lost in the Valenica semis so he’ll have to win a few rounds in Paris this week just to make sure he’s in.
The other “bubble boys” chasing them include Robin Soderling, Jo-Wilifred Tsonga and Fernando Gonzalez who will need to get the Paris finals to go past Davydenko and Gonzalez while Radek Stepanek and Marin Cilic will need to not only win Paris, but have Verdasco lose first round just to maybe qualify. Good luck with that.
Gilles Simon and Tommy Robredo who lost early in Basel are out of contention.
The end of the year injuries keep piling up. Now Robin Soderling, who was the heavy favorite to win his hometown Stockholm Open, has pulled out of the semifinal against Marcos Baghdatis with an elbow injury.
Soderling, who is currently in ninth place in the ATP Finals Standings, will have to wait for his next event in Valencia to try and pass by Fernando Verdasco who is now in eighth place in the standings.
But let’s also acknowledge the fine work of Baghdatis who after a long injury layoff has managed to get himself back into the top 100 again after winning several Challenger events this year.
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The quarterfinals of the Shanghai Masters Open saw more drama and unfortunately more retirements.
Nikolay Davydenko improved his chances of making the ATP London finale by taking out Radek Stepanek 6-1, 4-6, 6-1.
He will face in the semis Novak Djokovic who passed a stern test by Gilles Simon winning 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.
The surprise of the day was Feliciano Lopez’s defeat of No. 9 seed Robin Soderling 7-6(4), 6-3. Lopez, known more lately for his good looks than good results, has changed coaches and cut his trademark locks and it seems to be working. Soderling couldn’t figure out Lopez’s massive lefty serve and silky slice backhand.
Lopez will next face Rafael Nadal who survived an onslaught by veteran Ivan Ljubicic 3-6, 6-3 (ret). Ljubicic, you guessed it, had to retire in the third set after suffering a groin pull.
At this point who will win the whole thing is anybody’s guess. It is nice to see Lopez playing well again. But the real question is, do you like his new look?
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