Following a defeat against Dominic Thiem on the opening day of group-action, Roger Federer faces a must-win match against tournament debutant Matteo Berrettini of Italy on Day 3 of the 2019 ATP Finals.
After five-champion champion Novak Djokovic kickstarted the 50th edition of the ATP Finals with a comprehensive straight-set dismantling of Berrettini, six-time champion Federer failed to beat Thiem for the third time in as many meetings this year, to fall to third in the early group standings.
On the second day of round-robin action in the group, Federer squares up against Berrettini while Djokovic takes on Thiem. Both pairs have met in Grand Slams this year, Federer beat Berrettini in straight sets in the Wimbledon fourth-round and Thiem beat Djokovic in a five-set semi-final at Roland Garros.
It is a virtually must-win match for both Federer and Berrettini, as defeat would leave the loser gasping for survival in the group and having to rely on favourable outcomes in the other matches in order to stand a chance of sneaking into the semi-finals.
The stakes are not quite as high in the other group-match, where either Djokovic or Thiem can afford a defeat and still make the semis but neither player would want to let go the winning momentum and leave their semi-final hopes potentially dangling on the outcome of other matches in the group.
However no player from this group would qualify for the last four or be eliminated from contention after the second group-stage matches. On that note here's a preview of the second robin-matches on Day 3 of the 2019 ATP Finals:
#1 Roger Federer (x3) vs Matteo Berrettini (x8)
Record six-time winner Roger Federer faces tournament debutant Matteo Berrettini of Italy in his second round-robin match at the Nitto ATP Finals.
Both Federer and Berrettini are coming off straight-set defeats in their opening round-robin matches in the group. It is the fifth time in 17 previous tournament appearances, and for the second time in as many years, Federer suffered an opening reverse.
In their lone meeting on tour, Federer beat the young Italian in straight sets in the Wimbledon fourth round earlier in the season.
Federer is a perfect 16-0 in second round-robin matches at the ATP Finals and would need to continue that streak on Tuesday against Berrettini, as defeat for either man in this match would push the loser to the brink of elimination and at the mercy of an unlikely combination of favourable scenarios in the other matches.
Federer would qualify for the semi-finals if if he beats Berrettini and Djokovic in his two remaining group matches and Thiem beats Djokovic. The same also applies for Berrettini if he beats Federer and Thiem in his next two group matches and Djokovic beats Thiem.
#2 Novak Djokovic (x2) vs Dominic Thiem (x5)
Both Djokovic and Thiem are coming off wins in their opening round-robin matches. While Djokovic did so for the 11th consecutive year at the ATP Finals since going 0-3 on his tournament debut in 2007, Thiem won his opening match for the first time in four appearances at the year-end tournament.
A victory for either player in this match would take the winner to the cusp of qualifying for the semifinals.
In nine previous career meetings with Thiem, Djokovic leads 6-3, which includes a pair of wins for each player in their two matches this year (Djokovic won in the semi-finals of the Madrid Masters, Thiem won in the Roland Garros semi-finals). Djokovic has won all three of his hardcourt meetings with Thiem, including their lone meeting in the round-robin stage of the 2016 ATP Finals.
Djokovic is 6-5 in his second round-robin matches at the ATP Finals but hasn't tasted defeat since 2015, when he lost to Federer. That was also the year the Serb won his fifth and latest title at the year-end tournament. Thiem is 2-1 at this stage of the tournament, losing his lone second round-robin match to Roger Federer last year en route to his third group-stage exit from the ATP Finals.
If Djokovic loses to Thiem and Federer in his next two matches, and Federer beats Berrettini, Djokovic would be eliminated. If Thiem loses to Djokovic and Berrettini in his next two matches and Berrettini beats Federer, Thiem would fail to make the semi-finals.