Djokovic Completes Finale Four-Peat
Novak Djokovic completed his argument for one of the greatest seasons of all time on the ATP World Tour, capping a historic campaign with a record fourth consecutive Barclays ATP World Tour Finals crown. The Serb downed six-time titlist Roger Federer 6-3, 6-4 on Sunday.
It was déjà vu with their second meeting this week at The O2 in London - and 44th overall - coming on the heels of Federer's 7-5, 6-2 triumph in Group Stan Smith play on Tuesday. The FedEx ATP Head2Head is now level at 22-22, with the top-ranked Serb owning a 5-3 edge in their 2015 encounters.
"I'm obviously very proud to have these achievements with my team," said Djokovic during the trophy ceremony. "It's been a long season, but the best of my life. Without their support and my family, I wouldn't be where I am. I'm just trying to cherish every moment at this level. As a kid growing up, you dream to be at tournaments like this and fighting for the biggest trophies in sport."
Djokovic, who improved to 18-1 at the Final Showdown over the course of his four straight title runs, won his 11th title of 2015 and 59th overall at the tour-level. He brings home $2,061,000 in prize money and 1,300 Emirates ATP Rankings points. The World No. 1, who also won the title in 2008 when the event was held in Shanghai, draws level with Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras as the second-most successful players in tournament history, behind only Federer's six crowns. He concludes the season with an 82-6 win-loss record and is now just 14 match victories from reaching 700 in his career.
"Against Roger it's very specific," Djokovic said in press. "You need to adjust to the tactics because of his game. He plays very quickly. He likes things to happen fast. He takes away the time from his opponent. He has so much variety in his game with slice, comes to the net, great serve, forehand, one of the best ever. He's very complete player. I know that he's always going to push you hard and try to protect the baseline, take away the time from you, which he was doing also today.
"I think what I managed to do better than what I've done in the last match we played in the group stage here was the fact that I was more solid from back of the court. I served well when I needed to. I got myself out of trouble. I returned more balls back than I did five days ago. I think that helped me to get into the rally. I always try to make him play one extra shot."
BEST MATCH RECORDS AT NO. 1
Djokovic has compiled one of the best seasons in the history of the Emirates ATP Rankings (since 1973). Here is a look at the No. 1 players with the best match winning percentages since 1973:
|Bjorn Borg|| 1979
Federer, meanwhile, was bidding for a historic seventh title at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals and 89th overall. His season ends with the World No. 3 spot in the Emirates ATP Rankings, claiming 63 match wins and six titles from 11 finals - in Brisbane, Dubai, Istanbul, Halle, Basel and the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati. In 2016, he will continue his quest to pass Ivan Lendl (1071) for second place on the all-time match wins list, pulling to within 12 victories.
"It would have been nice to serve a little bit better early on in the match, play better overall on his second serve, because he does allow you to play on his second serve," said Federer. "Maybe at times I went for too much. The moments where I should have gone safe, I didn't, and vice versa. Those are the two regrets I have.
"If I played the match again, that is what I would try to do different. Other than that, I thought it was a good match. It was close. First six games were tough, to be down 4-2. I had my chances to at least be even. But I thought he played well. Still high-quality match, I thought."
Here is how the final was won...
FIRST SET - Djokovic 6-3
The key to Federer's success in their clash on Tuesday was his efficiency in neutralising Djokovic's first serve and peppering the World No. 1's forehand during baseline exchanges. Federer put the screws on Djokovic in goading 22 unforced errors to just 12 winners off the top seed's racquet, claiming 49 per cent of his rival's first serve points.
The Swiss was in prime position to continue the same trend on Sunday, but, after saving a break point in his first service game, Djokovic pounced on one of his own at 1-1. A Federer mid-rally forehand clipped the tape at 30/40 and he could not recover as Djokovic secured the opening break.
It did not take long for Federer to have another look at a break point. With Djokovic serving up 3-2, the Basel native launched a sublime backhand down the line winner to bring proceedings to deuce and earned his second break opportunity when the defending champion misfired wide on a forehand. But Djokovic clamped down as Federer's patience slipped, striking his seventh backhand unforced error to give his rival the hold for 4-2.
With Federer once again applying pressure on Djokovic's serve at 4-3 40/30, the Serb fired a leaping kick serve that pulled the Swiss off the court and followed it up with a rifled backhand winner down the line - a combination that has worked quite effectively for him over the years. Djokovic would secure the opening set a game later after 39 minutes, converting on his second set point.
SECOND SET - Djokovic 6-4
With football stars Thierry Henry and Olivier Giroud in attendance, Federer looked to draw level behind a quick break in the second set. A win would bring the Swiss back to World No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and he was eager to take the early initiative. Two brilliant baseline winners - one backhand flick down-the-line and one off his forehand side -brought the score to 40/30 with Djokovic serving at 1-1, but once again Federer was unable to close the door. Contesting a single-season record 15th consecutive final, the World No. 1 remained steady.
A scintillating, angle-assaulting rally in the second point of the seventh game brought the fans out of their seats as Federer closed it out with beautiful touch at the net. Djokovic would once again hold three points later, with Federer hesitant to come forward and attack the net.
Djokovic's depth and weight of shot drove Federer off the baseline with the Swiss serving at 3-4. A 0/40 lead put him in significant danger, but Federer would reel off five straight points to hold behind a clutch serving display.
Djokovic had won 84 per cent of second serve points to Federer's 44 per cent through eight games in the second set, and he would not suffer a hangover from the slew of missed opportunities, holding to love for 5-4.
Djokovic again applied pressure on the Federer serve in the next game. A 34-shot rally won by the Serb resulted in a 0/30 lead. The Swiss had saved five of seven break points as they arrived at two match points at 15/40, but a double fault sealed Djokovic's place in season finale lore. He became the first player to win four consecutive championships at the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals after 81 minutes.
Infosys ATP Insights
In the eighth game of the second set, Federer fell behind 0/40, a point from which he has rallied to hold serve 37 percent of the time in 2015, according to Infosys ATP Insights. The six-time Finale champion dug deep and reeled off five straight points to level at 4-all. However, Federer came under pressure again in his next service game, falling behind 15/40. He saved the first championship point but then at 30/40 threw in a double fault. Infosys ATP Insights also show that Federer double faults on break point on average only once in 24 matches. More Infosys ATP Insights here.