Experience proved to be important yesterday as both Nishikori and Raonic failed to perform anywhere near their best against Federer and Murray.
14:00 – Berdych v Cilic
Berdych leads the head to heads 5-4 but it is Cilic who has dominated their matches in the last 2 seasons winning 3 of the 4 matches played. That includes their last two matches which were at the US Open and Wimbledon. He won both of those in straight sets.
Berdych had failed to win his opening match at the Tour Finals in each of his previous 4 visits. he continued the trend with a disappointing performance against Wawrinka. I had said before that match that if Wawrinka played his best tennis he was a strong favourite but that I didn’t see where he would find the confidence from to boost his form. However when your opponent is playing as badly as Berdych did on Monday it can give you all the confidence in the world. Another trend for Berdych is that he has never lost his second match at the Tour Finals. Trends have to come to an end eventually.
Cilic had a bit of a nightmare too in his first match. Partly due to it being the first time he has qualified for the Tour Finals and partly because he was lucky enough to draw the world number 1 who hasn’t been beaten at the O2 for the last 2 years. He obviously felt that he needed to serve well to have a chance. The slow surface was taking some of the bite out of his first serve and i felt he was trying to hit it faster and harder to get the cheap points he needed. The result was predictable. More first serves missed than normal and his second serve was getting battered. He hit just 1 ace in the match.
Nerves are bound to play a part again tonight for both players as a loss today along with there 6-1, 6-1 defeats in the first matches pretty much guarantees elimination.
Berdych has been in this position before but it is worth noting that although he lost his first match every time he has been to the Tour Finals in his last 3 visits he took that first match to 3 sets. This year he won 2 games.
I am going with Cilic. The other two newbies were poor in their second matches but I think he has a little more maturity to deal with the occasion. Plus he has dominated Berdych in their recent matches.
20:00 – Djokovic v Wawrinka
Head to heads are 17-3 to Djokovic. Wawrinka won their most recent meeting which was in the Australian Open semi final in January. Prior to that they played at last season’s Tour Finals and also the Paris Masters. Djokovic won both those matches fairly comfortably in straight sets.
All their best of 5 set main draw matches have gone to a deciding set (Wawrinka retired from their US Open match in 2012). Wawrinka seems able to lift his game in the longer format matches but has had very little success in best of 3 matches.. Since 2010 they have played 5 best of three set matches and Wawrinka didn’t win a single set.
Wawrinka found some of his January confidence against Berdych but that confidence is likely to be fragile once faced with Djokovic looking at him over the net.
Djokovic looks very well prepared for this week and dealt efficiently with a nervous Cilic. He really should expect to have to work harder today. Wawrinka has won 6 of his 7 matches against top 10 opposition this season.
It is hard to imagine Wawrinka beating Djokovic today but let’s hope we get a decent match. Djokovic is protecting his number 1 ranking, his title and his 2 year unbeaten record at this event. Whether it is 2 sets or three depends on how Wawrinka handles the situation.
Djokovic starts at 1.19 and you have to feel that he will trade higher. I am hoping for a tight first set and will be laying him.