For 15 minutes Novak Djokovic appeared to have a fight on his hands at the ATP World Tour Finals on Wednesday, then the Serb dialled up his A game and tore Stanislas Wawrinka to pieces. Such was the perfection of his tennis for most of a 6-3, 6-0 thrashing it is hard to argue against him crowning his year as world number one and with a hat-trick of titles at the ATP’s year-ending showpiece.
The 27-year-old has conceded only five games so far at the cavernous O2 Arena yet the arithmetic of round-robin tennis means the seven-time Grand Slam champion is still not definitely assured of a semi-final spot. Djokovic has played some epic matches against Swiss Wawrinka, most notably at the previous two Australian Opens, beating him in five in 2013 and then losing a fifth-set decider 9-7 this year in the quarter-finals.
World number four Wawrinka has been up and down since winning his first Grand Slam title in Melbourne, but he was flying at the start on Wednesday. Striking the ball with ferocious power he broke Djokovic’s opening service game and then held for a 2-0 lead. The backlash was lethal, however.
Djokovic began exploring the corners with his surgical groundstrokes and Wawrinka was overwhelmed as he lost 20 out of 23 points in a five-game swing that snatched the match away. Wawrinka held serve at 2-5 but Djokovic took the opening set in the next game and romped through the second set in 24 minutes, ending it when he drove a forehand down the line.
Nishikori too good
Japan’s Kei Nishikori surged to a three-set victory over alternate David Ferrer at the ATP World Tour Finals on Thursday and must now wait anxiously to see if he has done enough to reach the semi-finals. The 24-year-old lost the opening set to the Spaniard, who was a late stand-in for injured Milos Raonic, but played beautifully after that to seal a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win – his second in Group B after also beating Andy Murray. Near sell-out crowds at the O2 Arena had not been treated to a three-setter at the tournament before Thursday’s action but when Ferrer stepped in for a brief cameo role the likelihood was that the gritty 32-year-old would provide one.
Ferrer, beaten in nearly three hours by Nishikori in the quarter-finals of the Paris Masters, a result that scuppered his hopes of qualifying for the year-ender by right, hit back from a break down to take a high-quality opening set.
From then on, however, U.S. Open runner-up Nishikori showed why he has become a trailblazer for Asian tennis, unleashing his full repertoire of fiercely struck groundstrokes and silky drop shots to run Ferrer into the ground.
After converting his first set point in the second set with a backhand winner, Nishikori raced ahead in the decider against a tiring opponent who will return home around $160,000 richer for his brief appearance in London.