Federer rallies to beat Verdasco at ATP finals

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/f/federer_atp.jpg' class='caption'> Roger Federer overcame an erratic forehand and Fernando Verdasco on Sunday, rallying to beat his Spanish opponent 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 in the round-robin stage of the

Updated: November 23, 2009 19:28 IST
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Roger Federer overcame an erratic forehand and Fernando Verdasco on Sunday, rallying to beat his Spanish opponent 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 in the round-robin stage of the ATP World Tour Finals.

The top-ranked Federer was broken only once _ in the opening game of the Group A match after double-faulting on the first point _ but he never looked dominating until late in the second set when he converted his first break point to even the score at one set apiece.

In the third set at the O2 Arena, Federer was back to his old self. He controlled play as usual, and gave Verdasco little chance to stay in the match.

"I was down a set, and only the second set was I able to sort of get the ball into play, find my range, find my rhythm," Federer said. "This is also when I started to feel like I had chances.

"My first break points, I think I could have had them earlier if I played a bit earlier, but they came for set points, and it was a crucial moment for me because I knew the longer the match went, the more my belief was going up and his was going down. Then in the third, I was able to play more freely."

In the early Group A match, Andy Murray overcame a second-set slump to beat Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.

Federer had been in real danger of losing for the third straight match. Although Verdasco earned only two more break points in the match, his shots were landing and his serve was working for much of the night.

All that changed in the course of three shots. Federer and Verdasco were even at 15-15 on the Spaniard's serve in the 12th game of the second set when Verdasco shanked an overhead shot and then sent a forehand long. With two break points, Federer converted with an easy smash at the net on the first.

"After that, my fitness started going down," Verdasco said. "He also got confidence, and the match changed."

Federer finished the match with more unforced errors on his forehand (15) than winners (13). But only one of those errors came in the third set.

Overall, Federer had 30 winners and 29 unforced errors, while Verdasco managed only 18 winners and 31 unforced errors.

"I don't think he has much to prove," Federer said. "Now he has to reach very high, which is not an easy thing to do because it's quite open at the top in a way, so everybody beats everybody."

Coming into the tournament for the top eight players in the world, Federer was riding a two-match losing streak. He was defeated by Novak Djokovic in the Swiss Indoors final early this month, and then lost to Julien Benneteau in his only match at the Paris Masters.

Federer will next play Murray on Tuesday, and Verdasco will take on Del Potro.

In Group B, Rafael Nadal will play Robin Soderling on Monday in the first singles match of the day. Novak Djokovic then faces Nikolay Davydenko.

Murray and Del Potro mixed brilliant winners with an equal amount of simple errors in the opening match, and it was the Argentine who double-faulted to give Murray his one and only match point.

"It was a really good start," Murray said. "Me and Juan haven't played that much since the U.S. Open. I kind of expected a little bit of a scrappy match."

Del Potro needed a medical time-out after the third game in the first set to treat a bleeding nose, but didn't seem bothered by the ailment for the rest of the game. He shrugged off the incident after the match, saying he has a history of nosebleeds.

"I have a big nose, that's the problem," the Argentine said. "It's just bleeding, I don't know why."

Murray dominated the third set, breaking Del Potro in the second game en route to a 4-1 lead.

"There was a period (between the) end of the first set till the beginning of the third where he was hitting it big," Murray said. "He's got a big serve, long reach, goes for huge shots. You just have to try and find a way through that. Tactically, I've always been quite good. So I found a way through it today."

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