ATP Finals 2019: Roger Federer's opening blues continue for the second consecutive year
The ATP Finals' most decorated champion, Roger Federer, has won the title a record six times in his illustrious career. However, he suffered opening round blues at the year-end tournament for the second consecutive year when he lost to Dominic Thiem in straight sets.
In a competitive second match on the opening day of the 50th ATP Finals in London, Federer was unusually slow off the blocks. He lost the opening three points of the match on his serve before Thiem converted his third opportunity of the game to grab the early break.
The Swiss maestro improved and recouped the break in the fourth game of the set to make it 2 games all. Games proceeded on serve till 5-5, when Federer's serving woes resurfaced as Thiem broke for 6-5 and served it out for a one-set lead.
Federer was the sharper player in the early exchanges of the second set but failed to convert a break point in the fourth game as Thiem won a bruising baseline rally before eventually holding serve. Just as in the first set, Federer faltered on serve in the 11th game of the second set too.
The six-time champion shanked a cross-court backhand wide to allow Thiem the opportunity to serve for the match. Thiem saved two break-back points and eventually made good on his second match point to register his third victory of the season in as many meetings with Federer, in the process improving to 5-2 in the pair's head-to-head rivalry.
This result marked Federer's fifth defeat in the opening singles match at the ATP Finals. The Swiss also suffered opening round-robin defeats at the tournament to Fernando Gonzalez (2007), Gilles Simon (2008), Novak Djokovic (2013) and Kei Nishikori (2018). On all such occasions except 2008, Federer recovered to progress to the semifinals.
On the second day of round-robin action in the group, Federer will face Italian debutant Matteo Berrettini, knowing that anything but a victory would seriously jeopardize his chances of reaching the semifinals.
It is to be noted that Federer is a perfect 16-0 in second round-robin matches at the ATP Finals. That streak would have to continue on Tuesday against Berrettini, against whom Federer won his lone meeting on the grasscourts of Wimbledon earlier this season.
Federer would need to play much better if he hopes to avoid only his second group-stage exit from the year-end tournament, and first since 2008.