After eight consecutive seasons with the year-end top-2 rank, Roger Federer had to settle for the third place in 2011 despite winning 22 out of the last 23 matches on the Tour! After the semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic at the US Open, Roger claimed back-to-back titles in Basel, Paris and the ATP Finals to close the year on a high note, ready to challenge the younger opponents in 2012.
With six titles under his best in the mentioned season, including Wimbledon and three Masters 1000 crowns, Roger was the closest rival of Novak Djokovic, finishing in the top-2 for the ninth time in the last ten years and losing the year-end throne to Novak in the closing moments of the season.
Let's go back to the beginning of 2012 and Roger's first encounter of the year at the Qatar ExxonMobil Open in Doha on January 4, facing Nikolay Davydenko and scoring a 6-2, 6-2 triumph to set the tone for what would come in the next 11 months.
It was their 18th encounter and the 16th victory for Roger who had the upper hand from start to finish to advance into the second round. A year earlier, Roger and Nikolay fought in the final in Doha and the Russian couldn't find that form in his first match of the new season, staying on the court for only 54 minutes and never standing as a serious opponent against world no.
3. Landing 85% of the first serve in, Roger lost only nine points behind the initial shot, stealing half of the return points to secure four breaks from seven opportunities and storm over Nikolay who stayed on only seven winners and 20 unforced errors.
Federer forced a mistake from the opponent in the first game to grab a break at love and kick off the match in the most reliable possible way, landing a forehand crosscourt winner in game two to cement the lead and settle into an excellent rhythm.
An ace down the T line pushed Roger 3-1 up, moving 4-2 in front after three winners in game six and securing another break in the next game to move closer to the finish line. Serving for the set in the eighth game, Roger fired a service winner to secure the opener in 22 minutes, controlling all the elements and hoping for more of the same in set number two.
It started in the same way as the first, with Davydenko hitting a double fault to suffer a break in the first game and a forehand winner from Federer in game two for a 6-2, 2-0 advantage. An ace delivered another game for the Swiss in game four, making another big step towards the victory after a break a few minutes later.
Nikolay fended off a match point in the seventh game but that was all he could do, as Roger sealed the deal with three winners at 5-2 that propelled him into the next round.