Roger Federer cancelled his practice on Monday ahead of a match he has to win on Tuesday night to get his campaign back on track at the Nitto ATP Finals, and an unhappy week so far was not made any better when he received an unusual dose of criticism from French player Julien Benneteau.
Benneteau cited Federer's matches at the past two Australian Opens as evidence, suggesting the Swiss star was granted his preference to play in the evening session to avoid the blistering Melbourne heat.
The likes of Laver Cup, Davis Cup, Craig Tiley and Tennis Australia, Nick Kyrgios and his Laver Cup appearance fee, court/stadium scheduling and more came into play in that conversation.
Having lost his opening round-robin match to Kei Nishikori, the 20-time Grand Slam champion was still some way from his fluent best but dropped just six points on serve and took advantage of a wayward display from Thiem to break twice in both sets. Following his defeat on Monday Cilic said of January's final: 'Night matches are always something the tournament wants him (Federer) to play.
"If he doesn't have it, who is going to have it. People want to see him play on the centre court, and they want to see him play in the best hours, which is 7.30 at night in the Rod Laver Arena", the Serbian added. I played some very good tennis today. You don't feel like you are on the knife's edge here, like in another tournament, where if you're struggling in the first round, you know if you don't get your act together, you're home in 30 minutes. It's all good. I've had that problem for 20 years, in a good way. And I don't think there's a tournament director in the world who's not going to take those factors into account when setting the schedule.
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Federer pointed out that many players have requests and sometimes the tournametn obliges and sometimes they don't, which has been the case with Federer as well."Yes, sometimes we have our say". "I just wanted to show to myself and all the spectators the real Dominic Thiem". "For me‚ I think it was opposite‚" said Nishikori. We put significant resources into looking after all of them and making the Australian Open, and Melbourne, one of their very favourite places to be.
It means the 37-year-old faces an uphill battle to reach the semi-finals for the 15th time and another straight sets defeat by Austria's Dominic Thiem on Tuesday could prove terminal.
The Austrian gave himself a lifeline for the competition, despite losing his first two matches, and could still make the semi-finals - only if Kevin Anderson beats Roger Federer in two sets later tonight and the Swiss wins fewer than five games. This is what I hope to do.
Federer will now play the runner-up of Group Gustavo Kuerten, with Anderson taking on the victor. It was disappointing but it happens.
Federer, who is chasing a 100th ATP Tour title, started to play more relaxed and seemed content with simply keeping the ball in play and waiting for mistakes. "That's a massive privilege, I believe, that a tennis player has".