The prelude to the elite year-end event at London was initially all about whether World Number 1 Rafa Nadal would participate. Ultimately the organizers heaved a huge sigh of relief when Rafa confirmed he would compete.
After all it was the 1st time since 2010 that Rafa and Federer were the top seeds at the event. However, there was a twist in the tale.
To know about that, read my review of the weeklong event with a special focus on the 4 semifinalists and Rafa.
Fed had potentially a tough group with Sock, Zverev and Cilic as opponents. Fed’s in his 15th appearance had his first match against Sock, a tournament debutant after dramatically winning the Paris Rolex masters.
Fed had won all their three matches earlier in straight sets. The trend continued with Fed winning 6-4, 7-6 ( 7-4). It was Fed’s 50th win in the season and he has won 50 or more matches in a year 14 times.
Fed’s next match was with Sascha. They had split their 4 matches earlier and after they won a set each, a classic 3rd set was awaited. However Fed sped away in the 3rd set for a 7-6, 5-7, 6-1 win to book his place in the semi-finals. It was an incredible 14th semi-finals entry in his 15 participations here.
Federer’s only loss to Cilic in 8 matches was at the US Open where Cilic showed an incredible display of power. As in the Zverev-Fed match the 1st two sets were tight however once again Fed had a strong 3rd set to win 6-7, 6-4, 6-1. For Cilic it was a tournament to forget. It was also his 8th loss in 9 matches at the yearend event.
For Fed it was the 10th time he was entering the semi-finals with a perfect 3 Nil Record, out of his overall 14 entries.
Amazingly Rafa has not won this tournament even once. His best chance was probably in 2010 when he defeated Murray in the match of the tournament but lost to Federer in the Final.
In 2017, with 2 Majors won and having already pocketed the coveted year end ranking, tennis Fans were looking forward for a Federer-Rafa final and a Rafa win.
Rafa’s first match was with Goffin. The Spaniard had won both their earlier matches in straight sets. Here to the surprise of all Goffin prevailed in 3 sets 7-6, 6-7, 6-4. However it was clear that Rafa was struggling with fitness issues. In fact he withdrew from the tournament after the match and 1st alternate Busta stepped in.
Should Rafa have not entered at all?. In retrospective, probably yes. As it would have made better sense to concentrate on next season.
For Dimitrov, it was a tournament debut and he defeated Thiem 6-3, 5-7, 7-5. Thiem was good in patches only and Dimitrov was overall more consistent. It could however be noted that Dimitrov seems to be having an issue in serving out matches.
Dimitrov and Goffin was looked forward to as potentially a close encounter but Dimitrov came up with a perfect exhibition of tennis to win easily 6-1, 6-4 and book a place in the semi-finals as well. Dimitrov won his 3rd match easily as well to emulate Federer by entering the semi-finals with a 3 nil record.
After his loss to Fed, Sock had matches against Cilic and Zverev
Interestingly Sock had won both his prior matches with Cilic, and he made it 3 in a row by winning 5-7, 6-2, 7-6. Winning after being a set down and after being a break down in 3rd set showed the American’s fighting ability. It was the 1st win by an American in 10 years since Roddick had won in 2007.
Sock and Zverev had met twice, both times on hard courts with one win each. Currently however Sock was on a roll while Zverev was quite inconsistent. This inconsistency showed in the tennis too as Sock won in 3 sets 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 with 2 steady sets in the 1st and 3rd while Zverev had a spectacular 2nd set but overall was incredibly inconsistent. The American had entered the semi-finals in his debut year.
After a shock win over Rafa and a crushing defeat from Dimitrov, Goffin came up with a scintillating performance over Thiem to complete the semi-final line up.
The 1st semi final was between Goffin and Federer and all 6 matches of their career so far had been won by Federer. It seemed like a 7th win was in the offing as Federer took the 1st set pretty confidently at 6-2. However thereafter Goffin came back strongly to win the 2nd and 3rd set to win the match 2-6, 6-3 6-4.
Goffin was only the 6th player to defeat Rafa and Fed in the same tournament. Novak has done it thrice, Nalbandian and Davydenko have done it twice while Murray, DelPo and now Goffin have done it once. It was sweet of Federer to say that Goffin always used to defeat him very easily in practice and it was only expected that in match play too he would win some day. Overall it was a year Federer would be very proud of.
The second semi-finals between Sock and Dimitrov was expected to be an intriguing contest and interesting Sock has a 3-1 head to head margin. The American took the first set. However Dimitrov then roared back to win the next two to enter the final with a 4-6, 6-0, 6-3
As expected, there were nerves at the beginning of the match as both were 1st time finalists. However soon they got into the groove and one saw fierce hitting by both. Ultimately Dmitrov prevailed 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 in what was the longest tennis final at the yearend event since John Mcenroe won the 1978 final over Arthur Ashe.
An eerie coincidence. In 1978, Ashe had lost his Round Robin match 1-6, 3-6 but then came back strongly in the final, only to lose in 3 straight sets. Ditto with Goffin and Dimitrov this year as well.
So the year ended strongly for Dimitrov who reached his career high of world number 3. He had started the year well too by reaching the Australian Open semi-finals to Nadal in one of the best matches of the year.
However the year undoubtedly belonged to Rafa and Federer. Will it be the same in 2018. Will Novak and Murray stage a comeback. Will a youngster have a breakthrough year.
2017 was a great tennis year. Looking forward to a great 2018 as well.