ATP World Tour Finals Day 4
Novak Djokovic looked unbeatable as he destroyed Stan Wawrinka 6-3, 6-0 to show why nobody does it better. One more win will confirm his status as year-end world number one.
It was exhibition stuff from a man approaching the height of his powers, at peace with himself, but causing all kinds of turmoil in his opponents. Wawrinka, who won only seven points in the second-set bagel, had the air of a man who knew that he will never be in the same league as Djokovic, despite the odd success.
What we witnessed here was an indication that tennis can be taken to yet another level, just when we thought no greater excellence was possible. The one-sided nature of the contest was all the more shocking given what had gone before. They had started as near-equals, at least that’s the way it seemed. By the end, all Stan could do was smile in embarrassment.
Djokovic admitted: ”He started off pretty well but after that I managed to get back in, go through my shots and he made a lot of unforced errors. I focused on what I needed to do and I achieved that very well.’
Novak has been blessed with an even greater mental strength in recent weeks. He explained: ‘It’s been a different kind of feeling on court since I became a father, a different motivation and I hope my son can follow me at events like this in years to come. We all have dreams and aspirations that we hope we can achieve one day. Tennis was always one of the most important things in my life. Thank you to everyone for coming tonight.’
For Wawrinka, it was thank you and goodnight before he had time to find his rhythm. The contrast was so marked because he seemed to have rediscovered his best tennis in his opening match at the O2.
Fans had further reason to believe they were in for a scintillating contest when Djokovic started slowly. But it takes extraordinary self-belief to maintain any kind of consistent assault on Novak’s renowned defences. Shots that would be certain winners against other player are returned by Djokovic with interest. That can be soul-destroying, particularly after you have been given an early glimmer of hope.
Wawrinka looked fearless in the opening exchanges and pressured the world number one sufficiently to provoke two unforced errors, leading to a surprising break in the opening game. Similar defiance saw Wawrinka hold his first service game too – but that’s where his confidence began to evaporate.
Djokovic stepped up to take the next five games, breaking the Swiss twice in the process. Stan the Man took a third, consolation game – his last of the match – before Novak wrapped up the first set with ease. Suddenly it was almost as though the Serb had never been in any kind of trouble early on at all.
Even Wawrinka applauded his opponent’s delicate cross-court winner in the second game of the second set. When you are being outclassed by a genius, what else can you do? The crowd rose to its feet to try to inspire Wawrinka into some kind of comeback. We all knew it was nothing more than wishful thinking.
Earlier Tomas Berdych beat Marin Cilic 6-3, 6-1 to keep his hopes alive after being savaged by Wawrinka in his first match. ‘This was about winning and getting through,’ said Berdych, who is still far from where he wants to be, since Djokovic is his last group opponent. But at least he has more chance of progressing than Cilic, the US Open champion who has struggled to find any kind of form since his victorious fortnight at Flushing Meadows.
Last words must go to Djokovic. They form a simple description, yet one that perfectly conveys just what a nightmare Novak must be to play against. ‘I stayed calm. I played some high balls, played some slice, stepped in, short, long, not allowing him to have any rhythm. Just get him out of the comfort zone. Then he makes unforced errors. I tried to be aggressive on the second service return. Then I’m dictating. Then I’m comfortable. It’s a very mental game. I give myself ten out of ten for my first two matches here. It can’t get any better than this.’
The frightening thing is, it probably can. For Novak’s opponents, that signals one horror story after another for the foreseeable future. Anyone fancy taking on the world’s greatest player? No? Then come and watch him in action at Wimbledon 2015 instead. It might just be the most amazing thing you ever see in the world of sports.