Reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champion Roger Federer will seek both revenge and a second successive victory at the Nitto ATP Finals when he will take on World No. 3 Alexander Zverev in a crucial Group Boris Becker clash in London on Tuesday. Will the overwhelming favorite succeed in overpowering the towering German or will it be Zverev who will silence the army of his fans by defeating the great Swiss?
Federer launched his campaign for a record seventh ATP World Tour Finals crown with a comprehensive straight-sets win over Paris Masters winner Jack Sock. The World No. 2 got off to a flying start in the match as he broke Sock in the opening game with an array of delightful shots from both wings. A wonderfully timed backhand down the line winner was the highlight of the game as it showed that a vintage Federer had turned up for the contest.
The second set though was a see-saw battle between the two with Roger showing his frustration as he failed to capitalize on any of five break chances he got. However, he still managed to do enough when the need arose as he stepped on the gas to seal a 6-4, 7-6 win. He would look to be more on the money in such situations against Zverev as the 20-year-old has the firepower to hurt Federer if he is unable to grab his opportunities.
The good things that Federer did in his match against Sock were – he never faced a break point on his serve in the contest, won 90% points behind his first delivery. But, it was the statement that he gave after his win over Sock that would have been worrying Zverev a lot.
Federer said: “I’m happy that I was able to come out today and had actually good energy. This is the best I’ve felt since the Del Potro final (in Basel). I’m very happy to see that I didn’t have to pay the price for taking it easy and resting and recovering. But then turning it up the last few days got me in shape for today. Now I think I’m in the tournament. There’s no more turning back. Just full steam ahead every match that comes.”
Like Federer, who has had a great year in terms of results, Zverev’s season has been quite phenomenal as well. Hands down, Zverev has been the third best player on the tour after Roger and Rafa. He has attained the third position both in the rankings as well as the number of titles won in 2017. While Federer has captured seven trophies, Nadal has secured six titles and Zverev has succeeded in winning five titles.
Those five title victories also feature a stunning Rome Masters title win over former World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and the Montreal Masters triumph over an ailing Federer. And, the confidence he has gained by beating the very best players of the sport showed in his game when he came back from a set and a break down to beat the former US Open champion Marin Cilic in his ATP Finals debut on Sunday.
Head-to-head: Federer and Zverev have faced each other four times in the past with the each of them winning two matches. They have shared their 2017 battles as well with Federer giving Zverev a lesson in grass-court tennis on the lawns of Halle and Sascha outclassing the master in the final of the Canadian Open in Montreal. But, the big asterisk to that victory is the fact that Federer was suffering with a back injury which hampered his movement and allowed Zverev to dictate the terms of play. No such injury seems to be troubling the legend at the moment and when he is fit he is generally the favorite in most of the matches.
This was even echoed by Zverev, who said: “I think anyone beating Federer in this group has a good chance of passing. But he’s the favorite definitely in all of the matches he plays. I played him a few times this year now. I played him three times, if you count the Hopman Cup match we played. Obviously, all of them were great matches. Hopefully it can be another one.”
Nikoloz Basilashvili survives scare in Sardinia
The third day of the Italian 250 event saw a trio of seeded players secure their places in the quarter-finals.
A strong Mediterranean wind was not enough to blow away Nikoloz Basilashvili at the Sardegna Open as he came through a tense 3-setter against Slovakian qualifier Jozef Kovalik.
The fourth seed’s typically aggressive style at times threatened to prove his undoing in Cagliari. A topsy-turvy encounter in blustery conditions was ultimately defined by the marathon tenth game in the deciding set, Kovalik missing five match points as his opponent’s serve just about held firm. Basilashvili then immediately broke himself, going on to complete a 4-6, 6-4, 7-5, victory.
He will take on Jan-Lennard Struff in the quarter-finals. The fifth seed overpowered Britain’s Liam Broady 6-4 6-2, a much-improved performance from the German after his nervy first-round slugfest with Joao Sousa.
Qualifier Broady, whose strong start to the year has seen him reach a career-high ranking of 152, started well. He broke the fifth seed in the second game, but Struff was able to respond immediately before going on to take the first set 6-4. The Brit faded in the second set, Struff’s superior ranking showing as he overpowered his opponent with some brutal forehands and booming serves. If both men bring their best form, his match-up with Basilashvili on Friday should be an entertaining encounter.
Elsewhere, Aljaz Bedene defeated Egor Gerasimov 6-4, 7-6(5). Fresh from an impressive win over Guido Pella in round one, qualifier Gerasimov would have had high hopes to progress further, facing an opponent ranked only 22 places higher. It looked good for the Belarussian as he edged a break ahead early on, but the ever-reliable Bedene reeled off three games in a row to take the first set. A similarly tight second set looked to be going Gerasimov’s way when he stormed to a 4-0 lead in the tie break, but Bedene once again took charge, winning 7 of the next 8 points to book a spot in the next round.
His opponent there will be second seed Taylor Fritz, who enjoyed a relatively easy ride in the final match of the day. He breezed through the opening set against Andrej Martin 6-2, looking strong in his first outing on clay in 2021. The players traded two breaks each in the second set before Fritz took the tie break 7-4. This week is the first tournament Fritz is playing as American No.1 after recently overtaking John Isner.
Roger Federer Set To Start Clay Campaign In Madrid
The world No.7 will be back on the Tour shortly as he seeks his first title since the 2019 Swiss Indoors.
20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer is set to return to competitive tennis later this month after being included in the entry list for a key Masters 1000 tournament.
The former world No.1 is currently down to play the Madrid Open which will start on April 30th and takes place over 10 days. Federer returned to the Tour at the Dubai Tennis Championships last month in what was his first tournament in over a year due to a knee injury which required two operations. In Dubai he reached the quarter-finals before losing to Nikoloz Basilashvili who went on to win the title.
Since then the Swiss maestro has returned to the practice courts to “work his way back out on tour,” according to his agent Tony Godsick. Federer has already confirmed that he will play on the clay this season but admits that it is because he has little choice. The 39-year-old has already stated that his goal is to be in top shape in time for the grass-court swing which starts after the French Open.
“What comes before the grass courts are the clay courts,” Federer told reporters on March 11th. “So I have no choice but to play on clay if I want to play matches.
“The clay could be good or bad for me. I will only know in practice, but I don’t think it’s going to be bad. I assume I will play some clay.”
It isn’t the first time Federer has started his return to the clay in Madrid. In 2019 he played his first match on the surface in almost three years at the tournament after skipping the clay-court season the two previous years.
Also on the Madrid entry list is Federer’s rivals Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal who both missed the Miami Open. Dominic Thiem is also set to play in the tournament after he recently announced a delay to his return to professional tennis because he isn’t ready to compete yet.
The Madrid Open has been largely dominated by the Big Four (including Andy Murray) for more than a decade. Since 2008 only one player outside of the quartet has won the title which was Alexander Zverev back in 2018. Last year’s edition was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rafael Nadal Will Be Ready For Start Of Clay Season, Says Doctor
A member of Nadal’s team has issued some encouraging news.
It appears that Rafael Nadal’s recent woes are behind him as he looks to get back on track at next week’s Monte Carlo Masters.
The 34-year-old hasn’t played a tournament since his loss to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the quarter-finals of the Australian Open earlier this year. Throughout the first quarter of the season Nadal has been troubled by a back problem which he first picked up in Melbourne. The injury forced him to pull out of both the Rotterdam Open and Miami Masters. Overall, he has played just five matches so far in 2021.
Nadal will be looking to regain momentum on his beloved clay. A surface which he has won 60 ATP titles on, including a record 13 French Open trophies. According to his doctor, Ángel Ruiz-Cotorro, the world No.3 is ‘training well’ at present.
“He is training well, he is training hard. His goal is clay. First is Monte Carlo and his final goal is Roland Garros. It is clear,” Cotorro told RTVE.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion will be seeking his 12th title in Monte Carlo in what is a tournament record. He has won three out of the four past editions with the only exception being Fabio Fognini who won the title in 2019. Last year’s tournament was axed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Looking further on in the calendar, Nadal is expected to play tournaments in Barcelona, Madrid and Rome before the French Open which is set to start in May. Although it is possible that his commitments could change. A member of the French government has also admitted that it is possible that Roland Garros could be delayed for a second year in a row due to the pandemic but no such change has been formally announced.
So far in his career Nadal has won 86 ATP titles and earned more then $123 million in prize money. He is only the fourth player in the Open Era to have won 1000 or more matches on the men’s Tour.
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