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August 18 • 11:14
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London Preview: Sunday, Monday Action



November 20, 2011
Sunday: The dinners and sponsor appearances are done - Get ready for the light show -

At 9am EST, Roger Federer will kick off the O2 Super Show playing Jo Tsonga for the 2nd Sunday in a row, followed later in the day by the lone American Mardy Fish playing Rafa.

The 4 comprise Group B in the Round Robin, and will play again Tuesday and Thursday, an advantage as they'll have a day's rest before two of them play Saturday in the semi-finals.

FEDERER v TSONGA

Roger should be favored in this one given his convincing win over Jo 6-1, 7-6 (3) in the Paris final last Sunday. Roger's won the last 2 of their 3 2011 matches on hard courts, both in straight sets (one in The Open). Rog's experience in this tournament - he's playing in his 10th tour finale in a row - gives him an advantage over Jo who's playing in only his second, and has not yet played a match in the O2 arena. This will be the 6th meeting of the year.

Betfair ODDS: Rog is a 4.5:1 favorite.

RAFA v FISH 3pm EST on the TC

Handicapping this one is tough.

Rafa:

- hasn't played a match in almost 7 weeks since losing in the 3rd round of the Shanghai 1000 to #23 Florian Mayer, 6-7, 3-6, one of his two bad losses of the year (all of his other losses were to players now in the top 8).

- lost to Murray in the finals of Tokyo in October, 0-6 in the 3rd set (the only other 0-6 set loss Rafa had all year was at Doha in early January to #89 Lukas Lacko in his 2nd match). Not even Joker took a 6-0 set from him in 5 wins. There was a presumption of injury in that departure, and only seeing him compete again will tell us whether he's recovered enough to overcome his lack of match play this week.

Fish:

- retired from his last match early in the 3rd set of the 3rd round in Paris against Juan Monaco. He had tweaked his hamstring a month earlier in the semis of Tokyo against Nadal, while losing 6-7, 1-6, and had lost his 2 subsequent matches, retiring after the 1st game of the second one in Basel to James Blake in the 1st round. After seeming better in Paris in his opening match and winning the 1st set easily against Monaco, 6-1, he reinjured it.

- as with Rafa, only seeing how he holds up in match play will indicate whether he can be competitive in London.

The two have traded wins in their two hard matches this year, with Fish beating him in straight sets in Cincinnati bfore losing in the Tokyo.

Betfair ODDS: Rafa is currently a 4:1 favorite, but look for this one to go to the last man standing (or running). Fish has more recent match play and is less affected by a small lack of mobility than Rafa, who needs to be close to 100%.

MONDAY match-ups (GROUP A)

MURRAY V FERRER 9am EST ON THE TC

Ferrer is the Forgotten Number 5 ranked man for the 2nd year in a row:

- his season started strong, with 1 of his 2 wins over top 8 players all year over Rafa in the Oz Open, and reached two clay court finals, falling to Rafa in Barcelona and Monte Carlo

- he lost twice to Murray in Asia last month, both times in straight sets

- indoors this month, he lost to #25 Isner and #41 Monaco

- his only other win over a top 8 player all year was against #8 Fish, to whom he also lost in 2011, and was 2 and 9 vs. the London Octet this year

Last year in London, David lost all 3 of his Round Robin matches in straight sets, including a 2-6, 2-6 defeat by Murray.

Murray, on the other hand, has played his strongest tennis since midyear, winning 3 of 4 tournaments he's played this Fall since losing in the semis of The Open to Rafa and winning his 2 Davis Cup rubbers.

Betfair ODDS: Only 6:1 for Andy... seems the Brits, who backed him heavily in Paris, are feeling a little faint hearted.

JOKER V BERDYCH

Djokovic is getting the tightest odds of all the favored players in his first match, barely better than 2:1 - for good reason:

- the man with the 69-4 record in 2011 - he sewed up the #1 ranking months ago - has been having a hard time getting over the back and shoulder pain which could have cost him the US Open title had Rafa been stronger after winning the 3rd set.

- since that Open title, he's won all of 5 matches in two tournaments, retired once (in the Davis Cup to Del Potro after a set and a half, disappointing himself and his country) and withdrawn last week from Paris before quarters match after winning a 3 set match over Troicki. A 3 setter did him in the quarters of Basel, after which he lost 0-6 in the 3rd set to

#32 Kie Nishikori.

It's a wonder he's favored in his first match against a man who's had a good fall season. Berdych won a tournament in Beijing, beating Tsonga and Cilic, and reached the semis in paris last week before losing to Federer. While he doesn't have a good record v Joker (1-7) and lost all 3 times to him in 2011 (all on hard courts, retiring twice), Tomas has the weapons to hurt Joker, especially when he has limited mobility.

These first matches may give a good indication of which 4 players will emerge from the two groups.

Federer is better than a 2:1 favorite to win the event for a record 5th time, and two in a row.

In the CHALLENGER TOUR Final in Sao Paolo this week, Israel's #95 ranked Dudi Sela (age 26) will face 21 year old German, Cedrick Marcel Stebe (#103). The other 6 men who had qualified and competed in Round Robin play were:

- #37 Thomaz Bellucci, age 23 (Brasil)

- #105 Andreas Beck, age 25 (Germany)

- #121 Bobby Reynolds, age 29 (USA)

- #90 Martin Klizan, age 22 (Slovakia)

- #109 Matthias Bachinger, age 24 (Germany)

- #73 Rul Machado, age 27 (Portugal)

The average rank of these 8 players coming in was 76 (higher than some ATP tour events, including Newport in some years), and the average age of the group is 24.6 (3 years younger than the top 8 in London).

Rick Devereux

erdevereux@gmail.com

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