Novak Djokovic took care of business Saturday beating Roger Federer, though in much tougher fashion than many of us expected. In the semifinals of the Paris Masters, it was Federer who controlled play early, dominating Djokovic to lead by a set and a break before the Serb got on track to author a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 comeback win.
Federer began awfully strong and once he broke to start the second I thought that might be it for Novak who hadn’t yet got into gear. With the ATP Finals just around the corner and the No. 1 ranking a pipe dream, maybe conservation entered into his mind. But credit to Novak who overcame a very in-form Federer to pull through.
“The key was just to hang in there and stay with him,” said Djokovic. “I knew that he was going to be very aggressive from the start coming to the net. He used his opportunities really well. He was very efficient at the net. Then I tried to decrease the number of unforced errors and step in when it’s needed. I did pretty well in the second and the third.”
Federer, who was playing Djokovic for the first time this year, certainly gave some much-needed hope to his fan base going forward. And the fine form should carryover into London.
“I was pretty happy with my level of play,” said Federer. “I wish I could have kept it up for a bit longer and put him under pressure, but Novak battled well to stay in the match in the second set and the third set. I had my chances in the second and third sets. Disappointed right now, but overall it was a good week for me.”
The two will meet again on Tuesday in round robin Group B play at the ATP Finals in London.
While Djokovic got it done, Rafael Nadal didn’t. Defending champion David Ferrer snapped a nine-match losing streak to his countryman with a very impressive 6-3, 7-5 victory.
Might Nadal have had an eye on next week? Might Nadal not have wanted to play another grinding, knee-breaking match against Djokovic? Both reasonable theories but credit to Ferrer who, like Federer, has put together a couple of good weeks of tennis after a poor summer.
“I’m very happy. I’m in the final again in Paris Bercy,” said Ferrer who’s playing in his third straight tournament final, all indoors. “It was a very good match for me. I played maybe my best match this season. I was very aggressive with my forehand and with my shots.”
“Paris is very special for me. I made my first final of a Grand Slam in Roland Garros; last year I won my first Masters 1000 title; now I’m in the final again in Paris.”
Rafa, who’ll get his rematch against David on Tuesday, acknowledged he wasn’t in top form. “I need to move quicker. I was slow,” Nadal said. “I felt that I [was] always a little bit late on the ball. David, he’s quick and he plays inside the court and he puts you pressure on you all the time. If I move [better], I’m going to have the chance to hit the ball quicker and play with [fewer] mistakes.”
Nadal’s loss also leaves the door just slightly open for Djokovic to steal the No. 1 ranking. Novak will have to run the table – win all remaining matches including both Davis Cup singles – and that begins tomorrow.
As for Rafa, his indoor struggles continue – just two of his 60 titles have been won under a roof. Luckily, he’s got a great group in London with Stan, Tomas and David so I think he’ll do fine. But maybe the road miles on the year are once again catching up with him late in the season.
Novak Djokovic v David Ferrer
It’s not the final I would have picked at the start of the week (Tsonga v Del Potro), but it’s a good one. Both guys are former champions and both are on nice runs this fall. Novak’s won his last 16, Ferrer’s been a winner in 11 of his last 13 reaching three straight finals.
But the surface, the matchup, the motivation and the numbers all point Novak’s way. Djokovic leads the 31-year-old 10-5 including wins in their last four. But Ferrer did beat Novak indoors at the 2011 finals and also at the 2007 Masters Cup.
“It’s going to be a very difficult match,” said Ferrer. “I need to play very good to win tomorrow. I think too I have to play similar like today and take my chance if I will have one chance.”
While I don’t give Ferrer much of a chance, if Novak comes out a little flat like he looked to be today someone like Ferrer can take full advantage. Novak will also need to get that backhand back online as well. And I’m sure David is on an emotional high after beating Rafa so he’s in some ways playing with house money tomorrow. The pressure is off. But it shouldn’t matter in the last regular season match of the year.
The pick: Djokovic in two
Tennis Channel will have the match live at 9am ET. (With daylight savings it might be 10am?)
SUNDAY PARIS SCHEDULE
COURT CENTRAL start 12:15 pm
 B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) vs  A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA)
Not Before 3:00 pm
 D Ferrer (ESP) vs  N Djokovic (SRB)
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