The 2011 World Tour Finals got underway on Sunday with an opening match featuring a rematch of the Paris final from exactly one week earlier - Roger Federer vs Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Fed won the match 62 26 64, and it was very weird from start to finish.
In the first set, Roger got out to a quick 4-1 lead and won the set 6-2. The set passed by in 21 minutes and neither the two players nor the fans were ever afforded the chance to sink their teeth into the match. Tsonga could barely get the ball into play and even though Roger won the set 6-2 he never really played that well either. He didn't have to because Jo was missing everything.
In the second set, Roger had a severe lapse in concentration and quickly got down a break after some questionable misses, and as Tsonga had given the first set to Federer, Fed gave the second set straight back to Tsonga in quite appalling form. You can try to analyze what happened to Roger in that second set all you want, but I'll give my opinion on what happened: Roger won the first set with alarming ease, and at the start of the second he wasn't even playing at 60% effort. So when Jo started getting the ball into play, serving big, and giving Roger a match, Fed was caught off guard and struggled with his rhythm.
In the third set, both men started playing better collectively, and it looked as if the match was going to go to a 3rd set tiebreak. Fed was serving better and hitting his groundstrokes with more pop, and Tsonga was blasting his serve (much like he did at Wimbledon) and never really giving Roger a chance to get into the rallies. Then, at 4-5, when it looked as if the match was certainly heading to a tiebreak, Tsonga missed an easy volley. Right there, he gave Fed an opening. Then Jo double faulted. 0-30. Then Roger won the next point. Three match points. Jo saved the first MP, but lost the second and Roger wound up winning the match in very sudden fashion. Seriously, as bad as Roger's mental lapse was in the 2nd set, I think Tsonga's lapse at 4-5 in the 3rd was even worse. He lost his concentration at the worst possible time and it cost him the match. On the other hand, Roger picked up his game at precisely the right moment, winning a few easy service games in a row before closing out the match with the break.
Overall, it was a very weird match, but Roger won, so that is what matters.
In the second singles match of the day, Rafael Nadal defeated Mardy Fish 62 36 76(3) in just under three hours. Fish, like Tsonga, started slow and lost the first set without much of a fight. Also like Tsonga, Fish picked up his game in the second and won it 6-3, sending the match to a decisive third set.
In that third set, it was a roller coaster to say the least. Rafa got out to a 2-0 lead, and then abruptly left the court to go to the bathroom. It was a very weird situation because the umpire Mohamed Lahyani figured it would be better for Rafa to go before his own serve instead of before Fish's. But the thing is, before Fish's serve would have been a changeover, which would surely have been much more convenient for Rafa to leave the court. Anyways, when play finally resumed, Rafa lost the momentum he had gained just minutes before and Fish racked up three straight games. Then Rafa broke back. Then, at 4-4 15-0 on Nadal's serve, he hit a winner that was called good. The ball was actually out, but Fish didn't challenge, and in the end, a double fault at 40-30 for Rafa would have been a break for Mardy had he challenged. The match eventually went to a tiebreak after Fish saved 2 match points at 4-5. In that tiebreak, Mardy got down early when he could not find a way to return Nadal's serves, and he lost it 7-3 in the tiebreak.
Overall, Fish did much better than anyone expected him to with his injury problems, but a loss is still a loss. I believe Fish should have won and would have won had he challenged the Nadal winner at 4-4 15-0, and I'm sure if he ever sees that the ball was out, he would be furious with himself. Nevertheless, great effort from Mardy.
Now on Tuesday, we get to see Federer vs Nadal and Fish vs Tsonga, both which should be compelling matches. Before that however, we get Djokovic vs Berdych and Murray vs Ferrer tomorrow, both of which should also be great matchups. Djokovic and Murray should win in the end, though it wouldn't surprise me if both went three sets.
Until next time....
OH YES....the umpires REALLY have to be more strict with Nadal for the time he takes in between points. He takes upwards of 30 seconds in between points, and even in between 1st and 2nd serves he bounces the ball 8-12 times. Rafa slows the play down to a painful speed, and it makes the matches very long and boring. Something MUST be done. The Federer/Tsonga match was played in 88 minutes for having only played 26 games, and Nadal/Fish went 177 minutes and they played 29 games and one tiebreak. It's getting quite ridiculous.