Top-ranked Novak Djokovic fought past a fast-starting Roger Federer to win his second Barclay’s ATP World Tour Final Monday evening. Djokovic beat Federer in straight sets, 7(8)–7(6), 7–5 in a match that seemed to be on the verge of going to Federer at a couple of points.
The final at London’s O2 Arena was the culmination of a playoff between the ATP Tour’s top eight players, with the top two facing off for a big points bonus.
After two tough matches it was Djokovic capping his season with another win—a season in which he won the Australian open, reclaimed his number-one ranking and finished by beating a tennis legend.
“We pushed ourselves to the maximum today,” Djokovic told ESPN. “Roger, it’s a privilege and a pleasure to play against you, so congratulations for a great week. It’s been a fantastic season and I thank my team. I couldn’t have started or finished the year in a better way.”
Federer praised his opponent and accepted the loss with grace.
“Congratulations to Novak on an amazing year and tournament,” Federer said. “You’re the best. I cannot play much better than I did today so I am very pleased.”
Matchup of the Best
Only nine times has the top-ranked player won the ATP World Finals in the tournament’s 43-year history—and three times that player was Roger Federer. This year tennis fans got lucky as the top two players made it through to the final.
The Serbian champion, who won the year-end title in 2008, wanted to erase the memory of his last two meetings with Federer: Wimbledon, where Federer came back from one-set all to annihilate Djokovic, and Cincinnati, where Federer won the first set 6–0 and the second in a tie-break.
The 31-year-old Swiss was looking for his seventh ATP World Tour Finals win in eight tries.
Federer came out smoking. He had stated after beating Andy Murray the day before that the key would be to be aggressive, because if the 25-year-old Djokovic could get the older Federer running it would be a long day.
True to his word the Swiss player attacked from the opening serve with aggressive forehands at impossible angles, while Djokovic started slowly with double-faults and missed ground strokes. The Serbian player lost nine straight points before getting on the board and lost the first three games of the match.
Djokovic, down 3–1, finally found his pace and started fighting back. The top-ranked Serb tried to extend points to wear down his opponent, which didn’t always work—Federer ripped a forehand passing shot after one 23-stroke rally—but paid off enough. Federer, perhaps pushing a bit, made more errors, giving Djokovic the break back in the fifth game.
With both players warmed up, the tennis got hot, with several games going to multiple deuces and both players showing their full arsenal of shots and movement. Federer had the edge at the net but Djokovic made him run hard and miss, while hitting some amazing winners of his own, to set up a tie-break.
Here Federer nearly took the set with some amazing shots, including one which evened up the tie-breaker at six: Federer approached the net but Djokovic hit a backhand passing shot up the line. Federer turned halfway around to snag the ball as it passed him and somehow hit it back crosscourt deep to his opponent’s forehand corner.
Single spectacular shots were not enough, though. Federer missed an easy backhand down the line, then Djokovic slammed a forehand winner off a good Federer return to take the set.
Errors Add Up
Federer came out just as hard to start the second set, breaking his opponent in the opening game (which went to deuce five times) and holding serve in the second.
Djokovic found his form after only two games in the second set, and nearly broke back in the eighth game. Here Djokovic missed an easy shot into an empty court after a Federer return popped up high off the net—this point would have haunted the Serb had he not eventually won.
Next it was Federer’s turn to create haunting memories. Ahead 5–4 in the tenth game, Federer ran the score to 40–15, earning two set points. Somehow Federer managed to miss a series of shots to give the game to Djokovic, tying the match at five.
In Federer’s next service game, trailing 5–6, the Swiss master tied the score at 30-all but missed two shots to give his opponent match point.
Federer wasn’t about to give away the match with another error. He drove a ball deep into Djokovic’s backhand corner and charged the net, where Federer had had an edge all day. This time however, Djokovic uncorked an amazing shot, somehow sneaking a backhand down the line just past Federer’s racket for the win.