US Open Final Preview Novak Djokovic Vs Roger Federer Who Will Win?
The 2015 US Open men’s final serves up the 42nd career meeting between world No.1 Novak Djokovic and No.2 Roger Federer, and their second Grand Slam final in a row. The Tennis Review previews the action and predicts the winner.
History at the Open:
Roger Federer is a five time US Open Champion (2004-8), a one-time runner-up (2009), and a three-time semi-finalist (2010, 2011, 2014).
Novak Djokovic is the 2011 Champion and a four time runner-up (2007, 2010, 2012, 2013).
Head to head:
Federer leads the head to head by a whisker- 21-20.
Since 20014, Djokovic leads 6-5 and has won the majority of their finals. The Serbian was victorious in finals at Wimbledon ’14 and ’15, Indian Wells ’14 and ’15, Rome ’15, and WTF’14.
Federer, though, has won their fast court matches including a straight wins in the Cincinnati final a few weeks back, the Dubai final this season, and the semis in Dubai ’14, Monte Carlo ’14 and Shanghai ’14.
Federer leads their US Open head to head 3-2 but has lost the last meetings (2010, 2011) after holding match points. Those losses, however, came when Federer was more inclined to take on Djokovic from the back of the court than executing the attacking game he commits to nowadays.
What’s at stake?
Federer, aged 34, might not have too many more chances to break his own Grand Slam tally of 17. Another slam, and at his age, would put an end to any Greatest of all Time debates and guarantee him that status.
Djokovic would increase his grand slam tally to ten and push him closer to Rafael Nadal who has 14. The title would also cut his US Open winner to runner-up ratio from 1-4 to a more respectable 2-4.
Form coming in:
Federer has not dropped a set on his way to the final- the first time he has reached a US Open final without doing so. However, his most dangerous opponent, Philipp Kohlschreiber, underperformed in their third round match, and the Swiss has had favourable hard court career head to heads versus his other opponents.
Federer also won the Cincinnati warm up title without being broken and has been broken just twice this US Open, both times by Kohlschreiber in the third set of their contest, a set in which he was sub-par but was let off the hook by his rival.
Federer goes into the final after beating Stan Wawrinka in the semis 6-4, 6-3, 6-1. The Swiss had to defend well in that match against the aggressive fifth seed, and did so impressively, which will give him some much needed preparation for the running he will have to do against Djokovic.
Djokovic has been patchy this US Open Series. He lost in the Montreal and Cincinnati finals and has dropped sets this US Open to Agut and Lopez.
Gauging his form from his semi-final is hard as his opponent Marin Cilic was injured. But what we do know from that match is that Djokovic did seem to have his baseline game well-grooved, is keeping his unforced error count remarkably low, and, from the manner in which he handled his opponent’s injured state, is feeling very calm and focused.
While he has not played his best tennis these last few weeks, and deco-turf is his weakest surface, Djokovic has a habit, since pairing with Boris Becker, of raising his game in Slam finals.
Federer has also not faced anyone like Djokovic so far in the tournament. The Swiss has been hitting winners all tournament but against players with much less defensive skill than the world No.1.
Djokovic is going to make Federer hit two, three, even four winners to end rallies and that kind of pressure could be too much for Federer in a best of five sets match.
Beating Djokovic in a best of five match in a slam is a different task to getting the better of him in best of three at an ATP 1000 or 500. Djokovic is better than anyone at seeing through his opponent’s best patches of play and then raising his own game the second they show any weaknesses and best of fives give him even more time to work his way into a match against a redlining opponent.
Federer may be playing great tennis, arguably his best at the Open since 2009, but can he sustain it over three to five sets? Because against Djokovic in the US Open final he will have to.
Federer was also playing some sterling tennis at Wimbledon and after his remarkable semi-final win over Andy Murray many thought he would win his 18th Slam. But Djokovic brought out the worst of him in the final, breaking his strengths down, exploiting his weaknesses and running away with the third and fourth sets.
Federer could win if:
The Swiss needs everything to go his way if he is to win this match. Some of those things he can control such as his first serve or his attacking strategy, and some of them he cannot, such as Djokovic’s level and the weather, which looks to be damp and humid, the kind of conditions that will make the balls heavier thus helping Djokovic more than they will Federer.
Looking at factors Federer can control, the Swiss has to have a first serve percentage in the high 60s to mid 70s. Djokovic is the best returner in the game and if Federer’s percentages drop, Djokovic’s chances increase. Federer will also need to go for it on the second serve as it would be better for him to lose the point on a double fault than due to a Djokovic confidence boosting return winner.
Federer has to be 100 % aggressive from the baseline, too, stepping inside it at the first chance and not getting into long rallies of more than seven shots otherwise Djokovic will find his rhythm and force him into error. He also has to take risks on the return and unleash the SABR which will get the crowd going, a crowd eager to give Federer their full support in his quest for a history making 18th slam.
Federer has to win the first and second sets, and if he drops the second then he has to win the third. If this match goes into a fourth set, he might be able to raise his game and make a final push, but if it goes into the fifth, then his chances decrease dramatically as the match goes on into what could be a damp evening with heavier balls.
Prediction: If Federer brings and sustains his best fast hard court tennis, and if the conditions allow him to hit through the court, and Djokovic, then just as Wawrinka did to Djokovic in the French Open final, he could overwhelm the world No.1.
But the likely scenario that will play out is an all too familiar one- Djokovic will be steady in Federer’s best patches, wait for the moment the Swiss’ level drops , and then unleash his A game to win in four sets.
Commentary by Christian Deverille.
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