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Roger Federer Advances To Semis Of Nitto ATP Tennis Champs 2019 • It Ends Djokovic’s Year–And World No. 1–Hopes

By Ricky Dimon

After a surprising elimination match at the Nitto ATP Finals, it is Roger Federer who is advancing and Novak Djokovic who is going home.

With their London lives at stake in what was a virtual quarterfinal contest, Federer trounced Djokovic 6-4, 6-3 in one hour and 13 minutes on Thursday night. The Swiss was in scintillating form from start to finish, blasting 25 winners compared to a mere seven unforced errors while serving at 73 percent and firing 12 aces.

Djokovic was on his heels right from the start, saving one break point in the first game of the match before getting broken at love in the third game. The Serb never came close to getting back on level terms because Federer served at 83 percent in the opening set and dropped only three points in five service games.

After fighting off two more break points to begin the second set, Djokovic saw his only opening come with Federer serving at 1-2, 30-40. The 20-time major champion played a brilliant point to save it, getting into net behind perfect forehand approach and putting away a volley into the open court. Getting broken immediately after failing to break in a tough previous game is never unusual, and that is exactly the fate Djokovic suffered at 2-2. Federer jumped out to another 0-40 advantage and capitalized on his chance two points later for a commanding 6-4, 3-2 lead.

The 38-year-old champion held his next two service games with ease, at which point Djokovic seemed to know that his hopes were out the window. Federer broke again at love to bring a swift end to the proceedings.

“Realistically he was better player in all aspects and absolutely deserved to win,” Djokovic said of his opponent. “He served great, moved well, returned my serve very well. From his end, I think he did everything right. From my end, I was just playing too neutral. I couldn’t read his serve well. Just a pretty bad match from my side.”

“To hit the spots the way I did (on serve) today is definitely special,” Federer commented. “Also just to be also strong on the shot that comes right after. And then being able to also produce good returns, because I thought I actually returned also very well today. I made a lot of returns. Then when I was in the rallies, he felt like the need to play extremely aggressive, because if he didn’t. I was always going to take a big cut at the ball.

“It was a great match. Yeah, the serve stats are clearly key to either hang with him or beat him. I did that in Paris. I did that in Wimbledon. Actually, I hardly got broken in those matches, too, and again tonight. So against Novak it seems to work well on my serve. It’s just a matter of sometimes having better returning days…. Today was definitely a good one.”

It was an especially sweet result for Federer because had not beaten Djokovic since round-robin competition at this same event in 2015. A span of five head-to-head matches had come and gone, with the Serb prevailing on every occasion–including in an epic Wimbledon final this summer that needed a historic fifth-set tiebreaker to be decided.

“They were never really there,” the Swiss Maestro said of Wimbledon ghosts. “There were some press guys that made that up. So from my standpoint, I also didn’t know I hadn’t beaten him in a few years, actually; didn’t feel that way because it was so close in Paris and in Wimbledon against him. I felt like I was going to have my chance, to be quite honest…. Obviously it’s always special beating Novak, even more so of what happened (at Wimbledon)–but I didn’t feel like I had to get rid of the ghosts or anything like that.”

This result may not have ended any personal demons for Federer, but it did end the 2019 race for the year-end No. 1 ranking. Federer’s win clinched it for Rafael Nadal, as Djokovic had to capture the title this week in order to steal it from the Spaniard.

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 said we would disagree on outcome. We were right. We also figured the win in straight sets. But didn’t say that or want to brag. Roger played brilliantly. And his buddy RAFA must be thrilled! he now finishes the year as numero uno. (LJ) 

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