Six time champion Roger Federer and German sensation Alexander Zverev made winning starts to their campaign at the season ending finale on the opening day at the O2 Arena in London.
The second seeded Federer who missed last year’s event as he took a six month time off due to knee injury, got off to a flying start against the American Jack Sock as he broke serve in the opening game of the match. Federer never dropped serve in the entire ninety minute long match. Indeed he never faced a break point but he could convert only on one of the six break point chances. Federer won 90 percentage of first serve points.
The duo held serve for the remainder of the match apart from the first game and it went to a tie-break in the second set. Sock served eleven aces but also had six double faults including one at 4-4 in the tie-break. He did not win a point after that and Federer recorded the first win in the Boris Becker group with a 6-4,7-6(4) scoreline.
In the evening session, the third ranked Zverev rallied from a break of service down in the deciding set to overcome the Croat Marin Cilic 6-4,3-6,6-4 in two hours and Four minutes. Zverev who is making his debut at the season ending finale improved to 4-1 in his career meetings against Cilic, who is the only player apart from Nadal and Federer with a grand slam title, having won the U.S. Open in 2014.
Zverev got the early a break in the opening set and saved a break point two games later. He would hit 12 winners in the first set which lasted 44 minutes. Cilic took a 3-0 lead in the second set and held his own serve for the remainder of no the second set to force a decider. Cilic was the first to break as he went 2-1 up in the third set. Cilic led 4-3 on serve but then lost three games in a row including a service break at love.
Zverev who hit 31 winners but also had 41 unforced errors, improved to an impressive 18-8 in deciding sets, scoring a personal best 55th match victory overall in 2017. At 20 years of age, the six-time ATP World Tour titlist is the youngest to qualify for the season finale since the Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro in 2008. Cilic who is making his third appearance in London falls to 1-6 at the O2 Arena and also dropped to 1-4 in career meetings against Zverev.
In the second round of matches in the Boris Becker group, the Swiss Roger Federer will play the German Zverev in the evening session, while the losers on opening day, Cilic and Sock will battle in the morning session in what becomes a must win match for the two.
The world number one ranked player Rafael Nadal has withdrawn from the season finale after his first round match against the Belgian David Goffin. The Spaniard lost 6-7(5),7-6(4),4-6 in the second match on Day 2 in the evening session and will now be replaced by compatriot Pablo Carreno Busta who comes in as the first replacement. The Spaniard will now play the Austrian Dominic Thiem on Wednesday. Nadal is assured of year end world number one ranking even if his arch rival Roger Federer goes on to win his seventh WTF title without losing a match in London.
Earlier on in the day, the resurgent Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, winner of the Master’s series event in Cincinnati, overcame a dogged challenge from the Austrian Dominic Thiem before winning his opening match 6-3,5-7,7-5. After taking the first set convincingly the Bulgarian squandered a break point chance at 30-40 in the eleventh game of the second set.
The Austrian hit a forehand winner and came up with clutch serving to stay alive in the match. Dimitrov, who has been on the receiving end in many close matches that he should have closed out, looked visibly shaken and duly lost his serve in the m next game and with it the second set 7-5.
Dimitrov quickly recovered to take an early lead in the decider and looked set to win, but the Austrian be broke back to level at 5-5. Thiem though would lose the next two games tamely to hand the win to Dimitrov who next goes on to face Goffin on Wednesday in the second round of matches in the Pete Sampras group.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]