November 13, 2019
Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will do battle in yet another delicious, winner-takes-all showdown in London.
And we have the brilliance of Dominic Thiem to thank for making this one even more important than it would otherwise have been.
The Austrian’s dramatic win over Djokovic leaves the two titans with everything to play for – and plenty to lose.
How lucky are we? Just months after that incredible Roger v Novak Wimbledon final, we have an encore!
Of course, their latest knock-out contest can’t quite be a repeat of their five-set summer thriller.
That drama would be impossible to replicate. Not least due to the best-of-three, shortened format at the ATP Tour Finals.
And let’s not forget, this clash between two all-time-greats of our game also comes indoors at the end of a long season.
These legendary veterans are squeezing out every last drop of energy they have before a well-earned rest.
That won’t stop old rivals from trying to knock lumps out of each other. They will use any ruthless means they can, from killer drop-shots to withering angles of serve.
But maybe the gruelling schedule is part of the reason why Alexander Zverev and Grigor Dimitrov have been able to step up to claim ATP glory in the last two years.
Let that take nothing away from what we have already seen in London – and what lies ahead.
What is effectively a Federer v Djokovic “quarter-final” is going to be genuinely exciting under the lights. And it is already capturing the imagination of the tennis world.
What a prospect! The fans are sure to raise the roof with so much on the line. The atmosphere will be electric.
Dominic Thiem’s pulsating victories over both players have sent him into the semi-finals for the first time.
That means Federer and Djokovic must fight it out to join Thiem – and the loser goes home.
Domi’s 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) win over Djokovic was even described by Novak as ‘phenomenal.’
It came just days after Thiem’s girlfriend, Kiki Mladenovic won the Fed Cup for France. It looks as though the loving couple are inspiring each other to greater heights.
When Thiem fell to the floor after beating Novak and lay there trying to take it all in, he had so much to celebrate.
How many players can say they have broken Djokovic to love? Edged him in every department?
And the 26-year-old fired some 51 winners to underline his increasing confidence on every surface.
Federer also succumbed to Thiem in his opener. But he has since beaten Matteo Berrettini to give himself a chance.
So now no one in the tennis world can wait until Thursday to see whether Roger or Novak will progress.
Djokovic usually has the psychological edge over Federer. He is desperate to end the year as world number one.
But Novak looked slightly less than his usual ruthless self against Thiem. Mentally there were times when he appeared jaded.
Does that allow Roger more than a glimmer of hope? Make no mistake, Federer will also have to raise his game if he wants to gain some kind of revenge for Wimbledon.
Motivation on both sides will be high.
In theory, Djokovic should find his killer touch just in time to stay in the fight to win the Tour Finals.
But what has theory mattered so far? The Big Three have all lost already. Sascha Zverev showed why he is reigning champion when he defeated Rafael Nadal.
The next generation of tennis greats are knocking hard on the door right now.
They are starting to show signs that they might be ready to steal some of the limelight next year.
But so far the Grand Slams have proved to be a very different environment. On the biggest stage of all Djokovic, Federer and Nadal have continued to dominate.
We can’t wait for the 2020 Slams. Most of all, we can’t wait for Wimbledon 2020.
That won’t stop us from enjoying the year-end finals along with every other tennis-loving sports fan. What a fantastic box of surprises this tournament has provided so far!