Roger Federer looks to make it four straight wins over Tomas Berdych as play opens on Sunday at the ATP World Tour Finals on Sunday. The Swiss owns a 14-6 mark life-time against the Czech. This will be their first meeting ever at the ATP World Tour Finals.
(3) Roger Federer vs. (6) Tomas Berdych
Federer makes his 14th career appearance in the ATP World Tour FInals. That is now the all-time record for most appearances in the year-end event. Federer has won the Tour Finals six times. He will be looking to turn things around after a loss to John Isner at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris. Isner beat Federer 7-6, 3-6, 7-6. The third ranked Swiss has been remarkably consistent at this event with only three opening losses in 13 years. Federer has been solid again on indoor hard courts this season in limited matches. The Isner loss is his only one in nine matches this season including two Davis Cup rubbers.
Tomas Berdych starts the week with good form indoors. The Czech won a title indoors in Stockholm in October. In Paris, he showed well with a quarterfinal run. That was ended with a tight 7-6, 7-6 loss to Novak Djokovic. Berdych has now made the Tour Finals field six straight seasons, but has struggled to do much in the tournament. He has only made it out of the Round Robin stage once in five previous trips to the year-end event. Nor surprisingly, Berdych has never won his opening match at the Tour Finals in five tries.
It's a 14-6 lead all-time for Federer over Berdych. The Swiss has won the last three in this series. Berdych's last victory over Federer came in 2013 in Dubai 3-6, 7-6, 6-4. Since then, Federer has won three straight matches over the Czech and dropped just one set. The two wins for Federer in 2015 came on two different surfaces. The third ranked Swiss beat Berdych 6-4, 6-0 at Indian Wells on a hard surface and then 6-3, 6-3 on clay in Rome. Their lone meeting on an indoor hard court came at the 2011 Paris Masters. Federer took down Berdych 6-4, 6-3 in that match.
Keys To The Match
The conditions at The O2 Arena are often open to debate. Over the years, some players have said the court plays similar to the one in Paris. Others rate it faster. Regardless of where it lands, the surface should be playing quickly enough to be advantageous to Roger Federer. Since his pairing with coach Stefan Edberg, Federer's game plan has been to serve big and play quick and aggressive points off the serve. The key is the serve. When Federer is serving well, his opponent is often forced to put the ball back into play in a position that works well in Federer's favor.
For Berdych, he will need to match the serve of Federer to give himself a realistic chance to win. The Czech sometimes struggles to get his first serve in consistently. Berdych is getting his first serve in at a 57 percent clip on the season. Anything lower than that will really put him in a bind as Federer will get too many looks at a much more beat able second serve from the sixth ranked Czech. Berdych would prefer to see some baseline rallies in this one where he might be able to force Federer into playing extra shots where those unforced errors can creep into the mix.
Federer's mindset may be the difference maker in this one. In the build-up to the start of the tournament, the Swiss said he comes to London looking to finish on a high note, "The idea of playing fellow Top 10 rivals gets me going, gets me really excited. I don't relax on making it to the Finals, then go out and lose three crushing defeats. I don't want to finish the year that way."
While Berdych surely wants to do the same, it is Roger Federer whose history suggests that he doesn't just talk the talk, he walks the walk.
Prediction: Federer wins in straight sets