Both yesterday’s matches were pretty dull affairs and each ended 6-1, 6-1. Today’s matches look a lot more promising.
14:00 – Federer v Nishikori
Both players won their opening match. Head to heads are 2-2. They have played twice this season. Federer won on the grass in Halle and Nishikori won on the Miami hard courts in March.
Since the tour moved onto the hard courts in the latter half of the season Nishikori’s form has improved. He reached the final of the US Open and won the next two tournaments he entered in Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo. One of the biggest improvements he has made has been to his fitness and stamina. He was always thought to be fragile if he had played a lot of matches but we have seen no sign of that in recent months.
Federer is relishing being at the top of the game again and being in a position to challenge for the number one ranking. He dealt well with Raonic in his first match. The Canadian was clearly nervous in his first visit to the Tour Finals but he put up more of a fight in the second set and took it to a tie break.
I think this could be an excellent match and Nishikori won’t be without his chances. I would expect Federer to play a smarter match than we saw from Murray but won’t be at all surprised to see three sets.
Federer’s experience should be the difference in the end. The pressure on Nishikori has changed. He will now be starting to think about qualifying for the semi finals and needs to be careful not to jump ahead too much in his mind.
20:00 – Murray v Raonic
Raonic has caused Murray problems in the past. Their head to heads are 3-1 to the Canadian ( there have also been 2 walkover matches). They have played once this season which was in Indian Wells in March and Raonic won in 3 sets.
Murray started well in his first match although that was partly down to a nervous start from Nishikori. The Brit went an early break ahead but couldn’t hold on to it. He was broken in each set when serving at 4-5.
Raonic also made a nervous start to his first match at the Tour Finals but was up against Federer who didn’t allow him to settle. He lost that set 1-6 but in the second he was able to be more competitive, losing it in a tie break.
Obviously both players need a win today to keep their hopes alive of reaching the semi finals. Murray has the greater experience and will have the crowd on his side. Against Nishikori one of his main problems was his second serve. He only won 7 of 26 points on it. Nishikori’s first serve percentage was only 46% and he can expect Raonic’s to be a lot higher. The slow court will help Murray deal with the big serve but he needs to find a way to take care of his own service games first.
Raonic should be a little more comfortable today. A Round Robin format means you don’t go home if you lose your first match unlike the rest of the season and I think we will see a performance from him more on a par with his recent matches.
Murray is a fighter and losing his first two matches isn’t the way he wants to end his season having fought so hard to qualify for this week. He still has Federer to play!
The key to this one in my opinion is Murray’s second serve. He must win more points on it. He has the return game to put pressure on the Raonic serve on this slower surface and we may see the Canadian trying to push his serve to its limits to get the cheap points that are a feature of his game.
Murray starts at 1.55 which is too low. I will wait to see how he is serving before entering. If he hasn’t found his timing from the line then I think he will have big problems but if he does find it I will back him above 1.75 .