November 21, 2015
Roger Federer booked his place in Sunday’s final against Novak Djokovic – and was quick to aim an amusing jibe at the world number one.
The Fed may live to regret his lighthearted remark, because swift revenge for the Serb looks likely.
Djokovic is younger, has had more rest time, and is playing the better tennis this weekend. And so, even though Federer beat Novak in straight sets earlier in the week, few would predict a repeat performance.
That’s not to diminish Federer’s achievement in disposing of the dangerous Stan Wawrinka 7-5, 6-3 to reach Sunday’s showpiece.
And part of Federer may feel he has already done enough to be crowned Year-End champion, if sporting justice were at play here in London.
As he acknowledged, somewhat reluctantly, the reality of the format is very different, however. After seeing off Wawrinka, Federer explained: ‘It was a great match and I really enjoyed it. It’ll be a perfect ending if I win the final. He [Djokovic] should be knocked out by now… I’m joking… He’s played a great tournament but I’m sure I’m going to leave it all out on the court tomorrow.’
Federer came back from a potentially insurmountable disadvantage in the opening set, and the audacity of that recovery ultimately put paid to the younger man’s challenge.
Wawrinka looked in control of the first set when he managed to break Federer and eased into a 4-2 lead. His serve was so full of power and timing until that point, it was hard to see how Stan wouldn’t go on to claim the set. But he tightened needlessly, and faltered when he should have pressed home his advantage.
Federer broke back and then, just when it seemed that a tie-break beckoned, exposed some more indecision in Wawrinka’s mind just when it mattered. Roger seized the moment to claim the first set when he’d really had no right to do so.
Wawrinka squandered a marvellous opportunity to break Federer early in the second set and then paid the price yet again for feeding the forehand of his fellow Swiss. Suddenly Stan was no longer the man and instead he was staring down the barrel at 0-3, wasting break points again in that third game.
It only goes to show that the psychological aspect of this wonderful game of tennis is all-important. Wawrinka effectively beat himself, when his best tennis on the night would arguably have been enough to defeat Federer, if only he had been able to sustain it.
And that’s what gave the 34-year-old Roger the advantage over the 28-year-old Wawrinka. Federer, as usual, was more at ease with himself and more forgiving when he made mistakes.
He adapted more intelligently to the problems he encountered. Stan, on the other hand, didn’t always think things through the way he should have done, and became more easily disheartened by setbacks. At least Wawrinka saved a match point to delay the inevitable a little longer.
But in the end Federer was a run-away winner and the crowd must have left slightly disappointed that they had not been treated to the classic this match might have been. Less than an hour-and-a-half of tennis was not quite the ticket these hordes of tennis-lovers had bargained for.
All in all, there was an anti-climactic feel to semi-finals day in London. The huge crowds will hope for a better contest on Sunday. However, the way Djokovic is playing, a second miracle for Federer in the space of a week against the world number one might be too much to ask for – whatever he thinks he deserves deep down.
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