Throughout the week, the players have been at one in insisting that despite the round-robin format, they’re not thinking about qualification scenarios or mathematical permutations, but just about winning the match in front of them, as professionals, as competitors. It’s difficult to believe, to be honest, but David Ferrer at least seems to mean what he says. Already eliminated from the tournament in a particularly painful fashion — superseded in the group by del Potro, whom he beat earlier in the week — no one would have blamed Ferrer for essentially taking his ball and going home, especially with the imminent prospect of leading his team in the Davis Cup finals next weekend, especially when he lost the first set 4-6. Instead, he rallied for no particular reason other than pure competitive cussedness (money and points probably helped), defeating Janko Tipsarevic 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.
Tipsarevic, too ill to practice earlier in the week, has been more notable for gallows humor off the court than his performances on it, getting just four games in each of his round-robin matches against Federer and del Potro. With tonight’s match (aside from the aforesaid money and points) the last of his season and deciding nothing but the semifinal match-ups, it was a bizarre yet somehow fitting moment for Tipsarevic to find some manic energy — if not finesse. Ferrer started understandably flat and erratic, making 13 of his total 27 unforced errors in the first set, and Tipsarevic raced to a 4-0 lead with Ferrer a step slow and scrambling behind the baseline.
It was the best it would get for Tipsarevic, really. A hold to love for Ferrer steeled the Spaniard and serving at 4-1, Tipsarevic put himself in trouble with two unforced errors. It was all the encouragement Ferrer needed, breaking after another backhand error from the Serb, and Tipsarevic found himself mired in an exchange of breaks with the rapidly improving Ferrer. He did well to serve the set out 6-4 with a fine combination of forehand winners, but was broken to love at the beginning of the second set and somehow it was Ferrer now who was playing up on the baseline for the majority of the points while Tipsarevic was scrambling three or four feet behind it.
Still, Tipsarevic had his chances to get back in the match. In the second set, a terrible off-forehand blasted out of the court handed him the break back, and in the third, he fought his way to a break point as Ferrer served at 0-1. He couldn’t maintain the former or capitalize on the latter; handed a short ball, he tried for a backhand angle that was far too acute and did not hold serve again, broken for the match shortly afterwards.
The last big tournament played in London ended with Murray beating Federer and del Potro beating Djokovic. There will be no medals on the line this time, but there’s a big title to win and evolving rivalries to contend. It should be anything but a gloomy Sunday.