Federer back in fray but keeps eye on Djokovic

Swiss legend Roger Federer serving to Italy's Matteo Berrettini in their ATP Finals group-stage match yesterday. He won 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 but will likely have to beat Novak Djokovic tomorrow to seal a place in the semi-finals. PHOTO: REUTERS
Swiss legend Roger Federer serving to Italy's Matteo Berrettini in their ATP Finals group-stage match yesterday. He won 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 but will likely have to beat Novak Djokovic tomorrow to seal a place in the semi-finals. PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Roger Federer's quest for a record-extending seventh ATP Finals title got back on track with a 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 win over Italian debutant Matteo Berrettini at London's O2 Arena yesterday.

The victory in the season-ending tournament for the third seed in Group Bjorn Borg was the perfect comeback after he was upset 7-5, 7-5 by Austrian fifth seed Dominic Thiem on Sunday.

The 38-year-old had a relatively slow start, going neck and neck with his opponent - seeded eighth and 15 years younger - and needing a tiebreak to clinch the first set.

He came out firing in the second set, however, breaking Berrettini in the first game and the Italian could not find a way back in the match which lasted 1hr 18min.

Federer, the 20-time Grand Slam winner, is bidding for his first title at the event since 2011.

"I am very happy with how I played today," said the Swiss legend, who had 23 winners to 17 unforced errors, while Berrettini had 21 and 27 respectively.

"Matteo's got a big serve so, if you don't get the read and return, then you're going to be in trouble.

"He was doing a great job in the first set but the beginning of the second was key.

"Hopefully, I will play better in the next match (against Novak Djokovic tomorrow)."

In Group Andre Agassi, Rafael Nadal refused to make excuses after being outplayed by defending champion Alexander Zverev of Germany on Monday.

The Spanish top seed, who has never won the event, came into the tournament under an injury cloud and was well short of his imperious best as he went down 6-2, 6-4.

He is locked in a battle with Djokovic to finish as the year-end No. 1 but was not serving flat out in practice last week due to an abdominal strain that forced him to pull out of the Paris Masters last month after reaching the semi-finals.

"The physical issue was not an excuse at all," said the 19-time Grand Slam champion. "The only excuse is I was not good enough. What really matters is I need to play much better.

"We knew that it was going to be tough, because the period of time since the injury until today is very short, but we are here trying."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 13, 2019, with the headline 'Federer back in fray but keeps eye on Djokovic'. Print Edition | Subscribe