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Ricky’s Preview And Pick For Djokovic vs. Federer At The Nitto ATP Tennis Finals

By Ricky Dimon

Novak Djokovic vs. Roger Federer will not be the championship match at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals, but aside from that the stakes could hardly be higher for Thursday night.

Djokovic and Federer will collide in what is virtually a quarterfinal, with the winner advancing to the semis and the loser bowing out of the tournament. Both all-time greats have been put on thin ice in London by Dominic Thiem, who upset the Swiss Maestro in the opening match of the week and then stunned Djokovic in a three-set thriller on Tuesday.

This marks the 49th career contest between Djokovic and Federer, with the Serb leading the head-to-head series 26-22. What matters more than the overall score is that Djokovic has won five in a row and nine of their last 11 encounters. Federer has not picked up a win since the 2015 year-end championship, where he prevailed 7-5, 6-2 during round-robin action only to see Djokovic get him back with a 6-3, 6-4 triumph in the title match. They have square off just once in 2019 and it needs no reminder: a five-set epic in the Wimbledon final that went the 32-year-old’s way from two championship points down.

“Maybe it took me a few days, couple weeks at most, to get over the Wimbledon loss,” Federer said following his 7-6(2), 6-3 round-robin victory over Matteo Berrettini before Djokovic succumbed to Thiem. “At the end of the day, I still thought I played a great final and a great tournament, beating [Rafael Nadal] there along the way. I’m excited playing against him. I’m excited to see how he’s going to play tonight, as well. It’s definitely going to give me some more information about what to expect.

“But other than that, I think 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.”

Perhaps the information Federer got from the Thiem-Djokovic match is that the world No. 2 is beatable, but also that Thiem played probably the best match of his career–in the Austrian’s own words–and still required a third-set tiebreaker to get across the finish line.

“I knew that I had to play like this to beat him,” Thiem noted. “Probably Novak is the best player in the world right now, so I had to do something outstanding, something unusual, and that’s what I did.”

Despite the loss, Djokovic–who has to beat Federer and go on to win the tournament if he wants to finish the season No. 1–is still 13-2 this fall with titles in Tokyo and Paris. The 16-time Grand Slam champion is 27-4 in his last 31 matches inside the O2 Arena with titles 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 plus another trophy from Shanghai in 2008. He has been stellar again this week, getting victimized only by Thiem’s barrage after destroying Berrettini 6-2, 6-1.

Based on current form and recent head-to-head history, Djokovic is the favorite in this one. But these two almost always deliver the goods against each other and dramatic matches have suddenly become the norm at the ATP Finals.

Pick: Djokovic in 3

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

Editor’s Note • Ricky knew it. We are going with Roger Federer in 3 sets. (LJ)

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