ATP World Tour Finals Start With a Bang
A tournament that’s exclusive enough to only include the best performing 8 players of the year is always going to produce quality tennis. However, the level of tennis on display on day one of the World Tour Finals was just astonishing.
The first match of the of the day was a crowd pleaser, with 4th seeds Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares triumphing over their opponents Michael Venus and Raven Klaasen 7-6 4-6 10-5. Murray and Soares started slowly, but recovered from 5-3 down in Set 1 to win it, and despite losing the second set, stayed strong to squeeze out the match tiebreak. This match was followed by Dominic Thiem vs Kevin Anderson, a match that promised huge ball striking, and delivered it. Aside from one wobbly service game from Thiem in the first set, which Anderson took 6-3, both men served impeccably, meaning that breaks of serve were a rarity. Thiem began to land more first serves in the second set and looked the better player from the back of the court, moving his 6-foot 8 opponent around, forcing him to play on his Thiem’s terms. However, Anderson did not crack under the increased pressure put on him by his opponent, producing massive serves when called upon to do so, forcing a tiebreak. The tiebreak produced more thrills, with both players refusing to yield to any pressure. Thiem saved 3 match points and took the score to 10-10, but just as the Austrian looked to have gained the upper hand, Anderson hit a laser like forehand down the line to earn himself a match point, which he dispatched with an ace. Drama over.
If you thought that the afternoon session was good, then wait till you hear about what happened in the evening session. The doubles match was a little more low key, with title favourites Cabal and Farah defeating Mektic and Peya with a comfortable score line of 6-3 6-4. Next came the headline act, Federer vs Nishikori. Federer is looking for his 100th career title in London this week, while Nishikori is trying to improve upon two semi-final exits at the World Tour Finals. Despite being the overwhelming favourite to win, Federer looked nervy to begin with, but managed to hang onto his serve throughout the first set to go 6-5 up. With Nishikori serving at 15-30, Federer slapped a superb forehand return which looked as though it would give the Swiss two set points, but Nishikori produced a stunning single-handed backhand winner on the stretch to deny Federer. Nishikori was then able to force a tiebreak, which he subsequently took 7-4. Federer looked to bounce back immediately and broke Nishikori at the start of the second set. However, the 7th seed broke back immediately, then fashioned a decisive break of serve to take a 4-2 lead. Federer never recovered from this, and Nishikori held serve at 5-3 to complete an unlikely 7-6 6-3 victory over one of the tournament favourites.
Another tournament that took place this week was the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, a tournament known for it’s innovative rule changes like short sets to 4 instead of 6, 5 sets instead of 3 and a fully automated line callingsystem. The tournament was once again a huge success, with Stefanos Tsitsipas defeating Alex de Minaur in an exciting final. 3 of last year’s participants broke the Top 20 this year, most notably Karen Khachnov, who won the Paris Master’s. Hopefully this year’s young stars can have similar levels of success in 2019, as we begin to enter a transition period from one generation to the next.