Roger Federer was not his usual self.
Roger Federer was not his usual self.

‘P****d’ Federer fumes in historic loss

Roger Federer was not his usual self on Monday morning as he struggled with the racquet and his temper against Kei Nishikori at the ATP Finals.

Nishikori stunned the World No. 3 with a 7-6 (7-4) 6-3 win, handing Federer his first ever straight sets defeat in the group stage of the tournament. It was Nishikori's third win over Federer in 10 attempts.

In his first match at the season-ending round robin tournament the Fed Express was sloppy from the beginning and lost the first set in a tiebreak.

Before the clash Federer joked he was losing every match in practice so he wasn't too optimistic about his chances in London and while tennis fans thought it was the 37-year-old's typical humility on show, it turned out to be a disastrously accurate prediction of what was to come.

He missed easy ground strokes, his serving radar was way off, he lacked touch at the net and he even managed to hit himself in the face during the opening set.

"The way he's played the game pretty much throughout whole of his career, he's made it look ridiculously easy and tonight it's not easy for him," English tennis legend Tim Henman said in commentary.

"His footwork is not quite in tune, mistiming a lot of shots, making lot of unforced errors and giving opponent a lot of gifts."

Nishikori went 6-1 ahead in the first set tiebreaker and although Federer clawed back to 6-4, a forehand into the net allowed the Japanese to take the opener. Federer, who had qualified for the season-ender for the 16th time, cut a disgruntled figure and received a code violation for thumping a ball into the crowd as the 20-time grand slam champion's mood continued to sour.

 

Nishikori, twice a semi-finalist in London, grew in confidence and broke in the sixth game of the second set for a 4-2 lead when Federer was left flat-footed. Serving at 5-3 Nishikori might have expected a Federer fightback but it never materialised as he held serve easily to join Kevin Anderson at the top of the group.

Nishikori sealed the match courtesy of a Federer mishit - his 34th unforced error that summed up a scrappy performance.

Federer headed straight from the court to his press conference and revealed his poor practice form had contributed to a bout of nerves.

"I think it's definitely slower than the last three tournaments I've played. I've been feeling fine but practice has been a bit all over the place, not always practising in the same conditions. I think we both had a bit of nerves, too," he said.

"I knew this season was never going to be like last season. If you thought it was then you were dreaming a little bit."

Earlier, Anderson made a winning debut at the ATP Finals with a 6-3 7-6 (12-10) victory over Austrian Dominic Thiem.

Wimbledon runner-up Anderson, the first South African to qualify for the season-ender since Wayne Ferreira in 1995, was comfortably the better player in a one-sided first set.

The second set was a much tighter affair with serve dominating but Anderson won a gripping tiebreaker 12-10 on his fourth match point, banging down his 13th ace.

Anderson, 32, celebrated by leading the packed crowd in singing 'happy birthday' to his wife Kelsey.

Federer's next match is against Thiem on Wednesday while Nishikori will face Anderson.

- with AAP