November 22, 2015
Novak Djokovic gained sweet revenge for the defeat inflicted on him by Roger Federer earlier in the tournament, emerging a comfortable 6-3, 6-4 winner in the final showdown in London.
It was Novak’s fourth World Tour Finals title in succession, his fifth in all, a consistency that simply can’t be matched by his rivals these days.
‘It’s been the best season of my life and I cherish every moment I can play at this level,’ said Djokovic.
The brutal truth is that Federer simply ran out of steam after a gruelling week. And alth0ugh Djokovic fans will of course be delighted, neutrals may feel a tinge of disappointment that the final, like the semi-finals before it, was denied the drama of a third set.
Let’s not take anything away from the latest superman of tennis. He has enjoyed an incredible 2015, winning three Grand slams out of four. The World Tour Finals is the icing on the cake and testament to his insatiable hunger for titles.
Novak explained later, ‘Roger was a better player in the match he won in the group stage. I had to change something and I did. I was returning better and made more shots. I saved some crucial break points in the first set. I couldn’t ask for a better finish to the season. I’m going on holiday to recharge my batteries and then I’ll think about next season.’
Federer looked laboured in his movement at times in the first set, despite his natural grace, as if all those tough matches in quick succession against top players had begun to catch up with him.
Roger’s best chance to take the initiative came in the second game, when he had a break point but fired a forehand low into the net, an unforced error he would live to regret.
Djokovic achieved the first break in the very next game, and wasn’t threatened again until he was 0-30 down on his own serve while looking to take a 4-2 lead. Once again Roger failed to make his rival pay and this time his backhand let him down, wildly so on break point. The unforced errors were mounting, twice as many for Federer as for Djokovic as the match progressed.
Even during that opening set, it seemed that fatigue was getting the better of the great man. At 34, it is probably too much to ask his body to keep on finding the energy to beat the world’s top players, day after day, in such a punishing format.
Djokovic hadn’t looked at his very best in this final and yet, six years younger than his opponent, he had enough left in the tank to maintain a level of stroke-play that asked too much of the popular Swiss.
You could feel the crowd willing Federer to find a way back into the match, because most knew that if Roger didn’t win the first set, his chances of taking the match were minimal.
However, despite looking nervous at times, Novak was too strong and too ruthless to leave the door open again. Against the best player in the world, you’re going to have very few chances to take control of a final.
Federer’s couple of squandered break points were his biggest opportunities, and for whatever reason he had failed to take them.
Just to underline his superiority on the night, Djokovic broke Federer again to take that first set 6-3, seizing the second of his set points and making Roger look weary already.
And yet we should still salute the Fed for the defiant way he battled during the second set, producing moments of magic and staying with the favourite until it was 4-4. Even though he was outplayed once more when it came to the crunch, Federer in full, inventive flow is an amazing sight.
We should reflect admiringly on the great victories he achieved this week, including that superb display against Djokovic himself. And we should continue to marvel at his brilliance, including a backhand in the third game of the second set that brought applause from Novak himself.
But maybe that was just it. Such is the confidence Djokovic feels these days that he was able to absorb that piece of genius from his rival, and an incredible forehand moments later, yet still win the game in question.
Frightening forehand winners soon gave Novak three break points to go 5-3 ahead. Just when we thought the match was effectively over, Federer saved all three and went on to hold.
A lesser man might have been rattled. Not Djokovic, who played one of his best service games straight after that disappointment. And predictably, he broke Federer at the vital moment to close out the match, Roger’s challenge ending with a double fault.
Federer said: ‘The year is long and gruelling and tough but I love every minute of it. I’ve had another great year.’
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