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Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea downed No. 1 seeds Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan in their opening match at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals on Sunday. The eighth-ranked team needed exactly one hour to secure the 6-4, 6-3 victory.
Despite playing in serve-friendly indoor conditions at the O2 Arena in London, the outcome of the match was decided the winning team’s return quality. The Bryans drew first blood by breaking Bopanna/Mergea in the second game on the match, starting a run which saw the returning team claim five of six service games. The latters snapped the streak by saving three break points and holding for a 5-3 lead, before serving out the set two games later.
Bopanna/Mergea kept up the pressure at the start of the second set, winning a deciding point on the Bryans’ serve to move ahead for good. In total, they were five-for-11 on break points during the match while the Bryans were two-for-seven. Both teams had split meetings earlier in the year, with the Indian-Romanian tandem winning in the Wimbledon quarter-finals and the American twins striking back in the semi-finals in Washington, D.C.
With a 1-0 record, Bopanna/Mergea join Jamie Murray and John Peers at the top of the Group Ashe/Smith tables.
Novak Djokovic kicked off his title defence at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals in dominant fashion, racing through a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Kei Nishikori. Following the match, the Serb was honoured as year-end ATP World Tour No. 1 presented by Emirates for the fourth time in five years. Chris Kermode, ATP Executive Chairman and President, presented Djokovic with the trophy in an on-court ceremony.
"Undoubtedly it has been the best season, the best year, of my life," said Djokovic. "I have been experiencing the most of my abilities in my tennis game. Everything has come together over the years and I've been very consistent with my results. 2011 and 2015 definitely stand out and I look back with great pride and joy. My team definitely play a big part in this. They help me each and every day to get better as a player and a person. Of course my wife and my son Stefan, my parents and brothers and the closest people in my life sacrifice a lot and I try to cherish every moment. This is the crown for all the achievements in the season."
The 28 year old has become the sixth player to clinch the year-end No. 1 Emirates ATP Ranking on four or more occasions, following in the footsteps of Pete Sampras (six years), Jimmy Connors and Roger Federer (five years), Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe (four years). Djokovic, who began his third stint at World No. 1 on 7 July 2014, has been No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings for 172 weeks. Only Federer (302), Sampras (286), Lendl (270) and Connors (268) have spent more weeks at No. 1 since 1973.
In 2015, Djokovic reached all four Grand Slams finals (3-1 record), eight ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament finals, winning titles in Indian Wells, Miami, Monte-Carlo, Rome, Shanghai and Paris. He also lifted the Beijing trophy among 14 finals. With a 79-5 match record, it is the sixth time in eight years he has reached at least 70 wins in a season. Bidding to claim his fourth straight Barclays ATP World Tour Finals title, he's now won 15 consecutive matches at the season finale.
Pulled wide to his forehand side, Novak Djokovic would not be denied, striking a sublime hot shot in his Barclays ATP World Tour Finals opener. Watch live matches on www.TennisTV.com
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic recorded his 79th match win of a glittering season on Sunday at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
Djokovic notched his 15th straight win at the season finale - a record in the 45-year history of the prestigious tournament - with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over eighth seed Kei Nishikori in 65 minutes in their Group Stan Smith.
"I think I was at my best," said Djokovic. "Undoubtedly it's been an incredible performance that I was hoping I can have coming into the match, coming into this tournament where I've had a great record in last couple of years. Reflecting back on those memories of course gives me more confidence, more comfort coming into every single match.
"Today I've had for an opponent one of the quickest tennis players, somebody that possesses a lot of talent and loves to play aggressively. But I didn't allow him to dictate the play. I mixed up the pace. I was feeling very comfortable on the court, feeling like I could get most of the balls back. I served efficiently. I mixed up the second serves as well. Didn't give him the same look twice. I always tried to change it. The tactics worked very well."
Djokovic broke Nishikori's serve on his third opportunity in the second game and could have taken a 4-0 lead in the opener, but the Japanese star dug in. Djokovic broke once more for a 5-1 lead.
He won five straight games through to 2-0 in the second set, before Nishikori held serve to 30 in the third game. Two further breaks at 3-1 and 5-1 ensured Djokovic got off to a winning start in his quest for a fifth title.
Djokovic is 79-5 overall on the season, highlighted by 10 titles from 14 finals. He has finished year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on four occasions in the past five years.
Prior to the pair's seventh meeting, Djokovic, Nishikori and the capacity crowd at The O2 in London observed a one minute's silence as a mark of respect for the victims of the tragic events in Paris on Friday night.
"Today I couldn't do anything," Nishikori said. "Even at the start of the match, it was half my fault, because I didn't make any first serves. He was attacking my second serves too. I was playing defence all the time.
"But he played great defence so many times where I usually hit the winner or I get the point. He also made me run side to side. I didn't feel any chance today... I hope I can keep it up for the next one."
Jamie Murray and John Peers claim the decisive mini-break in edging Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini on Sunday at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Watch live matches on www.TennisTV.com
Jamie Murray and John Peers kept alive their chances in the battle to become year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings on Sunday when they won their Group Ashe/Smith opener at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals.
The fourth seeds held their nerves in the Match tie-break to beat fifth-seed Italian Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini 7-6(5), 3-6, 11-9 in one hour and 42 minutes.
"It was a great match, a really exciting match," said Murray. "I think both teams played well. It came down to a couple of points right at the end. We're really happy to win. We'll have to maintain that level we played today if we want any chance to win the trophy."
"It's always handy having the crowd on your side in a stadium like this," said Peers. "It makes a little bit of difference, I felt, at the end."
Fognini and Bolelli survived two break points in the second game and a deciding point deuce on Bolelli's serve at 4-5, when the Italian rifled a forehand winner down the line. However, Bolelli struck a double fault at 5/5 in the tie-break to hand Murray and Peers the advantage.
The Italians regrouped by taking a 3-0 lead in the second set, but Murray and Peers worked their way back to 3-4. Peers lost his serve on a deciding deuce point in the eighth game. Murray and Peers could not convert their first match point opportunity at 9/8 in the Match tie-break.
Murray and Peers (5,095) are currently fourth in the Emirates ATP Doubles Team Rankings, behind No. 3-ranked Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo (6,140), No. 2 Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau (6,400) and No. 1 pair Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan (6,465).
Bolelli and Fognini, this year's Australian Open champions, are the first all-Italian pair to qualify for the year-end championships (since 1970). There are five first-time pairs competing at the season finale this year.
Jamie Murray and John Peers win their opening match in London.
Novak Djokovic talks about closing out 2015 as the top player in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are in action on Day 1 of the 2015 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. Watch live matches on www.TennisTV.com
Rohan Bopanna and Florin Mergea talk about their win over the Bryan brothers on Sunday.
Watch highlights as Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer prevail in their opening matches. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.
John Isner gives his take on what makes Novak Djokovic so hard to beat.
Roger Federer talks about his match against Tomas Berdych. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.
Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka and David Ferrer are set to kick off their Barclays ATP World Tour campaigns.
Watch Hot Shot as Roger Federer mixes it up in his opening match. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.
A look at the hard-working ballkids at the Barclay ATP World Tour Finals.
Watch highlights as Jamie Murray and John Peers are victorious on Sunday. Watch live tennis at tennistv.com.
Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares stop by the studio to talk tactics.
In a season when a two-month injury layout could have derailed his chances of a seventh appearance in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, David Ferrer’s dogged determination has proved his saviour in his return. The 33-year-old Spaniard, who reached the final on debut in 2007 when the season finale was staged in Shanghai, has gone on to post one of his most impressive seasons in 2015, landing five ATP World Tour titles in Doha, Rio de Janeiro, Acapulco, Kuala Lumpur and Vienna.
It is his biggest haul since claiming seven titles in 2012. He also reached semi-finals in Barcelona, Rome, Beijing and last week at the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris, as well as the quarter-finals at Roland Garros for the sixth time. He recorded more than 50 wins for the sixth year in a row.
“Being here is always positive because it means that you are among the eight best in the world,” Ferrer said. “I think this is one of the best seasons in my life. I was off about two months because of the elbow and I ended up winning five titles, finished seventh in the world and qualified for the [Barclays] ATP World Tour Finals.
“I’m very happy the way I played and competed this year. I hope I can carry this momentum next year.”
Having qualified four years in a row from 2010 to 2013 before stepping in as the first alternate last year, Ferrer knows there are no easy matches at the season finale. He has been pitted in the same group as Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and his countryman Rafael Nadal.
“It does not matter. They are the top eight and you know whoever you play is going to be a rock,” he said. He did admit to some relief at not having to face Novak Djokovic early on, given his current run of form.
“But anyway, it is going to be really hard to advance to the next round,” he said. “If you win the first match ... you focus on the tournament in a different way because you know you have more options to be in the semi-finals. I also knew that I would have to play against Murray or Djokovic, so I was prepared for a tough match.”
It sure didn’t take long for Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau to gel as a team. The Dutch-Romanian combo claimed its first doubles title just a month into its partnership in 2014, downing Michal Mertinak/Philipp Marx 3-6, 6-4, 10-2 at the PBZ Zagreb Indoors. Rojer/Tecau would go on to claim seven more titles that year in Casablanca, Bucharest, s-Hertogenbosch, Washington, Shenzhen, Beijing and Valencia.
Not bad for a rookie campaign. But something was missing. The first-time pairing wasn’t quite satisfied with their performance on the bigger stages.
“Last year was our first year together, so we were just taking it as we went, trying to get better each week and getting to know each other,” said the 34-year-old Rojer, now in his 12th year on the ATP World Tour. “We ended up winning eight titles, which is a nice accomplishment. Many of those were 250s. We won three 500s, as well. But the goal immediately became to do better in the bigger tournaments, and I think we focused a little bit more on doing that. Of course, you always want to do that, but we put more emphasis on doing better at the Grand Slams and Masters 1000s.”
The focus has paid off. In only their second year as a team, they find themselves in contention for the year-end No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings. The powerhouse tandem of Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan still holds a narrow 65-point lead coming into the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, but a title run in London would put Rojer/Tecau on top.
“That would be pretty cool,” said Rojer. “Of course, the Bryan brothers have had a stranglehold on the No. 1 spot for so many years now. We’re close. We’re right there, but there are a few other teams also in play. For us, it’s just more about trying to do well here. If you take care of your matches here, then the No. 1 spot will be there at the end. We need to focus on playing good tennis. In years past, I felt like I’ve played good tennis here, but I haven’t come away with wins, so I’d like to start off winning matches here and little by little get into the tournament, hopefully string a few wins together where we can push for that No. 1 spot.”
Rojer/Tecau registered just two titles in 2015, but they got that big-stage victory they were so fastidiously seeking: Wimbledon. While Rojer had never ventured beyond the Round of 16 at the All England Club, Tecau had reached the title match on three previous occasions, coming up short each time. With a 7-6(5), 6-4, 6-4 win over Jamie Murray/John Peers, the 30-year-old from Constanta, Romania, would finally fulfill his dream.
“It was very emotional,” said Tecau. “I knew I could be successful on grass. I tried to take that confidence into this year — not to think about losing those finals, just to think that I’ve been successful on grass, I’m winning a lot of matches and I’m putting myself in position to get a title. I felt that experience was going to help me win. I learned a lot from my previous finals. I prepared differently. I managed to play a good match and win it. It was very fulfilling, because winning Wimbledon has been a dream of mine since I was a child, before really knowing what Wimbledon was, just from having posters in my room growing up. Being able to fulfill that dream was very rewarding for me. It felt like everything that had happened until then — all the struggles and all the matches you lose and learn from — everything led to this one.”
“We had a year under our belts together and kind of knew our games a bit more,” Rojer explained. “We felt like it was a matter of time before we could get results in bigger tournaments.”
Making their second consecutive appearance at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, the No. 2 seeds will open play in the Fleming/McEnroe Group against No. 7 seeds Marcin Matkowski and Nenad Zimonjic on Monday. They are 1-1 against the Polish-Serbian team in FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings, and are still looking for their first win (0-3) at The O2.
The Bryans, who head the Ashe/Smith Group, are trying to hold off Rojer/Tecau and finish at No. 1 for the 11th time in 13 years.