ATP World Tour Finals Roger Federer Beats Novak Djokovic Five Things


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Roger Federer’s 7-5, 6-2 defeat of Novak Djokovic in the Stan Smith round robin group of the ATP World Tour Finals has made what looked to be a foregone conclusion -Djokovic’s march to the title- suddenly a touch unpredictable. The Tennis Review looks at five of the more interesting things about a result which saw a man who may not be able to control time in terms of how long he has left on the court demonstrate he is very capable of controlling time while he is still competing on it. 

Federer defied the odds to defeat  Djokovic on one of the tour’s slowest courts

The odds were not in Federer’s favor going into the match- Djokovic was on a 23 match winning streak, had won their most recent slow hard court matches, and Federer had suffered a disappointing loss to John Isner in the round of sixteen in Paris-Bercy leaving him with a lack of match practice in his rival’s most successful stretch of the season.

But while few expected Federer to win, no one thought it was  impossible- slow courts complement Federer’s attacking game by giving him time to set up his approach and at the age of 34 that extra bit of time comes in handy for the former champion.

Federer made great use of that time- he looked as light on his feet as he has all season- stepping into the court, moving Djokovic around, and keeping him guessing with a mix of spins and slice, the latter really troubling Djokovic as he struggled to chase down Federer’s sliced shots and pick them up with any interest.

That control of the court, and of Djokovic, and the lack of rhythm he imposed on the Serbian, allowed Federer’s talents to flourish- that drop volley to win the set point in set one, and another one to break in the second were the perfect plays on big points, and produced more errors of Djokovic- 22 in total- than we are used to seeing from the world no.1 in strings of matches.

Federer also timed to perfection the shot he had the most control over- the serve. The slow hard courts really allow Djokovic to negate his opponent’s service weapons, but Federer rarely let Djokovic get his racket on the ball.

The Swiss won 75 % of his first serves (delivered 67% in total), succeeded in winning 67% on his second serve, and only faced three break points, losing one of them.

Federer returned well, too, earning 8 break points and converting 4  of them- that success, he said post match, down to his stepping in on the return, and feeling confident.

Federer the second greatest clay courter of the last decade, also displayed his underrated defensive skills, going toe to toe with Djokovic, and being patient, not trying to end every point as soon as possible, but willing to take on and break down Djokovic’s own strengths no matter how long it took.

Time- Federer played like he had plenty of it in a match which did not last long at all- Federer got the job done quickly, in jut under 78 minutes.

Incidentally, Federer has won in straight sets the last four times he has beaten Djokovic in best of three, the Swiss’ quick of the mark ambushes deflating Djokovic quickly and leaving him little time to blow himself up to full confidence and get the match back on his terms.

Federer inflicted on Djokovic his first loss indoors since 2012

Winning indoors on his terms is something Djokovic is very used to- you have to go all the way back to the round of 32 of the 2012 BNP Paribas Masters to track down the last time Djokovic lost indoors when Sam Querrey defeated him in three.

Since that shock lossDjokovic had put together a 31 match winning streak on indoor hard, including going undefeated at the O2 in his last 16 matches, before Federer put an end to his formidable streak.

The Swiss ended another Djokovic streak, too- his 23 match winning one going all the way back to the Cincinnati Open final when Federer beat him, again in straight sets.

Federer now leads the head to head 22-21

Had Djokovic won his 43rd encounter with Federer, he would have led the head to head for the first time in his rivalry with Federer.

Djokovic has come close to getting that edge before- he was a match away at Cincinnati- but was overwhelmed in straights on that day, too.

Either Djokovic just cannot quite seem to get his head around the fact he could lead arguably the greatest player of all time in their rivalry, or Federer is super-motivated to stop him. Most likely, it is somewhere in the middle.

Federer has now qualified for his 13th ATP World Tour Semi-finals

That stat tells you all you need to know about Federer- not only does he have remarkable longevity, but he is still at the top of the game in his mid thirties, a situation that does not look like changing anytime soon.

Despite setting slam tally and weeks at no.1  records, Federer is still hard at work on his legacy- however close Djokovic and future greats get to his slam tally, they are going to have to work just as hard to match his number of years at the top of the game.

If Nishikori defeats Federer then Djokovic might not qualify

If this match has done anything, it has injected some much needed unpredictability into the tournament, one that did no favors for the men’s game last season.

Djokovic came in as the heavy favorite, but now, after a straight sets loss to Federer, his qualification to the semi-finals hangs in the balance.

In his next match the world no.1 will face Tomas Berdych, who can produce his best tennis versus him on occasion, as seen a couple of weeks ago in Paris.

Meanwhile, Federer will come up against Nishikori who has beaten him twice, on the slow hard courts of Miami (2014), and the fast slow courts of Madrid (2013) and who played well to defeat Berdych in the event’s only three setter so far.

If Nishikori beats Federer, and Djokovic  loses easily to Berdych, then Djokovic might not qualify for the last four- a scenario that was the stuff of make believe before Federer’s win over the world No.1.

While Djokovic falling apart after this one defeat is unlikely- look how he responded to another heavy loss to an attacking player on a slow court versus Wawrinka at Roland Garros– the fact the possibility of his not winning the trophy is a talking point, after a worryingly one sided opening win, and that the event has been brought to life with a dramatic injection of competition, is a much welcome and very well-timed boost to the tournament.

Commentary by Christian Deverille.

What did you think was the most interesting thing about the match? Please share with us in the comments box below.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.
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