Federer beats Djokovic to reach semis at ATP Finals
LONDON – Roger Federer finally found a way to put Novak Djokovic away, beating his rival 6-4, 6-3 Thursday to reach the semifinals of the ATP Finals.
It was Federer’s first win over Djokovic since 2015, having lost their last five meetings – including that epic five-set Wimbledon final in July when the Serb saved two match points.
This was their first match since then, but had little of the same drama as Djokovic gave up three cheap service breaks and Federer gave him no chance to get back in the match.
The whole thing lasted just 1 hour, 13 minutes and ended with Djokovic being broken at love.
“I played incredible, and I knew I had to, because that’s what Novak does,” Federer said. “I was able to produce, it was definitely magical.”
The result means Djokovic was eliminated with a 1-2 record in the group stage, and ensures that Rafael Nadal will keep hold of the year-end No. 1 ranking. Djokovic had a chance to overtake Nadal and equal Pete Sampras’ record of finishing the year as No. 1 for a sixth time by winning the tournament.
In a match between two players with a combined 36 Grand Slam titles and 11 ATP Finals championships, Djokovic was also broken at love in his second service game after double-faulting twice and hitting two shots into the net.
Federer faced his only break point at 2-1 in the second set but held and then broke for a 3-2 lead. He finished the match with just five unforced errors, and that included two double-faults.
“There was a lot riding on the match, and I came out and I think I served great, I had great anticipation, a clear game plan,” Federer said. “It worked to perfection tonight, and hopefully not the last time against Novak.”
Earlier, Matteo Berrettini made sure to leave the tournament with a victory by beating Dominic Thiem 7-6 (3), 6-3.
That match was essentially meaningless as Thiem had already qualified for the semifinals after winning his first two round-robin matches, while Berrettini had no chance of advancing after two losses.
Thiem didn’t play anywhere near as well as in his wins over Federer and Djokovic but came from a break down to force a tiebreaker in the first set. However, Berrettini raced out to a 6-1 lead in the tiebreaker and converted his third set point with an ace.
In the second set, the Italian broke for a 4-2 lead and served out the match at love, sealing the win with a forehand drop shot.
Berrettini surprised many just by qualifying for the year-end event for the world’s top eight players, and said he enjoyed the experience despite the early exit.
“It was a great week,” Berrettini said. “For sure being here wasn’t a goal at the beginning of the year. … It’s just crazy that it happened.”
After hitting 50 winners in his three-set victory over Djokovic on Tuesday, Thiem finished with just 13 in this match.
“Of course I felt a little bit the two first matches, and then also it’s a bit of a tricky situation to know that I’m already through,” the Austrian said. “Of course I was still trying to win that match 100%, but also, in the same time, I knew in my head that I have to take care for Saturday, because obviously it’s the way more important match there.”