On this day 12 years ago, Roger Federer competed in his third Canadian Open final and the first one in Montreal, facing world no. 4 Novak Djokovic on the other side of the net. It was their fifth meeting and the 20-year-old Serb prevailed against Roger for the first victory over the world's leading player (Federer grabbed wins in Melbourne and Dubai earlier that year), claiming a 7-6, 2-6, 7-6 triumph in two hours and 13 minutes to lift the fifth ATP title and the second on the Masters 1000 level after Miami in March.
That 2007 season was the breakthrough one for Novak, winning two big titles and almost 70 matches overall, including deep runs at Roland Garros, Wimbledon, and the US Open to establish himself as the third-best player on the Tour behind Federer and Nadal.
Djokovic's winning path in Montreal was quite impressive, beating world's leading three players en route to the title as the first player who achieved that since Boris Becker in Stockholm 1994! In the quarters, Novak toppled Andy Roddick before saving all eight break points against Rafael Nadal in the semis to set the dream final against Roger whom he overpowered too, showing great clutch in both tie breaks to earn the trophy.
The Swiss was more efficient after landing the first serve in, firing 15 aces and taking 77% of the points while Novak stood stronger in the second serve department. Nonetheless, Federer created nine break chances and stole Djokovic's serve five times, finishing on the losing side despite the fact Novak grabbed only three breaks, unable to bring his best tennis when it mattered the most.
Thanks to that second set where he was the dominant figure, Roger won two points more than Novak but obviously not those crucial ones, wasting no less than six set points in the opener that pretty much cost him the title!
Federer was the more aggressive player on the court, hitting 49 winners and 48 unforced errors while Novak also produced good numbers, finishing the encounter with 24 winners and 23 errors. Federer had a small edge in the shortest range up to four strokes while Djokovic won more points in the extended rallies to stay neck and neck with world no.
1 in sets he won. The youngster moved in front already in the second game, earning a break after a couple of errors from the Swiss who knew he had to take risky shots to pass the rock-solid rival from the baseline. Novak found a great rhythm on serve right from the beginning, racing into a 3-0 lead and hoping to maintain that level in the rest of the set as well.
Roger finally hit the zone with his forehand after that which instantly changed the positions on the court, breaking back at 15 in game five to reduce the deficit and get back on the positive side of the scoreboard. Both players served well after that until 5-5 when Roger broke for a 6-5 lead after a loose backhand from Novak.
In no time at all, Federer was on the verge of taking the set after opening a 40-0 advantage on serve in the next game, only to make three unforced errors and bring Novak back to deuce. Roger managed to squander three more set points in that game, failing to push it over the finish line.
Djokovic played some impressive strokes to hang in there and eventually broke with a forehand down the line winner, setting up a tie break with the momentum on his side. He was the leading player on the court now and the opener was in his hands after hitting a service winner in the ninth point, stealing the set despite having to play against so many set points.
Roger had to leave this part of the match behind him as soon as possible, doing that in style after storming over Novak in set number two to take it 6-2 in just over 30 minutes. He was the dominant figure, firing winners from every part of the court and leaving Djokovic with nothing which would have stopped him.
Novak somehow held in game four but his serve was broken two games later when he netted a forehand and again at 2-5 when Roger sealed the set with a backhand down the line winner, becoming the favorite for the victory now.
Nonetheless, exactly the opposite happened at the beginning of the final set, as Novak broke at 15 to grab an early lead, ending Roger's streak of four straight games. Djokovic sailed through his service games in the next 20 minutes and was two service games away from the triumph before Federer stole the break in game eight, leveling the score at 4-4 and setting the scene for a dramatic finish.
The last four games of the clash saw four commanding holds and the winner had to be decided in the third set tie break for the first time since 1990. The younger player showed more clutch and stamina, earning two mini-breaks to jump into a 4-1 lead and converting the second match point when Roger's tweener found the bottom of the net, starting a huge celebration of a well-deserved crown.
A few weeks later, these two would meet in the final of the US Open and Roger scored a tight win to defend the crown. One thing was sure, though, Novak Djokovic was there to challenge him and Rafael Nadal in the years to come, possessing everything in his arsenal to become the legend of our sport.