ATP World Tour Finals 2011: Best moments from the opening days
Marianne Bevis takes a look back at the first four days of action at the season-ending ATP World Tour Finals in London
Four days down and four days to go in the biggest and most prestigious indoor tennis event in the world, and the headlines keep coming.
The earliest and biggest story for the home crowd came from Andy Murray. After an unexpected loss to David Ferrer in his opening match, he revealed that he had been carrying a groin injury ever since returning from the Paris Masters a week before. Alarm bells rang when he concluded: “If it wasn’t a slam or this event, I wouldn’t have played.”
Sure enough, in a hastily-called press conference the next day, he announced his withdrawal: “I knew in my head I wasn’t ready to play and wasn’t right to play. But you always want to try, so”¦”
A day that began with that downbeat news ended on an adrenalin-rushing high. It came, as it had to, in the latest””the 26th””meeting between everyone’s favourite rivals, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Both entered the match with a three-set win to their name and both would qualify if they won in straight sets. And everyone expected a close one.
Instead, Nadal was in the best seat in the house for Federer at his finest. The brilliant Swiss, who last beat Nadal in the final here a year ago, hit 28 winners to Nadal’s four and made just eight unforced errors in a one-hour, 6-3, 6-0 trouncing.
Nadal’s summation? “The score is true, today he played too good for me.”
As a result, Federer became the first to qualify, with a match in hand, just as Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor did in the doubles earlier in the day.
Tomas Berdych almost caused another upset in his first match against Novak Djokovic. He stormed the first set, 6-3, took an early break in the third and squandered a match point at 6-5 with a rash forehand error.
Not surprisingly, he cut a gloomy figure in his very late press conference. Asked how he felt, he snapped: “I was expecting this question. But how can you ask that? How can I feel after a match like that? I’m feeling really disappointed, and that’s it.”
Djokovic’s take was more composed: “Just tried to get one ball back more than he did. He made a mistake and I was back in the match.”
Soon after the tournament got under way, controversy of a different kind hit the airwaves when the 1983 French Open champion, Yannick Noah, accused Spanish athletes of doping. His solution, expressed in Le Monde, said the only way to level the playing field would be to allow everyone to use banned drugs.
With two Spaniards in the World Tour Finals, this drew the inevitable questions and suitably frank responses. From Nadal: “In my opinion, his article was from a kid. And when one kid say something, is not painful for us. This guy deserves not to write anymore.”
Ferrer was equally forthright: “I think a total ignorance. That a person who has played tennis and knows the sport says that is a genuine outrage.”
Mardy Fish is a WTF debutant, reaching the top eight for the first time: He will be 30 next week. Things have not panned out as he might have wished, especially as he came here on the back of two retirements with hamstring injury in his most recent events.
Nevertheless, he has smiled his way through the ups and downs. After losing in a final set tie-breaker to Nadal, he began “Yeah, it’s tough” but went on to add, “I was just excited to get out there and be a part of this whole thing.”
With a loss to Tsonga in his second match, he is now out of contention but his serve-and-volley game gave an added dimension to this year’s tournament.
Another man debuting in London is Janko Tipsarevic, who qualified as first reserve on the back of his own highest-ever ranking. Having spent each day playing Djokovic in practice, the call came to take part “˜proper’ once Murray withdrew””in the same pool as his compatriot.
He had a match point to beat Berdych””who he has beaten several times before””but lost. His final match is against his friend. He has never beaten Djokovic so his time in London is likely to be short, but his press conferences are the most considered, intelligent and witty around. It’s been good to have him, even it was at the expense of Murray.