BARCLAYS ATP WORLD TOUR FINALS 2011
Nadal Wins Late-Night Battle Over Fish
by James Buddell|
Nadal hit 18 winners and committed 27 unforced errors overall, compared to 35 winners and 50 errors for Fish. The match lasted two hours and 53 minutes, ending at 11:29pm.
"It was a very important victory for me, for my confidence, to start the tournament with positive feelings," said Nadal. "I think I played a very good first set after the break from the beginning. The second was hard. I made a big mistake at 0-1, 40/15 for me in the beginning of the second. That [gave him] a lot of confidence and after that, all the match was close. The third set was a little bit more crazy, up and down. I was seriously really lucky for the victory, and I for sure am very happy."
Looking ahead to Tuesday night's match against Roger Federer, Nadal said, "It will be a challenge for me. He's playing fantastic, winning two tournaments in a row, and now today [against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga]. It will be a very difficult match."
Nadal started with intent, breaking Fish's serve in the first game. The Spaniard secured a second service break in the seventh game, when he hit a forehand winner. He clinched the 34-minute set with a hold to 15, having committed just three unforced errors.
It was a different story in the second set as Fish surged into a 3-0 lead, targetting Nadal's forehand that struggled to penetrate the American's game in baseline rallies. Fish could have made it 5-2, but Nadal saved two break points in a seven-minute game. But the soon-to-be 30 year old ultimately kept his nerve to level the score with a backhand volley - his 16th winner - to end the 55-minute second set.
Momentum shifted immediately at the start of the deciding set, when Nadal took a 2-0 lead. However, Fish won three straight games but lost the sixth game to love for 3-3. As the match drew closer to tie-break territory, Nadal stepped up. At 4-5, Fish twice saved match points with gutsy runs to the net and kept his nerve to hold serve.
Nadal improved to 19-8 in tie-breaks this year, by raising his game to win four of the first five points. The third set alone lasted 84 minutes.
Nadal has picked up three titles this year, but has not tasted silverware since lifting his sixth trophy at Roland Garros in June. He has a 67-13 match record on the year.
Fish was making his debut at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals. This year marks the 25th consecutive year (since 1987) that an American has competed in the season finale. The World No. 8 has a career-best 43-23 season mark.
"I was just excited to get out there and be a part of this whole thing," admitted Fish. "I didn't play well. Obviously I got a little more comfortable after playing a set. Sort of getting used to all the surroundings with people in there. With the lights back, dark, it makes for good tennis. Conditions are absolutely perfect. That took a little bit of getting used to, I guess, 20 minutes or so."
Fish plays Tsonga on Tuesday during the day session, starting at 2pm.