The last four has been set at the season ending finale as Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer , Rafael Nadal and Stanislas Wawrinka all registered wins in the last match of round robin stage at the O2 arena in London. In the first semifinal Novak Djokovic will look to tie the longest rivalry between two players, as he takes on Rafael Nadal while in a repeat of last year’s titanic match Roger Federer takes on fellow Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka in the evening session.
In the first match on Thursday (in Stan Smith group), Roger Federer extended his perfect record to 3-0 with a hard fought three set win over Japan’s Kei Nishikori. Federer looked set for a routine win as he took a 4-1 lead in the second set, but in an astonishing turn of events Nishikori took the next five games to send the match into a decisive third set.
Federer broke again in the fourth game of the third set, but the eighth ranked Nishikori fought back to lock the match at 4-4 in the final set. Federer, however, was not to be denied another set, as he broke in the tenth game to seal a 7-5,4-6,6-4 win.
In the last match on Thursday world number one Novak Djokovic rebounded after his stunning loss at the hands of Federer in the second match of round robin stage as he continued his domination of the win less Tomas Berdych with a 6-3,7-5 victory.
It was only one set that Djokovic needed to finish second in the group, but he was dialed into the match and went on to record his 80th match win of the the year and stayed on course to become the only player to win four consecutive season ending finale and his fifth overall.
In the first match on Friday, an all Spanish affair, Rafael Nadal had to battle a dogged David Ferrer before coming through in three sets. He is 3-0 in round robin play and he had to earn his win as he dropped the first set in a tie-break as he won 6-7(2),6-3,6-4 in a match lasting 2 hours 37 minutes.
Ferrer began the match losing serve twice, but he found his way back in to the match and ensured the match would turn out to be one of the most memorable matches this week. Despite his valiant effort, Ferrer, like Berdych in the other group, has emerged win less in the group stages but will end the year ranked seventh – just ahead of Kei Nishikori.
In the late evening match on Friday it was a virtual quarterfinal as the winner was assured second position in the Ilie Nastase group as Stanislas Wawrinka battled the Scot Andy Murray who would have sealed the year ending number two ranking with a win in this match (which would have been 70th for the year).
Wawrinka served for the first set at 5-3 but Murray broke back and sent the first set to a tie-break. Murray took a 4-2 lead in the tie-break, but Wawrinka took the next five points to extend his tie-break record to 34-12 for the year, the best among the top ten.
The Swiss then broke the 2nd seed’s serve – not once, but twice to secure a double break advantage. Serving for the match at 5-2, Wawrinka dropped serve to give the 2013 Wimbledon Champion a glimmer of hope.
Murray forced the 4th seed to serve for the match for a second time and despite some nervous moments Wawrinka closed out the game to record a 7-6(4),6-4 win. Murray will now be hoping to spearhead Great Britain to a win in the Davis Cup final (November 27-29) against hosts Belgium.
The line up for the semifinal with my picks mentioned first along with their head to head record :-
Novak Djokovic (1) v. Rafael Nadal (5) ; Nadal leads Djokovic 23-22
Roger Federer (3) v. Stanislas Wawrinka (4); Federer leads Wawrinka 17-3.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy.You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]