In case you missed it, the Changeover staff made their picks for the final here, and we were graced with a visit from the Legendary Fernando in the comments section. Fernando and his staff generously provided a breakdown and prediction for the final as well. We are most grateful.
As a short preview to Djokovic-Federer XXIX, here’s an outline of what I like to think as “battlegrounds” where the war between Djokovic and Federer will be won or lost:
1. The Return of Serve
It will be key for Roger Federer to fend off Djokovic’s return of serve prowess by mixing up his first serves, keeping his first serve percentage high, and giving Djokovic different looks on his second serve. The more easier holds Federer can wrestle from Djokovic, the better for him, since it will free him more to attack Djokovic’s second delivery in the same way he attacked Murray’s yesterday. For Djokovic, the same recipe outlined above applies for him. However, as the superior returner, he needs to impose that element of his game over Federer, and make every service game by the Swiss be a hard-fought affair.
The percentage of points won on second serves will likely tell us who is getting the upper hand in this key battleground, as well as the 1st serve percentage for both gentlemen.
2. The Forehand-to-Forehand Rallies
Novak Djokovic loves to exchange forehands with Federer early in the match, and then transition to more backhand-to-backhand rallies. It’s his way of telling Federer “I know I’m not supposed to do this, but I’m doing it anyway to let you know I’m not afraid of your forehand”. If Djokovic manages to win a good number of his exchanges, it will surely leave a mark in Federer’s psyche, particularly if Djokovic puts Federer on the defensive by going down the line with his forehand instead of exclusively cross-court. However, if Federer manages to impose his stronger forehand over Djokovic, that will only help him precipitate matters into the last and most familiar battleground:
3. The Backhand-to-Backhand Rallies
This exchange favors Djokovic on the surface, but Federer has a few options to get out of a backhand pummeling: if Djokovic sends a short cross-court backhand to Federer’s backhand corner, Federer can do what he did yesterday and run around his backhand to hit inside-out forehands or inside-in forehands down the line. In the first scenario (inside-out forehands), Federer can push Djokovic wide, and more likely than not receive a short ball to put away. In the second scenario he can either go for a clean winner, or again set up an easy putaway after Djokovic is forced to defend his forehand corner. Federer can also choose to go down the line with his own backhand, which Djokovic won’t be looking to cover, since that’s the Swiss’ least reliable shot. However, as we say yesterday against Murray, Federer wasn’t shy about going down the line with his one-hander, even if he was missing quite a few of them early on.
The difference from yesterday is two-fold for Federer: Djokovic tends to get better depth and more spin on his cross-court backhand, thus making it more difficult for Federer to run around his backhand and have a good angle for backhands down the line. Also, Djokovic won’t be shy about going down the line with his own backhand, something that Federer didn’t have to worry about at all yesterday, since Murray never goes down the line with his backhand. Alternatively, Djokovic might feel comfortable enough to run around his own backhand and go either inside-out with his forehand or down the line, as he’s done in the past. What Djokovic has to avoid is letting Federer get into a groove on his backhand corner by forgetting to attack Federer’s deuce court every once in a while.
In the tense moments of the match, this is where the Australian Open champion and the Wimbledon champion will trade blows to try and get the upper hand. How each of them deals with the different variables stemming from the backhand-to-backhand rallies, and how many of them are proved effective will give us a good idea of who will end up hoisting the last big trophy available in the ATP.
Lars Graff will be in the chair for his last final as an umpire. His 1st final was Jonas Bjorkman vs Jan Siemerink in Stockholm 1997
— Steph Trudel (@TrudelSteph) November 12, 2012
There will be a lot of challenges used today.
Unrelated: Djokovic arrived by boat to the 02 Arena earlier in the day:
— ATP World Tour (@ATPWorldTour) November 12, 2012
About the M&M team: they’ve had a fantastic week. Lost only one match, to Team Evil (Paes and Stepanek), managed to beat the Bryan Brothers, and now lift the trophy. This can’t possibly hurt them ahead of this week’s Davis Cup final in Prague, where they’ll surely see Stepanek once again, but this time paired with Tomas Berdych. David Ferrer, the low-profile leader of the Spanish Davis Cup team for this final tie, is most excited:
— David Ferrer (@DavidFerrer87) November 12, 2012
And so is the other singles player on the team, Nicolás Almagro:
— Nico Almagro (@NicoAlmagro) November 12, 2012
What’s interesting about Almagro’s tweet is that he says the Spanish team now has “Masters” in their Davis Cup squad. This alludes to the old name of the World Tour Finals, The Masters’ Cup. Which I preferred to this one, really.
Naturally, the Spanish Davis Cup captain couldn’t be far behind, and remarks how incredible it is for this team to achieve this much in only their first year together:
— Alex Corretja (@AlexCorretja74) November 12, 2012
Finally, some historical perspective on the Spaniard’s achievement:
Marc Lopez came here 2 years ago as Rafa’s hitting partner,now claims the doubles,first Spanish pair since 1975 to do so..
— Nick Lester (@nicklester) November 12, 2012
One thought before the top two men’s players in the world come on the packed O2 arena:
The coin toss will actually be significant today: both men like to serve first. Of course, Djokovic would love to have that extra edge, and put himself in the position to “receive” for the set at 5-4 and again at 6-5.
Who wins it?
Djokovic calls heads, and the coin comes up with tails on top. Federer elects to serve, and he’s nabbed the first small edge in this final.
PMac says that Lars Graf has been the umpire for over 7000 matches in his career. That’s quite a number.
A nice graph from the ESPN production crew about the rivalry between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer:
25th straight meeting between these two in a semi or a final. That’s incredible.
PMac mentions that the odds makers have Djokovic as a favorite, but he picks Federer to edge through because of the indoor conditions. No need to ask Cliffy who he thinks will win. It’s like asking Chris Evert.
And we’re off! No time stamps this time: I’ll just write a bit about each game, and then some thoughts at the end of sets. Here we go:
0-0: Federer starts with an ace up the T. Cliffy says the crowd will be slightly pro-Federer. Understatement. Service winner out wide, and it’s 30-0. Another ace out wide, 40-0. Djokovic gets the next return in play, but it’s short, and Federer moves forward to put away a simple volley. Easy, easy hold. It took 55 seconds.
0-1: Djokovic starts with a double-fault. Complete contrast. Then a nice rally ends with Djokovic hitting about four volleys, the last of which was so bad it set up an easy forehand putaway for Federer. Djokovic then with a backhand down the line UFE that misses by a mile. 0-40, in what seems like a minute. Djokovic then gets a look at many forehands, but nets the last one. UFE, and the break.
The World Number One hasn’t won a point yet.
0-2: Federer went down the line early in the rally, and Djokovic sent a backhand way long. UFE. 15-0. Then Djokovic wins his first point…off a forehand shank. 15-all. Federer moves forward after a short return, and Djokovic can’t put the approach back in play. 30-15. Djokovic sends a return to the line, it’s called out, and challenges. A good idea, because no part of the ball was out. They re-play the point, and we have the first fun one: Djokovic sends a screamer CC FH, but Federer counters well DTL, and then hits a dropper off Djokovic’s reply, and while Djokovic gets to the ball, Federer anticipates well. 40-15. Djokovic with an inside-out BH winner, 40-30. Then a lethal 1-2 punch by Federer, going out-wide with the serve and then cross-court with the forehand seals the game.
Lars Graf failed to overrule another terrible call at 40-15 (a serve that was well out), prompting this:
— Andrew Burton (@burtonad) November 12, 2012
0-3: Federer tees off on a mediocre Djokovic backhand up the middle, and it’s 0-15. They play a long rally, and it surprisingly ends with Federer dumping a slice into the net. UFE. 15-all. Then Federer dumps a 2nd ball FH into the net. UFE. 30-15, first time Djokovic has had an advantage in a game. Service winner, and it’s 40-15. Djokovic goes for a BH DTL that wasn’t there, and it’s out. 40-30. Then Federer “explodes” off a cross-court FH winner. Deuce. Federer in super-confident mode, as he goes for the extremely rare inside-out BH winner. Misses by a mile. AD-Djokovic. Djokovic struggles with Federer’s depth, and sends a FH long. Deuce. Federer responded well to Djokovic’s DTL BH early on, but then dumped a regulation BH of his own well long. UFE. AD-Djokovic. Then Djokovic finally holds after a screamer of a DTL FH winner when fully outstreched.
Djokovic struggling with depth makes this match feel like Federer is playing Ferrer. Not a good thing for the World Number 1, who needs to go up a notch if he wants to avoid of a repeat of the Cincy Final.
1-3: Djokovic mandhandles Federer, making the Swiss play incredible defense…until he approaches the net to Federer’s FH on a mediocre shot, and gets passed down the line. 15-0. Federer then dumps a regulation BH into the net. UFE. 15-all. No first serves yet for Federer in this game. 2nd serve again, Djokovic sends a return deep, and Federer sends a BH well wide. 15-30. First edge Djokovic has had so far on Federer’s serve. Both men embark on a tentative rally, and Federer sends a very deep and high-bouncing backhand that triggers a short reply which he puts away. 30-all. Another tentative rally ends with Federer netting a regulation CC FH. UFE. 30-40, BP for Djokovic, who has finally settled into the match. 2nd serve. Djokovic pounces, Federer defends, and after the rally settles on a typical BH-to-BH exchange, Federer dumps a BH long.
Djokovic finally settled into the match, and punished Federer for hitting so many 2nd serves in that game. That went according to the Serb’s plan. Federer suddenly not as sharp as in the beginning.
Stats so far:
2-3: Federer still confident, goes for an inside-out backhand winner, and gets it. 0-15. Brad Gilbert says Djokovic did a lot of back stretching during the changeover. Djokovic then goes on the offensive, forcing Federer to stretch out for more than a few shots, forces the error. 15-all. Then a rare Djokovic ace up the T. 30-15. Both guys attack, and Djokovic goes for too much on a CC BH, and sends it well long. 30-all. Djokovic approaches the net after a short Federer return, and Federer shanks a BH pass. 40-30. Federer goes DTL with a FH, Djokovic nets the reply. Deuce for the second straight Djokovic service game. Djokovic goes up the T again from the deuce court, Federer sends the reply into the net. AD-Djokovic. Federer goes on the offensive with his BH DTL (!!!), but Djokovic foils him with a deep CC FH: holds.
3-3: Ace by Federer, 15-0. Good body serve, 30-0. Another ace out wide, 40-0. A beauty of a Djokovic BH DTL slice nets a wild error from Federer’s FH, 40-15. That shot is so underused. 1-2 combo by Federer, and he holds.
Djokovic has won only 3 of 8 2nd serve points. A hint of danger for him. Federer is at 50%.
4-3: Djokovic sends a FH DTL long, and earlier in the game, Federer went for a BH DTL. Shows the aggression. Djokovic bends down to stretch. Short return by Federer, simple FH putaway fro Djokovic. 15-all. Federer nets a BH return, 30-15. The Swiss then sends a FH return wide. 40-15. Djokovic then goes for a BH DTL, misses by a mile. UFE. 40-30. Djokovic holds with a gorgeous angled FH winner. That was pretty.
4-4: 2nd serve by Federer, and it’s a nice out wide one. But he pushes the FH well wide. 0-15. Incredible 1st serve out wide by Federer, gets put back in play by Djokovic, but Federer’s reply is too strong. 15-all. A replay of that same point on the other side of the court. Federer looking to put away all FHs to Djokovic’s BH corner. 30-15. Djokovic with a very deep 2nd serve return, forcing a Federer error. 30-all. Nervy point. Serve up the T again, Djokovic can’t get enough on it. 40-30. 2nd serve. Federer nets a FH after a very neutral rally. UFE. Deuce. Djokovic gets a look at a great BH Pass, forces a shot reply by Federer, and puts away a FH pass. Break point. 2nd serve. A great kicker of a 2nd serve, and Djokovic can’t handle it at all. Incredible 2nd serve. Deuce. Federer goes up the T yet again from the deuce court, and Djokovic sends the reply long. But then Federer sends an angled FH well wide. Deuce. Federer puts away a very high Djokovic pass, and it’s AD-Federer. They play a tentative rally, and Federer can’t handle a Djokovic BH DTL. Deuce again. Federer goes up the T again, but this time Djokovic was all over the serve. Goes on the attack, forces Federer’s error after good inside-out FHs. Break point for Djokovic. A great body serve, which Djokovic did not see coming. Deuce. Djokovic hits a good return deep, but then botches a CC BH wide. Challenges to no avail. AD-Federer. Bad UFE. Federer goes up the T from the AD side, Djokovic blocks it back, and Federer sends the short FH wide after it clips the net. Deuce once more. AND DJOKOVIC WITH A RIDICULOUS SHOT – a FH CC passing shot with half his body off-balance! All arm. Break Point again. Federer gets a 1st serve out wide in, Djokovic replies CC well, and Federer hits an inside-in FH into the net. Djokovic will serve for the 1st set.
Earlier in the broadcast PMac had mentioned how Federer had never beaten Djokovic after going down a set.
4-5: Great wide serve by Djokovic to start. 15-0. Djokovic then pummels Federer’s BH corner with his FH, 30-0. Djokovic goes for a wrong-footing FH DTL, barely misses. 30-15. It was about an inch and half wide. Djokovic gets a shot ball to attack with his BH, and sends it well wide. Bad UFE. A clutch serve up the T follows, and it’s set point. 2nd serve. They have a FH exchange, and Djokovic sends one into the net. Deuce. Djokovic very tentative, never went DTL with his BH, only CC, and sends a final one long. Federer hitting with a ton of spin, as noticed by Brad Gilbert. Break point for Federer. 2nd serve (Djokovic has only won 25% of points on that delivery). Federer goes for an angled CC FH mid-rally, and Djokovic nets his CC reply. He gets the break.
That felt huge. Djokovic not aggressive enough when trying to clinch that first set – never went DTL with his BH. Waiting for Federer to make a mistake that never came. Federer’s patience and consistency in that game forced the break.
5-5: Djokovic with a BH UFE, and then an ace by Federer. 30-0. A very deep Djokovic FH forces a Federer error. Clipped the line, it seemed. 30-15. Djokovic tumbles after Federer wrong-foots him on the baseline. 40-15. Seemed to land quite hard on his right arm. Federer with an ace, and Djokovic will serve to stay in the set.
Novak Djokovic’s elbow is bleeding from his dive
— Steph Trudel (@TrudelSteph) November 12, 2012
Diving in tennis = never worth it. Djokovic getting patched up while he cringes. #wtf
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) November 12, 2012
6-5: Federer with an incredible counter-drop after Djokovic’s drop-volley. Djokovic was not ready for that. 0-15. Djokovic with a 2nd ball BH CC UFE. 0-30. It seems like the tumble will decide this set. Federer now with the UFE, 15-30. Ace out wide, 30-all. Humongous serve up the T that Federer can barely get a racquet on. Impressive reaction after going down 0-30. 40-30 now. A great serve out wide, and we’re into a breaker.
0-0: 2nd serve. Djokovic pummels Federer’s BH, but it only cracks after a brief FH exchange after Federer went DTL first.
0-1, Djokovic: A monster serve up the T, but Federer gets it back. Djokovic’s FH is sent well long by Federer.
0-2, Djokovic: Djokovic once again single-minded about his BH, never goes CC, and it’s Federer who goes for a DTL BH winner and gets it. Djokovic claps, but that point should teach him a lesson.
1-2, Djokovic: 2nd serve. Djokovic well in control of the point, dictating with his FH, but then sends a short one well long. Bad UFE.
2-2: Fantastic serve out wide by Federer.
3-2, Federer: Federer is on the defensive to start, but a deep spinny FH lets him back into the point. Goes for it, nets a FH. Bad UFE.
3-3: Federer leading the UFE count by 6 (20 to 14). Federer sends an angled FH wide, but Djokovic got bailed out there: had a very short return after a good serve and failed badly to put it away.
4-3, Djokovic: 2nd serve. Federer goes on the offensive on Djokovic’s BH corner, forces the error.
4-4: Federer with a silly BH UFE after he had neutralized plenty of Djokovic aggressive FHs. Djokovic still reluctant to go DTL with his BH.
5-4, Djokovic: 2nd serve. Federer goes on the offensive against Djokovic’s BH corner, and is rewarded, forcing Djokovic’s error.
5-5: Djokovic has won only 3 of 14 second serves. 2nd serve again. But Djokovic FINALLY goes for a BH DTL, which sets up a short FH DTL that Federer sends long. Set point #2.
5-6, Djokovic: Point of the match so far! Unreal shots from both. Federer finishes with a crazy CC FH pass.
6-6: 2nd serve. And a rare, poor BH DTL wild error that will give Djokovic set point #3 on his own serve.
7-6, Djokovic: A fantastic serve out wide, and Djokovic runs around his BH to hit a clean inside-out winner. Incredible composure by Djokovic after the crowd went wild a few moments ago. Baffling error from Federer at 6-all.
First set stats:
That first set was like a tense soccer derby. Lots of changes for both guys, twists and turns up until the end. The match is living up to its billing.
I thought Djokovic wasn’t as aggressive with his BH DTL as he needed to be to make life easier for himself. Still, he did come up with a nice one at 5-all in the breaker.
0-0: Like the 1st set, Djokovic starts the 2nd set with a double-fault. Only his second of the match. Service winner, 15-all. BH UFE, 15-30. Djokovic then goes on the offensive, but Federer sends a FH well wide. Djokovic then with a 2nd ball FH UFE, and it’s break point for Federer. The Swiss with a return that floats just wide, and it’s deuce. 2nd serve. Djokovic goes for a BH DTL off-balance, misses by some margin. Break Point #2 for Federer (in this set). Federer shanks a CC BH, and it’s Deuce #2. Federer is putting A TON of spin on those CC BHs. They’re jumping up on Djokovic. Djokovic yanks Federer side to side, and forces the FH error. AD-Djokovic. Federer runs around the BH, goes for the big inside-out FH, and Djokovic misses the DTL BH reply. Deuce #3. Djokovic with a roar after he got in trouble with a Federer shot that clipped the letcord and forced an awkward shot. AD-Djokovic. Federer goes on the attack with his CC FH, forces Djokovic’s error. Deuce #4. 2nd serve. Djokovic with a BH DTL, and it nets another Federer error. AD-Djokovic. Then Djokovic sends a FH DTL well long. Wasn’t looking to attack with it, either. Deuce #5. Federer yanks Djokovic wide on his FH side, Djokovic goes for the outright winner, but misses by a mile. BP, Federer. 2nd serve. Federer gets a look at a mid-court FH, sends it well wide. That’s the one he wanted, as PMac says. Djokovic pushes a CC BH well wide, and it’s another BP for Federer. He seems to be complaining to his box more often now. 2nd serve. Djokovic goes DTL with his BH at the right time, but misses wildly. That wasn’t hit with a ton of confidence, either. Racquet is broken as well.
Key game. Sloppy by Djokovic, and lost his way with his BH again. Federer patient, staying the course after missing a few opportunities. Once again, Federer has the edge early.
0-1: Federer goes for a FH DTL winner, sends it just long. 0-15. 2nd serve. Federer with an awesome kicker of a 2nd serve, puts away the return with his BH DTL. This play has worked for Federer all day. 2nd serve again. Djokovic sends a tame FH return into the net. And another one long. 40-15. A good CC BH, and it’s a hold.
Djokovic knows he can break Federer’s serve, but he doesn’t want to go down two breaks early in the set.
0-2: Federer dumps a 2nd serve return into the net. First time today, it seems. Djokovic then with a 2nd ball FH UFE. 15-all. Djokovic yanks Federer wide, and it’s 30-15. A bad slice BH DTL by Federer sails wide, and it’s 40-15. A good 2nd serve out wide, and it’s a hold.
1-2: Djokovic goes up the line with his BH to start, forces an error (notice a trend?). 0-15. Federer puts away a swinging volley, 15-all. 2nd serve. Djokovic badly mishits a simple ball with his BH, and it’s 30-15. That was weird. Djokovc pushes Federer into defensive mode, and ends with an inside-out FH winner. 30-all. 2nd serve. Federer with a beauty of a cross-court volley after a Djokovic BH pass was dipping. 40-30. 2nd serve. Federer with a 2nd ball FH UFE, and it’s Deuce #1. Looked a little weary after that one. A fantastic slider out wide, and it’s AD-Federer. An ace up the T seals the hold for Federer.
1-3: Djokovic quickly up 30-0 with some good serves. Then sends a FH DTL well wide after a good return by Federer. Djokovic goes for the inside-out BH, and misses by a nautical mile. 30-all. A tame FH return by Federer finds the net. 40-30. Djokovic with some powerful CC shots off his FH and BH, but Federer gets them both back, forcing Djokovic to go for a little too much on the next shot. Deuce #1. Djokovic with a simple BH UFE. Chance for Federer to go up a double break. Djokovic goes for the off-speed kicker + BH DTL combo, and forces the error from the Swiss. Deuce #2. Another BH DTL from the Serb generates an error from Federer. AD-Djokovic. Djokovic goes DTL again, and a few moments later, Federer sends a FH wide.
Our good friend Ptenisnet opines:
What a waste of a return game.
— Siva (@ptenisnet) November 12, 2012
Was that a huge opportunity lost for Federer? A double break surely would’ve meant the set. Djokovic hitting much more cleanly now, and his BH DTL is making more of an appearance. Huge service game coming up for Federer.
2-3: Federer goes up the T, Djokovic sends a return long. Federer pounces on a short return, forces the error. 30-0 in a flash. Now a rare double fault. First of the match. 30-15. Federer again on the offensive, forces Djokovic to slide violently into his BH corner. Stays on the ground for a bit. 40-15. 2nd serve. Djokovic with a very tame FH return that sailed slowly long. Quick and easy hold for Federer.
2-4: Djokovic for once doesn’t fall behind to start his game, and serves an ace up the T. 15-0. Federer with a wild 2nd serve BH return that disappeared from the screen. 30-0. Djokovic with one of his patented horrible drop-shots, and it’s 30-15. The Serb regroups with an ace out wide. Another good serve sets up an easy putaway that Djokovic still manages to make a little difficult for himself. A quick hold for Djokovic – the first one in what feels like forever.
2nd set Stats so far:
3-4: Can Djokovic turn his return game on? Flip the switch? He hasn’t generated much pressure on Federer’s serve in this set. Starts well, getting a fantastic slider out wide back, and then waiting out a BH UFE from Federer. 2nd serve. Djokovic gets a look at a BH pass, and then tries to lob Federer after the Swiss volleyed straight back at him. Federer goes up for the smash, and doesn’t make a mistake. 15-all. Another double-fault. Signs of exhaustion for Federer? 15-30. 2nd serve after a bad challenge. Federer goes with his BH DTL after Djokovic’s return – super aggressive. Djokovic could not get that back in play. 30-all. A deep return from Djokovic, and Federer can’t get the ball over the net. BP Djokovic. This somehow seemed inevitable. A marvelous ace out wide for Federer, and it’s Deuce #1. 2nd serve. Djokovic survives some early missiles from Federer, and then gets a look at a simple FH putaway after a Federer shot clipped the net. Misses by about 5 feet. AD-Federer. Federer now with a FH UFE after a fantastic 1st serve return by Djokovic. Deuce #2. Federer takes advantage of a CC FH look, and moves forward to finish with a nice volley. AD-Federer. Federer holds after Djokovic goes for a wrong-footing FH DTL when fully out-stretched.
Will that FH UFE haunt Djokovic? Would’ve set up another break point. It might mean the set. Federer is not wavering from his aggressive gameplan.
3-5: Federer chips and charges for the first time, misses the volley after a decent Djokovic pass. 15-0. The Swiss does it again, and this time doesn’t come close to get the volley over the net. 30-0. Then Djokovic goes for the inside-out BH winner, gets it. 40-0. Federer then with a BH dropper out of nowhere. Gets all the praise from the booth. 40-15. Service winner up the T by Djokovic, and Federer will now serve to send this match into a decider.
No backlash for Djokovic after that big miss in Federer’s previous service game. Will the person serving at 5-4 get broken serving for the set for the second consecutive time in this match? In Nadal’s words, “we gonna see, no?”
4-5: Federer goes up the T again, Djokovic gets it back, Federer hits a drop-volley, Djokovic gets to it easily, but Federer guesses right and wins the point. 15-0. Djokovic goes for the BH DTL return winner, misses. 30-0. Djokovic with a great return, and approaches Federer’s FH off a nice BH DTL slice, puts away an easy volley. 30-15. 2nd serve. Body serve from Federer handled well by Djokovic, but then sends a BH DTL meekly into the net. UFE. Double set point for Federer. As he has all match, goes up the T, Djokovic gets it back, and his inside-out FH attempt goes well long. Djokovic then goes DTL with his BH, forcing a Federer FH error. Deuce #1. 2nd serve. Wild 2nd ball FH error by Federer, and he’s now down a BP. The pair pay a tense point, and Djokovic wins it by going for a deep FH CC. Huge roar by the World Number 1.
Djokovic flipped the switch, alright.
5-5: Federer puts a BH into orbit. 15-0. Ace out wide, and it’s 30-0. Federer goes for a BH DTL, forces the error, and it’s 30-15. Djokovic goes DTL with his BH, Federer reads it well, and Djokovic can’t handle Federer’s FH CC reply. 30-all. 2nd serve. Djokovic with an incredible running FH. Federer can’t handle it, sends it wide. 40-30. Federer sends a FH well wide, and Djokovic will “return” for the match.
Huge hold for Djokovic, who dumps all the pressure of this match straight on Federer’s shoulders. Will Djokovic be able to impose his return game on the World Number 2 for one last time?
Stupid game. I just swore in 14 languages, except Serbian #angry
— Not Roger Federer (@PseudoFed) November 12, 2012
Before the next game started, ESPN flashed this interesting stat:
6-5: Federer had a great 1st serve go into Djokovic’s body, to no avail. Djokovic then wraps him in an awkward rally, forces the error. 0-15. 2nd serve. Federer on the attack, and generates a short FH to put away behind Djokovic. 15-all. Again, Federer goes up the T from the deuce court, forces the return error. Then Federer with an UFE, and its’ 30-all. HUGE POINT coming up. Djokovic forces another Federer BH error, and it’s championship point. DJOKOVIC WITH AN INSANE BACKHAND DOWN THE LINE PASSING SHOT AND HE’S WON THE WORLD TOUR FINALS!!!!!!!!!!
An amazing shot. What a shot. Insane. Obscene. What a moment.
Rafael Nadal was glued to his screen, since he just tweeted this:
Enhorabuena a @djokernole por su masters! Buena final la que hemos visto!
— Rafa Nadal (@RafaelNadal) November 12, 2012
Unbelievable end to the match.
It was really incredible to watch Djokovic zero in on Federer’s serve at 4-5 and 6-5 in that second set. All of a sudden, Federer’s serves were not getting the Swiss any free points. Earlier in the set, Djokovic even dumped a few 2nd serve returns into the net or sent them long. A Sampras-esque way to return serve.
Roger Federer played the right way. He had a fantastic gameplan, and was fully committed to it. I don’t think Federer has hit more backhands down the line in a single match in a very long time. Again, this is his least reliable shot. It just shows you how someone who’s won everything is still fighting and trying to improve a part of his game in order to give himself a chance to win big matches. He’ll be disappointed of losing two sets in which he had a break advantage, and surely he’ll regret that BH UFE at 6-all in the 1st set breaker. But Roger Federer went for it all match. He really did. If you’re a fan, that’s all you ever want from your favorite player, right? Go out swinging, always trying to win the match.
As for Novak Djokovic, what a way to end a strange year for him. I said in the picks that I wanted to believe that Shanghai meant something, and it really did. The Serb went back to his 2011 ways, never panicking even though things didn’t go his way in the big matches. He was down a break in both sets today, and saw how all the momentum swung Federer’s way after that insane shot at 6-5 in the breaker. But he stayed the course, and finished with a deserved flourish.
How was this match won? You could argue that the Return of Serve ended up being the key element in this match. Federer did an outstanding job attacking Djokovic’s 2nd serve, and Djokovic become impenetrable in the key moments, denying Federer any chance to let his serve take the big points. In such a tight match (Djokovic ended up winning only one more point than Federer), that was key.
But there was so much more in this match. Forehands, backhands, key volleys, some incredible defense and some incredible offense. Both men covered the court with abandon, and left nothing in the tank. They produced a very entertaining and tense final after a luckwarm week. It was on both of them to produce such a match, and they delivered.
Hats off to both.
Before we go, here’s a funny screencap of the winner:
And the final stats: