Roger Federer recalls: 'I was close to beating Novak Djokovic before..'

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Roger Federer recalls: 'I was close to beating Novak Djokovic before..'

Roger Federer never won the title at Rome Masters, losing three finals to Rafael Nadal and Felix Mantilla. In 2009, Federer reached the semi-final at Foro Italico and faced the defending champion, Novak Djokovic in a blockbuster clash.

After two hours and 11 minutes, Djokovic beat Federer 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 and delivered his fourth victory over the Swiss and the first on the slowest surface. Federer had a massive chance to cross the finish line first and move into the final, playing at a high level in the opener and forging a 3-1 lead in sets two and three.

Still, that was not enough to propel him home, as he lost ground after the rain delay in the second set and again after moving in front in the decider. The Swiss had the momentum early on, serving well and seizing the fifth break chance at 4-4 to forge the lead in the opener.

The Swiss broke early in the second set, produced a comfortable hold and created more opportunities on the return in the third game that could have pushed him closer to the finish line.

Roger Federer wasted the advantage over Novak Djokovic in Rome 2009.

Novak somehow survived that third game, and then the rain sent them away from the court for 70 minutes.

Once they returned, the Serb acted like a better-prepared player. He hit with more energy and stole Roger's serve in games six and eight before closing the set with a hold at love for 6-3. Federer recovered and produced two comfortable service games at the beginning of the decider and broke Djokovic at 15 in game four to open a 3-1 lead.

Novak broke back at love in game five with a forehand crosscourt winner and leveled the score at 3-3 with a good hold. The Serb had momentum in those moments and broke Federer in games seven and nine to seal the deal and advance into the title clash against Rafael Nadal.

Federer felt disappointed after wasting such a massive lead, especially had he claimed the third game and opened a 3-0 advantage, losing ground after a rain delay and squandering his chances. "I was in good shape, and it's a shame I did not get the second break before the rain delay.

Novak had more energy when we returned, as he was pretty flat before the break. Suddenly, it became a different match, and he was the better rival. I should have held at least once; then, I would have had a better opportunity.

I had the win on my racquet, and it's disappointing. The rain delay came at a perfect moment for Novak because he came through a tough service game at 2-0 down. Instead of falling 3-0 down, he held to reduce the deficit. Then the rain came, and he's got something positive to look at.

When we came back, the conditions changed, and it helped him. He might have come back anyway and beat me in the end, even without the rain. He did well today to use the rain delay in his favor, that's for sure. My serve is not working as before, and it did not help me in some crucial moments.

I missed timing after the break; the conditions got wormer, and the ball flew more than before," Roger Federer said.