By Ros Satar

  • Tomas Berdych [6] v Kei Nishikori [8]
  • Novak Djokovic [1] v Roger Federer [3]
  • Jamie Murray/John Peers [4] v Bopanna./Mergea [8]

LONDON, UK – The scene is set for the first of two possible show-downs between defending champion Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer on Day 3 of the World Tour Finals.

Tomas Berdych [6] v Kei Nishikori [8] – H2H: 1-3

 

After less than outstanding starts by either player in London, the question will be if Nishikori can get a handle on his serving, and whether Berdych can eradicate the wild errors that rendered him truly on the back foot in his opening match.

For Nishikori, it was a case of feeling very shame-faced over his performance against defending champion Novak Djokovic on the first day of the tournament. Struggling against perhaps one of the sharpest returners in the game, Nishikori was simply not allowed to flex any of the canny muscle he possesses.

With Djokovic simply dictating each and every point, there was no chance for Nishikori to try and get on his own terms – what he lacks in the hard and clean hitting power game of the Czech, he makes up for in guile and fleet of foot around the court – Berdych was at sixes and sevens against Federer, who was able to bully the points, especially in the second set.

Both will be desperate to get a win on the board in a tough group but the edge has to be with Nishikori. He has the game to confound Berdych, who although quite nimble for such a large unit, he can be left in no man’s land by the more agile.

 

Berdych has spoken with praise about his partnership with Andy Murray’s former coach Dani Vallverdu, but his reliance on the ‘game plan’ seems to have robbed him of the quintessential instinct he once had. He needs to be able to change things up when it is not going to plan.

If Nishikori can get behind his serve (which really let him down on Sunday), then the win will be his.

 

Novak Djokovic [1] v Roger Federer [3] – H2H: 21-21

It is not the first time this pair have met in the earlier stages of the World Tour Finals, and as Federer recalled, it was not the best of quality matches between them.

 

Talking after his victory over Tomas Berdych on Sunday, he said: “I played him here first round two years ago maybe. Three sets. I think that’s the year I played back-to-back London and Paris. We were both struggling with rhythm, I remember. I took an approach of, yeah, it was different. I played it more like keeping the ball in the court, not going for too much. We had longer rallies.

“It was an intense match. But we were both playing quite bad, I thought. We’ve had that in the past, and it was quite unusual then to play each other so early in a tournament. This doesn’t feel now so crazy early because we’ve had the week of preparation, we’ve both had a match now. I think we both feel like we’re in the tournament.”

It was a slow start on Sunday for Federer, and luckily for him Berdych was not able to take full advantage of that. Djokovic will not be anywhere near as obliging on Tuesday evening. Will this be like a de facto semi-final? Possibly not, but after the first day of fairly straight forward victories in Group Stan Smith, this is set to be one of the more engaging matches in these stages.

That being said, Djokovic’s form still puts him as an almighty favourite to go two for two.

 

Jamie Murray and John Peers v Rohan Bopanna/Florin Mergea

 

The organisers certainly have it right on the button to give the fans a Murray a day. It was a tough battle but a great win for the Murray and Peers over Australian Open champions Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini, but Bopanna and Mergea will be buzzing over their comfortable win over the top seeds Bob and Mike Bryan.

It was a solid performance and it will be another tough match for the Brit and Aussie pairing, but a win here will definitely boost their chances of advancing, much less usurping the Bryans as the top doubles pairing for the year.

Murray/Peers v Bopanna/Mergea are the opening match at 12pm with Berdych v Nishikori not before 2pm, and Djokovic v Federer not before 8pm (all times GMT).

Main Image Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty

 

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