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.”
Denis Shapovalov Handles Opelka To Reach Australian Open Fourth Round
The Canadian managed to get past his 6ft 11 American opponent in a match that lasted over three hours.
Denis Shapovalov is into the fourth round of the Australian Open after beating 23rd seed Reilly Opelka 7-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in three hours and two minutes on Margeret Court Arena.
The Canadian hit 39 winners and served 10 aces while limiting Opelka to just 17 aces. In contrast the American finished the match with a costly 46 unforced errors as Shapovalov booked his spot in the second week of the tournament.
” I think I did a really good job against Reilly (Opelka) today and I took a lot of my chances and managed to get a read on his serve,” said the world No.14.
Both players were doing a good job early on when it came to holding serve and at 3-3 it was the Toronto native who had three chances to break. On his third opportunity broke serve with his trademark backhand winner.
However, that break didn’t last long for Shapovalov as he struggled to consolidate the break and ultimately gave the break right back with a poor service game and it was back on serve at 4-4.
The first was decided by a tiebreaker and Shapovalov got the crucial break to take a 3-1 lead in the breaker which was enough for him to take the first set.
The second frame was much like the first with both players holding serve until 3-3 when Opelka broke serve. He was able to consolidate and serve out the set to level the match.
The third set stayed on serve until 3-2 and the momentum swung back in the Canadians favor. He got the break of serve this time using his forehand to great effect and served out the third to take a two sets to one lead.
Just like the third set the fourth set had no breaks until 3-2 when again the number 14 seed broke Opelka serve again and that break of serve was enough for him to serve out the match and the win.
After the match in his post-match interview, he was asked how he was able to limit his opponent to just 17 aces in the match.
” It’s never easy against Reilly (Opelka) but I am happy I was able to pull through and make it to the next round”. He said.
Shapovalov will face the number three seed Alexander Zverev in the round of 16.
Felix Auger-Aliassime Survives Australian Open Marathon
For a second time this week the Canadian was pushed but managed to win a tough four-set match against his Spanish opponent.
Felix Auger-Aliassime booked his spot in the third round of the Australian Open after beating Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, 7-6 in a match that lasted four hours and 20 minutes.
The Montreal native hit 58 winners and served 28 aces while Davidovich Fokina hit 51 unforced errors. It is the second time the 21-year-old has reached the last 32 in Melbourne Park in what is his third appearence.
The first game of the match was a nervy one for the world number nine as it lasted six minutes and it involved him saving two breakpoints before being able to hold serve. The opener stayed on serve until 2-2 when the Fokina came up with an impressive passing shot to set up two more chances for the first break of serve of the match and this time managed to convert. Three games later the Canadian fought back and broke right back to go back on serve.
It was a tiebreak which decided the first set. The Montreal native jumped out to a 3-0 lead before the Spaniard came back again to win the next four points but the Canadian responded again winning three straight points to take the breaker 7-4 and the first set.
The second set was another impressive performance on serve by both players and once again was decided by a back and forth breaker that this time was won by Davidovich Fokina to level the match.
The third frame was much the same as both players kept their level up and not much differentiated the two. This tiebreaker was much more straightforward as the Canadian jumped out to a 5-1 lead before closing out the third set 7-5 and taking two sets to one lead.
The fourth set stayed on serve until 2-1 when the world number 50 had a chance to break and was able to get it for a 3-1 lead before the Canadian was able to break back the following game to go back on serve.
For the fourth time, the set was decided by a tiebreaker and this one was super tight with the Canadian getting the crucial break to take a 4-3 lead and that one break was enough for him to serve it out.
Auger Aliassime will now face Dan Evans in the third round after the Brit was handed a walkover against Frenchman Arthur Rinderknech who pulled out of the match due to injury.
‘Best Feeling I’ve Ever Had’ – Underdog Christopher O’Connell Stuns Schwartzman At Australian Open
Prior to this week the 27-year-old had never won a main draw match at Melbourne Park or beaten a top 20 player.
World No.175 Christopher O’Connell has pulled off a major upset at the Australian Open by knocking out 13th seed Diego Schwartzman.
The 27-year-old wild card had only ever won one match in the main draw of a Grand Slam prior to this year but illustrated the talent that he has with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-4, win over Schwartzman. A player who is currently ranked 162 places above him in the rankings. Against the Argentine he fired a total of 44 winners and won 75% of his first service points on route to claiming his first win over a top 20 player.
“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had on a tennis court. I’ve been playing tennis since I was four. To have moments like this it’s a dream come true.” O’Connell said during his press conference.
Despite the straightforward score, the match itself was a marathon. The opener alone lasted for almost 90 minutes with the underdog saving three set points whilst down 4-5 before prevailing in the tiebreaker. Then in the following two sets he broke Schwartzman three times in total.
“I knew how crucial that first set was. It was really warming up out there. It was really a battle back and forth. It was crucial to get that first set, especially in the heat,” he said.
A late bloomer on the men’s Tour, the Australian started to make a breakthrough last year by reaching his first quarter-final at the Atlanta Open where he defeated Jannik Sinner. During that year he also reached the final of a French Challenger event before withdrawing due to injury and reached the second round of the US Open.
O’Connell, who has been ranked as high as 111th in the world, credits his coach for helping him reach new milestones in the sport. He is mentored by former player Marinko Matosevic who reached a ranking high of 39th back in 2013 and made more than $2M in prize money during his playing career.
“The process didn’t start yesterday. It’s been happening all of last year,” he stated.
“I’ve been working with Marinko. He’s just really confident with how I want to play tennis now. It’s the first time I’ve really had a one-on-one coach literally every day with me.’
“Marinko was such a great player. All his knowledge of the game, he’s just putting it onto me.”
Next up for O’Connell will be the in-form Maxime Cressy who lost to Rafael Nadal in the final of the Melbourne Summer Set just over a week ago. The American defeated Czech qualifier Tomáš Macháč 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 7-6(5), in his second round match.
“I knew I had good results in me. It’s just being consistent. I felt today was a consistent match from me,” he reflected.
“But the biggest thing for me is just staying healthy, not having these injuries where I miss two months of tournaments. I nearly missed five or six months last year. I can’t be doing that.’
“The belief is always there, but I just got to make sure my body’s healthy this year. I want to play a full year.”
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