11:56 PM GMT November 10, 2019
Roger Federer has mentally removed himself from Group Bjorn Borg at the Nitto ATP Finals. After dropping his opening match on Sunday to Dominic Thiem, he’ll likely need to win his two next matches in order to advance out of round-robin action and into the semi-finals. The Swiss is now treating this week as a knockout tournament.
“It's a normal tournament from here on forward. I’m not allowed to lose anymore,” Federer said. “That's how it is every week of the year for the past 20 years, so from that standpoint, there is nothing new.”
The six-time champion wasn't pleased about dropping his opening service game or being broken to love at 5-5 in the second set. But Federer still finished the night with more winners (24) than unforced errors (22) and only won five fewer points than Thiem (72 to 77). His level on Centre Court required a world-class performance to beat him and he praised the Austrian for delivering it.
“I thought he played well. The start definitely didn't help. That put me on the back foot,” Federer said. “But I recovered well and I thought the match was pretty even for a long period of time. I felt that I had my chances. Didn’t feel like I was outplayed or anything. Just maybe those first-match hiccups, not hitting your spots on the serve when you need to, getting into trouble early in the service games, which maybe doesn't happen later on in the tournament.”
Although Federer’s form dipped at times, the crowd support for him never wavered. The British public has adopted the Swiss as one of their own after the memorable moments he’s provided in London throughout his 21-year ATP Tour career, including two titles at The O2 (2010-2011). Despite the loss to Thiem, he remained optimistic that their energy can help propel him to a seventh title at this event.
“I thought the atmosphere was great. I wish I could have given them a bit more something to celebrate tonight,” Federer said. ”I felt like the fans were waiting and they were ready to go… Maybe getting that break in the second set would have done exactly that, but it's a wonderful event here. I'm happy I’ve played here so many times so I could enjoy the crowds. I'm looking forward to the next two [matches]."
Federer will shift his focus to his next match on Tuesday against Matteo Berrettini, who also lost his opening match to Novak Djokovic. He dropped just five games against the Italian in their lone FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting this year at Wimbledon, but said that anyone who qualifies for the season-ending championships can’t be underestimated.
“With his serve, with what he can do, obviously any opponent is dangerous here,” Federer said. “I've got to recover. I've got to make sure I play better than today and hopefully I can win that match.”