ATP World Tour Finals Previews: Day 6 Roger Federer vs. Juan Martin del PotroHead-to-Head: Federer leads 13-3
It’s computation and permutation time in London, as players and journalists and fans try to get their heads around the scenarios for who will qualify for the semifinals at the World Tour Finals. What you need to about this match is that Federer, who is 2-0 this week, has already advanced, though he could still finish No. 2, rather than No. 1, in Group B. Del Potro, 1-1 so far, has not qualified yet. If he beats Federer, he’s in; if he beats him in straight sets, he'll be No. 1 from his group.
Is there anything we can take away from all of that? The motivational edge should go to del Potro. If he loses, chances are that David Ferrer will qualify instead of him. As for Federer, if he finishes first in the group, he’ll likely play Andy Murray in the semis; if he finishes second, he’ll play Novak Djokovic. Either way, it won’t be an easy match, and Federer could do without a prolonged struggle against del Potro—they won't have a day off before the semis, while Djokovic and Murray will. But Federer is a pro, and the professional thing to do in this case is to play your best, without killing yourself in the process, because you owe it to Ferrer to give him a shot at the semis.
How about the matchup itself?
Pros for Federer: He’s 6-1 against del Potro this year. He loves this tournament, where he’s the two-time defending champion, and the low-bouncing court should favor him rather than the taller del Potro. Federer was off in his last match, against Ferrer, but it was improbable that he would go through the event without one bad patch of play. He has already qualified for the semis, which should, theoretically, make him loose, and a loose Federer is a winning Federer.
Pros for del Potro: He won their last match, in Basel. Recently he has begun to hit his forehand the way he hit it when he beat Federer in three sets at this tournament in 2009. The Argentine had a strong year indoors, winning two titles this fall, and has been gradually building momentum. And, as noted, he’s the one playing for a spot in the semifinals.
Judging by their recent play, a lot may ride on two shots: Del Potro’s cross-court forehand, which was the difference maker in Basel, and Federer’s serve. His percentage has been low this week, but as usual he’s been able to find first balls when he needs them. He’ll likely need them against del Potro.Winner: Del Potro in three sets
David Ferrer vs. Janko TipsarevicHead-to-Head: Ferrer leads 3-1
Tipsarevic, under the weather and unable to practice, has already been eliminated from the semifinals. This is the second match tomorrow, which means that if del Potro has won the first over Federer, Ferrer will also have been eliminated. So there’s a chance that this one could be moot before a ball is struck. (Memo to WTF ticket-buyers of the future: You might want to avoid the Saturday night session.)
There’s been some talk about Tipsarevic stepping aside (if he does, first alternate Richard Gasquet would step in), and he says he’s playing “worse than horrible.” But he showed acceptable energy, anyway, in the second set against del Potro yesterday. Ferrer has been up and down so far in London. He came up with some of his best, most aggressive tennis in beating del Potro, then played poorly and couldn’t convert the key points in losing his 15th straight match to Federer on Thursday. The Spaniard comes in with a 3-1 record against the Serb, but the only match they’ve played in the last four years went to a fifth-set tiebreaker at the U.S. Open two months ago.
In normal circumstances, this could be a dogfight. In this potentially meaningless circumstance, it will be a battle between one sick dog, Tipsy, and another, Ferru, who, after two weeks of winning tennis, might finally be a tired one. But I’ll give the tired one the edge, because he is, as we’ve said so many times, so dogged.Winner: Ferrer in two sets