London | Federer ends Djokovic’s dreams
Roger Federer produced “something magical” with a “perfect” performance to gain a revenge victory over Novak Djokovic and reach last-four of the Nitto ATP Finals.
I played incredible. Able to produce something magical. My game plan worked to perfection. And you guys (the crowd) made it super special Roger Federer
Federer lost the Wimbledon final in the summer to Djokovic after holding two match points in a near five-hour epic.
But he destroyed the Serbian 6-4 6-3 in a mere 73 minutes to earn his 16th semi-final appearance in 17 visits in front of a packed crowd at the 02 baying for him to come out on top.
And it keeps alive the evergreen 38-year-old’s hopes of extending a record six titles to seven.
It also ended the four-match winning run Djokovic – knocked out of the tournament by the round-robin loss – against him.
And the Serbian’s hopes of wresting back the world No.1 ranking from Rafa Nadal.
Federer said: “Great atmosphere here in London. A special night I enjoyed. I played incredible. Able to produce something magical. My game plan worked to perfection. And you guys (the crowd) made it super special.
“The difference with Wimbledon was that I won the match point. It was so close at Wimbledon. A privilege to play in a game like that. So many ups and downs. But I lost and you have to move on.
“I stayed calm, played great and couldn’t be happier.
“Played with freedom? You always play better as the tournament goes on. There was a lot riding on the match. It was a great performance from me tonight. I’ll battle to go further than last year when Zverev was unreal against me.
Federer began like a dream. All aspects of his game seemed to be in full working order, especially his serve. From the off. He pushed Djokovic to deuce in the opening game and served two aces to hold before breaking his Serbian rival to love, aided by two double faults from the server.
Federer’s flashing backhand and immaculate serve had Djokovic on the run. The 20-time Grand Slam champion produce two aces in each of his next serves, which he held to love. His opponent struggled to keep pace and managed to hold on to his own serve.
But Djokovic’s lack of success on the Federer serve proved his undoing.
The Swiss refused to surrender any points for the third successive service game as he took the set in 35 minutes with another ace.
Djokovic tried to exercise self-control as the sometime-rowdy pro-Federer crowd chanted “let’s go, Roger, let’s go” at every opportunity.
He knew what to expect, having dealt with similar bias when the pair met in the All England decider to come through as champion at the greatest tournament of them all.
The 32-year-old steeled himself and held the opening game of the second.
But Federer was in the mood and he broke the Serb twice in the second set.
Djokovic remained frustrated as Federer fed off the love of the crowd by showing why he is rated by most as the greatest player of all time as his opponent became deflated.
Perhaps Djokovic was suffering from his tough defeat in his previous round-robin match against Dominic Thiem.
Federer, six years his senior, was so sprightly, seeming to see the ball like a football as he heaped the pressure on.
And he got his reward when Djokovic shanked a forehand long and the crowd roared.
Djokovic said: “It was not much that I did right this match, to be honest. I mean, realistically he was better player in all aspects and absolutely deserved to win.
“He served great, moved well, returned my serve very well. From his end, I think he did everything right. From my end, I just — you know, I was just playing too neutral. I couldn’t read his serve well. Just a pretty bad match from my side.
“My confidence level wasn’t high today, so Roger could sense that and he used it very well.”