In the winner-take-all battle between two ultimate ATP Finals champions, Roger Federer toppled Novak Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 in swift 73 minutes to advance into the semi-final. Making his debut at the premium ATP event, Roger Federer missed the opportunity to reach the last four only in 2008, delivering an incredible consistency and proving his class once again at the age of 38, becoming the oldest player who defeated Novak Djokovic!
It was the 49th clash between two legends and the first triumph for Roger in four years, beating Novak in the round-robin stage here in London in 2015 and suffering five straight losses since then, including that tough one at Wimbledon in July where he had match points.
Eager to avoid the same scenario, Roger mastered Novak in almost every department to seal the deal in no time at all and send the Serb out from the tournament before the semi-final for the first time since 2011, ending the year-end no.
1 battle and allowing Rafael Nadal to take the honor for the fifth time. Novak played on a very high level in the first match of the tournament against Matteo Berrettini before letting victory slip out from his hands against Dominic Thiem, having to beat Roger to secure the 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 of that, the Serb delivered 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 rival. The Swiss earned the 23rd triumph over the Serb after firing 11 aces and fending off the only break point he faced, mounting the pressure on Djokovic who lost almost half of the points in his games to suffer three breaks from seven chances offered to Federer, despite the fact he landed 74% of the first serve in!
Roger hit a service winner in almost every second serve, having a massive advantage in the shortest range up to four strokes and staying on the same level with Novak in the rallies that passed the fourth or fifth stroke, finishing the encounter with 23 winners and only five unforced errors for one of the best performances of the season.
Djokovic had to play against a break point in the very first game of the clash, erasing it after forcing an error from Federer and holding with a service winner to avoid an early setback. Roger delivered a comfortable hold in game two with an ace and broke Novak at love in game three for a massive boost.
From 30-15 down in the next game, Federer fired three service winners to confirm the advantage, landing four more direct points in game six to stay in front and moving 5-3 in front with four booming serves in game eight. Novak held from 30-0 down in the next game to prolong the set before Roger secured the opener with four winners a few minutes later for a 6-4 after 35 minutes.
Djokovic repelled two break points in the first game of the second set and created that only chance on the return at 2-1, denied by a winner at the net from Federer who broke at 15 in the next game for a huge step towards the finish line.
The Swiss held at 30 in game six and landed four winners to games later for a 5-3, forcing Novak to serve for staying in the match. Federer broke him at love following a volley error from Djokovic, celebrating an impressive victory and advancing into the semi-final where he could face Rafael Nadal.
"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 to find, especially on the fast court. Also, it is the most essential element on the fast court where things happen extremely quick if you doubt yourself.
That's where the problem lies and what occurred to me against Thiem or Berrettini, I wasn't sure how to serve, how to place my shots, how aggressive to be. Thiem played an exceptional match against me, backing it up with a similar or even better performance against Novak.
For me, it was all about winning against Berrettini, I couldn't think about the gamp plan, it was only about squeezing out the victory and putting myself in contention against Novak, which I did. On the third day, I felt great against Djokovic, having a great rhythm on serve and movement and with a desire to play from the court and aggressive.
I was able to do that and to beat Novak today. 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 pf some extra elements count as well.
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 to myself that I can do that, despite I haven't beaten Novak for a couple of years even though I came 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."