Last night, over 17,000 fans packed an arena in London, England, to watch Roger Federer, arguably the best tennis player ever, flirt with exit from the season ending World Tour Finals tournament. He still lost his match, but didn’t go out, because this is the group stages of the tournament, a round-robin stage. Instead, by winning the second set on a tie-break, before falling to an overall two sets to one defeat, he won a sufficient number of games to ensure his progress.
Three of the four players in the group that Federer and his conquerer, Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina, won two matches and lost one. The other player was Britain’s (or Scotland’s, to appease Scottish readers) Andy Murray. Federer won 44 games and lost 40 in his three matches, del Potro won 45 and lost 43, while Murray won 44 and lost 43, losing a heavy final set to Roger Federer. So Murray was eliminated from the tournament by a single game. It was undoubtedly a thrilling climax, and the tournament will now progress.
Interestingly enough, the 6-3 final set scoreline was about the only score by which Murray could have been knocked out – or at least, that’s what the BBC reports. Of course, a 6-2 or 6-1 scoreline for del Potro would have still put Federer and del Potro through, although 6-0 would have put Federer out. 6-4 and del Potro would be boarding the flight home this morning, same with 7-5 or 7-6.
Furthermore, for those conspiracy theorists out there, del Potro crumbled in the second set tie break from an eminently winnable position, and wimpered to defeat. A straight sets defeat for Federer and he was out. Is it beyond the realms of possibility that these two chaps contrived to engineer one of the few possible scores that ensured they both progressed?
Given Nick’s recent post on corruption in soccer, tennis is an eminently more corruptable sport than soccer. That isn’t to say soccer is clear, or tennis bent because of the different number of players engaging each other in a given match (22 plus subs and officials in soccer, 2 plus officials in tennis). It’s just to give some bait to those who like a good conspiracy theory (and hadn’t already spotted this probably fairly obvious one!).
What I’m more interested and amused about is the arena those 17,000 fans packed into. Nine years ago, to great fanfare, that same arena was opened as the Millennium Done, to general farce and ridicule. It didn’t last too long, was strongly criticised as a waste of money, and lay dormant for quite a while. It’s nice though to see that someone took on the rather obvious idea of turning it into a venue. It’s now the O2 Arena thanks to the mobile phone company’s sponsorship, and it hosts musical concerts, even an opera (Carmen next May), and now, excitingly, sports events. That London and the UK now has a venue for hosting indoor sports events to suitably large crowds (over 17,000) is very exciting, and I’d be interested to see how much public money had to be sunk into that one – my imagination is that, if we forget about the costs to develop the Dome way back, it’s probably fairly small. Or maybe I’m being naive?