Nadal beats Djokovic, faces Berdych next
With Novak Djokovic struggling to keep his contact lenses in place, Rafael Nadal went about his business as usual Wednesday and improved his record to 2-0 at the ATP World Tour Finals with a 7-5, 6-2 win over the third-ranked Serb.
Despite the win, none of the eight players in the round-robin tournament have been eliminated or advanced after two matches each. But both the top-ranked Nadal and No. 2 Roger Federer need only to win one set in their final matches at the season-ending tournament to reach the semifinals.
''I know I have to win a set on Friday, and that's the main (goal),'' said Nadal, who won the French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open this year and next faces Tomas Berdych.
Djokovic, who also lost to Nadal in the U.S. Open final, struggled to keep his eye on the ball Wednesday at the O2 Arena.
''I really feel sick talking about it, to be honest, because it's just incredible that this happened to me. I mean, it never happened to me in the life,'' Djokovic said. ''My right eye got irritated, and from the 5-all I could not play. I could not see a ball, especially the return. It was just terrible.''
Djokovic called for a time out early in the eighth game because of a problem with his contact lenses. After Nadal held at love to 4-4, Djokovic left the court for a bathroom break to fix the problem, but it appeared to continue to bother him.
A few games after the break, shortly after Nadal broke Djokovic and then held to win the first set, the Serb called for a trainer.
With medical personnel looking into both eyes, Djokovic looked frustrated as he sat in his changeover chair. He slammed a bottle of water on the court, and then slapped his hand twice into the arm rest.
''I don't want to find any excuses for my loss, but the fact of the matter is that I just could not play,'' Djokovic said. ''I will try to see a doctor and see if there is something more serious going on and in two days hopefully I can be ready.
''It's just playing with one eye is not enough, especially if you have Nadal across the net.''
When he came back on court, Nadal broke to open the second set, and then again in the third game to eventually take a 4-0 lead.
''For sure I'm very sorry for him, what happened after the 11 first games, in the eye or something like that,'' Nadal said. ''(It) seemed like something happened, (went) inside of his eye. After, he didn't see the ball very well.''
Nadal, who lost all three of his matches at the O2 last year, was first to earn a break in the first set to take a 3-2 lead, but Djokovic quickly got back on serve by breaking back in the next game.
Djokovic had three more break points in the final game of the first set, but each time he failed to keep the ball in play.
Both finished the match with 17 winners, but Djokovic had 31 unforced errors to Nadal's 15.
''I know I'm still in the tournament. I have big chances to qualify,'' Djokovic said. ''It's just that these things make me very angry.''
Berdych defeated Andy Roddick 7-5, 6-3 in the early Group A match, winning his first match in his debut at the ATP finals and leaving Roddick 0-2.
The combined results mean that all four players are still in the hunt for a spot in the semifinals. The same is true in Group B, which includes Federer, Andy Murray, Robin Soderling and David Ferrer.
Berdych converted his first break point in the 11th game of the first set, only minutes after saving two set points from Roddick. It was the sixth-ranked Czech's first win over the eighth-ranked Roddick in four matches this year.
''I just went there, serve twice pretty good, turn the game,'' Berdych said of the saved set points. ''The last pickup volley was (a) very tough one, and I made it. And then the next game (I) just made a quick break, and that was the key of the game.''
In the second set, Roddick was annoyed by the advertising lights at the feet of the line judges, which flashed red sometimes while play was going on. Shortly after complaining to the chair umpire, Roddick was broken for the second time, giving Berdych a 3-2 lead.
Roddick smashed a ball high into the rafters in anger, and then broke his racket on his foot, drawing a code violation from the chair umpire.
''The neons in the back weren't quite to the settled position. They were still advertising fun stuff,'' Roddick said. ''When you're trying to track a ball, it's kind of neon lights and stuff. Then Tomas noticed it. A couple of them just went out before we played a point.''
The match finished with the lights off.
Berdych, who is now 1-1, held serve twice after the incident and then broke Roddick again in the final game. He'll next face Nadal.
''Playing Rafa, it's always great experience, even if you play on clay, grass, indoor, outdoor, whatever,'' said Berdych, who lost to Nadal in this year's Wimbledon final. ''He played a really tough match (in) the first one (against Roddick). He was able to come back, won the match. Now he's waiting for another tough, really tough opponent.''
On Tuesday, Federer stretched his record to 2-0 by easily beating Murray 6-4, 6-2, while Soderling defeated Ferrer 7-5, 7-5.
In doubles, Daniel Nestor of Canada and Nenad Zimonjic of Serbia qualified for the semifinals by beating Mahesh Bhupathi of India and Max Mirnyi of Belarus 7-6 (5), 7-6 (1). In the early Group B match, Wesley Moodie of South Africa and Dick Norman of Belgium beat Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Oliver Marach of Austria 6-1, 6-3.