Scottish Daily Mail

SO EASY FOR ROGER AND NO­VAK

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ROGER FEDERER some­times makes the O2 Arena look like his own per­sonal fan con­ven­tion, at­tract­ing as loyal a fol­low­ing as any mu­si­cal act that per­forms here. That was again the case last night as, be­fore his ador­ing pub­lic, he dis­missed To­mas Berdych 6-4, 6-2 to win his open­ing group match at the Bar­clays ATP World Tour Fi­nals. Andy Mur­ray, who starts this af­ter­noon against David Fer­rer, knows what it is like to feel al­most a stranger in your own coun­try when fac­ing Federer at this event. So Berdych, for­ever stuck in the cho­rus line be­hind the so-called Big Four, was never likely to be any­thing other than friend­less against the Swiss leg­end, whose fol­low­ing does not di­min­ish with his ad­vanc­ing years. As for the neutrals, af­ter a match last­ing 69 min­utes they were left await­ing a proper con­test in the sin­gles event with shades of what hap­pened 12 months ago when there were so many lop­sided matches in the main event. As No­vak Djokovic wal­loped Kei Nishikori 6-1, 6-1 in just over an hour, by far the best con­test was pro­vided by Jamie Mur­ray’s first dou­bles match. When Berdych broke Federer right at the start there may have been hopes of a grip­ping bat­tle about to en­sue. How­ever, faced with the world No 3’s el­e­gant flour­ishes, the Czech was too in­con­sis­tent to trou­ble the favourite, whose most un­usual fea­ture was his lengthy stub­ble. Al­ready it must be likely that Federer and Djokovic will be at op­po­site sides in Satur­day’s semi-fi­nals, and their match tomorrow may well be a play-off for who goes through from the group on top. Andy Mur­ray ought to be tested by the pug­na­cious Span­ish vet­eran Fer­rer to­day. The world No 7 was com­fort­ably de­feated by Mur­ray in the re­cent Paris semi-fi­nal, al­though form is not al­ways ev­ery­thing for the Bri­tish player when it comes to this event, where he can be less pre­dictable than nor­mal. Mur­ray looked very sharp in Paris but ended his tour­na­ment here last year by win­ning just one game against Federer. It is not easy to as­sess how we will find him this week, es­pe­cially with the pre­oc­cu­pa­tion of the loom­ing Davis Cup fi­nal. That is his stated pri­or­ity, but he needs a couple of wins in­side the dome to en­sure the world No 2 po­si­tion is his at the end of the sea­son. Fer­rer is the most likely source of one, with Mur­ray’s other two group op­po­nents be­ing Stan Wawrinka and Rafael Nadal, who face off tonight. Djokovic ap­pears as much a rac­ing cer­tainty to win this sea­son-end event as Federer was in his hey­day dur­ing the mid-Noughties. The com­pet­i­tive­ness of his match against Nishikori was not helped by the fact that the Ja­panese player has been suf­fer­ing from in­juries, in­clud­ing a stom­ach mus­cle strain, and he ad­mit­ted af­ter­wards that he had not been able to prac­tise serv­ing much in re­cent days.

MIKE DICK­SON

 ?? GETTY IM­AGES ?? Peer­less: Djokovic with the ATP world no 1 award
GETTY IM­AGES Peer­less: Djokovic with the ATP world no 1 award

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