November 21, 2015
Novak Djokovic looks set to finish the year in stunning style, after coming up with a semi-final performance that saw him return to his very best when it mattered.
Poor Rafael Nadal, who has had such a good World Tour Finals, hardly seemed to know what had hit him as Djokovic strolled into a fifteenth consecutive final.
The world’s greatest player made it look so easy right from the start. Apart from a little early pressure in his very first service game, Djokovic rarely looked flustered as he simply took Nadal apart.
The scoreline of 6-3, 6-3 reflected the Serb’s dominance and an incredible year for him. He also levelled his overall head-to-head with Nadal at 23-23, to add to his personal satisfaction.
Now Novak will face either Roger Federer or Stan Wawrinka in the final tomorrow. On this sort of form – despite Federer’s victory over Djokovic earlier in the tournament – it is hard to see how the world number one will be robbed of the title.
One devastating forehand after another reduced Rafa to virtual spectator as he failed to hold his own serve in the second game and soon trailed 0-3. In that first set, at least, there was no way back for the Spaniard.
And it seemed remarkable that a resurgent player who had crushed the likes of Andy Murray earlier in the week was struggling for any kind of answers against Djokovic.
The crowd, which had given both players such a tremendous welcome, began to fall silent as Novak marched relentlessly on. Only a few backhand failures reminded us that he was human at all. And he closed out the opening set even before the match had really caught fire.
Ever the fighter, Nadal summoned all his power and spirit to hold in the first game of the second set. Rafa continued to serve impressively as he battled to gain some sort of foothold. But in the fifth game he came unstuck again, largely due to Novak’s remarkable defensive game and nagging precision.
Once he had achieved the vital breakthrough, Djokovic seemed to play well within himself as he continued to give a master-class in how every part of the game should be played. He broke again to seal the deal.
In truth, the occasion lacked the magic of Wimbledon. And the best-of-three-sets format means that even a big match like this one can be over almost before it has begun in earnest.
The O2 crowds will hope for better contests on Saturday evening and on Sunday. But they were in the presence of tennis greatness in London – and the name of that greatness was Novak Djokovic.
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