London: Roger Federer was handed the Sunday night prime time slot for the opening match of his 16th ATP Finals but fluffed his lines in an error-strewn 6-7(4-7), 3-6 defeat by Kei Nishikori.
After Kevin Anderson had beaten Dominic Thiem in the day’s supporting act, the crowds packed into the O2 Arena and settled in for another Federer masterclass.
What they got instead were 34 unforced errors flying off the Swiss great’s frame as his timing fell apart, and the sight of a tetchy Federer falling out with the umpire.
Having dug in early on to stay with Federer, Nishikori ended up running away with the match to inflict a first straight sets defeat in the ATP Finals round-robin stages on the 20-time Grand Slam champion.
To sum up Federer’s night, he received a warning from umpire Damian Steiner in the 12th game of the opening set when he bashed a ball into the crowd.
Federer will face Thiem, who was outplayed by Anderson 3-6, 6-7(10-12), in a match Tuesday he will need to win to revive his hopes of reaching the semifinals of the event for a 15th time.
Wimbledon runner-up Anderson was arguably the day’s most impressive performer as he became the first South African since Wayne Ferreira in 1995 to qualify for the ATP Finals.