November 3, 2018
Novak Djokovic was expected to win. But not like this.
‘It really was a spectacular match and one of the best I have played against Roger in my career,’ said a triumphant Djokovic afterwards.
So much credit must go to Roger Federer for his sheer determination. That’s what helped to make the match so great.
The Swiss master was outclassed for long periods in the first set. There was much mirth on social media as Federer saved his seventh break point.
Yet still, he stayed level with the aggressor.
And then there was that amazing reflex shot. The Djokovic forehand struck the net cord. Roger flung his racquet up in a split second…and produced a ridiculous killer cross-court volley.
Was it luck? Who knows? Federer seemed to throw his hands up half in apology, half in triumph.
It was a wonderful moment of tennis theatre, one of many.
How long could Federer keep Djokovic out, we wondered?
In the final analysis, Federer was never broken.
It took a protracted tie-break for Djokovic to give himself a lead. The shoot-out ended 8-6 in his favour.
And then, potentially fatally, Djokovic relaxed. Don’t get me wrong, he was confident and effective in most of that relaxation.
But Roger Federer has been around a long time. He knows how to commit a smash-and-grab robbery when it is needed.
And in the twelfth game of that second set, Djokovic stuttered. Just for a couple of moments. That was as much of an invitation as Federer needed.
Suddenly the world’s most decorated player was level, winning that second set 7-5. He had struggled for so much of it against Djokovic. No matter.
Djokovic was seriously frustrated. Yet he more than held his own in the decider. Novak should have been serving for the set at 5-4. Instead, Federer was one game from victory.
More saved break points, too much for Djokovic to bear. He threw and broke his racquet. There was even a suggestion he should have been disqualified.
Ridiculous. But was he about to unravel?
Not a bit of it. Djokovic forced the deciding tie-break, lost the first point…and then went into overdrive.
At one point Roger was 1-6 down. Blitzed by Novak’s tactical brilliance and his own self-doubt in the biggest moments against the Serb.
That’s the way it has been for a while. So it was on this magical night.
Novak won 7-6 (8-6), 5-7, 7-6 (7-3).
So Djokovic stretched his unbeaten run to 22 matches. Four in a row against Roger.
But Federer gained so much fresh admiration for the way he so nearly pulled off the upset.
Once again, we must draw breath and express our astonishment. How many more epics can two or three of the world’s greatest produce?
How lucky are we? Words simply cannot describe the level of tennis and drama we enjoy every month in this, the golden era.
Well done Novak. Awesome once more. But well done Federer too. Closer to 40 than 30.
Yet one game away from downing the world’s greatest player today.
Now that really is something. But let’s face it. Everything about the Big Three is mind-blowing.
Maybe we will only fully realise when they are gone.
By Mark Ryan for WDH.