Highlights from the opening day of the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals at London's O2 Arena...
Competing in front of a home crowd for the first time since ending the Fred Perry hoodoo, Andy Murray looked expectedly tight in his first round robin affair against the big-hitting, cap-wearing Tomas Berdych. Squandering seven break points in the opening set, it was Berdych who snuck ahead without asking, grabbing the set 6-3. But just as his forehand started to wane, Murray's much-improved right wing found its running, and the US Open champion broke early and held on to level the match at a set all. Breaking for 3-1 in the decider as his winner count climbed, by the time two match points came around, Murray had re-discovered his roar too.
“The noise and the atmosphere at the beginning of the match was great,” Murray said. “I thought I started the match well. I just didn't quite take my chances early on. Both of us I thought served pretty well [and] weren't losing too many points on our first serve. It can hinge on a couple points here or there. [Getting the break for a 3-1 lead] gave me the advantage in the second set. But the third set was tight as well.”
36 winners to 26 unforced errors is nothing to be ashamed of, and Murray won over 80% of points on his first serve. But he will look to improve on his break point conversion, having won just two of 12 break point opportunities.
Novak Djokovic might have expected to be thrown a few curve balls by Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in his opening encounter, but, as is a champion's wont, it didn't quite turn out that way, the world No.1 hustling through 7-6(4), 6-3. “The opening set obviously could have gone either way," Djokovic said. "To be quite honest, he was the better player throughout the first set. I faced many break points, and I didn't have any in the opening set. I managed to serve well, play well, stay mentally tough, and tried to fight my way through."
The fourth Barclays ATP World Tour Finals began in thrilling fashion as former world No.1s Daniel Nestor and Max Mirnyi were forced to save a match point during their 4-6, 7-6(1), 12-10 victory over thrice Wimbledon finalists Horia Tecau and Robert Lindstedt.
“All credit to our opponents, they were playing great,” Nestor said. “They didn't give us many chances on their serve. We got a couple at the end of the second. But they were the better team for about a set and three quarters. We were just trying to hang on in the second. We did a good job of that. Then the match slowly started to shift. We created a few more opportunities. I thought they still played pretty well. We just raised our level.”
Mirnyi praised the vociferous crowd, always an unexpected boon for doubles players at this event.
“It's not often you're going to get this many thousands of people be quiet and know when to clap and what to say and when not to say," the Belarusian said. "It's pretty amazing, it being so big, so crowded, but yet so quiet.”
For the Bryan brothers, defending champions in London, the week began with a surprising loss as Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez marked their debut with one of the wins of their careers. Saving a match point as they won 7-5, 5-7, 11-9 in one hour and 38 minutes, the Spanish Davis Cup duo are the first Spanish players to compete at the season-ending championships since Sergio Casal and Emilio Sanchez in 1994.
A glorious affair
The Final Showdown's protagonists donned their suits on Saturday night for the second Barclays ATP World Tour Finals gala, held at the Royal Courts of Justice. Raising over £400,000 for Great Ormond Street Hospital, the event officially launched the week's tennis at London's O2 Arena, while toasting a worthy cause.
"I'm happy that we're hopefully going to be able to raise a lot of money for the many kids that need it," Federer said. Items auctioned off included a gold-leaf Methuselah of champagne signed by Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, VIP tickets and other exclusive experiences.
Coming up on Tuesday
Jonny Marray & Freddie Nielsen v Mahesh Bhupathi & Rohan Bopanna
The Wimbledon champions were worried they might not make it to the season finale but they got there in the end, and will kick off one of the events of their lives against the tricky Indian combination of Bhupathi and Bopanna, the fifth seeds.
Roger Federer v Janko Tipsarevic
The six-time champion begins his title defence against the eighth player in the field, Janko Tipsarevic, and, having never lost to him in their five previous meetings, should not have to work up too much of a sweat.
Leander Paes & Radek Stepanek v Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi & Jean-Julien Rojer
The Australian Open champions are seeded third at this event, and, if they can create the kind of chemistry that served them so well in Melbourne, they shouldn't struggle against the less experienced Pakistani-Dutch duo.
David Ferrer v Juan Martin Del Potro
Arguably the two most in-form players of this stretch of the season, Ferrer has just won Valencia and Paris, while Del Potro triumphed in Vienna and Basel. Their height difference may be startling, but the difference in level shouldn't be. Expect the big-hitting Argentine to struggle with Ferrer's immense defence as he bids to get only his third win in what will be their eighth meeting.
Want to see any of this live? There are still tickets available...