ATP World Tour Finals – Nishikori Beats Federer; Anderson Stops Thiem on Day One
(November 11, 2018) Seventh seed Kei Nishikori ended No. 2 seed Roger Federer’s hopes of reaching year-end No. 2 by taking down the Swiss 7-6(4) 6-3 in their round-robin opener of the ATP World Tour Finals on Sunday in London’s O2 Arena. Federer, became fed-error near the end of the first set and throughout the second. The 37-year-old Federer had 34 unforced errors and a warning for hitting ball into the stands. The win for Nishikori snapped a six-match losing streak against Federer.
Rafael Nadal has clinched year-end No. 2.
“Well, I felt we both struggled, you know, throughout the first set,” Federer said to media. “You could tell it was sort of a first round. I had my chances maybe a bit more than he did. Yeah, then I started to feel better in the second set. I think we both did. The level went up.
“Yeah, unfortunately I couldn’t keep the lead that I got early. That was important, I think, at the end. That was the key of the match, that sort of I guess 10-minute swing at the end of the first throughout maybe 1-All in the second. Maybe being the leader rather than being down so…”
“I mean, look, I think it (the court) plays different or it’s definitely slower than I think the last three tournaments that I’ve played. So I think everybody’s making a minor adjustment, you know. So am I.
“I’ve been feeling, I mean, fine. It’s just that practice has been a bit all over the place. Practiced in Queen’s, practiced on the outside courts here, then center as well. So it’s not always exactly the same conditions. Overall I thought I’m hitting the ball okay. Warmup today was totally fine.
“I think maybe we both had a bit of nerves, too, not knowing how to attack second serve. I thought I saw the bit of the same with Thiem, as well, early on, trying to get the right feel for it. I think we both struggled to get that early.”
This is the 16th time that the 20-time-major winner is playing in the ATP World Tour Finals. Asked if playing less of a schedule is putting more pressure on him to play better at tournaments, he responded:
“I mean, I used to play exactly this schedule for about 15 years, this last second part of the season. It’s just that the clay has been less. Other than that, I don’t see a major difference.
“I want to do well at every tournament. I think fans know that. Tournament directors know that. I know it. My team knows it.
“I don’t think, per se, I’m playing worse because of it. I think I’ve had that pressure not going out early most of my career. Once I became world No. 1 anyways. Once you’ve been a former world No. 1, you always have that for the rest of your career, for every guy.
“Yeah, I mean, that my season was never going to be exactly like last year. I knew that going into the season. If you thought I was going to have, I think you are dreaming a little bit, I think.
“I’m happy how I played this season. I didn’t feel like playing less was a problem, if that’s what it was. I didn’t feel I played less, per se.”
With the withdrawals of Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro, allowed Nishikori and John Isner to claim spots in the year-end event.
Nishikori, who has reached the final four of London twice, is now 1-0 in the Lleyton Hewitt group, tied for the lead with Kevin Anderson. The South African beat sixth seed Dominic Thiem 6-3, 7-6(10).
Fourth seed Anderson, making his debut in London, talked about the key to his win on Sunday: “I think it was important, you know, going out there and getting off to a good start. I definitely felt a little bit nervous. But I was able to settle very quickly and find a really good rhythm, taking care of my serve games nicely, created quite a few opportunities on his serve.
“He wasn’t serving at, you know, well, a very high first-serve percentage. I felt I was getting into quite a few points. The second set could have been anybody’s set. He started serving well. I was taking care of my serve games. When it’s 12-10 in the tiebreak, it really could have gone either way.
“I think overall just getting off to a good start helped me a lot today.”
“I don’t think there’s any particular thing that matches up incredibly well. I just feel like I’ve played good tennis against him. We’ve had close matches. I’ve managed take my opportunities, you know, close out matches better than he has in our head-to-head.
“I think from today’s match, I did a really good job of not giving him time. I think just overall I’ve done that pretty well against him. I think that’s why he’s been such an amazing clay court player because he creates a little bit more time. When he has time, he’s just so dangerous.
“So I think, you know, I’ve had to play great tennis against him. I think I’ve done a great job of just making him feel a little bit uncomfortable. That’s why I’ve had good success against him so far.”
Photo and graphic Courtesy of the ATP World Tour
Photo and graphic Courtesy of the ATP World Tour