May 17, 2015
Novak Djokovic produced a breathtaking performance to defeat the formidable Roger Federer with surprising ease in Rome, taking the Italian title for the fourth time with a commanding 6-4, 6-3 victory.
‘Grazie ancora Roma,’ Novak wrote on a camera before accepting yet another trophy.
Federer only had one significant chance, the opportunity to break at 4-4 in the first set. But Novak held his nerve to win a bruising baseline rally when Roger might have taken charge.
Let off the hook, Djokovic promptly cooked up some pressure of his own.
A scintillating return helped Djokovic to break, and there was no mistake as he served out the first set.
The Roman crowd and worldwide television audience were willing Roger to conjure a comeback in the bright Italian sunshine. Unfortunately for the elegant Swiss, the sporting gods weren’t listening this time around, and Novak was able to run riot.
Federer was overwhelmed by the relentless, aggressive precision he faced, and inevitably he began to falter. Some shots flew too low and found the net, others were uncharacteristically misjudged, and at one point it looked as though Roger might even face a dreaded second-set bagel.
However, instead of falling 0-4 behind, Federer dug deep to find three huge serves and hit back at 1-3. Again we wondered whether the world’s favourite player could summon enough of the old magic to take this much-anticipated final into a third set. He was brave enough to find some stunning winners.
In truth, Federer would have had to be super-human to stop the world number one in this sort of form, though. The assault from Djokovic found new momentum as he surged to a 4-1 lead to close in on the title.
One of Novak’s wrap-around forehand rockets on the run had the crowd gasping audibly, as we all decided we might just as well sit back and enjoy the sheer brilliance of the man in charge.
Like the all-time-great he is, Federer battled gamely. But his baseline game was error-strewn and the Djokovic serve remained imperious.
You have to admire the near-perfection Novak is reaching, and all in good time for Roland Garros too.
It’s hard to escape the feeling that Djokovic will complete his set of Slams in Paris in a few weeks’ time, though Andy Murray and Rafa Nadal may yet have something to say about that.
Federer admitted: ‘It’s been a wonderful week and a good busy year so far but Novak was too strong today. Congratulations Novak and keep it up!’
Djokovic said later: ‘It’s always a pleasure to play a great match against Roger, and every year you the fans give me special feelings here. I feel so at home and this has already been one of the best years of my life. Who knows what will happen at Roland Garros?’
Who knows indeed. We might have a pretty good idea, though, especially if Novak plays like this.