Roger Federer d. Mardy Fish 6-1, 3-6, 6-3
Roger did not play his best tennis in completing a 3-0 sweep of his pool. Even in the one-sided 1st set Roger faced a lot of challenges while serving. Still, Roger brushed back Fish in the 3rd set after Fish found his range in an impressive 2nd set. Roger serving at 0-30 in the 1st game of the 3rd set was not ideal, but he quickly grabbed momentum by holding-breaking-and-holding to grab a 3-0 lead in the 3rd. Fish had some chances today, but Roger is on a roll.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga d. Rafael Nadal 7-6, 4-6, 6-3
Tsonga beat Nadal earlier this year on grass. Tsonga has had success against Nadal. This indoor surface favors Tsonga’s style. Tsonga played very well in Paris while Nadal has struggled since the US Open ended. However, this was an upset even if a mild one. Nadal will have a chance to end 2011 on a high note with a Davis Cup title opportunity still looming, but something seems off for the world #2. Nadal’s psychological edge may (and I emphasize may) be dulling. Rafa looked cooked to end 2008 when he skipped the Masters Cup/World Tour Finals* and went on to win the 2009 Australian Open. Rafa lost all 3 round robin matches in 2009 prior to launching his best year in 2010. I don’t think anyone can say Rafa is in decline or has lost a mental or physical edge with any degree of certainty.
Having acknowledged all of that, it was still odd to see Nadal get broken 3 times in the 3rd set after he rallied to win the 2nd set. Nadal winning a tight 2nd set after losing the 1st set normally invokes the tennis version of a shark feeding frenzy in which momentum and steely resolve violently snatch victory from possible defeat (see Nadal v. Murray Wimbledon 2011 for an example of this phenomenon). If Rafa is just mentally tired, I will expect a great year in 2012. If Rafa is psychologically or physically not 100%, 2012 could be an interesting year for Nadal. Can Nadal dial back his schedule as he did in 2010 to optimize results or will a season that includes the Olympic games be too full for Rafa?
Semifinal Round Taking Shape
As fans, we now know that Federer, Tsonga and Ferrer are into the semifinal round of the World Tour Finals. The 4th competitor will be determined tomorrow. Tsonga is a title contender. He has played great tennis since the start of the grass court season and looks like he could crack into the pantheon that the top 4 currently occupy. Ferrer, the current world #5, beat world #3 Andy Murray and world #1 Novak Djokovic in straight sets. A win in London would place Ferrer’s career into a new light. Federer has won the title 5 times and is only 2 matches behind Ivan Lendl for the most total Masters/ATP World Championships/Masters Cup/World Tour Finals* matches won. We simply need one more contestant to put on a great show this weekend.
* – Could the powers that be ever pick one name and stick with it? Call the event pi = 3.14 for all I care, but tennis leaders please pick a permanent name for the year end championships as well as for the Super 9/Masters Series/Masters 1000 events. #helpmeMrKrajicek