ATP World Tour Finals Day 1
Roger Federer and Kei Nishikori dazzled London with some exquisite tennis on the first day of the World Tour Finals in London.
Incredible Federer swept aside the powerful Milos Raonic 6-1, 7-6 (7-0), crushing his younger adversary in the tie-break with his very best tennis.
Meanwhile Kei Nishikori beat the home favourite, Andy Murray 6-4, 6-4 to show why he has become the first Asian male to play in these popular end-of-season finals.
Now Japan’s finest has vowed to try to go all the way in what promises to be a scintillating eight days of tennis in the English capital.
But not even Nishikori could outshine the brilliant Federer. Entering the 02 Arena to a hero’s welcome, Federer certainly didn’t disappoint his legions of fans. In 25 minutes of extraordinary anticipation of his opponent’s every move, the Swiss master seemed able to return the feared serve of Milos Raonic with ease. He broke the Canadian twice on the way to an emphatic first-set thrashing.
Federer’s serve came under pressure in the fourth and sixth games of the second set, but he managed to resist break points to stay on track. Raonic then had a set point at 6-5 to take the second – but yet again Federer held firm under the closest scrutiny.
It was all too much for Raonic, who fell 0-6 behind in the tie-break almost before he had a chance to recover from the psychological set-back. A moment later it was all over.
Earlier Murray had disappointed his British fans with a strangely tentative performance. His backhand and second serve were often woeful and he looked a shadow of the player who had put together such an admirable run of form in recent weeks.
Murray had worked so hard to reach London but when he finally arrived, he played as though his mind was elsewhere.
Having publicly backed Scottish independence, somewhat controversially in this neck of the woods, it may be that Murray was wondering what the English crowd might think of him. He is also understood to have been upset at the criticism his mother Judy is getting from the judges on a weekly British television show called “Strictly Come Dancing.”
Andy’s body seems worn out and he needed treatment to a sore left calf during a match that simply passed him by, even though he did battle back from 1-4 down to 4-4 in the second set. That comeback was short-lived and now Murray must look for a miracle to progress. He will need to summon the warrior within if he is to give himself any kind of chance.
Whatever the excuses behind this display, Murray failed to compete at key moments as an increasingly confident Nishikori saw his chance to make a fresh statement for Asian tennis.
The likable Kei said later:’I knew he is very consistent from the baseline so I knew I had to come forward and be more aggressive. My goal is to go to the semi-final and final but it’s my first time here, I was a little bit tight but I’m really happy with the way I played.Thank you for your support and I hope I can keep going.’
Nishikori paid tribute to his coach, Michael Chang.’It started a year ago, he has made me more aggressive and I feel his support (during matches). I’ll give myself seven or eight out of ten today. I struggled in the first set but the second was almost perfect.’
For Federer it was the other way round, though the result was the same.
An inspired Roger said after victory:’Thanks to the ovation when I entered the building, I performed well. The second set was much tougher, but winning is a small relief. We have a tough group but it moves things a step closer for advancing here.’
Also paying tribute to his coach, Stefan Edberg, Federer said: ‘He was my hero so it is kind of surprising that he agreed to come and work with me.’
London was celebrating two heroes as Day One of the World Tour Finals drew to a close. Federer, the evergreen legend and Nishikori, the exciting new sensation.