London: Former world No 1 Roger Federer kept his hopes alive for a 100th career crown with a sauve 6-2, 6-3 win over Austria’s Dominic Thiem at the O2 Arena here late on Tuesday.
Needing to win following his first round loss to Japan Kei Nishikori on the opening night and stay in the competition, Federer stuttered at the start to eventually win in 66 minutes and bring their career meetings record to 2-2.
Both were slow to come off the blocks, but it was the 37-year-old Swiss ace finding his range quicker even as his opponent struggled with his first serve. The first break came in the third and a double fault in the seventh led to a second break as Federer took the opening set 6-2 in 31 minutes.
He kept up the pressure and despite Thiem raising his level Federer got an early break for a 2-0 lead. From there it was pretty much the Swiss way as Federer eased through a second break and win 6-3 in a little over an hour.
“It’s always a challenge to play him and I am glad that I kept a positive attitude coming in for this match. He played well towards the end, but I think I played a little better than he did,” Federer said.
On the 15 previous occasions Federer has qualified for this tournament, starting with his first appearance in 2002, the Swiss ace has always won his second group match. He has dropped a set just five times in his second match, and one of these rare occasions was in 2005 against current coach Ivan Ljubicic.
Only once before, in the 15 previous times he has played at the season finale, has Federer failed to qulify from his group into the knockout rounds – and that was ten years ago when the competition was held in Shanghai.
In 2013, Federer had also started off with a loss to Djokovic. But the Swiss had yet gone on to qualify for the semi-finals with wins in his next two group matches. Every time he has played this event since it moved to London in 2009, Federer has progressed into the knock-out rounds, except in 2016 when he ended his season after Wimbledon because of injury.
His third and final group encounter will be against Kevin Anderson, who defeated him at Wimbledon in his quest for a 21st Grand Slam. “I hope I can get my revenge against him [Anderson] on Thursday,” Federer hoped.
“Of course, it is a different court, a different surface, but the same city, and I hope I will be on the winner’s side,” he added.
Earlier, South Africa’s World Number Six Anderson put himself in a strong position to qualify for the semi-finals after dumping Japan’s Kei Nishikori 6-0, 6-1. The 32-year-old – the second-oldest debutant this year after American John Isner - comfortably won the first set to love in just 32 minutes.
He broke again early in the second set and led 6-0 and 5-0 in the second before Nishikori finally held and then the South African served out set and match in just over an hour. Anderson has so far not dropped a set after beating Thiem in his opening match on Sunday.
(Singles) Kevin Anderson bt Kei Nishikori 6-0, 6-1; Roger Federer bt Dominic Thiem 6-2, 6-3.
(Doubles) Raven Klaasen/Michael Venus bt Nikola Mektic/Alexander Peya 7-6 (5), 7-6 (5); Jamie Murray/Bruno Soares bt Juan Sebastian Cabal/Robert Farah 6-4, 6-3.
Order of Play (Wednesday)
(4 pm) Oliver Marach/Mate Pavic vs Mike Bryan/Jack Soc; (6 pm) Novak Djokovic vs Alexander Zverev; (10 pm) Lukasz Kubot/Marcelo Melo vs Pierre-Hugues Herbert/Nicolas Mahut; (12 midnight) Marin Cilic vs John Isner.
All times UAE