Roger Federer proved once again that age is just a number. Today the 34-year-old scored his third win this year over Novak Djokovic breaking the top player in the world four times to cruise 7-5, 6-2 in the round robin of the year-end ATP Finals.
“You have those days as well when you are not feeling your best, not even close to the best,” Djokovic said after the 77-minute match. “Credit to Roger for mixing up the pace, giving me always a different ball. He used the slice and spin very wisely. He served very efficiently. I made a lot of unforced errors. Just handed him the win, especially in the second set.”
The two traded early breaks but Federer, thanks to this exceptional serve and return, was the better man on the day. He broke Djokovic at 6-5 in the first and then twice in the second set.
“Winning the first set clearly in a match like this gives you the upper hand,” said Federer. “It was important to strike again as quick as possible in the second set, and I did.
I didn’t think I mixed it up that crazy, to be honest,” Federer added. “I didn’t play any insane tactics. It was pretty straightforward, in a way I’ve played him many times in the past. My game is to mix it up, change up the spins. His game is to press you away. I think we both played our regular game, and it was a good outcome for me tonight.”
Djokovic finished with just 12 winners, 22 unforced. He won just 51% of his first serve points.
“The court is playing a little bit slower than maybe the US Open or Cincinnati, the last couple times we played against each other,” Djokovic said. “He tactically played well. Undoubtedly, he was the better player on the court. But I think I also allowed him to play and penetrate through the ball and dictate the tempo from the baseline.
“I didn’t have this follow-through on my shots, no depth honestly, many mistakes. Basically, if you play this way against Roger, you have no chance.”
The win puts Federer into the semifinals. Djokovic will now face Tomas Berdych on Thursday.
“This is the last week of the year. Obviously, it’s been a long season. But I need to push myself mentally, physically, emotionally as far as I can basically in this tournament,” Djokovic said. “I have another group-stage match and I need to win it to get through.
“The day that I have between the two matches will allow me to reflect on this match with my team, work on things that didn’t go the way I wanted them to go.”
The loss for Djokovic snapped several streaks. The Serb had won 38 straight matches indoors, 23 straight overall and had won his last 15 matches at the ATP Finals.
Djokovic was also trying to have the series lead over Federer for the first time. Instead, Federer moves ahead 22-21 and won’t fall behind Djokovic this year.
Federer is now 2-0 thus far and he’s into the semifinals for a 7th straight year, 13 of 14 times he’s played.
Earlier Kei Nishikori kept his semifinal hopes alive beating Tomas Berdych 7-5, 3-6, 6-3. Berdych held break chances early in the third but couldn’t convert.
“That was a really big point,” said Nishikori. “He had three, four shots that he went really aggressive. I was on the defence all the time. I mean, [the] last shot, I kind of went for it, closed my eyes. [I] was a little bit lucky I made that shot.”
Berdych falls to 1-4 against Nishikori and now must beat Djokovic on Thursday to have any hope of making it to the weekend.
“I was playing very good in the second set,” said Berdych. “I was playing well in the third. I was the one having a first chance, having a break point in the third set. [I] had a good rally, had a good position to finish the ball, but I just didn’t make it. Then he took his chance. He broke me next game.”
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