Roger Federer will take on Novak Djokovic, who defeated him in an epic Wimbledon final, in his final group match at the Nitto ATP finals inside the 02.
Maybe it took me a few days, couple weeks at most, to get over the Wimbledon loss. Roger Federer
It comes after he kept his hopes of a semi-final spot alive with a 7-6(2) 6-3 victory over debutant Matteo Berrettini, bouncing back from a first-match loss for the second year in a row when defeated by Dominic Thiem.
And the six-time champion insisted he is “excited” to be facing Djokovic for the first time since their decider in London SW19.
Federer, 38, has only once failed to make the last-four in 17 appearances – against Brit Andy Murray in 2008.
He said: “It’s good for me to play him (Djokovic) again, and maybe that all helps to get a chance to get him back or whatever it is, but at the end of the day, I’m here for the World Tour Finals and not because of the Wimbledon finals. It’s logical to be asked, it’s fine, but I’m personally excited to play against Novak on Thursday.”
Will there be any mental scars from the All England Club loss?
Federer said: “We’ll find out, but I think it’s all flushed away from my side. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then now. We have played a lot of matches since, and I think we both look back at a great match. I think we both can take away some confidence from the match. Him obviously a lot. Me maybe a tad bit less, but I wasn’t hoping him not to be in my section or in my draw. I didn’t hope I was never going to play him again.
“I think indoors you’ve got to go with what you can do best. Maybe it took me a few days, couple weeks at most, to get over the Wimbledon loss. I still thought I played a great final and a great tournament, beating Rafa (Nadal) there along the way. I need to focus on my game, what I do best. And regardless of what I need to do, I just hope I play well.”
Federer knew he would be unable to go through the motions. That defeat would almost certain seal his exit and end hopes of increasing his record title haul to seven.
His surprise defeat in his first match against Thiem ramped up the pressure on the Swiss.
But Federer had that experience from last year when he rebounded from losing his first encounter in the round-robin against Kei Nishikori and made the semi-finals.
And the third seed’s approach of not getting “too freaked out by any match” served him well against debutant Berrettini, a player he swamped in three quick sets at Wimbledon this summer in their only previous meeting. Well there is no denying the experience of a player rated the greatest of all time in many a learned circle. For a start, he has more match wins (58) and more titles (six) than any player at the end-of-season tournament.
His big-serving Italian opponent thanked Federer for the tennis lesson he gave him in London SW19 and it seemed as if he had learned plenty in a tight first-set.
But Federer upped his game in the tie-break and cruised into the lead. And breaking Berrettini’s serve to love in the opening game of the second paved the way to a victory completed in 78 minutes when the eighth seed sliced a forehand into the net.
The Swiss said: “It’s unusual to lose and then come back to play again, but I did it last year, so I have some experience. I’m very happy with how I played. Matteo was always going to be difficult with his big serve… I was pretty clean in my own service games and I think that helped. I hope I can keep it up and maybe even play a bit better in the next match.
“There was no reason to be too down [after the Thiem reverse]. We came here to play three matches and give it all we have. It was the big goal of the season to qualify here, which we did. I had a day off and there’s plenty of ways to get rid of that loss. Hanging out with my kids will do that for me. I was ready and prepared today. That’s what matters the most right now.”
Berrettini had an opportunity to level the second set at 4-4 but was unable to take any of the three break points earned.
The Italian, defeated by Djokovic in his first match, said: “I was more ready (than at Wimbledon). I knew what I had to do to win. I was serving really well. In Wimbledon my serve wasn’t working at all. I’m playing against the best guys on the planet and maybe the best guys ever. So I’m proud of what I’m doing facing these, kind of situations. I think that I played a good match also against Novak even if the score was not that good. But for sure I’m learning.
“And these kind of losses, they will help me in the future to get better. When I stepped in the locker and my coaches were there, I said, guys, I want to be better. I want to be able to beat those guys. With respect, of course. But I’m ready to do the preseason already.”
Meanwhile, Joe Salisbury, the lone Brit, celebrated his first victory at the finals.
The Londoner and his American partner Rajeev Ram, seeded four, defeated eighth favourites Ivan Dodig and Filip Polasek 6-3 3-6 10-6 in their second round-robin match in the doubles. They recently lost to the same pair in Paris.
Salisbury said: “We needed to win to stay in. I feel we are playing better. It’s unbelievable to have won our first game. Incredible, So special. We had to fight hard but I managed to raise my level.”
Ram said: “I know I’m not a Brit, but I’m happy to be here and take in all the support you’re giving for my boy, It was a few points here or there. We really stuck together as a team and I think that’s why we got the win.”