Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic played their most recent match at the last year's Australian Open, with the Serb beating an injured Swiss in straight sets in the semis. Two and a half months earlier, two great rivals met in a winner-take-all battle at the ATP Finals to decide the semi-finalist.
Roger toppled Novak 6-4, 6-3 in swift 73 minutes to reach the last four and remain on the title course. Making his debut at the premium ATP event in 2002, Roger Federer missed the opportunity to advance into the semis only in 2008, delivering an incredible consistency and proving his class once again two years ago at 38 to become the oldest player with a win over Novak Djokovic!
It was the 49th clash between two legends and Roger's first triumph in four years, ousting the Serb in the round-robin stage here in London in 2015 and suffering five straight losses after that, including that tough one at Wimbledon after squandering match points.
Eager to avoid the same scenario, Roger mastered Novak in almost every department under the roof of O2 Arena and sealed the deal in no time to send the Serb out from the tournament before the semi-final for the first time since 2011!
Thus, Djokovic lost a chance to become the year-end no. 1 for the sixth time, allowing Nadal to secure the fifth honor. Novak played well against Matteo Berrettini before letting victory slip out from his hands against Dominic Thiem in the second round-robin match.
He had to beat Roger to secure a place in the semis and add 200 extra points to his tally that would have kept him in contention for that year-end no. 1 spot. Instead, Novak presented a shaky performance to stay way below Roger's level, holding his right elbow occasionally and looking flat on the court, with nothing to challenge an inspired and determined rival.
The Swiss earned the 23rd triumph over the Serb after firing 11 aces and fending off the only break chance. The pressure was on Djokovic's side of the court, and he could not deal with it, losing almost half of the points in his games and suffering three breaks from seven chances offered to Roger, despite serving at 74%!
Federer hit a service winner in almost half of his initial shots and had a massive advantage in the shortest range up to four strokes.
Roger Federer beat Novak Djokovic at the ATP Finals 2019 for first time since 2015.
The Swiss stayed on the same level with the Serb in the rallies that passed the fourth stroke and finished the encounter with 23 winners and only five unforced errors for one of the season's best performances.
Djokovic played against a break chance in the encounter's first game and erased it after forcing Federer's error. In game two, Roger delivered a comfortable hold with an ace and broke Novak at love a few minutes later for a massive boost.
From 30-15 down in the next game, Federer fired three service winners to confirm the advantage and landed four more direct points in games six and eight to stay in front. Novak held from 0-30 in the next game to prolong the set before Roger secured the opener with four winners in game ten for 6-4 after 35 minutes.
Djokovic repelled two break points in the second set's first game and created that only chance on the return at 2-1, denied by a winner at the net from Federer, who broke at 15 soon after that for a massive step towards the finish line.
The Swiss held at 30 in game six and landed four winners two games later for 5-3, forcing Novak to serve for staying in the match. Eager to seal the deal in style, Federer broke at love following Djokovic's volley error and celebrated an impressive victory that carried him into the semis.
"The thing is, matches against Novak are not always on your racquet, but I think it is about clarity when to do what, which is not always easy, especially on the fast court. Also, it is the essential element on the fast court, where things happen quickly if you doubt yourself.
That's where the problem lies and what occurred to me against Thiem and Berrettini. I was not sure how to serve, how to place my shots and how aggressive to be. I felt great against Djokovic, having a great rhythm on serve and movement and a desire to play aggressively from inside the court.
I'm always trying to believe and improve my game, not thinking about the Wimbledon final and negative stuff but moving forward, monitoring my game on the practice court away from the press and fans because some extra elements count as well.
A victory like this against Novak almost comes double because of my age. I'm still on the Tour because I believe I can beat the best, and I have to prove that I can do that, although I have not beaten Novak for a couple of years despite coming close in Bercy and Wimbledon.
It was a slim margin, and I still lost those matches; that's why victory like this does me well," Roger Federer said.