Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer - Who won their first Rome duel?

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer met in the 2009 Rome Masters semi-final

by Jovica Ilic
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Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer - Who won their first Rome duel?
© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer embraced 50 duels on the ATP Tour between 2006 and 2020. Three of those came in Rome, and Novak clinched them all, never losing to Roger at Foro Italico. Djokovic and Federer met for the first time at the Rome Masters on May 2, 2009, fighting for a place in the final.

The Serb reached his third consecutive Masters 1000 final following a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over the Swiss in two hours and 11 minutes. The defending champion notched his fourth win over Roger from 11 duels, the first on clay after two losses.

Novak claimed nine points more than Roger, overcoming a slower start and a 3-1 deficit in sets two and three to emerge at the top. Djokovic denied eight out of 11 break points and delivered five return games from eight opportunities.

Novak tamed his strokes nicely, hitting the same number of winners and unforced errors and welcoming Roger's almost 40 unforced mistakes.

Roger Federer, Rome Masters 2009© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

They stayed neck and neck in the shortest and mid-range exchanges, while the Serb built the advantage in the most advanced ones to bring the victory home.

Federer created a break chance in the opening game of the encounter with a forehand winner, and Djokovic denied it with a service winner. The Serb saved another break point and closed the game with a forehand crosscourt winner, avoiding an early setback.

They served well in the upcoming games, and Federer closed the fourth game with a service winner to lock the result at 2-2. Novak saved another break point in the fifth game and clinched it with a forehand winner, remaining on the positive side.

Roger grabbed the sixth game with service winners before Novak secured the next one at 15 for a 4-3 lead. The Swiss stayed on the positive side after the Serb's backhand error in the eighth game and made a push on the return in the next one.

Novak Djokovic, Rome Masters 2009© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Novak Djokovic defeated Roger Federer in the 2009 Rome Masters semi-final.

Novak sprayed a backhand in the ninth game and faced two break points, saving them with forehand winners.

Roger prolonged the game with a forehand winner and landed a backhand down the line one for another break chance. Djokovic sprayed a forehand error, losing serve and propelling Federer 5-4 in front. The Swiss served for the set in game ten and landed a service winner, wrapping up the opener after 49 minutes and gaining a boost.

Novak struggled behind the initial shot at the beginning of the second set. He saved a break point with a smash winner before falling on the second after a forehand error, pushing Roger a set and a break in front. Federer fired a service winner in the second game, moving 6-4, 2-0 in front and hoping to maintain that level.

Roger could have sealed the deal in game three, creating another break point and wasting it after a costly backhand error.

Roger Federer, Rome Masters 2009© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Novak held after a volley winner at the net, reducing the deficit and remaining one break behind.

The rain sent them off the court for 70 minutes, and Novak experienced another challenging game at 1-3. The Serb saved a break point with a forehand winner and held to stay in contention. Federer sprayed a backhand slice error in the sixth game, dropping serve for the first time and allowing Djokovic to return to the positive side and gain a boost.

Novak moved in front with a hold at 30 in game seven and denied Roger's game point in the next one with a crafty backhand drop shot winner from behind the baseline. Djokovic created a break chance and claimed an extended rally after Federer's loose backhand, securing the second straight break and forging a 5-3 advantage.

The Serb served for the set in game nine and held at love, wrapping up the set 6-3 and forcing a decider after rattling off five straight games!

Novak Djokovic, Rome Masters 2009© Julian Finney / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Roger fired a forehand winner in the first game of the final set and held at love with a service winner, ending his poor run.

Novak closed the second game after a deuce for 1-1, and his rival responded with fine serves in the next one for another advantage. Djokovic played a loose service game at 1-2, spraying a forehand error and finding himself 3-1 behind.

The Serb stayed composed and pulled the break back at love in game five after a forehand crosscourt winner, reducing the deficit and gaining a boost. Novak forced Roger's error in the sixth game, locking the result at 3-3 and taking charge.

Not stopping there, Djokovic clinched his second straight break in game seven after Federer's poor drop shot attempt, building the advantage and moving closer to the finish line. Novak cemented the advantage with a hold at 15 in game eight, forcing Roger to serve to stay in the match at 3-5.

Federer suffered the third straight break after a backhand mistake, propelling Djokovic into his second consecutive Rome Masters final.

Novak Djokovic Roger Federer Rome Masters
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