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Federer breaks Verdasco’s heart in three

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Originally published on: 26/02/10 11:50

Roger Federer fought back against “some bad bounces” and a super-charged Fernando Verdasco to win his opening Barclays ATP World Tour Finals encounter 4-6 7-5 6-1.

The Swiss will next face Andy Murray in his second Group A match on Tuesday evening, with Verdasco playing Juan Martin del Potro earlier in the day. Murray beat the US Open champ in the day’s first singles match 6-3 3-6 6-2.

“It was a crucial match for me to get off with a win in the round robin stages,” said the world No.1 after surviving a scare in this opening round robin tie. “Because Fernando is a great player and I’m happy I was able to come through”

“I had my chance at 5-5 with 0-30. Tennis is like that, no?” – Verdasco

Federer will not want a repeat of the sluggish start he made to this first match against the Australian Open semi-finalist, who recalled some of his early-season form to keep the Swiss at bay after breaking in the opening game.

With the Spaniard’s blistering forehand finding its mark with formidable regularity, Verdasco remained in the driving seat throughout the first set, and even had points for a double break in game seven as Federer struggled to impose himself on his opponent.

The four-time season finale champion played most of the match under a cloud, staring accusingly at the court as he struggled to zone in on Verdasco’s serve and spraying errors as he attempted to outgun the Spaniard from the baseline.

Verdasco played the match at his own pace – so much so that umpire Carlos Bernard had to warn him about keeping Federer waiting on serve – and refused to be overawed by the occasion or the man across the net as he sealed the first set and stayed with Federer in the second.

But after battling to 5-5 in the second set, the momentum of the match switched sides when, leading 0-30 on the Federer serve, the Spaniard smoked a forehand drive down the line -just wide.

A clean winner would have effectively brought up three match points, but a reprieved Federer held to force Verdasco to serve to stay in the set at 6-5. With his mind still replaying the last game, the world No.8’s concentration deserted him with disastrous consequences.

Having worked his way to the net, the Spanish No.2 was forced back by a defensive lob from Federer, but was far too casual and out of position when the ball landed just inside the baseline and ended up smashing the ball into his own half of the court and straight at Bernard in the umpire’s chair.

From that point on, the free-swinging belief of the past 21 games deserted him, and Federer made him pay. The Swiss clinch the set on his first break point of the entire match, and broke at the start of the third as the error count began stacking up for the Spaniard.

From that point, Federer was not to be denied. The trademark flashes of brilliance began to shine through as he tore into the paralysed Spaniard with a ruthless, if not surgical, intensity. It was 5-0 before Verdasco saved himself from the embarrassment of a bagel set, but he only briefly delay the inevitable as Federer held to love for the win.

“It was really important game, no?” said Verdasco about his chances at 5-5. “He was playing really good, and I had few problems with my serve until that game, and he finally break me in that one, so it was also the set.

“But he was playing good and having his chances,” the Spaniard continued. “I had my chance at 5-5 with 0-30. After that, my fitness, it start going down. He also get confidence and the match change. Tennis is like that, no?”

Federer was less than impressed with the court surface after the match, but admitted that it was fit for purpose at the O2. “I thought it was pretty, you know, medium pace. There are some bad bounces, but that always happens with those wooden floors that we play on.

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