LONDON, UK – Roger Federer goes into ‘normal tournament’ mode if he wants to get out of this group, while Sunday’s winners go head to head.
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Roger Federer  v Matteo Berrettini | Federer leads H2H 1-0
Six-time champion Roger Federer met his match in a rejuvenated Dominic Thiem in his opener, and while it was a nip-and-tuck match, looseness at inopportune moments at the end of both sets handed Thiem a third straight win this year over the Swiss.
Federer has been around the block as far as the round-robin formats go, and while he knows this is far from over, this group is not the best to be at a disadvantage in, early doors.
He said, after his loss to Thiem: “It’s a normal tournament from here on forward. Not allowed to lose any more for me. That’s how it is every week of the year for the last 20 years, so from that standpoint there is nothing new there.
“Matteo, with his serve, with what he can do, obviously any opponent is dangerous here. He didn’t obviously have the best match today against Novak, you know. It’s probably also the toughest way to start off the World Tour Finals, playing Novak on the indoors, because he rarely has hiccups as well early on in tournaments.
“But, yeah, I’ve got to recover, I’ve got make sure I play better than today, and hopefully I can win that match.”
There was no doubt that the nerves got to Matteo Berrettini, but he still has many areas to improve, and Federer will not allow himself the luxury of a slow start again.
Prediction: Federer in straight sets.
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While Novak Djokoviccruised through his opener against newbie Berrettini, he faces a very different prospect against the not-new but obviously improved Thiem.
What is ominous for the Austrian is that it looks as though Djokovic is 100% fighting fit, and obviously has great indoor form generally, not to mention the momentum of coming in as the Paris champion, and the added prospect of sealing the year-end No. 1 spot.
The permutations for Djokovic to grab that spot are headachingly complex, so suffice to say he needs to ensure he reaches the final and hopes that Rafael Nadal struggles to come out of the group with a clean sheet.
This year Djokovic and Thiem are a win a-piece but it must give Thiem a little confidence that he got that all important last victory on his way to a second straight Roland Garros final.
He said: “I think he’s the best right now. He proved that also in Bercy where he didn’t somehow play his best tennis but still won the title pretty easy, so that’s how good his level is.
“But I will watch that match in Roland Garros a little bit, because it was very good of course. Was also, most of the time, the right tactics I played. Of course, it’s not the same here. Was clay outdoor back then and now indoor.
“But some things I can use, for sure, in the match on Tuesday and will use to practice for that tomorrow, and probably right now it’s the biggest challenge you can face, to play Novak.”
Thiem is no longer ‘just’ a clay-courter, and the changes he has made to his team had an immediate effect – this is not a player to be underestimated as just another of the next generation yet to achieve.
Djokovic said: “This has been probably his best season, winning at home in Vienna, and of course that was a very important win for him. Indian Wells. We know how good of a player he is on clay. He’s been proving that he can play equally well on other surfaces.
“He’s already established top-5, top-10 player. We don’t need to talk about his qualities. Quality is great. His dedication and professionalism and hard work ethics is fantastic, and he’s a really nice guy. So, all positive things about him.
“His coach, Nico Massu, that I have known for many years and I have played against him, as well, they are a great team and they deserve to be here. It’s going to be interesting to see how he plays against Federer tonight, and then we’ll see after that.”
Prediction: Djokovic in three sets.
Federer & Berrettini are scheduled not before 2pm, with Djokovic & Thiem not before 8pm.
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