Roger Federer was frustrated after losing in straight sets against Kei Nishikori in his opening ATP World Tour Finals clash on Sunday. The 37-year-old went into the end-of-season tournament at London’s O2 Arena looking to claim the 100th ATP title of his illustrious career, but he now faces an uphill battle after struggling to find his form in his opening Lleyton Hewitt Group encounter.
The opening set was tight and had to be settled by a tie-break, which Federer lost after Nishikori took the initiative by winning six of the first seven points up for grabs.
Both players broke serve early in the second, but Nishikori got another decisive break to go 4-2 ahead and held his nerve to wrap up a 7-6 6-3 win in 88 minutes.
Federer was disappointed to lose the game as he looks to win his seventh ATP Tour Finals title and first since 2011, while he pointed to certain parts of the match where he could have stepped up a gear to punish his 28-year-old Japanese opponent.
He said: “I felt we both struggled throughout the first set. I had my chances maybe a bit more than he did. “Then I started to feel better in the second set. I think we both did. The level went up. Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep the lead that I got early. That was important, I think, at the end. That was the key of the match, that sort of – I guess – [a] 10-minute swing at the end of the first throughout maybe 1-1 in the second.”
Federer now faces Dominic Thiem on Tuesday with both players eyeing a first win after the Austrian lost his opener against Kevin Anderson. Nishikori and Anderson play in the earlier game looking to virtually book a semi-final place.