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Roger Federer kicked off the singles action at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in London with a 6-2 2-6 6-4 victory over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.


The fourth seed cruised through the opening set at a packed O2 Arena, but Tsonga hit back when Federer’s level dropped in the second and the result looked in doubt until the Swiss star broke to edge a tight decider. The 30-year-old went into the tournament as the man to beat after back-to-back titles in Basle and Paris, where he beat Tsonga in the final to remain unbeaten since the US Open. The Frenchman, playing at the O2 for the first time, could draw on his magnificent Wimbledon victory over Federer this summer, when he became the first man to beat Federer at a grand slam from two sets down. But the world number four had won both their most recent meetings and did not take long to move ahead today, breaking in the fourth game after his opponent had let him off the hook in the previous game with a woeful miss. Tsonga is an exciting but unpredictable player and, as with the opening set in Paris last weekend, he simply made far too many mistakes. Another break to love gave Federer, cheered by French football star Thierry Henry, a fairly uninspiring set in 21 minutes, both men taking their time to adjust to the relatively slow pace of the court. But Tsonga then benefited from a series of Federer errors in the third game of the second set to break. That gave the former Australian Open finalist the lift he needed and he began to play much better, using his brutal power to rush his opponent. His fearsome forehand was becoming a real feature of the match and he used it to great effect to force another break to move 5-2 ahead, before clinching the set when Federer netted a backhand. The 16-time grand slam champion had a real fight on his hands, particularly considering he had never previously won a deciding set against Tsonga. The Frenchman was the first to face a break point in the fifth game, which he saved with a pinpoint forehand, but the outcome remained on a knife-edge.

Rafael Nadal, in action later in the other Group B opener against Mardy Fish, arrived courtside for a glimpse of the action, but no sooner had he done so than Tsonga cracked. An easy volley dumped into the net was followed by a double-fault, and when Federer creamed a winner down the line he had three match points, taking the second with a backhand placed neatly behind his opponent.


Federer says, “Everybody can beat everybody!”

Image Detail

ATP World Tour Finals order of play:

Sunday, 20 November: Federer v Tsonga (not before 1400 GMT), Nadal v Fish (not before 2000 GMT).

Monday, 21 November Murray v Ferrer (not before 1400 GMT), Djokovic v Berdych (not before 2000 GMT).

Reigning champion Federer, who beat Nadal in last year’s final, is in good form, having won last week’s event in the French capital with a victory over Tsonga. Before the draw, former world number one Federer said: “If Djokovic is fit and Murray is fit – which it seems like he is – they will be difficult to beat, and Rafa [Nadal], regardless of how he’s going to be, is always a tough customer. “Everybody can beat everybody – I don’t feel like [the players ranked] five, six, seven and eight have no chance – I definitely feel like they have a chance to go deep [into the competition].”

Djokovic and Nadal, as the top two seeds, were kept apart in the draw, as were third-ranked Murray and fourth seed Federer. Ferrer and Tsonga, as the fifth and sixth best players in the word were also separated, as were seventh and eighth-ranked Berdych and Fish.


The 2011 ATP final is a wide open affair with no favourite betting choice.

Andy Murray

Full singles draw:

Group A: Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, David Ferrer, Tomas Berdych

Group B: Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Mardy Fish

Andy Murray will meet world number one Novak Djokovic in the group stages of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Murray was also placed in the same group as David Ferrer and Tomas Berdych – the man who knocked him out of last week’s Paris Masters – when the draw was made on Tuesday. A fully-fit Djokovic would represent a stern test for Murray. The Serb won three of this season’s four Grand Slam tournaments, including Wimbledon. He captured the Australian Open title by beating Murray in January’s final. Djokovic has lost only four matches all year but has been struggling with back and shoulder injuries since his victory at the US Open in September. The problems forced him to withrdraw from last week’s Paris event prior to his scheduled quarter-final. However, Djokovic remains hopeful of being fully fit to compete in London. Murray trails Djokovic 6-4 on their head-to-head record, but is one of those four men to have beaten him in 2011, albeit when the Serb was forced to quit their Cincinnati Masters final. The British star is 3-1 down against Berdych following his narrow three-set defeat last week, but leads Ferrer 5-3, winning all three of their meetings this season. He also beat the Spaniard at the Tour Finals 12 months ago.

In the other group, French Open champion Rafael Nadal will resume his great rivalry with Roger Federer, who will arrive at the O2 Arena following back-to-back tournament victories in Basel and Paris. The Swiss is the defending champion at the tournament – having beaten Nadal in the final – and will be aiming to win the season-ending finale for a record sixth time. Group B, arguably the tougher of the two, also features Paris runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, who beat Federer at Wimbledon back in the summer, and American Mardy Fish, another player who has been struggling with injury (hamstring) of late.

The tournament gets under way on Sunday with Federer and Tsonga kicking things off in the afternoon. Nadal will meet Fish in the evening singles match. Murray’s campaign will begin against Ferrer on Monday afternoon with Djokovic playing Berdych in the evening. Murray will also play on Wednesday and Friday.

The final takes place on November 27.






Top 8 converge on London for the final ATP event of the year.

The best eight singles players and doubles teams will gather at the world’s biggest indoor tennis event, challenging for up to 1,500 South African Airways ATP Rankings Points for an undefeated champion. Defending champion Roger Federer declared “everybody can beat everybody” in the 2011 field, which is led by World No. 1 Novak Djokovic, who is looking to cap one of the best tennis seasons ever by winning the year-end championships for a second time.

Roger Federer is attempting to become the first player to win the year-end championships six times, following victories in 2003-2004, 2006-2007 and 2010. The one tournament Federer has won six times is at nearby Wimbledon.


‘It’s great for London and great for the country.’

The eight finalists paid a visit to Downing Street on Thursday when Prime Minister David Cameron hosted a reception for the players. “It’s fantastic that the ATP World Tour Finals tournament is back in London for the second year running,” said Mr Cameron. “It’s great for London and great for the country. “I hope that seeing the world’s top players compete right on our doorstep, including Britain’s very own Andy Murray, will inspire our next generation of sporting heroes.” Murray said: “It’s the second time I’ve been here. He (Mr Cameron) likes tennis, which we knew beforehand. We spoke about tennis and some of the past players. It was good fun, I really enjoyed it.”

Murray slipped one place in the latest world rankings on Monday when he was passed by Sweden’s Soderling, which left open the possibility that he would be drawn in the same group in London as 2008 champion and world number three Djokovic. The 23-year-old Scot will be relieved to have avoided the Serb, although it is arguable whether the in-form Soderling will prove any less testing an opponent. There will be an extra edge to the group matches as Djokovic, Soderling and Murray are all in with a chance of finishing the year as the world number three.


Top point getters for the ATP London final.

Only the Top 8 Qualify

1 Rafael Nadal

Top seed this week in Tokyo 10,860

2 Roger Federer

Back in action next week in Shanghai 6,025

3 Novak Djokovic

Bidding for title defence in Beijing 4,825

4 Andy Murray

Beijing debut – first event since US Open 4,045

5 Robin Soderling

On course for return to The O2 3,975

6 Tomas Berdych

Eyeing first Top 10 finish 3,535

7 Andy Roddick

Looking to qualify for eighth straight year 3,170

8 Fernando Verdasco

Qualified for first time in 2009 3,140


Soderling is in the driver’s seat!….or is he?

Group A.

Federer is not assured of his place in the semi-finals just yet, though, as he, Murray and del Potro could all tie with a 2-1 match record in Group A – should del Potro defeat Federer and Murray beat Verdasco. If there is a three-way tie then the first criteria to break the deadlock is sets won-lost. Coming into Thursday, Federer was 4-2 while del Potro and Murray were 3-3 in sets won-lost in the first two round robin matches.

 To guarantee his place in the semi-finals, Federer must avenge his US Open final defeat to del Potro, while Murray needs to beat Verdasco. Then Federer and Murray would qualify into the semi-finals. Verdasco also has a slight chance still to qualify for the semi-finals, but would need to defeat Murray in straight sets and hope that Federer dismisses del Potro in the same fashion.

Group B.

Robin Soderling is in control of Group B, and should he choose to he can determine who will qualify along with himself into the semi finals. If Davydenko wins their Friday match in straight sets, he would jump to the top of the group with a 5-2 edge over Soderling who would be at 4-2. The best Djokovic could do with a straight set win over Nadal would be to wind up at 4-3; he would not qualify. If Nadal wins, Djokovic is out.

The semi finals format pits the winners of each group gainst the runners-up of the opposite group. So if Federer wins group A, he would play the runner-up from Group B. In the above scenario that would be Soderling, while most likely Davydenko would play Murray. (Maybe Soderling will prefer to take his chances with Murray than Federer, and defeat Davydenko tomorrow and give Djokovic a chance to qualify).


Djokovic finds a way to win.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic handed Nikolay Davydenko another painful defeat at the ATP World Tour Finals as the Serb secured a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory on Monday.

Djokovic beat Davydenko to win the final of this prestigious end-of-year event 12 months ago and the world number three, who also defeated the Russian in the group stage last year, came from behind to frustrate him again in his opening Group B match at London’s O2 Arena.

Robin Soderling’s surprise victory over Rafael Nadal earlier on Monday had thrown the group wide open and Djokovic looks in the mood to mount a strong bid to retain the title.

After suffering something of a slump in the aftermath of his 2008 Australian Open triumph, Djokovic has been in supreme form of late.

The 22-year-old has reached a career-best 10 finals this year and since September’s US Open he has collected three ATP Tour titles and won 18 of his 19 matches.

Djokovic’s solitary defeat during that remarkable run came against Davydenko in the semi-finals in Shanghai.

Davydenko’s metronomic accuracy kept Djokovic from taking control early on and the world number six got the first break in the fifth game.

There was a brief glimmer of hope for Djokovic in the next game as he earned two break points but he squandered both opportunities.

That proved the Serb’s last chance of the set as Davydenko broke again in the ninth game to move in front.

After a tight start to the second set, Djokovic got the stroke of luck he needed to get back into the match.

At 4-4 and 30-0 down on Davydenko’s serve, a Djokovic return clipped the net and fell kindly on the other side. Djokovic crossed himself in thanks for the good fortune and proceeded to reel off three more points to break for the first time before serving out the set.

Both men were playing with an intensity far greater than anything shown by the likes of Nadal and Roger Federer in their opening matches.

There was little to separate them and the final set followed the same pattern.

Djokovic broke Davydenko in the first game and saved three break points in a marathon sixth game.

Then Davydenko made a final push and broke as Djokovic served for the match at 5-4. But Djokovic broke back to love and held his serve this time to clinch the win in two hours and 46 minutes.


It’s not exactly Wimbledon…….

It is a strange event for those British fans accustomed to the decorum of Wimbledon, Eastbourne and Edgbaston. But the difference is the delight. It is democratic – anyone who is serious about attending should be able to get a ticket – youth-oriented and great fun.

The ATP brought their season-ending championships to London with no intention to ape Britain’s venerable grand slam. They came to celebrate in a showbiz style all of their own, and the whooping, yelling fans in the vast arena seemed pleased with what they saw.

Even before Andy Murray and Juan Martín del Potro had shown up for their first-round match, the umpire, Lars Graff, had been given a booming introduction worthy of an X Factor contestant.

Then an amplified heartbeat throbbed around the grandstands as the giant video screens revealed that del Potro had left the locker-room and was making his way, by way of what appeared to be a service tunnel, to the court.

The man at the mike breathlessly recounted the young Argentine’s career achievements – essentially this year’s US Open win – while the crowd went bonkers.

So you can imagine the reaction when Murray appeared on court, rather sheepishly holding the hand of the young mascot chosen to accompany him. The crowd were yelling “C’mon Andy” during the warm-up, for goodness’ sake.

Fond but fair: a rare good shot from del Potro early in the match was warmly applauded, and silence was respectfully maintained during actual play, though the resident DJ dutifully cranked up his repertoire between games.

In fact this venue is never completely silent, and compelling rallies were accompanied by a faint but persistent residual hum, as the machinery that keeps the big tent hot, cold or in-between hummed away.

Del Potro, who looks like Mickey Rourke’s less good-looking younger brother, was pretty ordinary to begin with, his cause not aided by a nosebleed which the trainer expertly staunched.

But then perhaps someone whispered in the 21 year-old’s ear about the prize money on offer in London this week – more than $5 million (£3 million) in total – because he perked up and the crowd got the match they deserved over three energetic sets.

This is just as well, for in each session at the Tour Finals there is just one singles match and one doubles, and if the singles match turns out to be a turkey the spectators might feel justifiably aggrieved.

But the quality of the entry – the world’s best minus the crocked Andy Roddick – should guarantee plenty of competitive encounters, even in the early round-robin stages.

The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals are going to be at the O2 until at least 2013, plenty of time to establish themselves as a new and entirely welcome element in the British sporting calendar.


A picture for your scrapbook!

Eight of the top nine players in the world have arrived in London to compete (injury denied Andy Roddick his chance) so it could be argued the quality on show at the O2 Arena will be even greater than some Wimbledons of years gone by. In no other sport would you find the top professionals together enjoying the moment and each others company, maybe sharing a joke and being just friends.

There it’s rarely the case the best eight players make it to the quarter-finals. At the O2 it will be heavyweight v heavyweight for every match; an apt description given this arena is likely to be transformed for David Haye’s first world-title defence in the New Year.

With ticket sales having gone well, so we are told, the atmosphere looks set to be grand with nearly 20,000 fans roaring on the combatants – considerably more than Centre Court can hold in SW19.

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