David Ferrer has won 41 consecutive matches when winning the first set. (Tony O'Brien/ZUMAPRESS)
LONDON -- Thoughts from Day 4 of the ATP World Tour Finals, where David Ferrer handed World No. 1 Novak Djokovic his fifth loss of the season to cap off a bad day for the Serbs:
Shocker 2.0: I didn't think there could be a result left at the World Tour Finals that would shock me more than Roger Federer's destruction of Rafael Nadal on Tuesday night. Was it an underestimation of Ferrer or an overestimation of Djokovic that made Ferrer's 6-3, 6-1 win such a surprise? Perhaps it's a bit self-serving, but I chalk it up to neither. Djokovic didn't look his dominant self against Berdych on Monday, but surely no one foresaw the stinker of a performance Djokovic offered Wednesday night to suffer only his fifth loss of the year. Absolutely nothing was working for him. He ripped 33 unforced errors off his Head racket, dumping backhands into the bottom of the net and sending forehands long and wide.
"I just wasn't there," a fatigued Djokovic said after the match. "It was the worst match I've played this season so far definitely. David was playing well, no question about it. But I did not give him any resistance, nothing. He got always one ball back more in the court than I did. I made so many unforced errors that I'm embarrassed to look at the stats."
But just as Nadal's sub-par effort couldn't take anything away from Federer's quality, Djokovic's performance shouldn't take anything away from Ferrer. The Spaniard played perfect tennis from start to finish on his way to his second straight-set win at the World Tour Finals (he's the only player who hasn't dropped a set so far). The fact is, he out-Novaked Novak, forming an impenetrable wall with his legs and used his heavy forehand to pull Djokovic wide to force the errors. And much like Djokovic has benefited greatly from his much-improved serve throughout the year, Ferrer served impeccably. Djokovic, the best returner in the game all year, was rendered completely ineffective, and as the match wore on, the Spaniard found it easier and easier to hold.
After sealing the win, Ferrer, in his typically humble and honest way, offered nothing but a shrug to his bench. It wasn't a smug shrug in the likes of Michael Jordan, but one of true surprise. It was an endearing response of a man who was as surprised as anyone by what he had just accomplished.
"It was a surprise for me. I won. I [beat the] No. 1 of the world, Novak Djokovic in two sets."
With the win, Ferrer joins Federer in the semifinals, where he'll face either Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or Nadal. While Federer remains the favorite for the title, no one can discount Ferrer after his steely wins over Murray and Djokovic.
Reversal of fortune: Tomas Berdych blew a match point against Djokovic on Monday night to go on to lose. On Wednesday night, it was Djokovic's countryman, Janko Tipsarevic, who blew a match point against Berdych, sending a put-away volley wide in the third set tiebreak. To make matters worse, Tipsarevic, who subbed in as an alternate for Andy Murray, double-faulted to give Berdych match point, which he ultimately converted. Then, to add injury to insult, the Serb ended the match face down on the court, having fallen hard on his knee trying to scramble to save a Berdych forehand that landed in and netted him the match.
It's hard not to feel for Tipsarevic, who put on a valiant performance to come one point away from putting Berdych out of the tournament. The London crowd rewarded him with a nice ovation as he limped off the court, but that was little solace for the Serb, who said afterwards that he was "pissed" at himself for double-faulting to let Berdych back in the match. But let's give it up for Tomas, who has played too well this tournament (apart from his amazing propensity to choke) to be 0-2. He still has a chance to qualify for the semifinals if he can beat Ferrer on Friday.
Cognitive dissonance at the O2: The best way to describe the O2 Arena is this: Imagine a fairly nice unheated mall, with plenty of restaurants and bars, two Starbucks, a TGIFridays, a movie theater, a dance club, and a museum (have I lost you yet?). Now imagine situated right smack dab in the middle of that mall is a 20,000 person capacity indoor arena that hosts concerts and sporting events. That's the O2.
It's a venue that is like nothing I've ever seen before. It's a social hub for those who live in the Greenwich area and people can access the restaurants, theater, and clubs without needing a ticket to whatever event is taking place that night. It's an odd scene to be leaving the tournament at midnight to walk to the North Greenwich tube station and see young men and women, hobbling in wearing stiletto boots (the women, not the men), ready to start their night out at the very venue where you just watched two world-class athletes sweat it out a mere minutes before.
No big deal: David Ferrer's shrug on match point is one of my favorite things all year.
Snug and slim