Federer escapes Tsonga at ATP Finals

BY foxsports • November 20, 2011

Last week, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga lost to Roger Federer in the final in Paris and it cost him an ATP Masters title. On Sunday, in a different city with different rules, Tsonga lost to the Swiss again. But he's not packing his bags yet.

This is the ATP World Finals, which, as always, are played in a round-robin format for the first six days until the knockout semifinals kick in at the weekend.

That means Tsonga lives to fight another day, despite going down 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 to Federer. The difference in score from their Paris match — Tsonga lost in straight sets — could also be pertinent. Often, the mathematical calculations of a the round-robin system require the number of sets won to be the determining factor of who goes through to the last four. So the fact Tsonga briefly outplayed Federer at the end of the second set may yet prove valuable to him.

“It is different,” Federer agreed when I asked him about the mindset when a player knows he still has another chance. “Even today, at one stage, when I was down a break, I was like, ‘OK so what’s the calculation behind this now?’ I’m like ‘Come on, just play tennis’. Don’t worry if you lose a set — if it comes to that, it’s just craziness and you’re just unlucky. In a way you feel as if you have a safety net but actually don’t. It can be misleading.”

If Tsonga felt he had a chance to win after fighting back so strongly after a slow start, Federer quickly disabled the notion as he tightened up on a forehand that had become a bit lax.

“He had done well to serve bigger and better as the match went on,” Federer said. “I was trying to stay calm, trying to wait for my chance, trying to create chances when he was not serving as well as he did at times.”

Federer said that he has been trying to do some different things with his service return this year, going for a bit more aggression on certain points and he kept the pressure up on the big Frenchman in the third set. But it was Tsonga who gave him the glimpse of an opening when he dumped a bad volley into the net on the first point of the 10th game and then went 0-40 down. One match point was saved but, on the second Federer, having mis-hit a service return nonetheless found himself with an easy backhand pass as Tsonga was forced to come in on a ball that landed short.

This is Tsonga’s first appearance in the ATP Finals. Federer is not only a five-time champion but is making his 10th consecutive appearance in these Finals. Only Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras have played in more. It was also Federer’s 13th consecutive match win after taking the titles in Basel and Paris and to complete the inevitable stack of stats which accompany his every move. This is the ninth year that the Swiss has won at least 60 matches during the year.

The event kicked off soon after noon local time with doubles play, and a large majority of the 17,500 sellout crowd at the spectacular 02 Arena in London’s docklands were already in their seats to welcome players who are not used to competing in front of such a large audience. Happily they were presented with the best that doubles has to offer with two veterans at this form of the game, Max Mirnyi and Daniel Nestor squeaking past the Indo-Pak Express team of Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi by 7-6, 4-6, 11-9.

Bopanna and Qureshi had a set point in the first set and then led 8-6 in the deciding breaker before a brilliant Mirnyi lob winner at 9-9, which sailed over Qureshi’s head, set up the final match point.

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