That was not a good performance from Roger Federer. But credit to Novak Djokovic for playing a significant role in Fed’s level. In relatively comfortable fashion the Serb took down Federer in his backyard of Basel today 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 to win his fourth title of the season.
The loss for Federer was his first in 20 matches in Basel where he was champion the last three years. But Djokovic, who was lucky just to be in the title bout after saving three matchpoints in a win yesterday over Radek Stepanek, was simply the better man, the better player today.
Djokovic grabbed the first set by saving five break points in an epic 24 minute game.
Federer recovered a break and strengthened his play in the second, but Novak quickly regained the momentum in the third jumping out to a 4-0 lead.
An error-prone Federer, who had not dropped a set or lost a service game on his way to the final, was broken four times and his forehand really let him down as he lost a final for the third time this season, following defeats at the Australian and U.S. Open. Federer converted just 2 of 11 break chances.
Novak has now won three of five meetings from Federer this year, but the Swiss still leads overall 9-5.
But for Federer it has to be a tough loss, a loss I admit I did not see coming. Losing to Djokovic is bad, losing to Djokovic in Switzerland is worse. And once again we see Federer struggling in deciding sets. We saw it at the US Open in the fifth against Del Potro and of course earlier in the year and during the second half of 2008. It seems on hardcourts he becomes very vulnerable in final sets and this problem is not going away. (I wonder if a year-end No. 1 has ever lost more final sets than he wins?)
For Novak, clearly one of his biggest and best wins of his career. By his own admission Djokovic was having a good week, but what a way to finish. Let’s see if he can ride the confidence from beating Federer in Switzerland to bigger and better things.
No surprises in Valencia as Andy Murray won his ATP-best sixth title of the year with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over unseeded Russian Mikhail Youzhny. Murray 14th career title lifts the Scot to a perfect 12-0 mark indoors this season, and that’s a good sign with the London championships on the horizon.
As for the No. 1 race, with a missed title in Basel Federer’s lead over Nadal is around 1,100 points heading into two major events, Paris (worth 1,000 pts) and London (worth 1,500 pts). And if needed, Nadal can collect extra points at the Davis Cup. So Federer can salt away the race in Paris, but Nadal can make up a lot of ground if he plays well and really put the pressure on Federer in London.
Federer, Djokovic, Murray and Rafael Nadal will all be competing this week in the Paris Indoors, the final ATP event of the regular season.
Djokovic: “It is definitely a big achievement to beat Roger in his home city and country. He had a huge amount of pressure on him to win today. I hope the crowd enjoyed it, I think we played a great match. I am really, really satisfied with this week.
“I started feeling really tense in the last game of the first set. He had a lot of break points and I had a lot of set points. It was funny for the crowd to guess who would win the game. I think it was the turning point, as once I won the set I started to feel better and more confident.
“Nothing is easy, believe me, against Roger. I knew he was going to try to come back at any time. Although I was two breaks up [in the third set], he had some break points but I served well at the key moments.”
Federer: “I think the lack of opportunities was the problem today. I missed too many chances throughout the match. Novak played well and make it tough for me to get chances, but when I had them he also played well.
“I think I could have played a bit better from the baseline, a bit more aggressive. I was maybe lacking a bit of timing on my backhand side, but it was still a good tournament for me. I think with a few adjustments I could have done better, but I’m still happy.
“I have won this tournament three times; nobody can take that away from me. That is why I am perhaps a little bit more relaxed, having lost today, even though I would have liked to have won. It is such a special place, playing in front of so many people I know. Also, playing in this part of Switzerland, it is special to be here. I will be back next year, hopefully better and stronger.
“We have some exciting weeks ahead of us, for all the players. I won Roland Garros in the summer, now I return to Paris. Of course having won Wimbledon, I will return to London. It will be interesting to see how the crowds will be, as I have never gone back to Paris as the Roland Garros champion. I am feeling well and mentally fresh. I am in the mood to do well there.”
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