Two semifinal spots were decided after play ended on Tuesday night in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at the O2 Arena in London. First to go through was the doubles team of India’s Rohan Bopanna with his Romanian partner Florin Mergea, and following them, came the celebrated Roger Federer. In the afternoon session, Bopanna/Mergea defeated the fourth seeded team of Britain’s Jamie Murray and Australia’s John Peers. Later in the evening, everyone waited for the match between Switzerland’s world no.3 Roger Federer and Serbia’s world no.1 Novak Djokovic. Before they met last night, the Swiss had lost to Djokovic 4 times in 6 meetings in the 2015 season but the Maestro reversed that in a comprehensive straight sets victory and made it 22-21 in his favor over their last 43 meetings. Since Japan’s Kei Nishikori also won his match against Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych in three sets, Federer sailed through to the semifinal of this year’s ATP World Tour Finals.
The first time Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic faced each other, was in 2006, when the Swiss defeated the Serb in the first round of the Monte-Carlo Masters. Those days, Federer was on top of the world and a tennis legend in the making. Nine years later, Federer is already one of the greatest tennis players in the annals of modern tennis and a living legend at that. However, we are into an era of Djokovic-superiority and it is difficult these days for anyone to beat the highly committed Serb. But Roger Federer is not just anyone. For records sake, after his loss to Djokovic in their 42nd meeting at the 2015 US Open final, Federer and Djokovic stood level at 21-21 in head-to-head count of victories. Yesterday that became 22-21 and while in a few days’ time that could become 22-22, if Djokovic and Federer reach the finals at O2 and the Serb extracts his revenge. Even then, Djokovic would have failed to secure the head-to-head advantage over Federer; a trend that has continued for 9 years.
On Tuesday, the two tennis greats faced each other for the 43rd time. Both began sharply, holding their serve with confidence until the score reached 6-5 in Federer’s favor. In the 12th game, Djokovic looked like taking the set to tiebreak but Federer came out stronger. At 30-30, Djokovic sent a forehand wide and yielded the first set point to Federer. A little loss of nerve from Federer took the game back to deuce. But soon, Federer got another set point, when the world no.1 netted a backhand. After that, Djokovic’s first service was a fault. On the second serve, a long rally ensued and Federer showed his class first with a crunching forehand that Djokovic somehow retrieved and brought it back into the court but the next shot from Federer was a delicately executed backhand volley that hugged the line, leaving no chance for Djokovic.
After winning the first set, Federer played powerfully in the second and broke the Serb early for a 2-0 lead. Another break in the sixth game made it 5-2 for Federer. The eighth and last game saw some classic tennis from both players. Federer dragged Djokovic from a 30-0 lead to deuce. On Federer’s first match-point, Djokovic kept the game alive with the longest rally of their duel as the game came back to deuce. But it was just a matter of time as Federer converted on his next opportunity to win 7-5, 6-2 to hand one of the rare losses to Djokovic this season. In the other singles match, Kei Nishikori defeated Tomas Berdych 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 and that decision sent Roger Federer to the semifinals. But Djokovic has not gone out of the event just yet. The Serb can bounce back with a victory over Berdych, if Federer also beats Nishikori.
Earlier in the afternoon, the pair of India’s Rohan Bopanna and Romania’s Florin Mergea stole the honor of being the first doubles team into the World Tour semifinals. Incidentally, the Indo-Romanian duo were the last to qualify in the season finale but they made the most of the opportunity by first upsetting USA’s Bryan brothers on Sunday and then beating fourth-seeded Britain’s Jamie Murray and Australia’s John Peers on Tuesday. Bopanna/Mergea took an early 3-0 lead in the first set and never looked back. In the second, however, both Bopanna and Mergea lost their service games to trail 2-4. Later, the Indo-Romanian combo recomposed themselves and won 5 out of the next 6 points and won the second set on tie break. The 6-3, 7-6 victory against the Briton/Australian duo was Bopanna/Mergea’s 31st win of the season and it took them to the semifinals of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
In the other doubles match, defending champions Bob and Mike Bryan remained in fray after beating the Italian duo of Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-2. The Bryans were superb in their service games, scoring 88% of the first serve points and 73% on the second serve. The Brothers never faced a break and converted 3 out of 5 break chances that came their way. Though they lost to Bopanna/Mergea in their first match, the Bryans can still reach the semifinals if they beat Jamie Murray/John Peers on Thursday.
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