ATP World Tour Finals London 2010: There is still life in the great Swiss

With it having been 24 years since the world’s top two players have faced each other in the final this was a momentous occasion. Inside a packed O2 arena occupied with the inclusion of a few notable celebrities such as Thierry Henry, Kevin Spacey and Ronnie Wood amongst many others, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal played to become champion of the ATP World Tour Finals.

Nadal had shown impressive grit and determination to come through a tough match against Andy Murray – despite having fewer aces, winners and first serve points won during the match, as well as playing three matches in the same number of days. Surely fatigue would be a factor here. On the contrary, Roger Federer meticulously beat the world number 3 in the semi-finals and looked as fresh as ever. Federer had many reasons to win the season-ending championship, not least the desire to beat his great rival. Having played well throughout the tournament, he was slightly the favourite to come out on top.

Federer won his first service game without dropping a point, but Nadal replied with the same the next game. Five games into the first set and Federer had already amassed ten – a great part of this down to the serve that proved to be a hugely underrated part of his game. He didn’t need to think twice when the first break point emerged, and eventually took the first set 6-3.

In the second set however, once Nadal broke his opponents’ serve in the fourth game it was all plain sailing to take the set 6-3. Just as the crowd thought Nadal may nick this from the Swiss, there were unprecedented number of unforced errors from the Spaniard allowing Federer to creep into the lead, eventually breaking twice to win the third and final set 6-1 to claim a joint record fifth singles title – a feat equalled only by the likes of Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras.

Andy Murray displayed a gallant effort against Rafael Nadal and did well to pull a set back after a disappointing start. Nadal however, consistently showed intelligent tactical play by keeping the ball away from Murray’s backhand and this played dividends as more and more unforced errors started to creep into his game. At times Murray displayed gladiatorial tennis with his immense power leaving nothing to chance. In the end he was defeated by the vast number of cross court winners, notably the match point where Nadal was virtually off court and found the angle to smash the ball past Murray into the corner. Despite taking an early lead into the final tie breaker, Murray eventually succumbed to Nadal losing 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 7-6 (8-6).

After showing great promise prior to the tournament Djokovic once again was left on the sidelines watching the world’s top two playing for the championship. He was comprehensively beaten by Federer in the semi-finals and failed to put on the kind of performance that has enabled him to become a grand slam winner in the past. With Andy Roddick just making the cut to be part of the world’s top 8, he showed plenty of courage to give Nadal a run for his money in his opening game taking it to three sets, but ultimately failed to give the kind of overall performance so many have come to expect from him.

The tournament as a whole was a resounding success with almost full capacity during every match played during the week. With London signed up to host the event for a few more years yet, the event can go only get better. The only question that lingers is that with Federer and Nadal once again left to try and oust the other for the championship, will other competitors get a look in?

Ketan Patel

18 Comments on this post.
  • Tom Grater
    3 December 2010 at 19:11
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    It was a cracking tournament. Murray was unlucky in his semi, Nadal wasn’t at his best and if he’d have had a little more bottle he probably would’ve closed it out. Good to see Federer get one back over Nadal though, after the spaniard had such an awesome year. I don’t know if it’s just over here, but the ATP Finals seem to be gaining more legitimacy as one of the “big tournaments”, not quite as prestigious as a Grand Slam, but not a mile off…

  • dan
    3 December 2010 at 19:24
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    Its quite incredible how similar the lead singer of Vampire Weekend looks like a mix of Nadal and Federer.

  • Tim
    3 December 2010 at 19:43
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    “After showing great promise prior to the tournament Djokovic once again was left on the sidelines watching the world’s top two playing for the championship.”

    Don’t forget that he won this tournament in 2008!

  • Gus
    3 December 2010 at 21:59
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    It is tiring to hear that every victory by Federer over Nadal can be rationalized because Nadal was tired. If this type of reasoning were valid, you could ascertain that the Nadal victory over Federer at Wimbledon 2008 final was because Federer was five years older. Come on…at London both Federer and Nadal played the same number of matches to get to the final. Federer was the better player on the day and Nadal was outplayed. Period.

  • martin
    3 December 2010 at 22:32
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    The prestigious World Tour Finals and Grand Slams make up the five biggest tournaments in tennis. Federer, Sampras, Lendl, Borg, Connors, McEnroe, Agassi and other greats have all won this blue-chip event.
    Assuming “surely fatigue would be a factor here” denigrates Federer’s win over Nadal.

    If fatigue was a factor, surely Nadal must be a wimpy athlete. At Wimbledon, lesser athletes such as John Isner and Nicholas Mahut battled for over 11 hours — almost four times longer than Nadal did against Murray.

    If so, surely the 24-year old Nadal must be an inferior athlete to the 29-year old Roger Federer. In 2008 Australian Open, 26-year old Federer — while suffering active mononucleosis — battled Tipsarevic for almost five hours, which was longer in time and points than adding together both the WTF Nadal-Murray match and the Nadal-Federer match!

    In 2006 Rome final, 24-year Federer battled Nadal on the Spaniard’s favourite clay surface for over five hours, which was again longer in time and points than adding together both the WTF Nadal-Murray match and the Nadal-Federer match! What’s even more amazing is that Federer played six matches in as many days in a row, plus BOTH his semifinal and quarterfinal were longer in points than the Nadal-Murray match!

    In 2006 Toronto, Federer won the titles despite going the distance to three setters in his last four matches in as many days (one of his matches was the same number of points, played just 40 mins less by the faster Swiss).

    Federer and Nadal are pro athletes who train for these situations. Fatigue should not be a factor or excuse. Yet the media makes excuses for Nadal as if they are his publicists.

    Federer whipped Nadal in the first and third sets because he was the better player. Nothing Nadal could have done to avoid losing that day. Federer has, by far, the best record of any player since Wimbledon. It was only a temporary dip in the second set that allowed Nadal a brief respite until Federer once again took control and shut the door. Federer crushed five of the top seven tennis players: Nadal, Djokovic, Murray, Soderling and Ferrer. This was the best quality and most dominant end-to-end performance in any tournament this year, especially given the quality of the field.

  • Salim from zoo road
    3 December 2010 at 23:05
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    Well roger played well in all the tournament and he still deserved to be world no 1 ranking player.

  • selma
    4 December 2010 at 02:03
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    Very well said, Martin!

  • JonnyBlaze
    4 December 2010 at 03:40
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    I think if Federer plays how he did for the last half of 2010 in 2011, he will win 2 slams and end up number 1 by the end of next year. Nadal was not tired, its was 3 sets and 24hrs before he play Federer. What we saw was Paul Annacone’s coaching and Federer’s confidence back. I bet the top ten were shocked. This tournament is big but it became huge when the top 2 meet for the first time in 24yrs. Nadal wanted this bad and same for Federer. We are just spectators, that being said, I can’t wait to see Aussie 2011. Again if Federer plays like he did at the ATP finals, he will have number 17 and the rest of the tour including Nadal will wet themselves.

  • Colin Gardiner
    4 December 2010 at 05:40
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    Never right Fed off, he is too good a player for that. He could play tennis at a high level till he is 34 I reckon. All the skills, all the talent, mentally tough, the complete package. Nadal is a tremendous player, no doubt about it, i’m a great admirer of both. Nadal’s forehand is unique, he has three different type’s of follow through’s, great defensive player and retriever and improving all the time. May these guys go at it for many years to come, it’s great to watch. Fed needs to learn how to beat Nadal on the clay, that is his greatest test

  • viral
    4 December 2010 at 09:58
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    i dont have anything left to say…Martin said it all…really well said…and the media and Nadal fans should take a break from this lame excuse of fatigue…even the players themselves never advert to it…the better man won…and he did it not once but five times…the numbers speak for themselves…

  • sharon
    5 December 2010 at 00:35
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    well Rafa played fri sat then sun whilst federer played on thurs and for just over an hour on the sat evening, so of course he is gonna be fresher. I notice that wether fererer is no1 or 2 he always appears to have the extra day/days off towards the latter part of the tournaments. why is this? Federer will still win here and there but is not a dominant force any more.

  • vivek
    5 December 2010 at 18:16
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    Extremely well put martin! just to add to that,lets not forget nadal had absolutely no issues playing a 5 setter in aus open 09 final after putting in good 4 plus hours on court the previous day with verdasco..!that match was an awesome,brutal,long drawn rallies match which went on for much longer than the nadal-murray match! so to say nadal was fatigued is down right stupid!

  • Chaitu
    6 December 2010 at 07:28
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    Listen Mr.Editor, the word called “Fatigue” should not come into play when the N0. 1 and N0. 2 players are battling with each other. What Martin said is absolutely Fantastic. Well done Martin, Keep it up.
    Coming to you, Every time FedEx wins over Rafa, all the news articles and editors point out the factor called fatigue when there is nothing to say. Once think how stupid you are? You are saying that Rafa played a longer match on saturday when compared to Roger. Why can’t he able to close the match with murray much earlier while Fedex was able to do it with high ranked player than Murray ie., Djoker.
    So stop writing all the stupid articles and give the whole credit to Roger for defeating your Rafa.

  • Ali
    6 December 2010 at 09:32
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    Chaitu, Rival and Martin said in the best way what should be said

  • Dean
    6 December 2010 at 12:18
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    Whenever Federer beats Nadal the journalists try to imply that one of the major reasons why Roger won was because Nadal was not at his best due to fatigue from a hard fought semi the day before. I’m sick of reading this misperception. Nadal is 5 years younger than Roger and his semi against Murray finished 3 hours before the Federer-Djokovic semi started, so Nadal would have been physically ready. The 29 year old Federer only needed 77 mins to defeat the 23 year old Murray in the round-robin. It’s not Roger’s problem if it took the 24 year old Nadal 3hours and 11mins to beat Murray. So go ponder on that Nadal spin doctors and media advisors.

  • Lauren
    8 December 2010 at 11:10
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    Martin said all the things I thought when I first read most of the media’s excuses for Nadal’s loss. Rather than defending the current No 1 with lame excuses, the media should be congratulating a 29 year old for still being able to beat all the “young guns” who are 5/6 years younger than him at a time when the game is a lot more physical than it was even 5 years ago.

  • Kagiso
    8 December 2010 at 21:47
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    All credit to Federer!

    It really isn’t Roger’s fault that Nadal wants and prefers to play long gruelling matches which seem never to end. On the other hand, it sure is Roger’s fault and definate business that he can and wants to close out matches quickly – clear contrast if you ask me! So then, what is it that all these people are saying about Nadal-and-fatigue?

    Conclusion: on court Roger is the smarter of the two! No discredit to the lesser great-in-the-making Nadal though.

    Nadal only really seemed a bit fatigued when Federer broke his serve in the third set, that’s when he realised that Roger was clearly unstoppable…which he simply was. Again, all credit to Roger!

    Well done to the two guys, they played well and gave us a great match to watch!

  • Latoya Bridges
    22 December 2010 at 09:55
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    i dont have anything left to say…Martin said it all…really well said…and the media and Nadal fans should take a break from this lame excuse of fatigue…even the players themselves never advert to it…the better man won…and he did it not once but five times…the numbers speak for themselves…

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