In the final matches of Group B in the 2011 World Tour Finals, there was only one question to be asked: Who would join Roger Federer as the 2nd semifinalist in the group? Tsonga or Nadal? We have the answer, and it is the Frenchman Jo-Willy Tsonga, who defeated Nadal 76(2) 46 63. With the loss, Nadal falls to a 9-10 record at the Masters Cup, which is quite frankly very poor for a player of his standing on the ATP circuit. Compare that with Federer's 37-7, and it looks VERY poor.
The match started out very even with no player being able to break. The first set went to a tiebreak where Tsonga jumped out to a 4-1 lead and never looked back, taking it 7 points to 2. The second set was much the same story until 4-4 when Tsonga had a 15-30 opportunity to get the break. Nadal held, and then Tsonga played a very bad service game and practically handed Nadal the set. He went for broke far too early in the rallies and double faulted THREE times in one game to seal the deal on that set. In the third, Nadal was broken twice and went down 5-2. Tsonga played a loose service game and gave one of the breaks back, but it needn't have mattered because Nadal gave the break right back at love, and thus the match. So there you have it; Rafael Nadal has yet another poor showing at the Year-End Championships, and continues to show everybody that he is not that good of an indoor player.
Tsonga won the match by playing very much the same way that Roger played two days earlier. He served well, attacked Nadal off both wings and attacked Rafa's forehand with great consistency. Tsonga will always be a player that will give Nadal a hard time on a fast court with his aggressive style of play, and it showed in this match. Nadal hit 14 winners in over two and a half hours of play, a stat that is quite mind-numbing for a match of that length. It just goes to show that Nadal does not attack very much and tries to win matches using a clay-court style even when it will never work. People have said in the past that Federer can get stubborn at times, but what about Nadal? He tried playing his usual style against Federer and failed. He tried to use that same style against Tsonga, who had the same gameplan as Roger did, and failed. What about Nadal being such an adaptable player to any situation? Maybe, just maybe, we can just accept that Nadal is a one-dimensional player and stop overrating his abilities.
In the earlier match of the day, which had very little riding on it, Roger Federer defeated Mardy Fish 61 36 63. It was a relatively comfortable win at the end, and it was a good match for Roger to play before his semifinal match on Saturday. Fish pushed him, and to his credit, played lights-out tennis in the second set, when he zoned in on every shot and read Federer's serves to perfection. Because of that, he was able to win many cheap points by hitting his returns hard and deep and keeping Roger off balance. He also served very well, and by this point we should all know that serving well is a key for EVERY player to have success.
For Roger, the match was a stark contrast to the Nadal match. Fish attacked the net consistently and went for his shots, whereas Rafa just put the ball back into play and Roger was able to dictate play. I think it was good that Roger was tested right after his stunning match against Nadal, just to keep him in reality and on his toes. I know he's too much of a professional to do it anyways, but he doesn't want to get relaxed and lose focus. In the second set, however, that is definitely not what happened - he was just outplayed by Mardy and even pulling for Roger throughout the match, I could not help but be amazed at some of the shots Fish was hitting. Fish went 0-3 in his first Masters Cup, but he could have easily gone 1-2 had things gone a little differently in his match with Nadal. Overall, he should be proud of his performance while not being 100% healthy, and as he said in his presser after the match, he might never be back in the tournament again, so best to savor the moments while they last. I really like Fish, and I hope he has a fantastic 2012. If he can stay in the top 15 he will be doing very well.
On the final Round Robin Group Friday, the final semifinal spot will be decided. I explained in my last post what the scenarios were so I won't go over them again, but I will say that I hope Berdych gets through. That may not happen however. Tipsarevic just might let Novak win in straights, which would mean that Berdych would have to win in straights. On the other hand though, if I was Ferrer, I would want Berdych in the semifinals over Djokovic, even if he wouldn't be meeting either of them anyways until the final. However, should Ferrer get to his second Masters Cup final, he just might want Berdych there (on the off chance that he makes it past Federer or Tsonga IF he makes the semifinals) facing him instead of Djokovic. Yes, Ferrer has a lopsided win over Novak already but should Nole make the final, he would certainly give a much better effort. Anyways, I'm sure I'm just trying to stir the pot a little, and I know that both Tipsarevic and Ferrer will give their very best efforts to play, no matter what consequences their results might have on the semifinals.
For all you Fedfans, enjoy Nadal's loss, and to everybody, enjoy what should be a fantastic day of tennis on Friday. Here's hoping to two spectacular matches that bring both intensity and drama!