2014/12/21

International Premier Tennis League in Manila

By Abigail Hinto

(December 1, 2014) MANILA –  There is no other word to describe it but surreal.  After fitting tennis tournaments to my vacations in order to see live tennis, professional tennis and its superstars have finally come to me.  I’ve seen and covered most of these players before, but seeing them introduced to the Manila crowd to raucous cheers was goose bumps-inducing.  Andy Murray, Maria Sharapova, and Serena Williams, the current best of the world were actually playing on a tennis court in my city.  Not to mention the legends Goran Ivanisevic, Carlos Moya and Patrick Rafter; exactly the players I followed when I first became a fan of the sport.  Even when I finally got the opportunity to travel and watch tennis, I never imagined I would still get the chance to experience seeing my early favorites who are now long retired, play live.

 

I have to admit that I was initially skeptical when the concept of the International Premier Tennis League was introduced, as I would guess most tennis fans were.  Would they really be able to get the players, especially the superstars on board?  Tinkering with the rules seemed sacrilege to the long tradition of the sport.  But then Manila got a franchise when IPTL had to pull out of Bangkok because of political unrest in that city, and I knew no matter what, I was going to be there.

 

Let me now say straight out that all the new rules introduced for the league, made to make the matches faster and therefore more conducive to television, are just secondary to the real tennis being played on court and the team atmosphere displayed.  Yes, it was real tennis.  While some players like Maria Sharapova first seemed undecided whether she would treat the game as exhibition or competition, with nary a shriek heard from her at first, probably the thought of an embarrassing loss against Kristina Mladenovic in her first match for her home team spurred her to increase her level of intensity and turn the match around.  I also didn’t think we would have seen Mladenovic be unable to close out the set after being up two breaks if nerves weren’t involved.  Ana Ivanovic played flawless tennis for her part against Sharapova and displayed her pleasure at her level of play with her trademark fist pumps and “ajdes.”  Andy Murray was crazily retrieving balls all over the court to make-up for his poor level of shot making.  Even the legends were groaning at missed shots and opportunities.  As one hardcore tennis fan who attended the tournament expressed, she was indeed worried at first whether the players would take the matches seriously because she still believes the tournament is just an exhibition.  But she ended up being satisfied with what she saw on court.  Even the players themselves were surprised how everyone was treating the matches seriously.  In the end, they are competitors at heart who want nothing more than to win.  And playing for a team, which they very seldom get to do, increases that desire to be able to help put your team in a winning position.  Stakes may be lower than playing on tour, but wins don’t necessarily mean less.

 

The team competition format also allowed for players to showcase not just their tennis but their personalities as well.  Gael Monfils, to no one’s surprise shone in this kind of format.  The fans embraced his goofiness and showmanship, but also marveled at his shot making.  Mladenovic, who outside serious tennis fans most in the stadium have probably never heard of before continually gained fans as the three days got on.  Treat Huey, who even though was the local boy most Filipinos have never seen play awed the crowd with Jo-Wilfred Tsonga once they finally gelled on the 2nd day.  Goran Ivanisevic will always be willing to please a crowd.  You see these players interacting with each other on the sidelines which you will never see just watching regular tour matches on tv.  There’s Murray and Daniel Nestor who couldn’t stop talking and laughing.  Same for Serena Williams and Daniela Hantuchova.  Ivanovic and Sania Mirza were practically inseparable, and who could ever forget Ivanovic’s absence of dancing skills thanks to Monfils.  Of course, there were the more silent and reticent types, but that’s showing their personalities too.

 

As a team competition, it was no surprise that the team that got on together from the get go won this leg of the league.  The Indian Aces was clearly that team.  Right off the bat, they were huddling during changeovers, cheering loudly for their teammates and just generally showed the most positive team spirit.  The Aces’ players continually acknowledged this fact saying how much they’re having fun together.  Not that the other teams didn’t embrace the team aspect of the competition, but Manila Mavericks for one took time to gel together, probably not helped by having the more introvert players while the Indian Aces had Monfils providing unbridled energy throughout.

 

Eventually, the Manila Mavericks were helped by relentless cheering from the home crowd urging them on until it paid off on the 3rd day when they finally won their last match.  Mark Philippoussis, who subbed in for an injured Carlos Moya set the tone by winning the first set coming from behind against Patrick RafterKirsten Flipkens, the home team’s other female player was showered loudly with support when she finally stepped up to play on the 3rd day.  I didn’t think Andy Murray would have liked to lose all his matches in front of his home team so he was finally able to pull off two wins on the 3rd day.  It was the most electric on that last day and last match as the whole stadium cheered louder and louder for the home team especially as the last set, the men’s singles between Murray and Nick Kyrgios got down to the wire and the last and longest rally of the set finished off the 5-minute shoot-out with a Kyrgios backhand to the net.  It was the fitting end to 3 days of tennis fun and excitement.

 

The competition will probably continue to have its critics, but I for one was converted.  That IPTL was able to bring all these tennis superstars to my country already makes it a winner in my book.  But the overall experience just solidified that fact.  I talked to several people, hardcore fans, casual fans, people who have never watched a tennis match in their life and they all came out of the experience with nothing but positive words to say, all saying that they will definitely be back next year to watch some more.  For the casual fan, it was like watching tennis on steroids with the faster paced play.  For the non-tennis fan who was greatly entertained, it was a marvel seeing how gorgeous all of the players looked.  I asked another non-tennis fan whether she will watch tennis on TV if she chances upon it and she said that she already did the following day.  Most of these people just got complimentary tickets, but their enjoyment showed that next time, they will already be willing to pay for the experience.  And if the aim of the IPTL is to grow the fan base of the sport, in areas that are rarely or never served by the professional tours, then so far, it seems to have achieved its goal.  A day after, and everyone is suffering from IPTL hangover.

 

Will IPTL supplant the tours?  Most probably not.  It’s still an exhibition in the mind of players and fans.  Will it eventually be part of tennis’ history especially with some of its innovations as Carlos Moya says it could be?  Too hard to tell after the first leg.  I feel its success is highly dependent on the commitment it gets from the biggest superstars of tennis.  It has managed that so far, will it continue to do so in the future?  Is there a place for it in the current tennis landscape as founder Mahesh Bhupathi says it does as he summed up the Manila experience?  Why not?  We all got to see Andy Murray and Maria Sharapova play mixed doubles together to disastrous results all with smiles on their faces, the biggest cherry on top of this wonderful cake.  And that alone should make the fans demand for the continued existence of the IPTL.

 

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Federer Withdraws from Year-End Final with Back Injury

Federer on changeover

Chalkdust Chronicles – Sad end to a low-key tournament

 

(November 16, 2014) LONDON – After semi-finals that finally set the tournament alight, there was an audible gasp from the crowds who had gathered for the Finals as Roger Federer wandered out in a cardigan and trousers to announce that he was pulling out of the ATP World Tour Finals with World No. 1 and two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic.

 

The rumors had already been circulating when he had not shown up for practice, having opted for one of the courts in the public area and not on the main court.

 

As the announcement was made to media to take to the court for the announcement, it seemed a fitting end to one of the strangest tournaments, with the only shining lights being the semi-finals.

 

“Unfortunately I’m not match fit,” Federer said to the crowd at the O2 Arena. “I tried everything I could last night, also today: painkillers, treatment, rest, so forth, warm-up, until the very end. But I just can’t compete at this level with Novak. It would be too risky at my age to do this right now and I hope you understand.”

In a muted on-court presentation, for his third consecutive title, Djokovic said:

“I feel really sorry for Roger. If he could have come out and played, he would have done.”

 

People who had paid good money for the tickets over the entire week have been disappointed over the week with heavy one-sided matches in the singles until the semi-finals.

 

However the gasping audience were partially mollified with the news that Djokovic would be playing Andy Murray in a pro-set followed by another exhibition match pitting Murray with John McEnroe against Tim Henman and Pat Cash.

 

Meanwhile Swiss thoughts must turn to how they mentally and physically prepare for the Davis Cup on French clay, as that had to have been part of Federer’s decision to pull out.

 

A further complication arises as John McEnroe hinted at a fall out with the Swiss team that went on well into the night. During the match Wawrinka had seemed to have an angry altercation with someone in Federer’s box, and with them being the mainstays of the Swiss team, could spell a mental triumph for the French team before they all even step on court.

 

The World Tour Finals of 2014 will not be known as one of the classics, and if next year should be its last year in London, hopefully it will go out with a bang, and not the whimper of this year.

 

 

Federer’s message on his Facebook page:

fedpullout

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Tournament thriller to set up World 1 Djokovic versus No. 2 Federer in the ATP World Tour Finals

Chalkdust Chronicles – Tournament thriller to set up World 1 Djokovic versus No. 2 Federer in the ATP World Tour Finals

 

(November 15, 2014) LONDON – After a week of sometimes lackluster performances at the ATP World Tour Finals, finally the crowds had something to shout about as Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka battled through an intense three-setter, with Wawrinka just being edged out by the most heartbreaking of margins 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(6), unable to take advantage of any of the four match points he held.

 

That Federer won is no surprise, but to come from a set down after being left standing as Wawrinka built up a double break was not in the script. Maybe nerves caught up with him the first time he tried to serve out the first set as the always dangerous Federer clawed back one of the breaks, and Wawrinka did the deed on the second time of asking.

 

The quality certainly did not diminish in the second set as Federer still failed to capitalize on his opportunities to push into a decider sooner rather than later.

 

Soon it would be Wawrinka’s turn to send a match-point begging, and beating each other up into the deciding set tie-break, Federer got the predictably more confident start. By the time Wawrinka got himself in the lead again, he was starting to feel the effects of the match, cramping up. With Davis Cup around the corner, Federer opted to go for the attack, finally saving four match-points and taking one of his own with a cutting drop volley to set up the final the organizers were longing for.

 

“For sure that game at the end I was nervous,” Wawrinka said in regard to failing to serve out the match. “You make some choice, especially when you’re tired, when you’re nervous. Just wanted to go for it and not wait for mistake.”

 

“I got lucky tonight,” admitted Federer. “Stan played better from the baseline and that usually does the job on this court. But I kept fighting. It’s tough but I’m thrilled to be in another final in London. Novak is playing great tennis. It usually brings the best out of me.”

 

Federer will face off against world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. Federer is seeking his seventh year-end title, while Djokovic is looking for his third in sucession.

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Djokovic delivers killer blow to clinch the year-end No. 1 ranking

DjokovicYENo120142

Chalkdust Chronicles: Djokovic delivers killer blow to clinch the year-end No. 1

 

(November 14, 2014) LONDON – Novak Djokovic dispatched Tomas Berdych in short order 6-2, 6-2 to regain with year-end No. 1 spot on Friday, as he went 3-0 in the round-robin stage of the Barclays ATP World Tour Final.

 

Although Berdych has the slimmest of chances (Wawrinka has to only win three games to advance) but in a week where the scores have been bizarrely low to say the lest, Berdych seems intent on packing, answering a definitive “no” when asked if there was still a possibility he could win.

 

Djokovic was in devastating form right from the start of the match, breaking immediately to race out to a 3-0 lead in both sets. It was all that Berdych could do to get more than one game on the board, as Djokovic sealed his place in the semi-finals with the first set, before clinching the year-end No. 1 spot with his win, as well as finishing on top of the group.

 

Berdych, who was straight into press, praised Djokovic’s achievement.

 

“Well, definitely he deserves to win. There was no question about it. He just secure his spot for the No. 1 player in the world. I think it just show how great he is, how well he played during the whole season.”

 

He continued: “I find the court very tricky, very challenging. It doesn’t allow you for any mistakes. In my word, I think it’s very slow. You know, for us who wants to hit the serve and try to play aggressive, it’s very difficult. So that’s why we kind of struggle with that.”

 

For someone who had just regained the No. 1 spot, Djokovic was in contemplative move, with a job still to do as he bids for his fourth season-ending title.

 

He said; “It’s difficult to say what is more important. But both these goals are always my goals in the beginning of the season. So I’m glad I managed to achieve both. To win a Grand Slam in one season and be No. 1.”

 

Djokovic will face Kei Nishikori who qualified out of Group B in second place, and although they split their head to head, Djokovic lost to him in the US Open semi-final, before beating him handily in Paris.

 

He surmised: “It’s obvious that he’s experiencing the best season of his life. He’s top 5 of the world. He’s playing some great tennis. He’s one of the quickest players around. Deservedly he’s in semifinals only on his debut.”

 

Djokovic added: “I expect a tougher match than it was in Paris, that’s for sure. But, again, the conditions indoor and outdoor, where I lost to him in US Open, are quite different. I’m feeling pretty confident playing now, as well as he. So it’s going to be a good, high‑class tennis.”

Djokovic and Nishikori will play in the day session on Saturday.

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Federer and Nishikori reign supreme in Group B at ATP World Tour Finals

Roger Federer photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

Roger Federer photo by Christopher Levy @tennis_shots

Chalkdust Chronicles: Federer and Nishikori reign supreme in Group B at ATP World Tour Finals

(November 13, 2014) LONDON – Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori qualified from Group B to advance to the knockout stages of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.

 

The Japanese player had to wait for his confirmation, but his win over alternate David Ferrer pushed Federer into the semi-finals. Nishikori was scheduled to face Milos Raonic, who was 0-2 already in the competition, but despite practicing earlier, he pulled out with a quad injury a couple of hours before the match was due to start.

The Canadian explained: “It was just something I sustained during my last match. Through extensive sort of research with the doctor’s team here, we found that I have a slight tear on the vastus medialis on my quad.”

 

On medical advice he was told that taking to the court could mean putting himself out of action for a considerable amount of time.

 

“Losing six to eight weeks of solely rehab sort of means you lose 12 weeks of getting back into shape and everything, those are definitely significant factors in my decision. At some points I didn’t want to accept it and listen to it. But it is what it is. I, alongside my team, all the staff with the ATP, made the best decision I believe.”

 

So it was left to David Ferrer to step in with the scenarios changing, and for the first time the crowd were treated to a three-set match as the Spaniard took advantage of a lapse in Nishikori’s level to edge the first set, but an early break at the start of the second sent the momentum back Nishikori’s way, as he ran away with it in the third set claiming th amtch 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.

 

“It’s never easy playing against David because he’s very consistent from the baseline,” said Nishikori. “If I want to win, I have to do something to break his tennis. From the second set, I was more aggressive. The final set was almost perfect.”

The final match alas did not live up to its promise, as Roger Federer blasted Andy Murray off the court 6-0, 6-1. After holding his first game, Federer went on a tear to win 10 games in a row before the battered Brit finally got a game on the board, only for Federer to wrap up the set in less than an hour.

 

After the match Federer said: “I think if there’s a slight difference of the level from the baseline, hard to get out of it. We’ve seen it all week. The serve doesn’t have that much impact. I didn’t even necessarily serve so well. But you got to play the right way here, use the court to your advantage as much as you can.

 

He continued: “But I had the upper hand from the baseline, which hasn’t always happened against him. But I definitely was able to play on my terms. For me, things went very well. I was able to put Andy under pressure very often, and I think the match couldn’t have gone any better for me really.”

 

 

Coming straight into his post-match news conference Murray admitted: “He played exceptionally well. I can say I’m disappointed with my level tonight. But if I played well, he probably still would have won anyway. He was striking the ball very, very clean. Made very few mistakes. Was hitting the ball off the middle of the racquet on serve, returns.”

 

Murray is on best-man duty for best friend Ross Hutchins next week and has just 14 days before the start of the International Premier Tennis League, where he will be playing in a series of exhibition events, before playing in the Mubadala World Tennis Championships and the Hopman Cup ahead of the start of the season.

 

Tennis Panorama News is covering the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London.  Follow on twitter for live updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

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Roger Federer in cruise control in London

Federer on court-001

Chalkdust Chronicles: Roger Federer in cruise control in London

(November 11, 2014) LONDON – Roger Federer breezed through his second round robin match of the ATP World Tour Finals, as he eased past Kei Nishikori 6-3 6-2.

 

The Japanese player, who overcame nerves to edge out Britain’s Andy Murray in the first round started promisingly, and indeed in the early exchanges looked to be the sharper of the two, but once the errors started racking up, and his backhand down the line deserted him, he looked a shadow of the player who stepped up on his debut.

 

He admitted: “Maybe he didn’t play maybe hundred percent, but all the tough points he played, you know, good serve, good points. He didn’t give me a chance to come back. Yeah, I think he did great that. Important points, he put all the efforts.”

 

“I didn’t play really bad. But still, you know, I wasn’t really consistent everything, my serve, my strokes. I had a little bit of unforced errors. So that’s why I couldn’t, you know, stay there.”

 

For the second time in the tournament, Nishikori received treatment on his wrist, but he played it down, in a season where wrist injuries have plagued many players.

 

“[I] just had a little bit of soreness today. I mean, the tennis was okay. I was playing really solid from the baseline. Maybe serve wasn’t there, you know, today. But I have one more day, tomorrow, off. So try to come back, recovery well, and hopefully I can win next one. “

 

Federer in the mean time is riding high, almost virtually assured of his place in the semi-finals, if Andy Murray beats Milos Raonic in three sets, and the benefit of a guaranteed place is not lost on him.

 

“I’d like to be qualified, to be quite honest. At least I know I am through maybe than having to win a set or maybe having to win the entire match. I don’t even know what it takes. Usually if you do win in straight sets twice, things look very, very good.

 

He continued: “The advantage of being qualified, if that were to happen, is just that you can go into the match a bit more laid back. But then again, the integrity of the game, and there’s so much still at stake for me, wanting to beat a fellow rival and wanting to win the points that are at stake, go in with a clean sheet into the semis is any way to go.”

 

The final Group B round robin matches will be played on Thursday.

 

Tennis Panorama News is covering the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London.  Follow on twitter for live updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

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Something in the air in London as Djokovic crushes Cilic 6-1, 6-1 in his World Tour Finals opener

Djokovic

Chalkdust Chronicles: Something in the air in London as Djokovic crushes Cilic 6-1, 6-1 in his World Tour Finals opener

 

(November 10, 2014) LONDON – It can hardly be credited that Day 2 of the World Tour Finals would see two very one sided matches between 4 of the ATPs elite, yet the evening match was a near perfect copy of the day match.

 

Novak Djokovic was in devastating form with a break before even the first change of ends, and somewhat unbelievably the score-line matched Stan Wawrinka’s, in the first match, albeit a whole two minutes longer.

 

There was a brief flurry of hope for Marin Cilic fans when he broke Djokovic back at the start of the second set but that was to be his only game, as the Serb and two-time defending champion surged ahead once more, closing out a 6-1, 6-1 win in 56 minutes.

For Cilic, it will be his first experience of the peculiarities of this tournament: Arriving by river-boat, he could be forgiven for equating that to a sinking feeling as the good ship Cilic gave the Titanic a run for its money.

 

“I felt that Novak played really, really solid today. In some matches, the score just keeps running. You are sinking a lot. You are, you know, always trying to find something. But whatever you try, it’s not working.”

 

He continued: “I felt a little bit uncomfortable on the court, rusty.”

 

If Cilic was rusty, Djokovic and his team were a well-oiled machine of preparation and in therein lies the real secret of success, as Djokovic explained:

 

“I was preparing myself for this match. I knew already one week ago that I’m going to play Marin at 8 p.m. on Monday. My team did a good scouting. We thought about, you know, what’s the game plan. I stepped in and executed really well.

 

“His debut in the World Tour Finals has gotten best out of him in terms of his nerves. You could see that he didn’t feel so comfortable. Tried to use my experience playing on this stage, the stadium, which is pretty different from any other.”

 

 

Djokovic now extends his unbeaten run on indoor courts to 28 matches, and srely has the form to handle Wawrinka in the next round robin match, although given his sudden reversal in form, hopefully this will be a bit more of a match.

 

And all is not lost for the unlucky losers and a host of must win matches now abound.

 

It has been a bad start for two out of the three rookies, so will the round-robin be their friend or foe, and should we get the life-belts out?

 

 

Tennis Panorama News is covering the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London.  Follow on twitter for live updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

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Chalkdust Chronicles – Berdych blown off court by Wawrinka

 

Chalkdust Chronicles – Berdych blown off court by Wawrinka

 

(November 10, 2014) LONDON – Tomas Berdych may have to wait until next year for a chance to finally break his World Tour Finals opening round duck after being completely blown off court by Stan Wawrinka in the Group A opening round robin match.

 

Wawrinka, who has struggled for form since the US Open, certainly made up for that by steaming to a 5-0 lead in the first set before going on to match the score-line and time of Roger Federer the night before, wrapping up the first set in just 25 minutes.

 

Think for a moment about those who paid just for a day ticket – if they decided to give the doubles a miss, that was some outlay for just shy of an hour’s work by Wawrinka as he notched up his first win in the group 6-1, 6-1.

 

The Swiss had been very relaxed in his pre-tournament press conference, happy to be here in different circumstances to last year as one of the early qualifiers, and now, feeling very confident.

 

“I didn’t expect to win that easy,” said Wawrinka. “But I was ready to play well. I had a great week of preparation. Even if the result wasn’t there in Basel and Paris, I was feeling the ball really well on the practice court.

“When I feel good on the court, I’m ready to beat everybody. It’s never easy, but you have to fight for it.”

Berdych could not do much more than admit it had not been his day.

“There are days like that. Now it’s over of that. Really, I mean, it’s just matter of looking forward, trying to find a way for next few days. Just try to leave this somewhere very far and try to come up with some better tennis.”

 

Wawrinka and Berdych will next play on Wednesday when the two winners and the two losers will pitch against each other.

 

Tennis Panorama News is covering the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London.  Follow on twitter for live updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

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Chalkdust Chronicles: Federer rampant over Raonic

 

Chalkdust Chronicles: Federer rampant over Raonic

 

(November 9, 2014) LONDON – World Tour Finals rookie Milos Raonic got a baptism of fire on his debut, as memories of his Paris win and first victory over Roger Federer was all but banished from memory in a 25 minute first set.

 

From the offset, Federer raced out to a 3-0 lead and while Raonic spared his blushes of avoiding a bagel, getting a solitary game on the board, it was not enough to hold back the tide of errors flowing from his racquet.

 

Where in Paris he was serving like a demon, the lack of variety started to harm Raonic as he lacked the court smarts in the first set to try and stay with Federer.

 

It was a more competitive start for the Canadian, but not without some battling still with a big hold to stay in contention at the start of the second before being rewarded with the rarity of break points on the Federer serve, taking the World No. 2 seven minutes to hold as the big serving Canadian was starting to serve a lot better. It was the boost he needed as Federer started to go off the boil.

 

Frustratingly break point chances came again for Raonic in the all important 11th game, and some clutch play from Federer forced a tie-break, and the rhythm and form started to desert him a little as Federer build up a sharp 6-0 lead in the tie-break. He needed just the one match point, as he roasted Raonic 6-1 7-6(0).

 

It was a very satisfied Federer who laid his loss at Paris to rest, as he explained:

 

“I think I played really well for probably one and a half sets. It was good to get off to a good start like I did against him at Cincinnati, and Wimbledon. I had a couple of games where I was up 40‑Love, and both times he came back and got into the game, which was probably my mistake. But it made me uncomfortable. I started to play a bit more passive. He started to become a bit more offensive. I actually think he was the better player from that moment on and deserved the set more than I did.

 

“Thankfully he didn’t play quite so well, like he did in Paris maybe. He gave me a few shots here and there, especially at the beginning of the breaker. I think those were crucial.      I was happy to bring it home because it was very close at the end of the second.”

 

Milos Raonic

Milos Raonic

Raonic, on the other hand knows that he faces a real challenge, and so far has come of worse with one more debutant to go tomorrow, as Marin Cilic takes on Novak Djokovic.

 

“It’s obviously disappointing, very disappointing actually, the way I finished that second set off. He was a lot more consistent on his return games. In Paris, okay, I’d get free points when I hit aces, but today the big difference was when he would get his racquet on the ball, he would make me play all the time. He was giving me some shots in Paris in that sense, some quicker points.

 

“I believe he played better today. I believe I started off not playing nearly as well, but I think I sort of found that Paris level that I had against him come the second set. I think that’s why I was able to create some opportunities for myself.”

 

He will face Andy Murray who was edged out by the third newcomer to London Kei Nishikori.

 

“It’s a completely different match. Things are going to be quite different than the first match. We both, after today, have more so of an idea what we need to do different for the next round. It’s going to be about who necessarily adjusts better, who can play better come Tuesday night.”

 

Stan Wawrinka and Tomas Berdych will play the Monday day session and two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic starts his defense in the night session.

 

Tennis Panorama News is covering the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London.  Follow on twitter for live updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

 

 

RESULTS FOR SUNDAY, 9 NOVEMBER 2014

Singles – Group B Round Robin
[2] R Federer (SUI) d [7] M Raonic (CAN) 61 76(0)
[4] K Nishikori (JPN) d [5] A Murray (GBR) 64 64

Doubles – Group B Round Robin
[7] I Dodig (CRO) / M Melo (BRA) d [2] D Nestor (CAN) / N Zimonjic (SRB) 63 75
[6] M Granollers (ESP) / M Lopez (ESP) d [4] J Benneteau (FRA) / E Roger-Vasselin (FRA) 64 64

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Chalkdust Chronicles: Grey Day for Murray as he drops first round to newcomer Nishikori

Chalkdust Chronicles: Grey Day for Murray as he drops first round to newcomer Nishikori

 

(November 9, 2014) LONDON – Any fears that Andy Murray might have had about having to win fins back were answered with rousing cheers as the home-grown champion opened the day’s proceedings at the Barclays ATP world Tour Finals.

 

It looked to be starting so promisingly too. While Kei Nishikori starting nervously and Murray looking to be just that more solid, the poppy-sporting Brit drew first blood with a break to more rapturous cheering. However that was soon muted as Nishikori started generating a lot more pace and hustling Murray more, breaking him to love straight away.

 

It was a wasted opportunity of a battle that saw Murray squander a couple of breakpoints and from there Nishikori seemed to take heart, dealing the final break to seal the first set.

 

Maybe there is something about the day matches that tends to leave the atmosphere a bit flat, but Nishikori stunned them into silence racing into a 3-0 lead.

 

British hopes were roused a little when Murray stemmed the flow winning three games in a row to level at 4-4 in the second set and it looked as though the day crowd were going to get their money’s worth, but almost immediately the same lapse in concentration saw Murray broken, as Nishikori came through his London debut 6-4 6-4.

 

Murray had little choice but to be quite clinical with his review of the match.

 

“I didn’t serve well enough. He was able to dictate a lot of points, especially behind my second serve. Both of us struggled at the beginning of the match. The conditions, when you play with no one in there, it seemed like it was pretty full today. It’s obviously warmer, which then makes it quicker, the ball becomes a bit more lively.

 

“He definitely started playing better at the end of the first set and started feeling a bit more comfortable with those conditions.

 

Of course the benefit of the World Tour finals is that there are still two more round robin matches to go, but in a close group where it is maybe not as clear cut as perhaps the group of three Slam winners, Murray wasted a valuable chance to make life easy on himself.

 

“It’s harder to qualify when you lose your first match. But unlike the other events, you still have a chance to go through,” Murray said. “If this were anywhere else, I would be out of the tournament. You need to try to forget about today, work on some things tomorrow, and hopefully play better on Tuesday.”

 

For Nishikori it is a great start to cap a fantastic year for the record breaking Japanese player, who has battled to stay fit, despite having to call the trainer out briefly at the end of the first set.

 

“The court is same as Paris, so I was little bit used to playing this surface,” Nishikori said. “But the stadium is huge. You know, I try not to look up too much [and] try to stay focus. Maybe when I walk into the stadium, I was nervous, but same time I was really excited to play with this crowd. I was really happy that I played good tennis on this situation.”

 

Nishikori in the past has been almost a fragile little flower, so it has been pleasing to see him weather several weeks of tough competition, and he explained how he had improved in that area.

 

“I’m spending more time on the gym and also on the courts, too, you know, more practice during off‑season. Even when I’m on the tour, I try to do little bit of rehab and little bit of training. Maybe that’s one of the reason. I had couple injuries this year, you know, I had to retire couple matches, important matches. But I’ve been getting really strong, my body. Yeah, in US Open I played five sets. But I can able to finish seven matches first time, so I think I’m very strong physically.”

 

But with that comes the need to become tougher mentally, and given how shaky Nishikori’s first serve at times wandering around the cavern that is the O2, it was a testament to his improved strength of focus that he did not crumble when Murray fought back in the second set.

 

“I was [trying] to stay calm, even he was playing little better, you know, start playing little more consistent.

 

“First time I play Roger, couldn’t play anything ’cause I respect too much. I wasn’t go for win actually. I was just, you know, play tennis against my idol. That was one of the problem I had. But after couple years, I got mentally strong. I have to be strong to beat them. Maybe that’s one of the reason we Asia players has to be really strong. You have to believe yourself.”

 

It will be the turn of Group A to take to the court on Monday, with Group B playing again on Tuesday.

Tennis Panorama News is covering the ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London.  Follow on twitter for live updates on @TennisNewsTPN.

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