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FedEx Reliability Zone: After Losing The First Set

After Losing The First Set Current Records

Djokovic© AFP/Getty ImagesNovak Djokovic won the 2008 season finale.

As the world's best converge on London for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, this month we take an in-depth look at the Top 8 and how they react to losing the first set using the FedEx ATP Reliability Index, with exclusive analysis from former ATP World Tour players.

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Over the past 12 months, World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has compiled a 73-6 match record and has battled back to win eight of 13 matches (.615) after losing the first set, according to the FedEx ATP Reliability Index. The Serbian has a 51-91 career record when coming from behind.

Of all the Top 8 in London, France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had a 13-17 (.433) mark over the past 52 weeks and is 40-62 lifetime after losing the first set. Perhaps his most memorable comeback came against Roger Federer in the Wimbledon quarter-finals, when he triumphed 3-6, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 on Centre Court.

In the same period, British favourite Andy Murray, who is attempting to finish year-end No. 3 in the South African Airways 2011 ATP Rankings, has a 7-10 mark (.411). While Spain's David Ferrer, whose improved serve is demonstrated in our latest RICOH ATP MatchFacts column, is fourth with an 11-19 record (.367).

Mardy Fish (6-17, .352), Rafael Nadal (4-10, .285), Barclays ATP World Tour Finals defending champion Federer (3-8, .272) and Tomas Berdych (5-18, .217) round out the singles field in London.

So should any of the field be concerned if they lose the first set? Sweden's Bjorn Borg, the master strategist under pressure, doesn't think so.

Borg exclusively told ATPWorldTour.com, "Tennis is a mental sport - so much is in your head. I was never worried when I lost the first set. If I did, I went on to play my game. I might change a few details, but I knew my opponent was still far from winning the match. It all depended on whether it was a three or five-set match.

"Of course, when you win the first set you have a mental advantage and a calm [outlook] in the match. You can really play out your own game. So maybe, when I lost opening sets, I became slightly more aggressive, but I still played my own game and never panicked."

Finland's Jarkko Nieminen agrees with Borg. He told ATPWorldTour.com, "I think when losing the first set, your only option is to be aggressive. Even if you have lost a tight first set, being aggressive keeps you positive and it can help you become physically stronger."

Borg compiled an 84-102 win-loss record (.452) after losing the first set - second only to Australian Rod Laver (71-74, .490) in ATP World Tour history (since 1973).

Speaking to ATPWorldTour.com, Laver confesses, "I was also a slow starter, I found it tough to get my confidence and timing until the pressure of the match was under way. The killer instinct never came out until I had to apply myself.

"I never changed my tactic, mostly my confidence had to get better. In five-setters you always knew you had time to catch up. I never changed my game. I felt my game would eventually improve as long as I could cut out the errors."

Nalbandian, FedererInterestingly, only one player, David Nalbandian (2005), in the past 13 years has lost the first set of the championship match at the season finale and recovered to lift the trophy. Since 1970, only nine other players - Manuel Orantes (1976), John McEnroe (1978), Ivan Lendl (1981), Boris Becker (1988), Stefan Edberg (1989), Andre Agassi (1990), Jim Courier (1991), Pete Sampras (1994 and 1996) and Alex Corretja (1998) - have achieved the feat.

Former World No. 4 Brad Gilbert, 102-227 (.310) after losing the first set, told ATPWorldTour.com, "You must resist the mental negativity of losing the first set. By staying positive and relying on the rituals you develop in practice, it can heighten your desire to win.

"It is essential you respond and bounce back quickly. You need to be physically fit to play a good mental game, but also you need the ability to concentrate for long periods. One thing is for certain, when two elite players meet the match is rarely over quickly. One player dominates the other in different phases."

The Barclays ATP World Tour Finals begins on 20 November.

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January: Fifth Set Career Records
February: 52-Week Clay-Court Records
March: Current ATP World Tour Masters 1000 Records
April: Career Clay-Court Records
June: Career Grass-Court Records
July: Career Hard-Court Records

August: Career Tie-Break Records

September: Current Hard-Court Records
October: Career Indoor Records

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FedEx ATP Win/Loss Index

Performance After losing first set

Current* Index Career Index
1. Rafael Nadal .619 .446
2. Roger Federer .615 .414
3. Novak Djokovic .583 .413
4. Grigor Dimitrov .500 .291
5. Andy Murray .500 .405

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Who of the eight players at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals would you most expect to win a match after losing the first set?
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